Mess #1: Division in the Church
Messy Church - 1 Corinthians • Sermon • Submitted
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Please open your bibles to 1 Cor 1:10
Tonight we will be finishing the first chapter of 1 Corinthians as we pick up in our series called Messy Church.
The most dysfunctional church that we hear about in the Bible was the church in Corinth. And 1 Corinthians is a letter written by Paul to that church to address and correct the many sins and problems that are being practiced in that church.
As we go through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we will see that a lot of the problems that were happening in the Corinthian church in the first century still go on in the church today in 21st century.
There are a total of five main problems that Paul addresses in his letter that is making the church a mess.
This week, we are introduced to the first of those five problems, namely division in the church.
10 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. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
As we get started, I want to take a poll or survey of the room —
I’m going to give you three different options, and of those three you need to show which of them you prefer
What color shirt would you prefer: of blue, yellow, or gray ?
Here’s the next one. What would you rather eat for dinner on a Friday night: Hamburgers, pizza, or tacos?
One last one, and this time I added a fourth option: What movie series is best: Star Wars, Marvel, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter?
There is a lot of diversity represented here tonight…
some might be prefer to wear their favorite yellow shirt, eat pizza and watch the latest episode of Wanda Vision
while others like myself might prefer to wear a gray shirt, and eat a hamburger while I watch Lord of the Rings
Now, here’s the beauty about the church… We can all have very different opinions about all sorts of things in life.
We can enjoy different kinds of food
We can prefer different of hobbies
We can even like a different style of worship music
We can even have differing views nearly every part of life…
But when we all agree on the gospel of Jesus Christ, the rest of our differences become completely insignificant… or at least they should become insignificant…
But this is not always what happens in the church.
Often times we make the style of music that we sing, an issue that we are willing to divide over.
I have even heard of churches dividing over the color of the carpet in the church.
And the last year has been full of so many topics of debate that you could grab just about any of them and you’ll find that there are Christian’s who are ready to fight to the death just to get their ideas heard…
But division in the church isn’t a new issue in the modern church, for Corinthians were also a people who were divided over a very petty subject. Listen to how Paul addressed it.
10 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.
Here, Paul is urging the Corinthian church to agree with one another, and not be divided about lesser things than the gospel…
And listen to what has the church divided…
11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
What was happening in the Corinthian church, was the Christians were debating and arguing over who the best teacher was in the church…
Some thought Paul was the best perhaps because of his powerful testimony…
Others thought it was Apollos, a man who was very eloquent and persuasive when he spoke
Some believed it was the Cephas, which is another name for the Apostle Peter, for Peter was a man walked with Jesus during his earthly ministry, and further, Peter was able to do many signs and wonders
And apparently, there were some who were arguing that they didn’t follow any of the Apostle’s teachings, rather they only followed Jesus
Now to be clear, following Jesus the problem that Paul is addressing. In fact we all must follow Jesus for Jesus himself told us to pick up our cross and follow him…
And following Paul isn’t a problem. For Paul will later write in this very letter that the Corinthians are to follow him as he follows Christ…
And following any other Christian isn’t bad either, so long as they are walking worthy of the calling with which they have been called....
The problem that Paul is addressing is that the church is being divided over which teacher is best and which one they are following…
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Paul says to those who were flocking to him and the other teachers…
Is Christ divided? - the answer to this is no! Jesus’ body is alive…
Was Paul crucified for you? - No, rather it was Jesus who died for you so that you could have life!
Were you baptized in the name of Paul, or any other church leader for that matter? - Again, the answer is no, for you were baptized into the name of the Father, and Son and the Holy Spirit, which means this… if you have been baptized, you are in Christ… meaning you are unified with him, and every other Christian that has been baptized into Christ is also one with him!
Here’s what I want us to see:
1. Jesus is the one who saved the church by unifying us in him.
1. Jesus is the one who saved the church by unifying us in him.
When we divide the church over the ideas of man:
we are in effect tearing apart Jesus’ like those who whipped him, like those who drove nails into his hands and feet, like those who pierced Jesus’ side. For when we divide the church, we divide the body of Christ for the church is Christ’s body
When we divide the church, we divide that which Christ died to unify in himself!
Division over lesser things than the cross of Christ, is a contradiction to the gospel…
So, should the church divide over whether or not we should wear masks or not? Absolutely not, for Jesus died so that we would be unified in him…
Should we divide over the the proper way to sing a mighty fortress is our God? Of course not, for Jesus died so that we would be unified in him…
Should we divide based on our political allegiances? Absolutely not, for Jesus died for all people so that we might all be made one in Christ…
There is never a reason for the church of Jesus Christ to divide…
And if you want to hold up the Protestant reformation as a model to follow for dividing the church, then you don’t understand what the reformation was about… when the Protestant church divided from Catholicism… they did so because the Catholic Church was not a part of the true church Christ, for they were not bound by the gospel of Jesus Christ…
So let me repeat myself: There is never a reason for the church of Jesus Christ to divide. For Jesus died so that all people would be unified into him.
All the while, the Corinthian church is arguing and dividing over who was the best speaker, who was the most powerful orator… who among mere men was worthy to be followed.... it’s with this in mind that Paul continues:
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Understand what Paul is saying here… (we will go into more detail about this next week, but for now understand this) to those who are dead in their sins, the message of the cross (that is the message of the gospel) is absolute foolishness…
The message that salvation comes though faith in a the God-man Jesus, who died a criminal’s death on the cross and rose from the grave on the third day, is a message that lacks any and all sense to those who do not believe…
But for us who do believe, for us who are being saved, we hear this message and see and understand that the message of the cross displays the wisdom and the power of God
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
In v 19, Paul is quoting from the OT book of Isaiah
And the verses that follow 19 are Paul’s comments about what this quote from Isaiah means…
Paul says, that God has made foolish the wisdom of the world...
meaning, that the wise, the scribe, the debater, apart from Christ, has in fact become the fool.
Paul continues… in v 22… hey says, Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles…
Paul is saying, the world is looking for power, and looking for wisdom… but all the while they are missing the source of power and wisdom for they do not recognize Jesus because they have denied the message of the the cross
But you see, in that message of the cross, where Jesus died for the sins of the world, God came in weakness. He did not come as a strong warrior with a crown of gold. Rather he was mocked, and despised wearing a crown of thorns. But in this very act Jesus displayed that his foolishness is both stronger than the greatest strength of men, and tis folly is also wiser than the greatest wisdom of men....
Now what does all this have to do with the divisions that are happening in the Corinthian church?
Remember the Corinthians are a church divided… namely over who is the most wise and powerful preacher.
Sure Apollos is eloquent
Yeah, Paul and Peter have preformed many signs and wonders…
But all of these things, Paul says, comes from God
Earlier Paul focused on salvation being something that comes from the power of Jesus Christ and the cross… but the opposite of this truth is what Paul has in mind here…
2. Human wisdom and power neither saves nor unifies.
2. Human wisdom and power neither saves nor unifies.
There are plenty of men and women who are brilliant thinkers with PHDs. These people are are able launch rockets into space… they are able to preform a heart transplants so that a person who’s heart is failing can live in good health again…
These people are brilliant in ways that most of us in the room will never understand… But Paul says that despite men’s great wisdom and knowledge, they are utter fools, if they fail to recognize the one who made the stars and galaxies that they study. For Jesus he is the one who created and sustains all things including the very life that they are working to sustain through modern medicine
Think about this for a moment.... if the world was unified for a single cause, let’s say to cure cancer… it would take extraordinary efforts and a lot of knowledge to pull off such an enormous task. Now, what if this enormous task was to be accomplished… would death be defeated? Of course not, for there will always be new diseases, new cancers, new ailments that will end life. Why? Because death is and will always be inevitable if we depend on the strength and wisdom of man.
Or again consider this: people unify around certain political parties… We often think, there it is! There is wisdom and power! There is the solution to all of our problems!
But there have been many presidents and governors on both sides of the political parties, and none of them have ever been able to stop sin and suffering have they?
But what of the weakness and and the foolishness of God? What did he do? Well Jesus did something that no person could have imagined… He himself put on flesh, becoming a weak baby, and a servant to all… he was despised and rejected, and he died on the cross as a criminal.
Could anyone have expected salvation from a plan like that?
The world looks at the message of the cross and sees it as a message of weakness, and foolishness… but to us who are being saved, we see in it the wisdom and the power of God, for by it, all who believe are saved!
Human wisdom and power never leads to salvation.
and if the church begins to flock to human power and wisdom, the result will always be division, destruction, and ultimately death.
But it was never the wisdom or the strength of man that led to salvation was it?
With this in mind, Paul then turns his attention from the wisdom and power of the message of the cross to the wisdom and power that Corinthian church never had...
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
The Corinthians are divided over who the best preacher is… Paul’s response to this… who cares?!
None of you were powerful or wise in human standards
In fact, this isn’t just the testimony of the Corinthians, rather, this is the testimony of every Christian…
For it’s not by our might that we are saved, rather it is because of God’s strength that there is salvation for any of us!
And further, you weren’t even wise enough to recognize and choose Jesus, for even before you ever chose God, God chose you! That’s what Paul is saying in v 27-29
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
If we were left to our own wisdom, we would never choose God… But in God’s infinite wisdom, he chose us, small, insignificant, and weak people for salvation so that we would never have a reason to boast.
This is the repeating refrain of all who God chooses unto himself…
When Babylon tried to make a name for themselves, God confused them and scattered them…
But then Abraham, and old man with no name was chosen by God out of Babylon and God gave Abraham a great name
Recall when Moses tried to deliver a Hebrew from a cruel Egyptian in his own strength, while he was a a prince of Egypt. Do you remember the story? But how did that work for Moses… Well it didn’t, and so Moses had to flee into the wilderness and he became a weak shepherd
But there in his weakness, God called him to be the instrument to delivered Israel from Egypt, not because he was powerful, or because he was wise… but because God was powerful enough to Israel through a weak shepherd…
Do you remember any other weak shepherds that were used by God? How about King David? Was he a king because he was as powerful and as strong as King Saul was before him? No, in fact remember that David was so small compared to Saul that he couldn’t even wear Saul’s armor… In fact, of all of his sons, Jesse didn’t even think of David as being kingly material…
Nearly every great character in the OT is humbled by God, while every weak, scared, and small figure in the OT is exulted by God.... do you know why?
Well Paul sums it up quite well at the end of 1 Cor 1
30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
What’s the point of this?
3. When all glory is given to God, the church is unified.
3. When all glory is given to God, the church is unified.
When all glory goes to God, and all we boast in is him, then the result will be unity…
Or to put it simply: humility produces unity
But pride produces division
Seriously, just think about it.... if we are always trying to put ourselves before others because of pride… what will that lead to? More sin, more fights, more problems, and it will produce division…
But if we are all humble and lowly, knowing that Christ has put us in a great position not because of works but because of grace… then what do we have to boast in besides Christ…
Hear this you Christian:
you have has no reason to boast in yourself… for you have not contributed a thing to your salvation salvation
Take it from Jesus and what he said to his disciples:
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.