Our church has an important mission. There are people within the reach of our church who are hungry for the love of God that we were given to share. Our church’s mission should be the most important thing going on in our community today.
That being the case, doesn’t it make sense that we should organize the whole life of our church around the accomplishment of that mission? And, doesn’t it make sense that we should be careful not to let anything go on in our church that would hinder the accomplishment of that mission? Can you think of any thing that could go on in our church that would contradict the mission and vision?
Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians because he had heard that some things were going on in that church that contradicted the gospel and that were hindering the mission of that church. Paul stated the problem. He had heard that there are divisions in the church and that the people are quarreling with one another rather than being united in the same mind and purpose.
As the church was meeting in different houses in the city some chose to give their allegiance to one or another of the leaders of the church with whom they were familiar. Some were still dedicated to Paul. Others were attracted to another leader who had come after Paul, a young man named Apollos. Still others had been in contact with Cephas, Peter, the one who had been the leader of the followers of Jesus. And there seemed to have been some who took a superior attitude and said, “We belong to Christ,” just to get above the other divisions.
Eventually it became apparent that none of these was really what was dividing the church. Differences don’t have to cause divisions. Differences of opinion can be lived with in a community of loving people who are committed to one common purpose. Paul suspected that something else was going on in Corinth. What was actually going on in Corinth?
Corinth was a major center of business. And it was a new city with new money. Some people had become very rich and some people were very poor and there many in between. And, it was a place where people could change their status. People could climb the ladder. There was competition for status and honor. There was lots of “networking” to form advantageous relationships. That was what was really going on in many of the conflicts that were dividing the church in Corinth.
What is so interesting about this chapter is how Paul approaches the particular divisions that they were facing here. He urgently but gently appeals to them agree with one another and be united in mind and thought.
How does Paul propose that unity will happen? He appeals to them based on the foundation of Jesus because it is in Jesus and the cross that the power of God is found. Paul’s appeal through Jesus is that they all agree and that there be no divisions among them, but that they be united in the same mind and the same purpose. What a strong word about our identity in Christ. Jesus’ followers must be united in mind and purpose. That kind of unity allows us to move in the same direction at the same time.
Imagine what could happen when God’s people move in the same direction at the same time. (vision statements)
Peyton Manning – whole team approach
But consider what happens when God’s people become so distracted and consumed with personal opinions – In 1917 the bishops of the Russian Orthodox church were having a meeting. And the meeting came to a heated debate with fusing and feuding. Now, a few doors down the street another meeting was happening. The Bolsheviks were together plotting against the czar of Russia. It was revolution – the beginning of Communism. What was the church arguing about down the street while the empire was crumbling around them? Candles. Were they to be 18” or 22” long?
Part of his solution is to agree with one another and not have divisions about purpose. How? When he calls us to agree, it’s literally in Greek, “to say the same thing.” Obviously if everyone is saying and doing different and contradictory things, that is a sign of disunity, not agreement. Purposeful unity is literally “to think the same thing according to Christ Jesus.” – Unity of voice and mind – going in the same direction together.
Paul isn’t picturing a bland uniformity where no one has individual ideas or expression. But rather he is talking about a consensus. That they stand together on the truth of God’s Word, and move in same direction.
In reality unity is togetherness of hearts that are personally committed to Christ all moving toward the same mission/vision. Jonathan Edwards: The obligation of every generation is to understand what God is doing and then to do it together with Him!