The Necessity of Unity

An exposition of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, September 26, 2010.

Quarrel’n, fued’n, fuss’n and fight’n it’s just part of life.  We grew up in it.  We live in it and around it.  We participate in it.  And it starts early.  That beautiful sweet baby can kick up a huge fuss when she doesn’t get her way.  Well, that’s not true of my granddaughter but I’ve seen it in yours!  You’ve watch kids fight over a toy.  As kids grow they perfect the art of fighting.  Young boys eventually fight every other boy on the block because you have to find out who’s in charge.  As boys and girls progress to young men and young ladies they spar over boyfriends and girlfriends.  They learn the subtle art of sabotage and misdirection.  Husbands and wives fight.  Political parties fight.  Nations fight to the point of going to war.  Unfortunately the church is not immune from such disharmony.  At times it seems the favorite dish of the Baptists is “the church split!”  It’s not uncommon when traveling through the South to find more Baptist churches than there are people!  I heard about a man who was found on a deserted island after 15 years.  He had built three structures.  When asked what they were he said, “Well that one over there is my house.  That one is my church.”  When asked about the other building he said in disgust, “That’s my old church.”  No doubt he was Baptist.

We laugh but it is the nervous laugh of uncomfortable truth.  We know from the clear teaching of Scripture and from the inward witness of the Spirit that such quarreling is unacceptable in the sight of our God.  Yet we struggle.  We struggle because the church is not perfect and it never will be this side of glory because it is made up of people like you and me.  Frail children of dust.  Broken, flawed, sinful stumbling toward perfection by the work of God in us.  At the heart of sin is self-will.  A longing or desire to have all things “my way.”  Selfishness is the source of most of the strife and division within the church.  A divided church is not just a less than ideal situation – it is an affront to God.  It is a sin.  A fractured church robs the Christian of joy, robs God of glory, and it robs the world of the true testimony of the Gospel.

The psalmist declared, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).  Unity that is the biblical aim.  Unity is a condition of harmony.  All the various parts working together.  It is the quality or the state of being made one.

Paul, in AD 56, took pen in hand, while in Ephesus and wrote to the church in Corinth.  He had spent a year and a half in Corinth laboring for the Gospel.  In the heart of that pagan, wicked, immoral city – a church was born.  It is clear from the letter this was one mixed up bunch.  Yet he addressed them as those who had been sanctified and called to be holy.  Those who have been marked as belonging to Christ, declared holy and pure because of Christ’s righteousness and those expected to live holy lives.  His letter is an appeal to godly living.  The basis of his appeal is laid out in 1:1-9.  The grace of God enriches them in every way, empowers them for life and service and establishes them in eternity.  And starting with verse 10 he begins to address the problems within the church.  Our text is found in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

It is significant to note that given all the problems in the church at Corinth this is the one he addresses first.  It is an issue of first importance.  I’m just not sure we would put that on the front burner.  Or we might say, “Just start another church.”  If you’re not happy, things aren’t going your way, maybe you just need to move on – Paul says, deal with what is causing your divisions and come to a position of unity.  There is no place for ego here.  It’s not about you.  It’s not about me.  It is about the gospel.  Why is this so critical?  A divided church has nothing to say to a fragmented world.  When we are feuding and fighting what does that say about the power of the gospel to make us one?

A divided church sends a confusing message to the community.

I want you to note three things about unity from this text.

  1. Unity requires doctrinal agreement.  (9:10)
  2. Biblical unity rules out partisan loyalties.  (9:11-12)
  3. Unity demands that your allegiance belongs to Christ alone!
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