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Unity In The Local Church

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1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  54:05
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Introduction

There’s an old children’s story that teaches a lesson we all need to learn.
Allow me to summarize the story.
The Emperor's New Clothes.
There was an emperor who cared only about 1 thing. His clothes.
He didn’t care about his armies. He didn’t care about his kingdom. He didn’t care about his people.
What he cared about was having a new set of clothes to wear every hour.
One day two men visited his court and claimed to be able to make a magical suit of clothes.
This magical suit could only been seen by those who were qualified for their position or who were very smart.
The emperor thought this sounded like a great suit of clothes because he would be able to tell who was not qualified in his kingdom.
He employed the men and they began to pretend to make clothes.
In reality they were making nothing. They simply pretended.
Whenever anyone came to check on them, they described what they were pretending to make in such detail that no one wanted to admit they couldn’t see the clothes.
Because if they admitted they couldn’t see the clothes they would be revealing they were unqualified or stupid.
Eventually, the emperor went out in grand procession wearing no clothes at all, because he didn’t want to admit he couldn’t see the magical suit of clothes.
He was, of course, greatly embarrassed when a child pointed out that he had no clothes on.
What happened here is that the emperor believed in the clothing to the point that he went outside naked.
In other words, his belief motivated his behavior.
That idea lies behind the book of 1 Corinthians.
What we believe drives our behavior.
REPEAT
Scripture is filled with both positive and negative examples of belief driving our behavior.
Noah. He believed God would make it rain, so he built a ship.
Abraham. He believed God would give him a land to possess, so he began his journey.
Jonah. He believed God would forgive Nineveh, so he ran the other way.
Our list could go on.
Our behaviors are driven by our beliefs.
Why is that important?
Bad beliefs result in bad behavior.
When I believe the wrong thing, I will behave in a wrong way.
Our title for the book of 1 Corinthians is Unity In The Local Church (S).
Paul desires for the church at Corinth to have unity. But they can’t have unity until they have proper doctrine and practice.
Doctrine and Practice are the two essential elements of unity.
Disunity is caused by bad beliefs that result in bad behavior.
When we correct our beliefs, our behavior will follow.
1 Corinthians is a letter to a church. It is a letter of correction written to address the disunity in a local body of believers.
I believe the key verse of this book to be 1 Corinthians 1:10. READ
1 Corinthians 1:10
In this verse Paul reveals his purpose for writing. He wants the Corinthian church to experience three expressions of unity.
1 - Speak the same thing. 2 - Have no divisions. 3 - Agree in mind and judgment.
This serves as the outline for the first section of the book.
1 Corinthians is a unique book in many ways.
As already mentioned, it is a letter of correction.
It is also a question and answer session.
This will be made clear as we discuss the structure of the book.
Our goal today is understand the necessity of unity and grasp how to have it.
Only when the church is unified can it be effective.
An effective church is a church that glorifies God.
I want Grace church to be affective and Christ honoring. I want us to bring glory to God!
With that thought in mind we begin our overview in section 1…

1. The Doctrine And Practice Necessary For Unity Chs. 1-6

Paul Communicates The Doctrine And Practice Necessary For Unity In The Corinthian Church
If they are going to have unity, these are the things they need to know and do.
Let me teach you two Words.
Orthodoxy - what we believe.
Orthopraxy - what we practice.
The idea of these words is that both what we believe and what we practice need to line up with Scripture.
Some try to contrast these two words. I believe they are complementary.
When I believe what is correct, orthodoxy, I will practice what is correct, orthopraxy.
This lies at the heart of this entire epistle.
The first six chapters read much like Paul’s other epistles.
He deals with doctrine and then the practical results of that doctrine.
We mentioned earlier that 1 Corinthians 1:10 is the main verse of the book.
This verse gives us a three point outline for the book.
Point #1…

a. The Necessity Of A Unified Voice Chs. 1-2

Paul challenges the Corinthians to speak the same thing.
As he gives instruction on how to do that two ideas emerge.
If we are going to speak with a unified voice we must grasp our…

i. Unity of merit Ch. 1

Part of the disunity in Corinth resulted from the misguided exultation of various leaders.
The church had formed fan clubs for Paul, Apollos, Peter, and Jesus.
Each group thought themselves better than the other because of who they followed.
In this first chapter Paul gives them three reminders.
We are all…
1. Equally faithless vv. 1-9
God is faithful. We are not. Any faithfulness we have is a result of His work in us.
We have no merit of our own.
He goes on. We are all…
2. Equally factious vv. 10-17
None of us are exempt from the temptation to follow gifted teachers.
Yet we are to be followers of Christ. Not men.
Finally. We are all…
3. Equally foolish vv. 18-31
The message of the cross is foolish to a lost and dying world.
God doesn’t call us because we are wise, noble, or mighty.
He calls those who are useful.
When our hearts are open to Him, then He can use us.
We are able to speak with a unified voice as we understand we are all equally without merit.
We are faithless, factious, and foolish.
Yet we are the ones God has chosen to use.
When he uses imperfect vessels like you and me, He gets all the glory.
To speak with a unified voice we must grasp our unity of merit.
Secondly, we must have a…

ii. Unity of message Ch. 2

When we look at the big Church today, there is a problem. Our message is confused.
We are unclear about the gospel. Unclear about our role and mission in this world.
Paul addresses these issues here.
We have a…
1. A simple message vv. 1-9
Paul says here that he preaches Jesus Christ crucified. That is the message.
We have a…
2. A spirit empowered message vv. 10-16
The gospel message comes to us through the inspired Word of God.
The Holy Spirit breathed out these Words!
If we want to speak a unified message we must stick to the simple gospel and proclaim it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We speak with a unified voice.
Flip back to 1 Corinthians 1:10.
We are to speak the same thing.
We are also to have no division.
Point #2…

b. The Necessity Of A Unified Vocation Chs. 3-4

We have a job to do and we must focus on that job.
To do that we must understand two things.

i. The nature of calling Ch. 3

Paul once again dives into the issue of what is called sectarianism.
They were separating into sects who followed certain men.
This is not what we are called to.
We are called by God. For what?
To serve. We have…
1. A serving call vv. 1-8
Paul’s solution to the sinful separation taking place was to remind the Corinthian believers that God is the one who brings the increase.
We simply plant and water. We serve at the direction of our master.
So we are called to serve. Secondly. We are called to be sanctified.
We have…
2. A sanctifying call vv. 9-17
We have the foundation of Jesus Christ and all of us will one day stand before Him to explain how we built on that foundation.
This has a purifying effect.
We are called to serve. We are called to be sanctified. This call is…
3. A sovereign call vv. 18-23
Look with me at how Paul ends this chapter in 3:23.
We belong to Jesus. Our lives are not our own.
To be unified in the job we have to do we must know that we are called to serve, to be sanctified, and we are called by God.
The second thing we must understand is…

ii. The nucleus of concentration Ch. 4

There is to be a center, a focus of what we do as children of God.
Look at what Paul states in 4:1.
We are servants of Christ.
Our focus is to be the right kind of servant.
What is the right kind of servant?
1. A trusted servant vv. 1-5
The Christian life is about faithfulness not performance.
When we are faithful, we receive praise from God.
2. A truthful servant vv. 6-13
We need to be men and women devoted to the truth.
We must believe the truth and speak the truth.
3. A trained servant vv. 14-20
Paul calls the Corinthians to imitate faithful believers.
This is an interesting call when he has spent time correcting their sinful idolization of human leaders.
He has confronted that sin and here he corrects. Don’t idolize men, but follow those who are following Christ.
This is how we focus on the job God has given us.
We must know the nature of our calling and we must be servants of Christ.
When we have unity in our mission, we make a decisive impact for Christ.
Back to 1 Corinthians 1:10.
We are to speak the same thing.
Have no divisions.
And we are to agree in mind and judgement.
Point #3…

c. The Necessity Of A Unified Vision Chs. 5-6

What is the goal?
What is the end game of all this?
If we are going to agree in mind and judgment, we must have the same purpose.
First of all…

i. The goal of corporate purity Ch. 5

This ties back to our vocation. We cannot do our job if we are not pure.
The sin Paul confronts and corrects here is difficult.
The church was rejoicing in their toleration of sexual sin. Paul rebukes them.
He teaches two benefits of purity in the local church.
Benefit #1…
1. Purity protects the saints vv. 1-8
As believers in Jesus Christ we cannot allow even a hint of sexual immorality into the church.
This does not mean we shun people who are struggling.
What it means is that we are getting people the help they need.
Benefit #2…
2. Purity presents the saints vv. 9-13
When we are pure it puts on a display to the world.
However, don’t mistake purity for perfection.
What is spoken of here is a process of purification.
For that process to occur something must first have been impure.
Paul also notes that we are not to apply Biblical standards to the world.
Unbelievers will not live like children of God, nor should we want them to.
We want them to see their need of Christ.
We’ve seen the goal of corporate purity.
Secondly…

ii. The goal of corporate promotion Ch. 6

We live to exalt and advance Christ. Personal issues must be cast aside in pursuit of Him!
Believers in the Corinthian church were dragging each other to court!
Paul makes it very clear that this does not honor Christ.
If we are going to promote Christ, there are two requirements.
1. Promotion requires surrender vv. 1-11
Surrender your rights. The right to redress of grievance.
The right to justice.
When there is a conflict with a brother or sister, we should be the first one to let it go.
We forgive as we have been forgiven.
2. Promotion requires sacrifice vv. 12-20
Sacrifice your freedom.
Freedom to eat whatever you want.
The freedom to do what I want has limits.
Paul advocates the voluntary limitation of personal freedom to strengthen the body of Christ.
That’s the first section of the book.
Now we turn to section #2…

2. The Confrontation And Correction Of Disunity Chs. 7-16

Paul Confronts And Corrects The Disunity Revealed By Questions From The Corinthian Church
Paul has communicated the doctrine and practice necessary for unity. Now he is going to confront and correct their disunity.
What is he confronting and correcting? Their doctrine and practice.
In this section Paul is responding to a series of questions that were sent to him by the Corinthian church.
Look at 7:1.
This phrase “now concerning” is repeated a few times throughout the rest of the letter.
I believe these sections introduce Paul’s answers to various questions.
For example, we have another “now concerning” statement in v. 25 and in 8:1 and so on.
He is dealing with the behavior of the church and, more importantly, the beliefs that are driving the behavior.
What we will focus on as we teach through this section is the unity Paul is striving for.
There are false beliefs that are driving false behaviors.
We will state what Paul wants to see them display.
Remember, Paul is arguing the necessity of unity in the local church.
Paul wants them to have…

a. Unity Through A Proper Understanding Of Marriage Ch. 7

Boy is this relevant.
Marriage is under attack. Because that is true, it is vital that we, as believers, know the truth about marriage.
There are two main sections in this chapter. Both answering a different question.
Paul first addresses…

i. The conduct of the married vv. 1-24

He deals with their…
1. Sexual conduct vv. 1-9
What should the sexual relationship look like in marriage?
Then he deals with the permanence of marriage.
2. Secure conduct vv. 10-16
Lastly, in this first section, he encourages all believers to have…
3. Steadfast conduct vv. 17-24
God has called and placed us where we are. We are to serve Him faithfully where He has us.
Paul next addresses…

ii. The conduct of the unmarried vv. 25-40

He calls on those who are unmarried to do three things.
1. Wait on the Lord vv. 25-28
Whether or not a child of God gets married is under His sovereign hand.
Wait on His will and timing. As you do…
2. Work for the Lord vv. 29-35
This requires us as a church to have roles for unmarried people.
We need to engage everyone, young and old, rich and poor, married and single, in the work of the church.
So, wait on the Lord, work for the Lord, thirdly…
3. Walk with the Lord vv. 36-40
Everything we do must be led by the Spirit.
Get married as the Spirit leads. Be single as the Spirit leads.
This is the proper understanding of marriage.
Obviously, this is an overview. We will go into way more depth.
Chapter 7 answers their first 2 questions.
The next question requires a longer answer.
Paul calls for…

b. Unity In The Exercise Of Christian Liberty Chs. 8-11:1

Scripture is very clear that there are areas of the Christian life in which we have liberty to act as the Holy Spirit and our conscience dictate.
However, this doesn’t mean that we have complete freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want.
Paul deals in these chapters with how we exercise our Christian liberty.
First…

i. The demand of Christian liberty Ch. 8

Here’s the principle in a nutshell:
Personal freedom is not primary.
Paul reveals two demands here.
1. Recognize your freedom vv. 1-8
Using the example of meat offered to idols, Paul discusses our freedom.
Look at v. 8.
This is not about who is more spiritual.
This is about freedom or the lack of it.
With that in mind, the second demand is to…
2. Restrict your freedom vv. 9-13
When my exercise of freedom causes harm to a brother or sister in Christ, I am in sin.
That’s a broad statement. When we get there in the book we will explain it more fully.
Second…

ii. The denial of Christian liberty Ch. 9

This is speaking of self-denial.
There are occasions when it is necessary to voluntarily restrict my freedom.
Three examples are given.
1. Denied to avoid abuse vv. 1-18
Paul limited his freedom because he didn’t want anyone to think he was taking advantage of the Corinthians.
2. Denied to aid in attraction vv. 19-23
There are situations and circumstances where limiting my freedom helps draw people to Christ.
3. Denied to attain the award vv. 24-27
Paul calls for self-controlled living to earn rewards in heaven.
Sometimes, as already mentioned, this means the voluntary limitation of my freedom.
Third…

iii. The Determination of Christian liberty Chs. 10-11:1

1. Determined to bear enticement vv. 1-13
As we live in the liberty Christ has purchased, we will encounter temptation.
There will always be the Holy-Spirit empowered ability to endure temptation.
2. Determined to break engagement 10:14-22
Paul calls for the Corinthian’s to flee idolatry in every form.
When in doubt, don't.
3. Determined to bring edification vv. 23-11:1
Here Paul returns to the meat offered to idols issue he started with in ch. 8.
Even in the exercise of our liberty, the goal is the edification of the body of Christ.
If engaging in an activity doesn’t build up the body, don’t do it.
Whether or not you have the freedom to do it isn’t the issue.
The issue is the growth and strength of the body.
That’s question #3.
Paul next calls the Corinthian church to…

c. Unity Through A Proper Understanding Of Roles Ch. 11:2-16

He also touches a little bit on the place of tradition in the life of the church.
This is a controversial topic. And this is a controversial passage.
As we mentioned before, we will deal with this section using the literal, grammatical, historical method of interpretation.
That being said, I will need a lot of prayer and study when we get here.
For now, as I outlined the book I saw three areas of emphasis here.

i. The source of roles vv. 2-6

God is the source. Look at v. 3.
This takes the discussion out of the realm of human thought and opinion and into the realm of revelation.
God has spoken, we seek to understand what He has said and submit ourselves to it.
This, of course, applies to every area of Scripture and theology.
Second area of emphasis.

ii. The strength of roles vv. 7-12

We are interdependent look at vv. 11-12.
Scripture reveals that we are one in Christ. Equal in dignity and worth. Equally redeemed, loved, and valued.
We simply have differing roles and functions.
Third area of emphasis.

iii. The study of roles vv. 13-16

Understanding of this doctrine requires judgement (or study). That is what Paul says here.
Next question.
Paul addresses the need for…

d. Unity In The Observance Of The Lord’s Supper Ch. 11:17-34

Every month we read a portion of this passage.
Seeing it in its context is always powerful.
Paul does three things here.

i. The false observance addressed vv. 17-22

In the Corinthian church, they were being VERY unloving in how the observed the Lord’s supper.
Paul confronts them for their lack of love and for the sin involved in what they were doing.

ii. The proper observance affirmed vv. 23-26

After confronting what they were doing wrong, Paul explains how to do it right.
The purpose here is to proclaim the death of Christ.
This is about how why the death of Christ was necessary!

iii. The requirements for observance announced vv. 27-34

In light of how they had abused the Lord’s Supper, Paul gives guidelines for how they are to do it right.
This is where we get the examination passage for communion.
There is also a rather controversial topic here about God’s discipline of His children.
We will be dealing with that as well.
On to the next question.
The local church must pursue…

e. Unity Through A Proper Understanding Of Spiritual Things Chs. 12-15

This “now concerning” section takes us almost through the end of the book.
This section deals with Spiritual things.
Look at 12:1.
The word “gifts” in this verse has been added by the translators. I believe it should not be there.
Why? Because Paul deals with more than just Spiritual Gifts in this section. He deals with Spiritual things.
Under this heading he addresses gifts, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the future of the believer.
First he addresses…

i. Understanding the purpose and use of spiritual gifts Chs. 12-14

Again I want to remind us that this is an overview.
We will deal with these sections verse by verse.
In chs. 12-14 Paul deals with three issues.
1. The purpose of spiritual gifts ch. 12
a. To build the body of Christ vv. 1-11
They are to strengthen us. To edify us.
Look at 12:7.
The gifts are given to benefit all.
b. To bond the body of Christ vv. 12-31
Paul spends quite a bit of time discussing the diversity and unity of the body.
Every single part of the body of Christ is necessary.
Second issue…
2. The priority of spiritual gifts ch. 13
This is called the love chapter. And it does talk about love. But as we noted before, the context is love in the local church.
a. The demand for love vv. 1-3
Without love all words, miracles, faith, and actions are empty and meaningless.
b. The definition of love vv. 4-8a
What does love look like?
This is the famous description.
This is the goal the body of Christ is to strive for.
c. The duration of love vv. 8b-13
Love is eternal.
All the showy, cool sounding and looking Spiritual gifts will fade and cease. But love is the greatest.
Love is eternal.
Third issue…
3. The practice of spiritual gifts ch. 14
a. The goal of communication vv. 1-19
We want people to understand what is being taught and said.
Anything that hinders understanding or instruction is to be rejected.
b. The goal of conviction vv. 20-25
In the church, we proclaim the truth of God’s Word that hearts might be convicted of sin.
c. The goal of clarity vv. 26-40
In the use of our spiritual gifts we want the message of the gospel to be clear.
There must not be confusion in the church service.
Let me just mention that there are some very controversial verses in this portion of 1 Corinthians.
We will deal with them as we will the rest. Using proper Bible interpretation.
Paul moves from Spiritual gifts to address our need for…

ii. Understanding the power of Christ’s death and resurrection 15:1-34

This is another famous passage of Scripture.
Paul spells out the vital importance of the resurrection.
1. The resurrection provides purpose vv. 1-19
Apart from the resurrection we have no salvation or sanctification and we certainly have no Savior to proclaim.
2. The resurrection provides perseverance vv. 20-34
The resurrection gives us the ability to press on in the midst of opposition and trial (vv. 29-34) because Christ has already won (vv. 20-28)!
Death is defeated!
Finally, in this section, we have our need for…

iii. Understanding the certainty of a believer’s future 15:35-58

Because of Christ’s resurrection, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt what is in store for us.
1. Certainty provides identity vv. 35-49
We are going to get new bodies!
We are going to bear the image of Christ!
Not an image that is imperfect and marred by sin.
We will have glorified bodies. Bodies perfected by the blood of Christ.
Bodies fit for life in the presence of our Savior!
Anybody else just want to say “hallelujah!?”
The certainty of our future gives us our identity.
Secondly,
2. Certainty provides impetus vv. 50-58
Meaning motivation.
Look at 15:58.
Knowing what is coming in the future. Knowing that Christ wins. Knowing that we will receive new bodies.
Knowing all of this. We live for Jesus.
Steadfast, immovable, ALWAYS abounding in the work of the Lord.
Why?
Because our labor is not in vain!
Final section.
Paul expresses his desire that there be…

f. Unity In The Activity Of The Local Church Ch. 16

This section is a collection of answers to questions, thoughts, greetings, and admonitions.

i. The collection of money vv. 1-4

This is something they asked him about, so he addresses it.
He says to give regularly, and to give as you are able.

ii. The concern of men vv. 5-12

They were concerned about Paul’s visit, Timothy, and Apollos.
I love their concern for others in the body of Christ.
This needs to be our concern as well.

iii. The continuation of ministry vv. 13-18

Look at v. 13 because I love it.
He addresses honoring church leadership and those who serve.

iv. The communion of saints vv. 19-24

Paul gives them greetings from those with him.
He encourages the saints to greet one another.
He challenges those who don’t love Christ.
Paul ends with a desire for Christ’s return and with grace and love.
That’s 1 Corinthians.

Conclusion

Questions
What am I doing to promote unity at Grace Church?
Am I doing anything to create disunity?
How will I actively work at unity in my relationships?
Personal: Is there anyone I need to seek forgiveness from? Do I need to forgive someone? Are there beliefs that are driving negative behavior in my life?
Friends: Maybe I need to have a conversation about what I believe.
Marriage: Seek unity in our direction as a couple. Unity in our parenting. Unity in spiritual things.
Parents: I may need to explain to my children what I believe and why. This could be true for a number of issues.
COMMITMENT: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The book of 1 Corinthians is all about unity.
If we are going to have unity, we must have correct doctrine.
Our beliefs drive our behavior.
Disunity must be confronted and corrected.
May we seek unity.
May our unity make us effective as a church.
May we align our beliefs to God’s Word.
May our correct beliefs result in correct actions.
May Christ be glorified here at Grace Church.
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