I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose.
1 Corinthians 1:4-10 NRSV
This morning we look at Paul’s goal of unity within the church at Corinth.
Paul addressed these issues when it came to the different factions within the church. This was a very mixed culture but when it came to the good news of Jesus Christ that unity could not be compromised.
I spoke about last time how in much of Paul's letters, he speaks to the church in the light of their end goal, which in this case he calls the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the day Jesus spoke about when the inauguration and installation of the kingdom of God and He will appear. This is the ‘revelation’ or the revealing of Christ.
In the meantime, we are to be waiting with expectation and hope and faithfully serving God, with this end in mind. Faithfulness or faith is the key to playing our part in the here and now. This dual focus of the life of faith is key in our understanding of the purpose of God.
This future goal sets us on a path, where we follow Christ, we set ourselves in the right direction and walk with purpose towards the end goal. The telos in Greek was ideal, and ethics asks us what kind of person we want to be. What would the ideal person be like and so we emulate that kind of person? For Paul it was the new creation, the new person in Christ, looking into the future of the resurrected life and living that now.
I have made three points in his series, the third of which I shall look at today from this scripture.
Paul addresses Corinth to encourage them, that while we wait for the end, we should be united, of one heart and one mind. Having the same purpose, we find ourselves today seeing people without purpose, talking to someone this week, saying we need to find a purpose bigger than ourselves bigger than the desire for drugs or alcohol, purpose is an adventure we all need challenges and to rise to it. I Corinthians 6 Paul writes you are not your own, bought with a price, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Paul also says we, the church are the body of Christ, Christ being the head, and we though many parts, are one.
First, the Church is like a body with many parts but one purpose. Second, there is room for a variety of gifts all revealing Christ. third, we ask what is the purpose Paul has in mind.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. Each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NRSA
Gifts are given to the church, Paul writes these are for the edification of the body as a whole until we come to unity. For the common good, we are not alone but we are part of a network, what we do affects others. We are not an insignificant appendix, a vital part that is connected to 1000 others in 4 steps.
Romans 12. What I spoke about last time speaks about the unity of the one body.
We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Romans 12:5-8 NRSV
2. Oneness reveals who Christ is ( the fellowship of the Son)
Jesus spoke to his disciples in John and prays for his followers to be one, the kind of oneness shared within the father and son and I would add the Spirit.
I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
John 17:23 -
Paul also sees the fellowship with the Son, Jesus Christ as vital to the unity of His body.
John also picks this up in 1 John, writing that the fellowship we have together has the foundation in our fellowship with the Son, God is light and in the light of God we walk in that fellowship, light means that nothing is hidden, we are transparent when it comes to God, we can't hide anything, keeping secrets, particularly if we are struggling, makes us feel alone. Sharing our burdens gives us connections to each other. We are commented together in Christ, this is the only way that this works. We come from multiple cultures and backgrounds, we may even have different political views and diverse opinions. Yet we serve the same Christ Jesus.
In the letter to the church in Corinth Paul is trying to deal with lots of issues. Similar to the one to the Romans, Paul is trying to bring unity to a cross-cultural community and the problem he is addressing is that their human allegiances or tribal factors, or as we might say their ‘group’ identity is getting in the way of the Gospel. Whilst these tribal issues are strong today, we understand that Christ has to be our focal point, and allow for difference.
What is this purpose Paul is concerned about?
the Church of Christ is formed of those who are trusting to Him as the power of God unto salvation.
Christ is in fellowship with all who trust in Him, whether their knowledge is great or small; and we cannot refuse to communicate with those with whom He is in communion.
No doctrinal error, therefore, which does not subvert personal faith in Christ should be allowed to separate Churches.
When it came to unity Paul was contemplating Christ, and not a creed or a particular belief, as the centre of the Church's unity, when he exclaimed, "Is Christ divided?"
In all Christians and all Churches, the one Christ is the life of each. And it is monstrous that those who are virtually united to one Person and quickened by one Spirit should in no way recognise their unity. It is with something akin to the horror that Paul goes on to ask, "Was Paul crucified for you?"
Pauk implies that only on the death of Christ can the Church be founded. Take away that and the personal connection of the believer with the crucified Redeemer, and you take away the Church.
The death, resurrection and accession of Christ is foundational, we all sinned fallen short of God’s glory, we all deserve punishment for sin. Yet the redemption we have in Christ is found in no other name. Every knee will now and every tongue confess Jesus Christ our Lord. Everyone must repent and believe in Christ and come into fellowship with Christ.
God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose.
What is important to Paul is that while we are waiting we are faithfully serving God, with this end in mind. Faithfulness or faith is the key to playing our part in the here and now. The division is getting in the way of the gospel being preached. Today we see so much conflict within the wider church and between churches that these arguments become our focus, and are often seen as irrelevant to those outside.
We need, like the Corinthians, to be reminded of the Spirit of God in our lives and the gifts he has for us. We are not meant to have a form of religion that denies the Spirit of God. We embrace the giftings as they enhance our walk with God. When we walk together by the Spirit of God, keeping Christ as the head, allowing for differences in focus but do not allow sectarianism to hinder the good news.