Unity in the Church

1 Corinthians 1:10: I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

The Apostle Paul founded many churches in major cities from the Holy Land across the Mediterranean world. He would arrive in a town, preach the gospel message, encourage and develop the faith of those who accepted Christ, and then he would move on to the next town. Paul didn’t abandon the churches that he helped to start. Instead, he communicated to them by writing letters. These letters from Paul comprise a significant part of our New Testament. Sometimes the letters were positive and affirming. And there were instances, when Paul had to correct or rebuke a church in practical matters or teachings.

In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul is writing to the church because of a concern about potential divisions in their fellowship. Some of the people claim to only follow Paul; others say they follow only the teachings of Cephas (Peter), while several claim that Apollos is their leader. Apparently, Apollos is a gifted speaker and people are drawn to him. And there are some in the church who declare that they only follow Christ. 

Paul’s response is to the point: As followers of Christ, the church should be “united,” with “no divisions.” The church should be “perfectly united in mind and thought,” so that the gospel message can be truly proclaimed. Paul wants the church at Corinth to follow and obey Christ. As a believer and follower of Christ, your allegiance should be to Christ, not to earthly teachers or leaders. Paul wants the church at Corinth to understand that Christ should be the focal point of their devotion.

I have been in churches where disagreement and division were common. As I was growing up, I can remember many heated quarrels on matters that were simply not important to the mission of the church. So much time was wasted on these nonessential concerns that the work of being the body of Christ in the world suffered. The church failed to be a proper witness for Christ to those who didn’t know Christ.

The last fifteen years, I have been a member of a congregation that does not spend a lot of unnecessary time arguing over things that are not of eternal value. Sure, we get off track and waste time on matters that are trivial. However, at any committee or deacon meeting where there is disagreement, there is almost always unity or agreement when a contested issue is decided. Even the people who vote against the issue seem to leave the meeting “united” in the one purpose of the church – which is proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul makes it clear that proclaiming this good news is his most important task. His desire is to bring people that are lost into a relationship with Jesus Christ. And even though Paul is a “preacher,” he is quick to say that the words he speaks should not be considered “eloquent wisdom” (1 Cor. 1: 17). Paul wants the focus and credit to belong solely to Christ, the head of the Church.

I often contemplate how more effective our churches would be today if, like Paul, we could check our egos and focus on doing the work that Christ has called us to do. When a church is united in its purpose it becomes a powerful witness to the outside world. Paul says, “Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1: 31).

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