Today we begin a new message series Spirit Empowered Living. This series will be looking at lessons from the book of 1 Corinthians. The church at Corinth was planted by Paul the apostle along with Priscilla and Aquila. This church had some wonderful aspects, but also had some things that needed adjustment. Just like churches and people today.
God desires to encourage you regarding the good work He is doing in your life. And He wants you and our church family to grow more mature in Him.
Today’s message is entitled “Unity in Christ.” True unity or fellowship can only exist in Christ. That is, there can only be true unity between believers in Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV) Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
This verse gives us an idea about what fellowship is all about. Fellowship is about being yoked or in partnership with another person. The imagery is of a team of two oxen being yoked together to plow a field. As a believer and unbeliever are not in spiritual agreement, they cannot have fellowship with one another.
1 Corinthians 1:9 (ESV) God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
We see from this verse that every believer is in fellowship with Jesus. To be in fellowship with another person, you must be in agreement with them. We know from Scripture that sin can hinder our fellowship with Jesus.
1 John 1:6 (ESV) If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
To maintain fellowship with Jesus, we must repent of our sin and walk, not in darkness, but in the light. Sin can also inhibit our fellowship with other believers. Sin of any kind, including wrong beliefs, can cause divisions between believers.
Today, we’re going to be talking how we can have unity in Christ with other believers and how that unity can grow. Depth of fellowship that you can have with other believers is dependent on your agreement together on the truth of God’s Word. The more fellowship we have with Christ and other believers, the greater the power of the Holy Spirit that will be released. The power of the Spirit is released as our fellowship with Jesus increases. And the Spirit’s power is released in our church as our fellowship with one another increases. So, let’s begin by talking about how we are …
1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV) To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
This letter was written to all the believers in Corinth. These believers were all part of the same church, meeting in smaller groups across the city. These believers were called to be saints together with one another and with all other believers across the world. Here we see again that every believer is considered a saint in the Scripture, not a select few.
A believer is identified as someone who calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and so is sanctified or saved. These believers and all believers, including us, are called by God to be in this fellowship with one another. What are the results of this fellowship or unity?
1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (ESV) I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—
God’s grace is given to every believer through their fellowship with Jesus Christ. That grace impacts our daily lives in dramatic ways. Paul mentions that God’s grace changes the way that we talk, the way that we think and the knowledge that we have. Paul is acknowledging that God is at work in the lives of these believers at Corinth in a wonderful way. He goes on to say …
1 Corinthians 1:6-7 (ESV) even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The testimony about Christ is the really the Gospel. The effects of the Gospel were seen in the believers at Corinth through the spiritual gifts or charisma that God had given them. 1 Corinthians has the greatest amount of teaching on the spiritual gifts in the Bible. Notice that they have these gifts as they wait for the second coming of Jesus. This is one of many places in the New Testament that makes it clear that spiritual gifts are meant to continue until Jesus returns. We are called to fellowship as believers, both with Jesus and with other believers.
Let’s talk some more about our fellowship with other believers. This fellowship is with other believers in our own family, in our church family and those believers that we know elsewhere. Often times, we speak of fellowship rather loosely as simply enjoying a social time with other believers. Is that true fellowship? It all depends. If our interaction with other believers is not different than our interaction would be with unbelievers, it really isn’t fellowship.
Fellowship is a spiritual activity centered on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Let’s think of some examples. Worshipping together is fellowship. Praying together is fellowship. Studying God’s Word together is fellowship. Serving together is fellowship. Witnessing together is fellowship. What about the times we’re together with other believers and it’s just friendship with no spiritual component? What do you think? I think that as we grow in our fellowship with Jesus, we will grow in bringing Jesus into every relationship and interaction we have, both with believers and unbelievers. We are called to grow in fellowship.
1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
What’s the opposite of unity or fellowship? It’s divisions. If you continue to read chapter one, as I would encourage you to do, you’ll find that divisions in the church had been reported to Paul. The divisions were the cause of quarreling between people in the church.
What were they quarreling about? They were quarreling about which teacher they were following. Some were saying they were following Paul, others Apollos, others Peter and yet others Christ. Paul had planted the church at Corinth and Apollos had come after him to teach. Peter was a respected leader and teacher in the church in Jerusalem. These three men were all godly leaders and what they taught was in perfect agreement. Most likely, their styles of teaching were different.
Yet, people were arguing about which teacher was the best and quarreling with one another. The right answer was that everyone should be following Christ, not a certain person. True fellowship is seen as people are of one mind,, united in thought and purpose. Why were they having this issue?
1 Corinthians 3:1 (ESV) But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.
The reason for this immature behavior was that they people were not spiritually mature. Each believer comes into the family of God as an infant in Christ. They are born again, but have a lot of their old nature or flesh hanging on. As they grow in Christ, they become increasingly more spiritual which will be evidenced in their behavior.
1 Corinthians 3:3 (ESV) for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
Paul makes their immaturity clear in this verse. The quarrelling among them is manifesting in jealousy and strife between the different factions. The flesh is the old nature of the believer that must be put off in order grow spiritually. Divisions between believers are caused by immaturity.
Before we look to apply this teaching to our world, let’s remember that the different teachers the believers were following were all teaching the same doctrine. Paul made it clear in the passage that Apollos was accurately teaching God’s Word. Satan loves to stir up divisions between believers about non-consequential preferences. In this case, it was probably about the different styles of the teachers and perhaps even what they taught.
Today, we hear of churches dividing because people can’t agree on the color of the new carpet or some such nonsense. God calls us to seek unity and to give up quarrelling about personal preferences. As we grow in the Lord, we understand how to lay down our own rights for the sake of unity in the body of Christ and in our church family.
Now, what about unity between churches? There can only be complete unity between churches that correctly teach the essentials of God’s Word. Yet, we can have fellowship with other believers as we seek to teach them everything that Jesus commanded. To have true fellowship, we must understand that …
1 Corinthians 3:10 (ESV) According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.
Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, so he is speaking about laying a foundation for the church that he planted. After Paul left Corinth, Apollos came and helped to cause the church to grow on the foundation that Paul laid. Not only is a foundation laid for a church, it is also essential in each of our lives.
1 Corinthians 3:11 (ESV) For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
The solid foundation that a church must be built upon is Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. He is also to be the foundation of every believer’s life as well. How is the foundation built upon? It’s built upon by following the principles of God’s Word. As God’s Word is followed, believers are built together as living stones in a church family.
And what is the result of believers being built together upon the foundation of Jesus?
1 Corinthians 3:16 (ESV) Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
The end result is God’s temple, a place for the presence of God to live. A church, consisting of true believers, is meant to be a place where the Holy Spirit is present and active in power. Of course, this also applies to our individual lives.
Each one of us is also a temple of God, for God’s Spirit indwells every believer. God’s temple in our lives is built as we grow in following the Word and Spirit of God. The foundation of our lives as believers is not us, it is Jesus. The foundation of any true church is not the pastor but is Jesus Christ. We must make sure that Christ remains the foundation of our church and our lives.
In this passage in 1 Corinthians 3, Paul speaks of two ways that the foundation of Jesus can be built upon. The first is by building with gold, silver and precious stones. The second way to build is with wood, hay and straw.
In Bible times, temples were built with gold, silver and precious stones. The ordinary homes of people were built with wood, hay and straw. The passage speaks of fire coming at judgement day to test how we have built with our lives.
The fire will burn up the work built with wood, hay and straw. What kind of work would that be? It would be work that is motivated by our own desires and plans, rather than God’s.
We are to build with valuable materials that will survive the fire of judgement. To build with gold, silver and precious stones is to spend our lives in obedience to God’s Word. It is to live in a way that demonstrates love for God and love for people. The results of building God’s way will last for eternity in people’s lives.
How are you building on the foundation of Christ? Will your life’s work survive judgement’s fire and glorify God forever? May God help us to build properly on the foundation of Christ in everything we do.
God calls us to fellowship and unity in our church family and with other believers. In a world that is marked by division and strife, we are to be known by our love for one another. We must seek to eliminate any causes of disunity that we are responsible for. In fact, God desires for us to be peacemakers, looking to promote harmony in our relationships.
As we focus on building on the foundation of Christ in our lives and church, our unity and fellowship with grow. As our unity grows, the power of the Spirit working within us and the church will grow as well. May God help us to grow in love for one another as we reach out to those who do not yet know Jesus’ love.