1. What is the purpose of a sports team? (Ultimately, the purpose is to win games.)
2. What is important for a team to be successful? (Each team member must understand the purpose of the team; their part in contributing to the achievement of their purpose; and their willingness to do their assigned task.)
3. What happens when there is a team member who doesn’t understand their part or wants to do someone else’s job?
The point: In order to be successful a team must be unified in purpose and be willing to do their part! I have seen team members get so focused on a nonessential that they lost focus on their main purpose!
4. Have you ever been part of an organization or team driven by a common purpose?
5. How did that purpose help you deal with differences within the group?
Our church is made up of people from many different walks of life, backgrounds and interests, who find their unity in the gospel, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we let our preferences get in the way of our love and mission, and believers are unnecessarily divided. In this week’s study, Paul addressed divisions in the church at Corinth and called believers back to unity!
The gospel arrived in Corinth around AD 50. After Paul and his team had established churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea and proclaiming the gospel in Athens Paul went on to Corinth. There Silas and Timothy as well as the Jewish-Christian couple, Aquila and Priscilla joined him.
During Paul’s third missionary trip, near the end of his two years in Ephesus, Paul wrote the letter we know as 1 Corinthians around AD 55. Paul addresses at least five important themes: Christian unity, sexual morality, women’s roles, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection. At least part of this letter may have been in direct response to questions that had been asked.
(Point out the location of Corinth on a map and note that it was a major crossroads for land and sea travel.)
Call for Unity! Read 1 Cor. 1:10
1. How did Paul address the church in this verse? (“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”)
2. What difference does it make how Paul addressed the church here? (Paul used the name of Jesus nine times in the first ten verses of this chapter. Paul wanted them to be certain of whom they were to follow!)
(Use the poster from the Pack Item 4, Poster: Problems in Corinth.)
3. What three specific ways did Paul call the church to unity? (Paul was focusing on basic doctrinal convictions and goals as opposed to unity of opinion about everything-color of paint.)
4. What factors could potentially threaten unity in a church?
5. What steps might be taken to ensure that a local church remains unified?
(Consider a brief lecture on “Unity in the Church”.
Unity is God’s idea from the very beginning. “The Lord your God is one Lord!”
Human’s history is a story of sins disruption of God’s ordained unity! Marriage where man and woman become as one but sinful lust enters; One Language but sinful pride enters; uniting the peoples of the world under one Lord [see Zech 14:19] but self-centeredness enters; Disciples to experience unity as the Son has with the Father; Jesus prayed for unity in the early church in Acts 2:1, 43 and 4:32 but sin enters.
Paul spoke repeatedly of believers as “one body in Christ.” For Paul their unity in the church reflects the unity of the Godhead: One God; One Lord; and One Spirit.)
6. What are the aspects of Christian unity? (Christ is Lord; One baptism; One mission; Our shared concern for one another; Same love; Shared experience of suffering for Christ.)
When our focus is on the mission we were given by Jesus, Himself, the minor differences become meaningless! Where is our focus!
Contempt for Divisions! Read 1 Cor. 11-16
1. How would you describe the divisions in the church in Corinth? (They each picked their favorite church leader and thought everyone else was wrong. The people who claimed Jesus felt they were more spiritual than others, perhaps.)
2. What part does selfishness play in the Corinthian believers’ identification with different leaders? (Selfishness is at the heart of divisive spirits. Believers at the church in Corinth were boasting with pride about specific leaders they followed.)
3. What purpose did Paul’s rhetorical questions serve? (Paul challenged the Corinthian believers to recognize the false doctrine that their divisiveness showed they believed.)
The truth is that Christ is not divided, Paul did not die for their sins, and they were not baptized in Paul’s name!
4. Why was Paul glad he did not baptize many of the Corinthian believers? (Proof that Paul did not baptize any in his own name. Also, those baptized by Paul did not have any advantage over those baptized by other ministry leaders!)
5. Where do you see this kind of division in the church today? (Some may choose a particular tele-evangelist; Some a favorite pastor; Some a favorite staff member; the list goes on.)
6. How does rivalry get in the way of God’s work?
Even though these leaders helped the church in Corinth to grow, Paul’s contempt for this rivalry and division is clear in these verses. Basing allegiances on human personalities leads to prideful boasting and divisions within the church. Every member has his or her role in helping the church reach its mission! See 1 Cor. 3:6-7!
We will see that what unites Christians also separates us from the world!
The Cross That Divides!
As someone reads 1 Cor. 1:17-25 listen for references to the cross of Christ. (It’s mentioned 4 times.)
For Paul, the cross was a rallying point and unifier for the church. But the cross also divides: it divides those who are perishing from those who are being saved.
1. According to Paul, what makes preaching ineffective? (Those who preach to impress others with flowery or eloquent speech lose the message of the cross. The listeners tend to be caught up in the antics of the preacher.)
It is through a genuine presentation of the gospel that people will either reject or accept salvation through Jesus Christ. It should go without saying that we should prepare to our very best but we depend upon the power of the gospel message and not the eloquence of our delivery.
The gospel isn’t something we can “talk” a person into accepting. It is through the power of the cross and the convicting activity of the Holy Spirit in that person’s heart! Sorry, but we get no credit!
2. In what ways does the cross divide? (Paul revealed that those who were unsaved did not take the message seriously, but believers in Christ saw the gospel as powerful.)
3. How is the cross of Christ divisive in our world today?
4. In what way was the gospel message a “stumbling block” to the Jews? (The Jews, generally speaking, could not accept that the King of kings and their Messiah would come as a “Suffering Servant”, be nailed to a cross and die a shameful death!)
5. In what way was the gospel message “foolishness?” (The gospel message that Jesus had died, was buried and arose from the grave three days later is simply foolishness!)
6. All of us who believe the gospel have come to enjoy God’s wisdom and God’s power. Therefore, we are to exalt nothing above the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving death. What “power” or “wisdom” do nonbelievers today rely on to answer questions of eternal significance?
In all of our studying and seeking, whether in the universe or in God’s word there are no new truths discovered. The truth is already there, we simply discover what has already been placed there by God in the beginning!
Summarize and Challenge!
Review the summary statements on page 18 of the PSG:
· Believers are to be unified by their confession of Christ
· Basing allegiances on human personalities leads to prideful boasting and divisions in the church.
· The only dividing line believers should recognize is the division between those who are saved and those who are not.
1. Which of those do you feel is the biggest insight you gained during this session?
2. What walls have you built between yourself and other people?
3. Which of those walls get in the way of your building relationships with other believers?
4. What actions do you need to take to begin to remove these walls?
5. What is one action you can take to begin to remove these walls?
I thank God for the unity we experience in our church. There are small disagreements from time to time among our members but they are generally quickly resolved and the mission isn’t hard.