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Loving Our Brothers & Sisters: Promoting Unity

How to Excel Still More in …  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The primary problem addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians, the point behind the fruit of the Spirit, the primary pursuit in Ephesians, and the putting on of the new person in Colossians 3 is all about loving our brothers and sisters.

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James 3:14–15 ESV
14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
Psalm 133 ESV
A Song of Ascents. Of David. 1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

How to Excel Still More in Loving Our Brothers & Sisters

How to Excel Still More in Loving Our Brothers & Sisters

How to Excel Still More in Loving Our Brothers & Sisters

1 Corinthians

The church in Corinth had a bunch of very serious problems.
Preacheritis
Incest
Turning the church into a “Judge Judy” court with the members of higher status making a mockery in the community of the Christians with lower status
Some were trying to rationalize fornication (and adultery ?)
While others were trying to push celibacy
Some “knew” they could eat at the temple restaurants and were therefore
Causing others to sin and fall
Having fellowship with demons
Women who were trying to dress and act like men
Some who were scarfing down all of the food and drink meant for the Lord’s Supper leaving none for those who didn’t show up early
Fighting about who gets to lead in worship
Some teaching that there is no resurrection
You know, kind of like the problems in the church here. (joke)
Which of these problems would you address first or seem as if it was the most important?
Paul chose to address the problem of preacheritis because it resulted not just in arguments and hurt feelings, but because it caused division in the group.
Division had to be addressed first:
1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
1 Corinthians 1.10
And Paul spends more time addressing this subject than any other subject in the letter (4 chapters on unity, 3 on temple restaurants, 3 on leading in worship).
1 Corinthians teaches us that more than any other problem, we must address any division and be united as brothers and sisters in Christ.

We normally turn to this chapter to discuss the works of the flesh vs the fruit of the Spirit, and we then normally apply this to our lives out in the world. But this is not what Paul is discussing in the context.
The problem (singular) being addressed was the division some Christians were causing by pushing their scruples about the Law of Moses on other Christians, ,
Galatians 5:1–12 ESV
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. 7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
Galatians 5:1–15 ESV
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
,
Galatians 5:15 ESV
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Especially notice:
v4, you are severed from Christ
v12, I wish the troublemakers would castrate themselves
v15, bite and devour, consumed; language used of animals attaching and eating other animals; in other words, spiritual cannibalism
What would you do—how would you react or feel if someone came into the assembly here, snatched up your little kids and started eating them? When we divide over scruples, we are doing the same thing only from a spiritual perspective.
The solution given by Paul is love. Notice v6, faith working through love. And then notice vv13–14.
Galatians 5:13–14 ESV
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
v6, faith working through love
It is this context that is the basis for the discussion on the works of the flesh vs the fruit of the Spirit. Let’s continue reading.
v
Galatians 5:16–26 ESV
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5.
Notice the connection between “the desires of the flesh” in v16 and the “opportunity for the flesh” in v13. This is only one of several connections here that cue us in to the fact that, despite the pericope heading in many Bibles between vv15 and 16, Paul was talking about the same subject in vv16–26 as he is in vv1–15.
Then notice how he took the descriptions of their bad attitude toward their brothers and sisters—enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy—and sandwiched them between things like sexual immorality, idolatry, and drunkenness and orgies!
Why?
Because he wanted them to see, and we need to see, that having bad attitudes toward our brethren who don’t have the same scruples we do is just as sinful as adultery, idolatry, and orgies. Let that sink in for a second.
The solution, again? Love.
The fruit of the Spirit (singular) is love. I believe the other attitudes beginning with joy are describing what love looks like, but that the fruit (singular) of the Spirit is love, especially when you notice that he said in v14 that the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The works of the flesh vs the fruit of the Spirit teach us that we must love our brothers and sisters and be united with them and we must not cause division of any sort, including division caused by pushing our scruples on them.

In Paul described the blessings and benefits that God gives to those who are in the body of Christ. Then because of and in reaction to those blessings and benefits, he instructed the Christians then, as well as us, to live and act in certain ways. Notice the “therefore” of 4.1.
What would you put at the top of such a list describing how we should live and act in response to all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus?
Belong to a sound solid church?
Attend services every time the doors are open?
Worship God in spirit and truth?
What does Paul put at the top of the list? Let’s read.
Ephesians 4:1–16 ESV
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The primary point Paul addressed in how the Christian should respond to all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus is unity.
vv1–3 describe the right attitudes needed for this unity (incl. love)
vv4–6 describe the right anchor or foundation needed for this unity
vv7–16 describe the right actions needed for this unity, namely everyone doing their God-given part in building up the body in love
Before addressing problems of morality, worship, family life, work life, and our daily fight with evil, Paul emphasized that we must bear with one another in love, being eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
How are you doing with that?

In Paul said,
Colossians 2:11–13 ESV
11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
He then chases a few rabbits and comes back to this in 3.1.
Colossians 3:1 ESV
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
He then describes the putting off of the old person and putting on of the new person in 3.1–17.
What attitudes and actions would you think were most important to include in describing the putting off of the old man and putting on of the new man?
Let’s read what Paul included in such a description.
Colossians 3:1–17 ESV
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Did you notice that Paul describes the putting off of the old person and putting on of the new person in terms that describe the wrong and right relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Regarding the things put off with the old person Paul joined the bad attitudes toward our brothers and sisters—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk—with the really ugly sins of sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Then Paul said that in putting on the new person we put on love and the right kind of attitudes toward our brothers and sisters in vv12–17.
Have you truly put to death bad attitudes toward your brothers and sisters?
Have you truly put on love toward your brothers and sisters?

Practical Suggestions

scruples

So, what is a scruple anyway? It is not an opinion about something such as the color of the carpet at the church’s meeting place. Preachers and teachers who have defined it as such have done a great disservice to the cause of Christ. No, a scruple is “an ethical or moral principle that inhibits action” (“Scruple” WordNet 3.0), or “a strong belief about what is right and wrong that governs your actions” (“Scruple” Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary). In other words, it is something that you strongly believe to be wrong because of various principles (based on Bible passages). However, scruples are non-essential to “the pattern of sound words” (); that is, while we strongly believe them to be wrong, they are neither right nor wrong in and of themselves.
scruples, ,
We need to know what our scruples are. Do you know yours? Do you know the things you believe so strongly to be right or wrong that for you or your family to cross these lines would be sin, but that those same things would not be sin for other Christians?
Once we know what our scruples are, we cannot bind them on anyone else. If they ask, we can discuss. Otherwise, we keep it between us and God and our immediate family.
And we must absolutely be ok with our brothers and sisters having scruples that are different from ours.
This is the way the body of Christ is supposed to work when we love each other.

preferences

We all have preferences and things we desire to see take place in the church. But we must not look to our interests, and instead must look to the interest of others.
preferences,
Philippians 2:1–8 ESV
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Are you seeking the interest of your brothers and sisters over your own in love?

forgiveness

People say things and do things that hurt our feelings, and sometimes that actually sin against us. Oftentimes our brothers and sisters are the ones who say things that hurt us.
The body of Christ is made up of people from different backgrounds, different upbringings, different cultures, different scruples, etc. We are bound to clash and butt heads, and we are bound to say things inadvertently that hurt other peoples’ feelings.
When that happens to us, how do we react? Do we pout because our feeling have been hurt? Do we now have a bad attitude toward this brother or sister? Or worse, do we leave the local church and go somewhere else?
How did Paul say we should react if we have put to death the old person of sin and put on the new person in love?
forgiveness,
Colossians 3:13–14 ESV
13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Do you love your brother and sisters? Have you forgiven him or her? Will you be willing to forgive them when they hurt your feelings or sin against you?

love

The ultimate action we can take to achieve the most good for the cause of Christ and for the unity and growth of our local church is to love our brothers and sisters. Paul describes what this looks like in 1 Corinthians 13.
love,
1 Corinthians 13:4–8 ESV
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
Do you love each and everyone of your brothers and sisters in these ways? How can you know? Substitute your name for love, add their name after the description, and turn it into a question.
Love is patient = Is John / Am I patient with Wes?
Love is kind = Is John / Am I kind to Wes?
Etc.
Every Christian needs to go through that exercise regarding every other member of your local congregation. As soon as possible.
If you get nothing else out of this lesson, get this: love your brothers and sisters in the way Paul describes here ().

How to Excel Still More in Loving Our Brothers & Sisters

How is this church doing?
A church will never be all that God wants it to be, spread the gospel powerfully, or accomplish all that God wants it to until the full number are of one heart and soul.
Galatians 5:15 ESV
15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Mark
Mark 12:29–31 ESV
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Do you love Jesus?
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