Cross Centered Church (1Corinthians 1-3)

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For those who either do not like football or did not enjoy the football game last Sunday (SB48), many still are discussing the commercials; this is true of every year, whether they are liked or disliked. One of the commercials that stood out with much continued conversation was the Coca-Cola advertisement. The ad theme was singing one of America’s most patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful”. It featured people of different ethnicities with the song sung in 8 different languages. Social media erupted with both love and loathing. Those who loved it praised Coke for recognizing America’s multi-culturalism; while those who loathed it criticized Coke for mixing and losing the “American” identity of the nation.

Whichever your view (personally I think both have merit for various reasons), an observation is that unity among a nation is delicate when great diversity is present.

The fact that unity is delicate and difficult is no reason to avoid it.

Sport teams desire unity – which doesn’t imply every athlete plays the same position but simply that every athlete has the same purpose.

Musicians desire unity – typically a band does not want every musician playing the same instrument but they do want everyone playing from the same sheet music.

In my life, relationships and ministry when I have experienced unity were/are times not when everyone was exactly like me (PTL!) but were people who had different personalities and gifts but the same passions and purposes.

There is much beauty and blessing in pursuing unity. The Psalmist said, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

The Corinthian church struggled with keeping unity. The title of our series in this book study is
“Cross Centered”. So, today in the first 3 chapters we will explore what is “Cross Centered Church Unity”.

EXAMINE  1Corinthians 1-3  Cross Centered Church Unity1cor_cross centered logo
Unity is utmost importance (1Corinthians 1:10)
In the opening of this letter Paul writes to remind the Corinthians that the church does not belong to them but to God. It is “the church of God” and they are “sanctified” (set apart) and “called” for a greater purpose than their own personal preferences. Paul mentions the name of Jesus 9x to emphasize the church is to unite around the Lord rather than its leaders or their own lives.

1:10 Paul addresses the church as brothers to appeal to them with a sense of family. He exhorted them to “agree” (speak the same) and to not have any “division” (“schisma”: dissension, or have split/tear {same word when temple curtain was torn in Matt 27:51}). In sum, he is calling for them to be united (“katartidzo”: to restore or mend perfectly; {similar to word used for mending nets in Matt 4:21}) in mind and judgment. In other words, they are to be united in thought and purpose.

When God’s church is united there is nothing that can stand against it, not even the gates of hell (cf. Matt 16:18). God is present in power with a unified church. However, if the unity of the church depleted then the unction of the church is disintegrated. Church unity is of utmost importance.

Illus: Cartoon strip of Lucy to Charlie Brown who’s watching tv. She demanded for the remote and Charlie asked for a good reason to hand it over. Lucy said, “I’ll give you 5 good reasons” counting with her fingers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then she said “Individually they may not look like much but together they are powerful and persuasive.” Most agreed about the members of a church body!

Jesus said, “I pray 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 have sent me.” (John 17:21)
– Notice that Jesus’ prayer for unity had a purpose – the gospel & great commission!

The early church was united and said to meet “together”, 27+x in the book of Acts.

Paul told church at Rome “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)

Paul will again later emphasize unity to the Corinthians “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1Corinthians 12:12, 25-26)

“Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2Corinthians 13:11

“There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6; cf 2:14-22; 4:13)

“let your manner of life be worth of the gospel of Christ… so that I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27; cf. 2:2)

 Unity is of utmost importance; disunity = disaster (weakness); unity = unction (power)
 Unity is formed slowly and forsaken quickly
o Friction and fraction in churches has always existed (see almost every NT Letter)
o A church losing or lacking unity will derail and divide.
o Unity is fragile and requires focus; it cannot be assumed or taken for granted.

How does SPBC keep focus on unity?
 Membership Matters. Christians united together in membership of a local church are committed to love each other in shared interest and supporting needs, they are also committed to lead each other toward spiritual maturity.
– Members are enrolled into a Bible Group (spiritual family) and assigned a Deacon (spiritual servant leader). This helps to learn how to best love you but also how to best lead you to connect.
o Deacons promote & protect unity through communication and service.
– Members are expected to be active participants not inactive or passive. In essence, few intentionally (though there are some!) create disunity or divide the church. Instead, some passively create disunity or division when they do not follow through in commitment or contribution with their time, talents and treasure.
o Do you have 3+ friends within the church that you can say that are mutually loving in meeting needs and leading one another toward spiritual maturity?
o Are you serving the Lord in and through the church with your talents and spiritual gifts?
o Are you supporting the church financially with a tithe and being generous for the cause of gospel advancement?
 Members are called to be contributors and not just consumers; Christianity is not lived on the sidelines as a spectator. If you cannot serve or share in the ministry of the church then it’s not worth participating.

A major cause of disunity among churches is change. People say, “I want my church to be spiritually healthy, dynamic and growing but I don’t want my church to change.” It’s like saying, “I want to lose weight but I don’t want to stop eating fatty foods.” We don’t like to change our habits because we like them – and sometimes so much we memorialize them into traditions.

 Change is Certain. Everything changes in life. If you are not changing then you are not growing healthy. You may not embrace change but change is essential.
– Physically our body changes for growth and physical maturity
– Mentally we change to learn and become more intelligent
– Relationally we change to grow closer and more intimate
– Spiritually we change to grow in assurance, look more like Christ and bear fruit.

Areas of Unity at Corinth & Todaychains broken 2
Relational Unity (1:11-17; 3:1-4)
1:11 The report (made completely clear without any doubt) of disunity came from Chloe’s household. There was quarreling and division over the leadership. Apparently the people were fighting over who’s teaching had more authority or who’s followers were superior – whether Paul (Note that Paul placed himself first as those pridefully and wrongly lauding his name), or Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or even those selfishly following Christ. Paul reminds the Corinthians that none of these leaders are worthy of self-identifying or worship. Further, none of these leaders would have wanted to be placed in such a position.
Application:
 If we respect and value our leaders then we should follow their faith not fabricate their fame. Some of us do this with preachers, authors, musicians or other celebrity type artists. Most of these people would be embarrassed by our exalting their name over the Lord Jesus’. They are flesh and blood. Yet, God has given us great men & women with special skills and talents for His own names sake. We must exalt only One. As the author of Hebrews says,
Hebrews 13:8 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

 If we have conflict with other believers then there is a biblical process for resolution. Jesus tells us to confront privately as individuals, if not, then communicate publicly with church leadership and if neither of these resolve the issue then the leadership is expected to consider the unrepentant as an unbeliever to disassociate from close fellowship (cf. Matthew 18:15-20).

 If we know of conflict or of immoral behavior then there are times when we are to speak up and step in. Just as members of Chloe’s household informed Paul of the problems, so we are to be a voice for righteousness and against wrongdoing.
James 5:19-20 “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Gospel/Theological Unity (1:18; 2:1-5)
1:18 The word/message of the cross is one of folly (mo-ria: empty intellectually; absurd) to the unbelieving world, but to Christians the cross is celebrated – “it is the power of God”!

Paul wants the Corinthians to see that their conflict and conceit stems from not understanding the cross of Jesus. Gospel truth and doctrine are not secondary to the social benefits of participating in a church. The cross and the gospel is central to Christianity. Paul understood that he could have spoken with lofty speech or wisdom but because time was precious he chose to spend great proportions of time on gospel truth. Paul could have attracted people to his personal stories, experiences and even his intellect, but that would not have equipped people with faith.
 The cross and biblical doctrine are increasingly marginalized as radical… and that is a good thing. When people look at Christians or speak about the cross, instead of giving it a head nod they are now giving it a blind eye. As in Jesus’ day, the cross is being seen as a symbol of gross scandal. As Paul said, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block (skandalon) to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1:23). And so, we must understand the message of the cross is an invitation to God’s love but is also a division for those who cannot embrace it. We apply this personally but also publicly as we stand together upon its declaration.

 The cross is a message of both past substitution and present surrender. Salvation is the removal of our sin on Christ and the reception of Christ’s righteousness in us. The meaning of the cross is both of forgiveness and following – we are forgiven of our past and we are called to follow Christ in the future. We are to “deny self, take up cross daily and follow Jesus” (Luke 9:23).

o Therefore, selfish pride, the praise of men, the boasting of human wisdom and self-reliance are all sins to be daily surrendered and executed on the cross.
– Paul sought to live cross centered; he preached the cross, he made tents humbly for the sake of the cross, he fellowshipped with religious people for the sake of the cross, he fellowshipped with sinners and those of different races for the sake of the cross, he did everything with an understanding that the cross was his death and his life.

Illus:
One of the SB48 commercials drew excitement as “must see tv” because Jerry Seinfeld was hinting at a reunion of his hit show. 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the shows beginning. As most remember, it was infamously a show about nothing – the characters Jerry, George, Kramer, Elaine all boasted and conversed about senseless, silly and sometimes stupid topics.

In the last two decades, Seinfeld has become an indictment on the church. Christians and churches have boasted in themselves with entertaining music, savvy marketing and much chatter about trite and trivial issues. The church must get back to being cross centered.

Methodological Unity (1Corinthians 3:5-15)
Another area of unity Paul wanted to address was the fruit of the church’s leadership. Each leader was different – Apollos was an eloquent communicator (Acts 18:24), Paul was a feisty and faithful leader, Peter was a passionate evangelist; but they were all mere servants of the Lord Jesus. They were “planters” and “waterers” but God was the “grower” of the seeds.

Paul further elaborates that there is only one foundation – the message of the cross must be unchanged. Yet, there will be many servant workers who build on that foundation using various types of material: “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw” (3:12). Each of these will be tested by fire to reveal the reward of one’s labor. All of these are Christians – “saved” (3:15). So, apparently the methods used for ministry are varied but still vital to the kingdom of God.

 Every local church and every generation must consider its methods for proclaiming God’s timeless truths to truthless times. It is not the role of believers to condemn and judge in this area – God will do that (3:13-14). The call is to keep the cross central.

APPLY/THINK
Our church has 3 pianos and they are inherently tuned to one another because they were all tuned to the same tuning fork. The same is true for SPBC – we may have many members but we must all be tuned to the same Person (Jesus Christ) and Purpose (Growing Godly Generations).

Are you united to Jesus?
Are you united to SPBC?

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