1 Corinthians 1 / September 9th, 2018 / Dr. Todd Gray
Although the church at Corinth was young and on fire, they were quickly fading and didn’t even realize it. There is danger of death when distractions become fractions in the church, but a Gospel focus brings unity.
- Paul’s 3-Part Exhortation for Unity (1 Corinthians 1:10)
- Avoid Personality Worship (1 Corinthians 1:11-13)
- Unity Prevents Distraction and Promotes Gospel Proclamation (1 Corinthians 1:13-17)
If you have your Bibles this morning, I’m excited to continue in our series in the book of Corinthians, 1 Corinthians chapter one. Last week, we did a bit of a pleasant introduction. The pleasantries from Paul end in verse 10, and he gets serious, and he starts talking about division. As you turn to 1 Corinthians chapter one, looking at verse 10, we’re going to travel through verse 17. As you do that, I want you to look at this picture behind me. It’s a picture of the stars in the night sky. It’s amazing. This is just one little section and there’s almost too many stars to count. I love space, and it’s mind-blowing that there’s all these little specks of light that represent such grand things in our universe, but I was reminded this week that that picture is not 100% accurate. When you look through a telescope and you see these millions of stars, the lights that you see is not completely an accurate picture of what’s out there. See, the reality is that some of these stars that you see at night are already dead. Where they’re at in space, the light is already out. It just hasn’t reached us yet. It’s got to travel through time and space until it ceases to be a light for us.
Some of those stars that you see in the night sky when you look through that small telescope, they’re dying, and you don’t even know it yet. This is amazing about space, but it’s also correlated in my mind to our text today because I see a similar thing in churches. If you do your research on Google and try to find out how many churches there are around, you’re going to notice real quick there’s as many churches as there are in your mind of stars in the night sky. It’s something like 40,000 Southern Baptist, that’s pretty specific, churches in America alone. That seems like a whole lot, but just because of the research shows all of these lights for Christ out there, I don’t believe it’s an accurate picture either. Some of those stars have ceased shining. Some of them, those churches, are dead, and they don’t know it yet. Many of those churches, like the Corinthian church, were dying. They didn’t know it. It was sneaking up on them.
The leading cause of death in these lights of Christ called churches around the globe is distraction from the mission. Distraction from the mission in the church of Corinth came through factions and divisions centered around people in the church, not gospel issues or theological issues, and it stopped them from accomplishing the mission that the church was sent here to accomplish. You say, “Pastor, what is that?” We should all be clear on every church’s mission. Churches may have different visions. Our vision’s a little different than other churches because of who we are and where we’re at, but the mission doesn’t change. The mission is to obey the Great Commandments and to fulfill the Great Commission.
In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked, “What’s the greatest commandment of them all?” He tells you real plainly, “To love the Lord your God with everything and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Those are the Great Commandments. Then, Jesus, before he left this earth, in Matthew chapter 28 verses 19 through 20, what did he say? The Great Commission, to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them. This is the mission. If we’re not careful, we can get distracted from the mission because of divisions in the church and then we stop being useful for the mission anymore. Our light for Christ starts to fade. If we’re not careful, it will go out. I believe this is what Paul is concerned about when he’s addressing the Corinthian church, but he could be just as concerned today.
Let’s read the text together. Would you stand with me? 1 Corinthians chapter one verse 10. Paul, and his pleasantries here ends in verse 10, and says, “Now I exhort you. I’m begging you. I plead with you, brethren, brothers and sisters in Christ, 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. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.” Then he clarifies it. Look in verse 12, “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I’m of Paul,’ and ‘I’m of Apollos,’ and ‘I’m of Cephas,’ and some were even saying, ‘But I’m of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” I think we know the answer to those questions. Verse 14, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross would be made void.” This is God’s word. Please be seated.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a danger of death when distractions become factions in the church, but a gospel focus will bring unity every time. Let me say that again. There is a danger of death when these distractions lead to factions in the church, but a gospel focus will bring unity. This is what Paul’s talking about here. He starts here in verse 10. Before he gets into the factions and the divisions that he sees in the local congregation, he starts with a threefold plea for unity, all here in verse 10. Three different ways Paul says be unified. He says one of them in a positive way by saying that you all should agree; one not negatively, but the negative version of that, that there be no divisions among you; and thirdly he says that you be made complete, being one in both mind and judgment.
Before he even talks about the factions and the divisions and the dissensions, he says, “Be unified.” Even before he does that, notice the name that he drops. What does he say here? “I appeal to you as brothers,” meaning you’re Christians and I’m a Christian. “I appeal to you as brothers and sisters in,” what? The name of Jesus Christ. Boom. Why does he do that? Because as offtrack as they are, as far as the Corinthian church has faded, they still know that Jesus is the reason that they gather. By Paul mentioning his name, it gives a little weight to his appeal for them to stop being distracted in division and to be unified. Let’s break these three unity calls down.
First of all, he says, “I pray that you all agree.” He wanted them to agree. Literally the word in Greek here means to say the same thing. I’m not going to pretend that we’re going to agree as a congregation on everything. Paul’s not saying that, but what he is saying is that we must say the same thing, meaning we must agree about the primary issues of the gospel. In the gospel and the primary doctrines of the scriptures, we can not be distracted. This is what the Corinthians were doing. They were getting distracted of obeying the Great Commandment and fulfilling the Great Commission. Here’s the deal, church. You can do a million other things and offer the world all kinds of ways to meet their needs, their social needs and their social desires, but if we’re not saying the same things about God, if we’re not saying the same things about the gospel of Jesus Christ, if we’re not on the same page in fulfilling the main mission of the church, then guess what. We fail and we actually stop being the church.
When that happens, when we get distracted because of factions centered around man and the church and we stop fulfilling the Great Commission and obeying the Great Commandments, we might as well build a golf course on these 20 acres, turn this worship center into a clubhouse, and call this place Tabernacle Country Club because it will be just a social organization where you go to feel good about yourself. That will not happen on my watch. We are not on a country club, though we may be on Country Club Road. We’re a church that gathers for the glory of God and the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This will be our focus. When we don’t, we start to fade like some of those stars in the night sky. We must love God, love others, and make disciples.
Paul goes onto the second call for unity here in verse 10. He wanted there to be no divisions. He wanted them to say the same thing about the gospel, but he also wanted there to be no divisions. The word divisions means schisms and refers not to individuals but more to parties or groups inside the church that were distracting from the entire church from fulfilling the mission that God gave them. The same word occurs in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. You can go read that this week. In verse 18, Paul says, “When you come together as a church,” meaning to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. He’s addressing how they abuse that. “When you come together as a church, I hear that divisions, factions, schisms exist among you and,” he says, “in part, I believe it.” They were ceasing to be unified in all types of ways.
In 1 Corinthians 11, it gives you a window into the kind of disunity that was occurring in the Corinthian church. When they would gather together for the Lord’s Supper, they weren’t being in factions because of doctrinal issues concerning the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which the Lord’s Supper causes us to contemplate upon. They were in division, in factions because of the social ranks. Paul describes in that chapter how the rich people who didn’t have to work all day would show up early, eat all the food, eat, drink, and be merry at the Lord’s Supper and by the time that the working class got there, all the food was gone and unity had ceased. Some of them were already drunk and they were not unified. Paul says this is nonsense and silliness.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a billionaire or homeless. We all come together on the same playing field, especially in matters of the gospel. When we’re celebrating the Lord’s Supper, that’s what we’re remembering. We’re all one. The same issues could occur, not just in economic status, but in racial differences. There’s all kinds of other divisions that the church can get into inside of the church that can distract them so that they’re not unified in the Lord’s Supper, which is the one thing that we must have unity in. This gives us insight to 1 Corinthians chapter 11 to what Paul is talking about here in verse 10. These are silly things to separate over when observing the Lord’s Supper and these are silly things to separate over, to get distracted from the mission.
Some try to use, though, verses 10 through 17 of 1 Corinthians chapter one to say crazy things like this, “Oh, well, we must not stop fellowshiping together for the sake of theological issues. We must put aside our theological issues for the sake of unity in our communities. We must look past those theological differences and come together.” Paul is not saying that. Paul would not say that, nor has Paul ever said that. In fact, what he does tell us is that these man-centered divisions have to go away, but the theological divisions on primary issues concerning the gospel have to be there like the divine nature of Jesus Christ. We have to make a stand on that. We can’t unify as a church if some of us believe that Jesus was God and some of us believe that he wasn’t. No, those are issues to divide over like the Trinity and the core doctrines of the gospel, but what we can’t divide over are these secondary issues that are made because of the pride of man.
There were groups in the Corinthian church that were built around personalities and opinions rather than Christ and the mission. These led to personality disagreements and quarrels among the church, which ultimately led to them to not complete the mission that was given to them. I can almost still see these divisions in my mind when I reflect back on some very nonsensical business meetings that I’ve been a part of and attended in my Baptist pastor history. You know, one thing in those business meetings that were so divisive and distracted that I’ve seen in time past, praise God I don’t see them here anymore, one thing I never heard was a discussion about the mission. When you see these factions and divisions arise and these nonsensical arguments and quarrels over personalities, you don’t see anybody standing for the mission. How are we loving God and how are we loving others? How are we fulfilling the Great Commission? I never heard that one time discussed when there was personality conflicts. It’s interesting. Paul says we must be unified on those things and let the other things go away. Paul will dive deeper into these particular factions in the Corinthian church in the next few verses, but let’s get to the third aspect of this threefold call to unity.
Finally, Paul says, “Be unified by being made complete and being of the same mind and the same judgment.” The NIV translates this verse, “Be perfectly united in mind and thought.” Almost every translation that you read will have a different understanding of what made complete or what the NIV says, perfectly united. We have to go back to the Greek word here to get some help. It’s the Greek word katartizo. It literally means to be made complete or perfectly united. It means to be brought back together after something’s been broken. Paul already sees something broken in this church, the divisions. He says, “You must come back together. You must first be restored both in mind and judgment.” It can be a medical term. If your bone’s broken and the doctor mends it, what does he do? He restores it. He brings it back together. If your shoulder’s out of joint, he brings it back together. It can also happen on a fishing boat. When your net breaks, katartizo means to mend that net, to bring it back so it can be useful for fishing again.
Now, in the spiritual context, what you can’t miss with this word, here it is, is restoration. Restoration is at the heart of what Paul is talking about here. There must be restoration in the church if people are divided if there is ever going to be unity. Paul wanted them to be brought back together and leave their divisions behind. He knows that there’s little room for disagreement when concerning the gospel and the mission of God and the church. He says, “I want you to be restored. I want you to have a unity in mind and a unity in judgment.” This idea of unity in mind has to do with the internal things, what you believe in your heart, what you believe in your mind. The unity in judgment has to do with external things like the actions that you perform because of what you believe in your mind.
To be unified in the gospel, we must be unified in what we think about it and unified in what we do with it. Meaning we believe it, it saves us, remember, head, heart, and then what do we do? We share it so we can see others saved as well. God wants restoration and restoration is that pit stop on the way to unity, but restoration today is rarely what I see people desiring. Many people that I hear and see today are encouraging this victim mindset where restoration or reconciliation is not even considered. They’re just looking for someone to blame. They’re just looking for a reason to turn against each other and maybe even to turn against God. Some people just want to see the other person punished, to see them suffer instead of seeking ways to be brought back together again.
Church, restoration, don’t miss this, is at the heart of unity in the gospel. If there’s something you’re divided on with your brother or sister in here today, you need to have restoration in that area because if you’re supposed to say the same things about the gospel together, how can you say the same things to the world when you won’t even say anything to each other? Restoration is at the heart of unity. Some of you and maybe your family members or your friends just say, “I want to stay hurt and I want to stay mad,” but because they’re in a Christian context, in a Christian church, they’ll kind of pass off this statement, “Oh, but I’ve forgiven them. I’ve forgiven them, but I never want to see their ugly face again.” I don’t know if that sounds like forgiveness. I don’t know if that looks like restoration.
Now, if a hurt has happened, forgiveness can be offered before trust is completely regained. I get that, but that person can’t stay dead to you forever and you still pretend like you’re forgiving them. What does Jesus say about the person who has strayed? What does Jesus say about the person who has done wrong? What does Jesus say about the person that needs to be restored? I’ll tell you what he says. He gives you three parables in one chapter to help you understand it. Go read Luke chapter 15. What do you think Jesus is trying to do when he tells you the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin, or the lost son? He says though you have 99 here, go after the one sheep until you win them back. You may have a whole pile of money, but you go after that one lost coin until you find it. The father was lamenting and burdened over his broken son who abandoned his family. What did he want? He pled with him in his heart to come back. When he came back, what did he do? He celebrated and he restored his son.
What does Paul say in other places? Galatians 6:1, he says, “Brethren, if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such an individual with a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself so that you too will not be tempted.” Paul writes the Corinthians maybe two more letters, but in his next letter that we have recorded in chapter 13 verse 11, Paul says you must strive for restoration. Why? Because without restoration, unity might be impossible. This is why churches split. There’s maybe a lack of accountability, a lack of forgiveness, a lack of reconciliation, and ultimately a lack of restoration. This leads to divisions, factions, and dissension. Divisions and factions distract from the mission. That’s why I said there’s a danger of death when the distractions lead to factions.
Have you ever been a part of a church split? This is usually how it goes. There’s some kind of dissension amongst the believers that usually doesn’t have anything to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ or the mission of the church. It’s usually over some personality or some group of personalities coming together. Then, those distractions turn into factions. Then, people won’t talk to each other. They won’t look at each other anymore. All of a sudden, they can’t say the same thing about the gospel because they can’t say the same thing to each other’s faces. Eventually, that church grows so far apart that it splits. Don’t let the distraction of man lead to division in the church. Stay away from group politics in the church. When you have a problem with an individual, go to the individual. When you have a problem, go to the source. If you have a problem with me, come see me. If you have a problem with someone else and you can’t go see them, come see me again. Don’t rally around people or their agenda or your agenda that distracts from the mission of the church. Otherwise, we will be like that star that looks bright in the picture but is dying or already dead. Agree and say the same things in mind, in action about the gospel.
We must move on. Paul not only makes a strong threefold call to unity, but then he says, “Let’s get into the distractions that I have heard about in your congregation.” Verses 11 through 13, here’s the overall point here. Avoid personality worship. The quarrels and divisions in the Corinthian church centered around the following of men instead of the following of Christ. Paul says, “I’ve heard from Chloe.” I don’t know who Chloe is. Chloe could be a believer, not a believer, probably is a believer for Paul to listen to her, but she reports back to him about these divisions that are in the church. This word quarrel means fight, but in this particular text, it is better described as rivals. We love rivalries, don’t we? I mean, you can’t hardly be an American during football season and not understand what a rivalry is, but let me try to help you. Our world loves to go out of its way to pit you against each other on a number of different issues.
Start with something small. How many of you like Dr. Pepper? Okay. Keep your hands up if you like Dr. Pepper more than you like Coke. Okay. Something simple. Put your hands down. It’s going to get more personal. How many of you would claim to be Apple people? I know who you are because I am you. It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. Get that hand up. You can put your hand down. You’re the type of person that has the Macbook, the iPhone, the iWatch, the iPad, the iAnything else, the iTV, the Apple whatever. You just love Apple. When you’re not fanboying over Apple like I do often, what are you doing? You’re dogging on Android and Microsoft, aren’t you? Now, the other side. How many of you are Android or Microsoft people? Okay. Put your hands down. Same thing. When you’re not fanboying over Microsoft or Android, you’re dogging all over us Apple people. Here’s the real question. How many of you love, enjoy, and use both Apple products and Microsoft/Android products, both of them? Okay. Some of you. Not everybody else.
My point is is that sometimes we like to be polarized. We almost have to make something bad in order for us to see this thing as good. You ready for it to get real close to home? Here it goes. Football season. Oh, we love rivalries, don’t we? We eat it up. We just can’t hardly get enough of it. Some of you are big A&M fans. Don’t do the whoop. I don’t want to hear it. I get it. Some of you are Texas fans. I saw this best illustrated in South Carolina. It’s a small state. They have two colleges that they consider talking about. There are other colleges there, but most of the families in the church that we’re in only cared about the University of South Carolina Gamecocks or, not and, or the University of Clemson Tigers. Sometimes families were divided and it was okay. You’re not going to believe this. Sometimes families were divided and it wasn’t okay. This is where it gets nonsensical. They wouldn’t talk to each other. I’m not joking, y’all. They wouldn’t talk to each other, especially during football season, and forget about it on the week of the game. I’ve seen real family division come by way of college football rivalries.
Now, it’s okay in a sense if it’s lighthearted, but here’s the danger. The rivalry mindset in society, when it comes into the church and we start pointing fingers at each other and dividing over spiritual matters, the rivalry mindset out there, when it creeps in here, now we got a problem. Paul says there are rivalries among you and it should not be. How does he describe it? There’s lots of discussion about verse 12. Let’s just read it. He says, “This is what I mean. Some of you are saying, ‘I’m of Paul,'” meaning I follow Paul. “Others say, ‘I’m of Apollos.’ Others say, ‘Well, I’m of Peter or Cephas,’ and some of the really holy ones,” I believe Paul is making an exaggeration here, “say, ‘Oh, you think you love Jesus? No, I follow Jesus.'” Okay. That’s nice. What we don’t know here is if Paul is actually describing rivalries with these particular leaders, I doubt that, but it could be that some people were literally saying, “I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Peter, and I follow Jesus,” but I think what he’s doing is using rhetoric to describe the silliness of the human-based rivalries and personality worship that was going on in the church.
Now, some of you say, “Why would Paul ever say, ‘Well, some of you say I’m of Jesus’? Paul, doesn’t he want everybody to be I’m on team Jesus?” Yes. He does mean that. What he’s doing here, I believe, is describing what we know in the church as these ultra pious people, these holier than thou people. You may have met them. These are the type of people that are passionate about prayer and passionate about Bible study but only the way that they think it should happen. These are the type of people, when the church could be growing spiritually and growing numerically, be reading the Bible more than they ever had before, praying more than they ever had before, and doing the missions the right way and still complain. Why? Because they’re not reading the Bible the way that I think they should. They’re not doing prayer the way that I think they should. These are the holier than thou people. “Oh, you think you’re of Jesus? I’m really following Jesus because I do it the way that I do it and everybody else should be doing it the way that I do it. Otherwise, they’re wrong.”
Now, hear me. Being passionate over Bible study is good. Being passionate over prayer is good, but there are lots of ways to grow in Christ. Your way is not the only way. There’s lots of right ways. Does that make sense? I believe what Paul is doing is using exaggeration to highlight this group of people and to highlight all the other groups of people. Whatever he’s doing, we can say this. Personality worship is dangerous. Saying that I follow Paul or whatever the group’s name is and I follow this group, that is dangerous. It was dangerous then and it is dangerous today as well. We don’t worship personalities, church. We worship Jesus. We should stop following the schemes and the plans of man, whether they’re ultra spiritual or not, and focus on following Christ. We don’t go to a church because of a personality. This is a huge problem in the mega church movement.
You don’t go to church because of the personality of the pastor, how eloquent of a speaker he is or how funny his stories are, how good of a communicator he is. I want to be the best communicator I can. I want to remove distraction as best as I can, but it’s not about me. It’s about God’s word, the gospel of Jesus Christ, bringing glory to God, and exalting my Savior. Many of these mega church pastors are actually really good. They preach the gospel. They believe in the things that you should believe in. I listen to many of them, but they don’t want you, the good ones don’t, they don’t want you to worship their personality either. They surely will tell you, if they’re the good ones, they are no replacement for the local church. We don’t go to church for the pastor.
We don’t go to church for the style of the church, the age of the church, the beauty of the church. We don’t go to church for the style of music that they sing. We go to church because that’s where God is. We go to a church because the gospel matters to them. You should choose a church because the word of God is preached there. You should choose a church because the gospel of Jesus Christ is shared there. You should choose a church because God gets the glory there, that Jesus Christ is exalted there, that discipleship matters and missions is participated in. Then, if there’s a couple of choices, let God lead you, not a personality. If you’re a personality, I would encourage you this if you’re following a personality. Either follow your church or go to theirs because there’s a reason that God put churches in communities. A mega church can’t do it on its own.
Think about the largest mega church in your mind and the context that they’re in. They’re not even doing an adequate job of reaching their community. I think of the island of Java. You probably don’t even know where that’s at. It’s in Indonesia. If do, that’s good too. The city of Jakarta is there. They have these mega churches with tens of thousands of people. That’s amazing. They’ve got to be reaching their whole community. No. In their community, on the island of Java, in the city of Jakarta, there’s 30 million people. All the mega churches that you’ve ever heard of could be stacked in that one city and it not be enough. We minister to our community where God has put us. That’s in Ennis and some extended parts of Ellis County, because we’re so south in Ellis County, some of Navarro County. It’s going to be hard for me to understand why somebody would drive from North Dallas all the way to here. That’s all I’m trying to say. It’s not about a personality or a church. It’s about where God put you in your community.
To better illustrate this, let me make it more about the heart of the issue. I believe we have a consumer-built mindset. Think about a church where you come in and all the seats have an iPad on the back of them. When you come in, after you shake each other’s hands, if you don’t like that part, you just skip it, you come in when you want to. For the first 10 or 15 minutes, you pull up the iPad and you put on headphones and you just scroll through the kind of worship music that you want. Maybe it’s Randy Travis for you. He really does it. “I’m going to click Randy Travis, worship. It’s all about me, as if we should do church my way.” Oh, that’s not the song, by the way, but that’s what you’re locked in doing. You’re just loving whatever music you want.
Then, the next part of the service, there’s like a bell that rings or something. Then, it causes you to get out of the worship song. Then, you go to the next part of the iPad, which is an app that has all your favorite preachers on it, preaching about whatever subject you want to listen to. You just go to that preacher and that subject and you click play. Then you get done and you leave. How does that sound to you? Oh, please don’t tell me it sounds good because that’s terrible. What’s sad is that is what some people want. You know what you lose there? You lose gospel unity. You lose community unity. Churches were built to be in communities all around the world for a reason.
There’s other ways that are more personal. I’m going to skip this part of the service to go to that part of the service. I’m not going to go because I’m mad at him or I’m mad at her. Listen, when you do that, you don’t hurt Todd and you don’t hurt Brandon. I don’t like seeing it. Here’s what you’re hurting. You’re hurting gospel unity and gospel mission. What was going on in the Corinthian church was personality worship and pride which created factions within the church, which distracted from the mission. Let’s try to prevent that here. I don’t see it here, but let’s guard against it, which will cause us to fade like some of those stars in the sky. Paul wanted all the groups and all the political parties in the church to stop following man’s wisdom and to start following Christ.
Let’s transition to verse 13 through 17. After Paul attacks, he calls for unity, and then he attacks the actual groups that are being dissentious. Next, he says here’s what the result could be and here’s what the result is if you have unity. In verses 13 through 17, we see unity prevents distraction and promotes gospel proclamation. Paul, here in verse 13, lists the danger of disunity with a question. It’s a rhetorical question. You could take it one of two ways. He goes, “Is Christ divided?” Now, if you look at that as like a simple question and you take it out of the context of this Corinthian letter, then the answer’s pretty simple, isn’t it? No, Jesus is not divided.
It’s like Gordon Fee said this week when I read him, he says, “Jesus is not divided or portioned up all throughout the world as one among many. No, he is all and in all.” Jesus is not divided, neither was his focus or his mission, but if you put this question, “Is Jesus divided?” in the context of what was going on in the Corinthian church with this division here and this personality to worship here and this division here, then you know what? To the rest of the world, then the answer’s yes. Jesus was divided in that church amongst these different ways that people looked at it, and here’s what he would say. Paul would say that is a huge problem. He says, “Was Paul sacrificed for you?” What’s the answer to that, church? No, Jesus was sacrificed for me on the cross. He says, “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” No, you’re baptized because Jesus died for you and rose from the dead in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit because you’ve been saved.
Secondly, if you take this question as a matter of division in the church, Paul would say you have got to stop it. Paul is not teaching here on baptism, but he’s making the simple point that you must be unified and it’s not about the person, as he goes to talk about baptism, it’s not about the person that baptizes you. It’s the person that you’re baptized into. Now, he doesn’t teach on baptism necessarily, but he sees that because the divisions in the church, he sees distractions in the church. Some people probably thought it was more important to be baptized by Paul than Apollos. I’ve actually heard people say this in our society. “Oh, I was baptized by so-and-so big name preacher.” What difference does that make? I’m glad you got to be baptized in that church by that person, but it makes zero difference. What Paul is trying to tell you is that the person that baptizes you is far less important than the person you’re baptized into, mainly Christ. It’s about him, not about them. He keeps making this point over and over and over again.
Look what he says in verse 17. As he’s speaking against man-centered politics, he says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would be made void.” Now, because Paul’s not teaching baptism, I don’t want to get distracted by that, but I do want to just highlight how he’s talking about baptism. Notice that he talks about baptism as separate from the gospel in salvation. Now, that’s a huge point. This is why we don’t baptize babies because you are baptized because you’re saved, not to get saved. Paul was making the distinction that, “I did not come to baptize.” Baptism never saved anybody. He says, “I’ve come to preach the gospel,” indicating that means, “After I preach the gospel and people are saved, I can leave, and later somebody else can baptize them.” Why? Because salvation and baptism are two different issues that are linked together through faith. Now, should you get baptized? Absolutely, as a picture of the salvation that you already have, but you never can be baptized to cleanse yourself of sin or to be saved. Okay, now we’ve made that point. We can move on.
This unity here with even baptism was distracting them from healthy proclamation, meaning gospel proclamation. What does unity do? It promotes healthy gospel proclamation. When the church becomes political and parties are created in the congregation, whatever those factions are or they become, the attention goes to man and away from Jesus. You know what else happens? The gospel is not preached. Do you know what else happens? People are not saved. Discipleship is reduced to social issues, and the word of God is not taught, and ultimately the church will start the dying process and God is not honored, but when we keep Christ and the gospel at the center of everything that we do, and we preach Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins, man-centered factions can not take hold, people confess their sins, people are saved, they’re restored with one another, discipleship flourishes, and God is glorified. That’s what we’re going for.
I love how Paul mentions rhetoric here and cleverness of speech. This is huge because I think it helps us understand the kind of factions that were being created. Paul knew that he probably wasn’t a good-looking man. He had scars all over his face, all over his back. I mean, he had been shipwrecked. He had been beaten. He’d been murdered or so they though. He got back up. Who knows what this poor man’s mangled face looked like? It probably, because of his bad eyesight that indicated earlier in the Bible and maybe the way that he walked with a limp, maybe his esophagus was crushed, it probably came off very average, probably not a great speaker, not clever in thought, but he wasn’t concerned about that. He was concerned about gospel accuracy. Maybe some people in the church say, “I want this great order for me to be entertained by in order for me to get the gospel message preached to me. I want these funny stories or this cleverness in speech.”
Paul says, “You’re not going to get that from me, but what you are going to get from me is the gospel clarified,” and that’s what I want from you. You need to be a church that preaches that there is sin in this world and that that sin will separate the world from God forever. He says you need to be a church that tells people not only will the sin separate them from God forever, but that’s why Jesus came, to be the God-man, to live a perfect life on their behalf, that as the man of God and the God that was a man died on the cross, he gave up his perfection and took on your imperfection. As your substitute, he died in your place. You need to be a church that tells people that not only did he die in your place, but three days later, he rose from the dead so that you could be forgiven of sin. You need to be a church that tells people if you would just repent of your sin and believe upon Jesus Christ, you will be saved. That’s what the church is about because that’s what the gospel is. Be clear in the gospel he says. Don’t be distracted by manmade factions.
Where are you? Is my question as we end today. Are you lost without a savior? If that’s you, the answer may be hard, but it’s not complicated. Turn away from your sin, trust in the sacrifice and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and be saved. Maybe you say, “Pastor, I’m a believer, I’m a long-time believer, but you know what? If I were to be honest, I’m a little distracted in disunity.” Are you participating in gospel unity or gospel division? If the answer is gospel division, that’s not a good place to be, but there’s an answer to that. Recognize it and repent of it, and stop doing it and move on. Maybe you say, “Pastor, you know what? I’m saved and I’m unified in the message of the gospel and restored with my fellow believers, but I’m not sharing the gospel.” Would you just share the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ with somebody this week? Would you just look for a conversation at work? Would you look for a conversation with a family member and just share the gospel?
Maybe today you’ve been distracted with yourself and you realize, “I don’t need to be distracted with myself anymore. What I need to be doing is invest in somebody else.” That’s called discipleship. That’s the mission of the church, to make disciples of other believers, and then to teach those other believers how to share the gospel with someone else themselves. If God’s calling you to stop being self-focused and start being discipleship-focused, we can help you with that. Go see Cody. He’s the pastor to students and adult discipleship. We have both material you can use and a process that you can follow. All you have to do is find someone to disciple or maybe start with sharing the gospel and, once they’re saved, start discipling them to do the same.
Be unified in the gospel. Don’t fall into personality worship or preference worship in your own heart. Surely don’t get a group around your preference in worship. Then, be consistent in gospel proclamation. Then, we will not be in danger of what the Corinthian church was in danger of. We won’t be in danger of fading, and we won’t be in danger of death. We will be shining bright as this light for Christ for the whole community and the whole world to see. I’m excited that I already see it, church. This is just a message of warning. Let it just convict you where it does, but I see it, and I’m so honored to be a part of it. My final plea would be let’s continue it and bring more people into it.