Lessons from 1 Corinthians: Unity In the Church

by | May 3, 2019 | Sermon Series

We’re beginning a new Sunday teaching series, and it’s going to be a doozy.  Beginning on May 5, and running for pretty much the whole summer, we’re going  to be walking through the book of 1 Corinthians. In this letter, Paul is addressing  the church in Corinth. Corinth was a major port city, which meant that it was a big  economic centre that had lots of different kinds of people, lots of temples to  different gods, and this also meant that it was a great place for a missionary like  Paul to settle in for a while and start planting Jesus communities. Paul spent a  year and a half living in Corinth, getting to know people, talking to them about  Jesus, and soon there was a community of people who followed Jesus together;  the Corinthian church. 

Divisions in the Corinthian Church 
Eventually, Paul moves on to start churches in other communities. After some  time, he starts hearing reports that the Corinthian church wasn’t doing so well.  The letter of 1 Corinthians is Paul’s response to these problems, and his attempt  to try to remind the Corinthians of the difference that Jesus should make in their  lives, and how the story of the gospel can be applied to every situation we find  ourselves in. 
The first problem that Paul addresses is how the Corinthian church has become  divided. After Paul, other Christian leaders had come through; Apollos and Peter.  The Corinthian church had started fracturing off into groups of people who  followed Paul, those who followed Apollos, and those who followed Peter. 

Whether this was because they had slightly different teachings, emphasized  different things, or was a big popularity contest, we’re not sure. 
But what is clear is Paul’s response. 
Paul reminds the Corinthians that the Church is a community of people centred  around Jesus, not any one leader or another. In fact, these leaders and teachers  are all just servants of Jesus. And while some people might prefer one leader  over another, it’s not worth speaking poorly about each other, or dividing the  church over. The unity we find in Jesus should be more powerful than this. 

What Divides Us? 
So let’s fast forward to today, to our world, to our church. What separates and  divides us? Is it preferences around worship or preaching style; which ministries  need doing instead of others; which finer point of Christian theology is correct;  who gets to make the decisions? 
Let’s face it, there are a lot of opportunities for division, and you don’t have to  look far to find one. We recently finished a teaching series on what the Bible has  to say about what happens after we die. Talk about a divisive issue. We’ve been  having Community Forums where we invite the church to come and talk about  how we go about being the church together. And, to no surprise, there are lots of  different viewpoints represented. Our most recent Community Forum on church  membership saw virtually every presented: from membership being incredibly  valuable and necessary to membership not serving any purpose at all, and  everything in between. 

What Brings Us Together? 
All of this just serves to make the Church all the more amazing. In a world of so  many people of different backgrounds, experiences, viewpoints, and beliefs, God  calls the Church to be a place where all of these differences and divisions are  overcome, and all kinds of people unite because the things that could divide  them are nothing compared to the truth that Jesus made known, and the life that  He made possible. This is the ultimate level playing field, where all people are  truly equal because our value is not determined by our abilities or knowledge,  our power or wealth, our backgrounds or culture, but by what our creator says  about us. And what God says about us is that we are worth dying for and that we  can all be His children.


Unity in Diversity: An Apologetic for the Gospel 
This vision for the Church would be a revelation to our world, both in Paul’s day,  and in ours. Instead of separating from those who are different from us, the  Church is called to stay together and do the hard work of listening to and loving  the ones we differ with. Instead of wiping away differences and all becoming the  same, the Church is called to celebrate our differences and work together to  become greater than the sum of our parts. In a world that so easily reacts to  difference with fear, suspicion, and hatred, the Church is called to show the truth  of the gospel by responding to differences with love, compassion. 
When the Church lives up to this calling, we are a living, breathing apologetic for  the gospel. We show our world that Jesus’ death and resurrection are not just  stories, they are real, they make a difference in our lives, but most of all, we show  them the God who died for them.