Healthy Church: Divisions

February 7, 2023

Series: Healthy Church

Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Last Sunday we kicked off our new series in 1 Corinthians.  We learned about the messiness of the Corinthian church and the messiness of the Corinthian city.

We learned about a people who have inconsistent beliefs, inconsistent behaviors, and yet the God of Scripture comes along-side His people with patience, love and support as He finishes the great work that He starts in us.  Amen?

In a day like today, when people are arguing, criticizing and sometimes cutting people out of their lives because of beliefs and behaviors, yet in God’s Word we see the God of Scripture finishing the work He started in us by grace through faith in Jesus.

This morning we are going to continue in 1 Corinthians and look at division in the local church.  I know that might be hard to imagine but sometimes people in Christ struggle to get along with one another and God’s Word meets us in the practical areas of life.  Let’s look at verse 10:

1 Corinthians 1:10, “10 Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 

1 Corinthians is written by the Apostle Paul written to the local church in Corinth and before we get to the “divisions” I want you to see the Apostle Paul refers to this local church as his “brothers and sisters in Christ.”  Isn’t that beautiful?

Did you know Jesus is God in the flesh?  Did you know Jesus died on the cross for your sin, conquered death in the resurrection?  Did you know that when you believe in Jesus you are you are not only given eternal life in Christ but you are also welcomed into God’s family, so that as a result we become brothers and sisters in Christ?  Isn’t that amazing?

I don’t know how it hits you to see your church family in Austin as “brothers and sisters in Christ.”  Some of us have warm relationships with our family.  Some of us have scattered relationships with family, so I am sure this hits all of us in a different place.

In my family background we were fairly sporadic.  We didn’t really talk to each other.  If we did talk to each other we always talked at the surface level.  Therefore, when our family experienced conflict / division with one another, which everyone does on some level, we never talked about that conflict.  It was weird!

Therefore, then I come to faith in Jesus.  I was 18-years old.  I was living on my own and it was in the local church in Austin that I began to experience overcoming conflicts and division.

It was in the local church in north Austin that I began to experience someone apologizing and asking forgiveness.  It was in the local church in Austin I began to hear people bring specific encouragement into my life.  It was in the local church I began to be built up and strengthened and it was because in Christ, we are “brothers and sisters.”

I don’t want to mislead, there were plenty of weird, difficult, challenging conversations in the local church.  I have had my own share of “verbal nuggies” in the local church with my brothers and sisters in Christ but for the most part the local church was the first place I started to see people share things with me, help me, sacrifice for me, receive help from me, and it’s because in Christ we are “brothers and sisters.”

As you might expect, brothers and sisters are going to experience some conflict, therefore, in verse 10 the Apostle Paul begins to address the divisions taking place in the local church.  Let’s look at verses 11-12:

1 Corinthians 1:11-12, “11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brothers and sisters, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with Christ.” 

In the context of the Corinthian church there were some people fraction off in groups, so as to pick sides.  Can you imagine?

One group was siding with Paul because Paul was the one who planted the church, so he has been there from the beginning, so they felt loyal to Paul.  Another group with Apollos because Apollos was an incredibly gifted teacher in person, so some people were rallying behind him.

Another group was with Cephas, otherwise known as Peter and Peter was the lead apostle in Jerusalem, more closely connected to Jewish traditions, so that some were siding with Peter.  And the last group was siding with Christ, which sounds like a great place but this is typically the response a person gives when they don’t want to listen to anyone else but Jesus.

Can you believe God’s people could become so petty that we would side with different personalities, different groups, and then turn against those who don’t support our favorite personality or group?

Could you believe that we would be so committed to a political candidate that we would justify making snarky comments about another candidate?  Could you believe that people in the local church could be so committed to a social issue like immigration, environmental, racism, abortion, socialism, that if someone didn’t agree with them, we would have to stop attending that church!

Don’t misunderstand, being unified brothers and sisters in Christ doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything 100% of the time.  Our culture used to have this value called “love is love” which means you love people no matter what until recently that value has changed to “love is love unless you do, think or say, something different than me then I have every right to hurl abuse at you by any means possible.”

Being brothers and sisters in Christ doesn’t mean have to agree on everything.  Being brothers and sisters in Christ doesn’t mean we all have to have the same political or social interests.

For example, our family is involved in fostering but it’s okay if you aren’t.  Another person might be really involved in the homeless population, another might be involved in sex trafficking, or immigration and we might have different political candidates to help us accomplish those purposes.

This is important.  I think there is a dangerous trend as followers of Jesus that we don’t feel safe unless we are around the same ethnicity, same education, same financial standing, same relational status, same personalities, same convictions, drive the same car, wear the same clothes, like the same music and laugh at the same jokes.

You see that sometimes in the local church, right?  I was at a church one time and every person I talked 1-1 would say the phrase “C’mon” after you finished a sentence.

Where do you live?  I live in Austin.  C’mon!  What do you do?  I pastor a small church in the city?  C’mon!  Where did you grow up?  Irving, TX. C’mon!  It was weird and it happened with every person I met in that church.

As a result, I think we are easily confused in this area and we think everyone has to think the same or everyone has to look the same, because that’s what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ but this is why the Apostle Paul keeps driving the Corinthian church back to Jesus.  Let’s look at verse 13:

1 Corinthians 1:13, “13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 

In verse 13 the Apostle Paul asks a series of questions where the implied answer is, “No.”  The purpose of these questions is to remind the reader that Jesus is the most important in our lives.

Was Paul crucified for you?  No.  Did that political candidate die for you?  No.  Did that view on economics give its life for you?  No.  Did that ideology on sexuality being taught on Snap Chat die for you?  No.

A little more personal, did that that conflict that caused you to cut that person out of your life die for you?  No, it is only Jesus who has given their life for us, therefore, the Apostle Paul continues to drive the reader back to Jesus!

This is why Jesus prays these words in John 17.  Jesus is praying for the disciples, praying for those who will follow Him and Jesus prays these words:

John 17:20-21, “20 “I am not asking on behalf of these alone, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

This isn’t just theoretical.  Let’s talk about it practically in our church family.  During the pandemic we would meet as elders and discuss how to respond to the pandemic practically.  It was incredibly difficult.  We had some elders in the conversation that were very open-handed on how we respond and we had some elders who were very closed-handed, and as a result it created a lot of tension.

There were moments where the conversations would get really tense and eventually someone would remind us of the importance of unity as elders and unity in our church family, and in those moments, it was amazing how easy it was to say to one another, “I know this isn’t right but I don’t care about unity.  This is too important!”

Therefore, what do you do in those moments?  Does everyone just act like we are brothers and sisters in Christ but secretly we hate one another?  The answer isn’t that we never see division in the local church in north Austin but that we never see division that hurts the name of Jesus in the local church in Austin.  Does that make sense?

Are there times we need to put up some boundaries in our relationships?  Maybe?  Are there times we invest our time and energy into a different local church in Austin?

Yes.  We see the Apostle Paul and Barnabas divide in Acts 15 but we never do so that it hurts the name of Jesus in the local church in Austin, because none of our divisions are important enough to take the attention off of Jesus and put it on ourselves.  Does that make sense?  Look at verse 14-16:

1 Corinthians 1:14-16, “I am thankful that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name! 16 But I did baptize the household of Stephanas also; beyond that, I do not know if I baptized anyone else.” 

I love verses 14-16.  First, Paul is like how am I supposed to remember who I baptized?  Second, it’s possible the Apostle Paul only led 1-2 people to faith in Corinth and then those people shared their faith, who shared their faith, who shared their faith, so that the Apostle Paul knows this church do you see how the Apostle Paul continues to drive the focus back on Jesus. Isn’t that beautiful?  Look at verse 17:

1 Corinthians 1:17, “17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made of no effect.”

In verse 17 it isn’t that baptism, baptism is important, but the Apostle Paul wants to keep the main things on the main things and the main thing is Jesus.

The reference to “cleverness of speech” is a reflection of what the Corinthian people are looking for in a spiritual leader.  These are a people who have been shaped by people like Aristotle, Plato, Apollos, people who are able to move a crowd with their verbal eloquence and the Apostle Paul simply writes, “I am not trying to impress you on the stage…I want you to know Jesus.”

Listen to me church family, I know there are some great speakers these days.  I know you can find people on television, podcasts, and some really charismatic people but you want to surround yourself with people that lead you to a place of being in awe of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

When we gather as a community group we want to laugh, great food, moments of encouragement and connection but our ultimate goal is to leave our time in our community groups being in awe of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

When we gather 1-1, when we serve in children’s ministry, when we sing on a Sunday morning, when we pray over one another, our primary goal is not to win friends and influence people, but our primary goal is lead people to a place of being in awe of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

It is because Jesus is eternal God who entered into humanity in the form of a servant.  Can you believe that?  Even if you were making up this story, it’s an amazing story. Every story of some god-like being entering into earth always comes in glory.  Thor came with high lighting and hammer.  Loki comes as a snarky trickster.  Wonder Woman has an invisible jet.  C-3PO is layered in gold and lifted high among the Ewoks but Jesus comes as an infant in a manger.

Jesus comes as an infant in a manger who draws close to the people, lives within humanity, gets his hands dirty in the dust of this world that He created, and although He lives a perfect life, He willingly laid His life down at the cross for our sin, so that He takes our division upon Himself, so that there is division between Him and the Father and the Spirit for the first time in eternity.  Isn’t that amazing?

Jesus sees our division, our quarreling, our fighting and then takes that division upon Himself so that the Father and the Son are separated, divided, so that Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Isn’t that amazing?  He takes our division and then through the resurrection Jesus conquers our division so that we would never be separated from Him again!

I remember when someone started sharing the life of Jesus with me until they go to this part.  They said to me, “You know Jesus went through all that so that there is nothing that could ever separate us from Him?”  It melted my heart.

I remember thinking, “Someone would have all that, go through all that and then say to those who believe in Him.”  I will be with you always.  I have been through everything life has to offer.  None of it stopped me and none of it will stop me being committed to you for eternity.  I was done!  That’s the gospel!

Listen to me, the people in our lives, the people in this room, we don’t need cleverness of speech.  We need to hear about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  We need to respond to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  We need to invite people to respond to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

I hope there is a part of you that melts when you think about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  I promise you, Jesus wants to know, wants to walk with you, because Jesus is the greater unifier of humanity.

So, let’s do that now!  If you have never believed in Jesus, do that this morning.  Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart that Jesus resurrected from the dead.

We will have people to pray with you, pray for you but don’t leave here today without making that decision to follow Jesus.