Our Most Precious Possession 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Sin causes us to be better at division than we are at unity. Sin can cause us to be critical and argumentative, ready to take offence, ready to debate. It should not surprise us that the church struggles with division. There are all kinds of reasons for us to have disunity.
So what can keep us from this danger? What would bring this diverse group of people into this building? What is it that has the power to unify us; the power to make this place, not a place of disunity, but a place of remarkable grace and remarkable love? Jesus said, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples; you have love for one another.”
In I Corinthians 1:10-17 Paul says “I appeal…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 judgement.” The mind that he’s talking about is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the church’s most precious possession.
When Paul is talking about unity of mind – he is not arguing for uniformity, he preaches the reality of the diversity that God has built into the body of Christ. We have differing gifts; differing callings; different perspectives on the Gospel that are healthy and help us to understand its whole. We need that diversity of gifts, and calling, and perspective, but it must all be unified by the purity of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Gospel is not central, there are things that happen in the church of Jesus Christ that are dangerous and destructive. First, the first fruit is this, “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarrelling among you, my brothers.” Issues of difference must never rise to the level of destroying the unity of the body of Christ. We must disagree in humility, in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Cross. We should do nothing to detract from the message of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There’s a second thing that happens - personalities become central. Paul says, “each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul, I follow Christ, I follow Cephas, or I follow Apollos.’” We should not attach our identity and security, our spiritual sense of well-being to a person. Just understand that the person that God has used the most in your life, has been made wise, and gifted to be usable only by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A third thing that is probably not as evident, is that, if the Gospel is not central, then the things of the Lord begin to be used for personal agenda. Paul challenges, each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’” That’s invoking the name of Christ, not for the glory of Christ, but for the glory of me.
Where does all of this lead? It’s there in the last verse of the passage: the Gospel gets emptied of its power. In verse 13 Paul responds with three rhetorical questions. “Is Christ divided? [Absolutely not!] Was Paul crucified for you? [Absolutely not!] Or were you baptised in the name of Paul?” If you are God’s child, you are in Christ, and Christ is in you. Your hope is Christ!
Paul ends with his own example. “I came to you not with words of eloquent wisdom.” Paul is saying, “I don’t ever want to preach the Gospel in a way that would draw attention to me, because if I’m doing that, I’m robbing the cross of Jesus Christ of its power.” We have but one hope: it is the living reality of a crucified risen Saviour. Is that your heart?