Paul's Call For Unity At Corinth
1 Corinthians 1:10
The church at Corinth was a mess. It was divided into various competing groups; disorder prevailed in their assemblies; the Lord's Supper had been corrupted in their practice; spiritual gifts were misused; adultery tolerated and some even denied the resurrection of the dead.
Paul wasn't willing to give up on them. First, he loved God. Second, he loved them and wanted to see them purged of these debilitating conditions. He wrote to them by inspiration of the Holy Spirit as an apostle of Christ. He was firm in renouncing their sin & calling them to repentance.
Right away he wrote this to them: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment," (1 Cor. 1:10).
We can observe how serious this was in Paul's language: "Now I plead with you," (KJV, "I beseech you," NIV, "I appeal to you."). This tells us something. I believe it tells us how serious this was. The apostle Paul is writing to a local church and here he says, "I plead with you." This was not on the level of a suggestion shared among peers. This was not a man imposing his opinion on a local church. This was not about some incidental or matter of expediency. This was a problem of a spiritual nature requiring immediate action.
Similarly, the next phrase highlights the urgency of the admonition: "...by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..." Keep in mind, this was written by an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul was "called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God..." (see 1 Cor. 1:1). He was an apostle chosen to do the kind of work he was doing in writing this letter. He was chosen and behind that choice was "the will of God." So when the apostle Paul preached or wrote to Christians, what He conveyed was the singular, authorized message of Jesus Christ. This is not like a member of the church with a suggestion to make. This is not like an ordinary critic. Not even like a gospel preacher today. He was speaking and writing instructions to be received "in the name of Jesus Christ." Paul delivered what was revealed to Him (see 1 Cor. 11:23-26). Paul is pleading with his brethren in Corinth, and what he says - he says as an apostle of Jesus Christ: "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The heart of the admonition: "that you all speak the same thing..." In this nation, we take great pride in that part of our law that affords us the right of free speech. The first amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." In the broadest interpretation and stated in simple terms ą You can say whatever you want to say. Carefully note: from the standpoint of civil law - You can say whatever you want to say. It doesn't matter if people disagree. It doesn't matter if the majority despise what you say. It doesn't have to be in the Bible. I'm talking just from the standpoint of civil law - you can say whatever you want to say. In civil law, in this country, you are free to say anything. That others say something different, constitutes no legal restraint on you at all. Freedom of speech is a right often abused; yet it was the intent of the founders to allow us freedom of speech.
That's great, but let's be sure we understand, as members of the Lord's church, we submit to a higher authority. Our speech should be restrained by the will of God! The government may allow us to do and say things without consequence - but those things may be forbidden by God. If you are a child of God, all your thinking, speech and behavior should be according to His will. The United States may let you say a number things without legal consequence - but God holds us accountable for all that we say. Jesus said - "But I say to you, that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment," (Matt. 12:36).
Paul was pleading with the Christians in Corinth to speak the same thing. Diversity may be applauded in society. But when Christians speak of their faith and when we tell people the story of the gospel; when we describe our faith and practice, and express our loyalties - we ought to speak the same thing! Apparently, the members of the church at Corinth were divided, and that division came through in their speech - they were saying different things (see 1 Cor. 15:12).
Many years ago, I was visiting someone in the hospital, in Ozark, Arkansas. It was the old fashioned hospital ward arrangement. In this large room there were a dozen or so patients. I spoke with the lady I was visiting and led a prayer. Before I left, a lady who overheard me wanted to visit with me. She fired a number of questions at me and I answered by using my New Testament; reading the passages that answered her questions. And as we completed our visit she said, "You people in the church of Christ all say the same thing!" I've thought about that a lot through the years. I hope and pray this is true, and I hope this is true n the sense it should be true . . . our common devotion to God's Word. We speak the same thing because our source is the same.
How are we able to speak the same things? By reading and believing the same book! How is unity possible? If I believe in the Word of God, and let my speech be governed by the Word - and you do the same, there is a great likelihood, we will speak the same things. We will give the same answers - because we are finding the answers in the same book.
"...And that there be no divisions among you." Of all the tough experiences in life one of the most unpleasant is to be in a group where there is strife; where people are not on the same pages. And beyond that, where there is envy, jealousy, immaturity and political type maneuvering. For there to be hard feelings and conflict in a family can make you sick, literally. As Christians we ought to be a people who seek peace; who pursue peace; who love harmony. And who abhor division!
Some of you have witnessed a church divided. You have watched with dismay, as a local church is torn apart into different factions, led by different men or women. They won't talk to each other; they are bearing resentments; acting selfishly. Sometimes it reaches the point described by Paul in Gal. 5:15 - biting and devouring one another. It makes you sick.
And we all know the church was not intended to be a place where people hurt each other or kill each other. The local church should be a place of warmth, comfort, harmony. Where there is envy and strife, it make you sick and your impulse is to quit. But I want to address now - the greater offense involved in division. How do you think God feels about it? What God wants is what Jesus prayed for (Jno. 17:20,21).
Look at the verse, just previous to our text. 1 Cor. 1:9 - "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." God wants us in the fellowship of His Son - united, with Jesus Christ as our Lord. There is no virtue in the kind of division that tore the church at Corinth apart. It was a mess.
The Unity God Desires is Described by Paul in these words: "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." We are different people. We are not clones. In every local church, there will be different ages; different levels of experience and understanding; different cultural/ethnic backgrounds and different personalities. But in our faith and in the expression of our faith there can be unity; there must be unity. That unity is not found in some sort of unity and diversity plan engineered by men. That unity is not found through creed writing. That unity is found - when we believe, teach and practice only what the Bible says.
The unity that pleases God can find its' place - when we find our place under the authority of Christ, united by the Spirit's revelation (Eph. 4:1-6). First, being baptized into Christ. Then, be certain your life is guided by the instructions in the New Testament. We must "walk worthy of the calling." We must endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. If we were all baptized into the one body, having embraced the one faith, to have the one hope; serving the One Lord and One God - as revealed by the One Spirit.
"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalms 133:1.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 12.11; November 2005