UNITY THROUGH BOASTING
1 Corinthians 1:10-31
Christians often think of many different ways to teach others about Christ. We usually divide these efforts into areas like evangelism and apologetics and discipleship. However, when Jesus prayed for the success of the Gospel in John 17:20-21 he said, “Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in the, that they also may be in us: that the world might believe that thou didst send me.”
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17), but from Jesus prayer we understand that people are inclined to hear from a united body of believers. The two instruments of evangelism in John 17:20-21 are the word of God and the unity of God’s people. Perhaps this helps us to better understand just how important it is that we abide together in Christ by his Word.
In order to please God, encourage one another, and evangelize the world, let us look to 1 Corinthians 1:10-31 in order to see how to be one in Christ.
Directives for Unity
1 Corinthians 1:10
Unity was possible if the Christians would submit to God’s directive for Christian unity—to speak the same things (αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες); not to allow any divisions (σχίσματα) in your midst; and to be united in the same mind and judgment (“purpose” NASBU). The Bible gives us three characteristics of unified people: what they speak; what they allow; and what they think.
Unity is possible if we will unite on what we say. You will remember the tower of Babel which God came down to see and destroyed. So that the people would never again rise up to build something as a display of their egos, God confounded their speech. With this confused speech, they were never able to do anything of that magnitude again. The Devil has used the same tactic to restrain the Lord’s church. By causing us to say different things, we are ineffective in spreading the message of God.
The imperative to “speak the same things” (KJV & NKJV) or “agree” (ESV & NASBU) comes to us from a powerful Greek phrase which was sometimes used to refer not just to what we say but to what we say in our preaching. Jesus used it in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “you have heard it said, but I say unto you.” So when Paul urges us to say the same things (“agree” ESV), he is telling us to preach the same doctrine. While the importance of doctrine seems to have been minimized by some, the Bible emphasizes the need for correct teaching (Ephesians 4:1-6; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:1-4).
Unit is possible if we are “perfected together”. To be “perfected together” (ASV) or “united” (ESV) is from a Greek word (καταρτίζω katartizō) which means to “put (again) into order.” The fundamental meaning is to put a thing in its appropriate condition, to establish, set up, equip, arrange, prepare, mend…to accomplish. This “setting yourselves in order” is done by being “in the same mind and the same judgment” (1:10).
To be of the same mind requires that we have our minds shaped by the same source. No one will dispute the importance of family and social conditions in the shaping of our thinking and conscience. We must continually go to God’s Word in order to shape our minds after His own. God’s Word said, “and be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Having our minds shaped by God, we will be able to obey God’s plan of salvation (Acts 2:38); worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24); preach the Gospel (2 Tim. 4:1-4); defend the Gospel (Galatians 1:9; Jude 3); and care for God’s people (Acts 6).
To be of the same judgment (ASV) means to be of the same “mind as the instrument of knowing; (1) as the direction of one’s thinking intention, disposition, will (1C 1.10); (2) as the result of one’s consideration resolve, decision, purpose (AC 20.3). How can different individuals be of the same judgment? By giving Bible answers to Bible questions. We must allow room for opinions in matters of expediency (the carrying out of God’s commands without altering God’s commands), but we must expect agreement on the clear commands and principles in God’s Word.
Reproof for Division
1 Corinthians 1:11-17
Paul had received a report of “divisions” among the congregation at Corinth. The report of these divisions were apparently based around preachers (1 Cor. 1); morals (1 Cor. 5-7); things offered to idols (1 Cor. 8); pay for the full-time ministers (1 Cor. 9); complainers (1 Cor. 10); and worship (1 Cor. 10-14). All these divisions were to be avoided.
In chapter 1 Paul condemns their allegiance to preachers above their allegiance to Christ. Paul corrected this false allegiance in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 saying that it is not the workers who should be praised but the God who blesses who should secure our complete allegiance and devotion.
Paul gives a list of reasons why the church should not be divided in 1:13: Christ is not divided; only Christ was crucified for us; and we were baptized into the name of Christ. To divide the body would be just as terrible as dividing the literal body of Christ. To give allegiance to a man, belief, or group over the crucified Christ would be a great offence to the greatest act of love and sole hope of redemption. To be immersed in anything other than Christ would demean Christian baptism which is the sacred time of submission and reception into the Christian family.
Correction of Focus
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
In order to correct their division and keep them from falling back into it, Paul reminds them that the focus of Christianity is the Christian message not the messengers. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 demonstrates that it is the message of Christ that should be the focus of our lives. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 demonstrates the fact that it is God who should be praised for the work which is done and not the servants doing the work.
A nationwide sampling of Americans were asked to respond to the following statement: “For most people there are a few key factors that determine whether or not they will return to a church they have visited. Of the 22 factors named, including worship styles and community outreaches, three of the top four reasons for selecting a church, in order of importance, were:
How much people care
Friendliness to visitors
Notice how those things relate to this study of Christian unity in Christ:
Division is a theological problem. Unity is demanded by the Scriptures.
Caring is a central aspect of Christian unity. If people care about one another, they will stay together.
Friendliness to visitors is really just an extension of the friendliness a congregation has toward one another—which is necessary for unity.
In order to please God, encourage one another, and evangelize the world, let us continually go back to 1 Corinthians 1:10-31 in order to see how to be one in Christ for the glory of God.