Sunday, January 22, 2017
Series on 1 Corinthians Part 1
1 Corinthians 1: 10 – 18
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
“Now I plead with you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1: 10
A series of Scripture Readings from our Church Lectionary over the next several Sundays concern themselves with Paul’s letter of 1 Corinthians. So I want to do a Series from this letter: Part 1; and then come back sometime later in the year and complete the series. Amen.
Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are unique among the epistles written by Paul firstly, because they were written in response to serious rumors concerning the spiritual state of the Corinthian church. Moreover he had received a letter from the church seeking his counsel with regard to certain serious differences of opinion among the members of the assembly. Unlike Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, or Colossians, First Corinthians contains a minimum of doctrinal teachings.
While this church was blessed in abundance possibly more than any other church that he writes to with spiritual gifts, among which were the gifts of prophecy, working of miracles, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues, they were in Paul’s assessment spiritual ‘babies’ in Christ who had to be fed on the milk of the word rather than the meat of the word. Which Paul describes as being carnal in Chapter 3, because there were so many divisions among them. While being so highly gifted they were yet lacking in the virtues of faith, hope and love which he addresses in chapter 13 of this letter.
The Corinthian church is a carnal church. Many of its members were but recently converted from paganism and found it difficult to leave behind and separate themselves from their old mindset and old life. As a result, the letter is largely corrective and an exhortation to grow into a maturing faith and practice of all that Jesus taught and modeled for our edification. If Paul were writing to the church today, we wonder would he write a similar letter as he did to the church at Corinth. Would he write the same way? Would he be inspired to address many of the same issues that plague the church today?
Which leads to me raise the question, if Dr, King were living today, in light of what’s going on both within the church as well as within our society and world, would he do a rewrite of his Letter from Birmingham Jail, or would he let it speak across the decades of time some fifty plus years later in exactly the same language raising the same concerns?
Paul’s motivation for writing this letter was not to condemn the Corinthians but in love to grow them in Christ because he loved them and saw so much potential within this body of believers. So he sets out in this letter to address the concerns communicated to him by believers who were part of a woman named Chloe’s household; of the party strife that was in the church at Corinth. According to these members, most likely slaves of Chloe’s house as they communicated to Paul who was now in Ephesus, the Corinthians were bragging about which apostle they favored.
It was reported to Paul that this body of believers called into being by God, were quickly becoming a fractured fellowship saying: “I belong to Paul,” or I belong to Apollos,” or I belong to Peter,” or I belong to Christ.” So He asks them, “Is Christ divided?”, “Was Paul, crucified for you?” “Or were you Baptized in the name of Paul?”
Paul raises these questions in order to get them to focus on the fact that no human being can ever do for us what Jesus has done. By His stripes alone are we healed. He alone died for us. His shed blood alone paid the price for our redemption. He alone is the author and finisher of our faith. Through Him alone are we more than conquerors. He alone is the Way the Truth and The Life. No! Paul is reminding them, Apollos, Peter, and himself are just a few of God’s servants who all are seeking to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christi through their own unique personality and God given gifts and style.
In this large and diverse church, the believers favored different preachers, because there was yet no New Testament, so they depended heavily on preaching and teaching. Some followed Paul who founded the church, some who had heard Peter in Jerusalem followed him, while others listened to Apollos, an eloquent, charismatic and popular preacher who had a dynamic ministry in Corinth.
Although these preachers were united in their message, their personalities, gifts, and styles of leadership attracted different people. At this point the church was in danger of dividing. By mentioning Jesus 10 times in the first ten verses, Paul is trying to get them to understand, that any human vessel whom God sends is not Jesus, cannot walk on water, is not a miracle worker, has feet of clay, and cannot be all things to all people. Only Jesus has right and claim to that title. God’s message about Jesus is far more important than any human messenger.
So for Paul, such conduct represented a fractured body – divisions of competing groups. There was a disconnect between their theology and their sociology, between their piety and their practice. One of the greatest tests to this new Presidency will be can President Trump put out many of the fires to which he himself has lit the fuse. We were already a nation divided, in our ideologies, lifestyles, values, political viewpoints, religious view points, as well as in competition with each other when it comes to issues related to our human rights, our civil rights, the distribution of financial resources, and equal access. Can our nation be healed under the policies of this new administration? Only time will tell.
So Paul writes to them in verse 10: “Now I plead to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment which is to be interpreted: be of the same purpose, aim, intent.”
Paul’s desire is that their schismatic conduct stop and they be restored, and reclaim the same mind and thought, the same singleness in purpose as they formerly enjoyed before his letter had any reason for being written. The Greek word that he uses to describe these divisions is a picture of one garment having several tears in it, weakening the strength of the garment.
There were cliques in the church at Corinth. By definition a clique is a small group of people, who spend time together because they have shared interests, or other features in common, and do not readily welcome other people into that group. And these cliques had divided themselves around personalities. Therefore it was destroying the bonds of unity within the fellowship of this congregation.
Now while the definition of a clique carries a negative meaning, there is a natural dynamic that within in any larger group there are smaller groups where we tend to gain a sense of belonging, social interaction, fellowship, and sharing. Which is what Paul was driving at when he says “Be perfectly joined together in the same mind and purpose.” While Jesus was not cliquish, even Jesus had His inner circle of Peter, James and John, three who walked and shared with Him during His most intimate and significant experiences. Jesus understood that there were just a few whom He could invite into the sanctuary of His inner thoughts and heart.
Then there was the larger twelve, whom Mark says in chapter 3:14 were chosen to be “with him”; amen, who enjoyed His companionship, sat under His teachings, and participated with Him in His three years of ministry, because in time they would become His Apostles, excluding Judas. Theirs was a privileged association with the Master not given to the masses. They would become the pillars upon which the New Testament church would be born.
Then there was the supporting cast of the 70. Who carried out the important ministry of sharing with the twelve in this delegated ministry of outreach. So, Jesus had dozens of disciples. He picked twelve to train more deeply and send out. And He chose three that were allowed to share with Him in some of His most intimate and life transforming and life threatening experiences. Whether it be the three or the twelve or the 70 they were of a single mind and purpose, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. That He came to save us from our sins, and “whomsoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
We all need to intentionally develop relationships with circles of people in our lives. And as we pour ourselves into others, we also need them to pour themselves into us. Because no person is an Island, and we can’t make it through this life by ourselves. Though He was the Son of God even Jesus had need for human relationships. We may have hundreds and thousands of friends via social network, and we may know many people, but only a few can we actually call our friends.
Some folks I would suggest are often times using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other forms of social media in an attempt to be connected with others. But putting all one’s private business on social media when this should be reserved for one’s inner circle. Everyone doesn’t need to know one’s personal business. And no technology will ever replace our God given need for one-on-one human contact, and our need to belong.
Like Jesus and the twelve we all need a small group of people with whom we can pray together, laugh together, share each other’s burdens together, talk about life on a personal level, do activities with together, and mutually encourage one another. People who tend to stick to a church are those who have tied themselves to a small group.
And like Jesus we need our inner circles, a small group of family and close friends with whom we can lay bare our souls and they to us. In having Peter, James and John as His inner circle Jesus was not showing favoritism, He just realized He needed a handful of persons with whom He could invite to share with Him in life’s most intimate seasons.
Whereas there are those who want to be lone rangers with no accountability. Under no one’s authority, God has placed us in families, groups, organizations and yes the church not that we should become cliques, but so that we can have accountability to and for each other. Amen. That we are our brothers and sisters keepers. We are now under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. An individually part of His Body the Church, of which He is the Head.
If you like this, View all of the 1 Corinthians Sermon Series: CLICK HERE