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Pastor Claude Stauffer
The Standing of All Believers The State of Some Believers 1 Corinthians 1:4-17
1Corinthians 1
Scripture Title
1Corinthians 1 The Standing of All Believers The State of Some Believers 1 Corinthians 1:4-17

The Standing of All Believers

The State of Some Believers

1 Corinthians 1:4-17

We have seen in the opening verses (1 Corinthians 1:1-3) that believers are invited to be a part of the Church of God (the Bride of Christ); we are invited to be sanctified by the Lord; and we are invited to be His holy ones or “saints.” We also saw that our response is to call on or invite Jesus into our lives “in every place.”

 

Now as we continue in this early part of 1 Corinthians we see Paul, (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), establish two things about the Corinthians in particular and all believers in general. In 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 Paul establishes The Standing of All Believers in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Paul identifies The State of Many Believers in Christ. while the standing and state of the Corinthians are in contrast to one another, this should not be. The believer should seek to live a life in concord or cooperation with their standing in Christ.

 

We saw in 1 Corinthians 1:2-3 that the born again believer is called and invited to a holy sanctified life. When we speak of such things we need to understand that there is a positional and a practical aspect of the believer’s relationship with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

 

The Standing Position and Practical State of Believers

First, the standing position of all believers in Christ is that they are justified and righteous before Holy God based on the work of Christ. This is supported by the following verses:

  • John 1:12-13 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
  • Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:19a, 21 – “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, . . . For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
  • Philippians 3:8-9 – “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;”

When we see in these verses the phrase “in Christ,” it refers to our relationship with Christ or on the basis of the work of Christ. Therefore, these verses tell us that on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we STAND righteous before God when we place faith in Jesus not our own works and efforts to make us righteous before God. This is like a judicial just pronouncement of God toward us based on the work of His only son Jesus.

Second, While the standing of all believers is righteous in Christ, the actual practical state of believers may not be. In fact, while in Christ the believer has been forgiven of all sin (1 John 1:7), it is still evident that believers continue to sin in life. Every person who has been born again and is walking with the Lord would admit that even though their desire is not to sin, they still do sin. This is the actual practical STATE of the believer. (See Romans 7).

This predicament is seen in the first epistle of John where he is inspired to write about this contrast saying:

  • 1 John 2:1-2 – “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

The cause of this predicament is the SINFUL NATURE or carnal nature of the believer which continues to exist in the believer after they are born again. Sanctification is the process whereby God works in the believer to overcome this sinful nature. In Paul’s letter the Romans he explains this situation in the life of the believer. In Romans 3 Paul establishes that every human being is sinful and falls short of what God requires to be just, righteous and qualified to enter heaven and have eternal life with Him. In Romans 4 Paul establishes that faith in the God of the Bible is the means by which a person can be accounted as righteous before Him. In Romans 5 Paul explains further that it is not just “faith” in anything that saves a person and qualifies them for heaven and saves them from hell, it is faith in Christ that justifies them, that gives a person a righteous judicial standing before God. In Romans 6 Paul goes on to cover the provision of God to live a holy life that is victorious over sin. In Romans 7 Paul clarifies that such a life is not based on self-discipline or self-reliance, but is based on a relationship with Jesus. This relationship with Jesus, Paul points out in Romans 8, is established and energized by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

Thus, while the believer has a righteous standing before God in Christ, their practical state is something that is a work in progress. All of this is by the grace of God. Paul will point this out later in his first letter to the Corinthians when he is inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Therefore, let’s look now at what Paul says about the standing and state of these Corinthian believers.

The Thankful Provision of the Cross of Christ - Grace

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 – “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Paul begins this section by expressing his thanks to God for the grace He has given to the Corinthians (1:4). The word “thanks” here means, “loving appreciation; gratitude; gratefulness” (Greek EUCHARISTEO – Strong’s # 2168).

What is Paul so grateful for? He is grateful for God’s grace and the benefits and blessings the Corinthians have experienced from it. What is grace? Grace (Greek CHARIS - Strong’s #5485) is God’s unconditional provision, His undeserved favor toward us. The Bible tells us that God’s grace is “great” (Acts 4:33); it is “sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9);and it is “exceedingly abundant” (1 Timothy 1:12-16). We are saved by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Bible Teacher and Pastor Chuck Smith defines God’s grace as:

“Grace is God acting freely according to His own nature of love”

If God’s grace is not of us, not dependant upon any work of ours, then we should simply receive and expect it. Read what the Bible says:

  • Romans 8:31-32 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

The grace of God is most vividly depicted and revealed at the cross of Christ. This is what Paul is referring to when he says, “the grace of God which was given you by Christ Jesus” (1:4).

Grace is All God – None of Me

Grace originates wholly in God, not in us. Nothing in us activates God’s grace. Grace is all God and none of me. In fact, when the “me; myself; and I” are brought into the equation, it hinders the grace of God having its full impact in my life.

God demonstrates His love and grace by pouring it out on those who do not deserve it; that is the very nature of God’s grace (Romans 5). This confuses us because we question why God is gracious toward those who we feel are worse than us. We don’t understand why God would bless those who are dirty rotten sinful scoundrels. We have a hard time accepting God’s grace gracefully. We think we earn God’s grace, but that is works and not grace. GRACE IS SOVEREIGN; THERE IS NO HUMAN CAUSE FOR GOD’S GRACE; GOD ACTS GRACIOUSLY UPON WHOM HE CHOOSES TO ACT GRACIOUSLY. Works or human effort short-circuits grace; we can’t “earn” God’s grace; when we try, grace ceases to be grace. Grace therefore humbles us because we know we do not deserve God’s grace.

Now while we should expect it, we should not take it for granted or misuse or abuse it. How should we respond to God’s grace?

Ten Thankful Responses to God’s Grace

In light of the nature of God’s grace, what should our attitude toward God’s grace be? Overall we should respond with appreciation and thanks toward God for His grace. Bible teacher Pastor Chuck Smith states there are ten responses to God’s grace. I will give these ten statements with some commentary following. For each of these we ought to be thankful. These are:

  1. 1.) Be thankful and believe you are going to be blessed. Expect to be blessed. Consent to be graciously loved and blessed by God. We should EXPECT to be blessed by God though we do not deserve in any way to be blessed by God. No one deserves God’s grace; but everyone can expect God’s grace (Ps. 56:9; 84:11-12; 103:9-10; Romans 8:31-32). This is the first step in understanding the grace of God.  
  2. Be thankful and understand grace is God working in you for His pleasure, not you working to gain God’s pleasure (Zechariah 12:10; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). We simply need to surrender and receive God’s grace in our lives and hearts. When we try to earn God’s grace, it is like going against traffic; it’s like trying to light a light bulb by merely holding it; it’s like a car that is grossly overloaded to the point of being squashed. God is working and we ought to let Him work in us.

 

  1. 3.) Be thankful and understand that trials are not God’s judgment, but God’s gracious loving means to build godly character and spiritual maturity in you (Romans 5:3-5; 8:28-29; Hebrews 12:3-11). Because of this we can face trials with a sense of stability and assurance that God is still at work. Because of this we can face trials understanding God is not leaving us alone in trials, but He is allowing trials in our lives to bring us closer to Him. Trials teach us God’s grace is always sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Trials teach us our limitations and God’s unlimited grace. Trials carve away the flesh and prepare us to receive God’s grace. Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities.
  2. Be thankful and realize that the hope to be better is a failure to see yourself as complete in Christ (Romans 6:14; Colossians 2:10; Philippians 1:6; 2:13; 2 Peter 3:18). To be disappointed in myself means I am trusting in myself, my flesh, not God. We are complete in our relationship with Jesus. He has promised to complete His work in us and therefore, because God is faithful to His word, we can see ourselves complete.
  3. 5.) Be thankful and realize that discouragement is the product of unbelief (Num. 13 and 14; Acts 18:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Discouragement is based on a failure to believe God will fulfill His word and promise. That was the major problem with ten of the twelve spies Moses sent out to check out the Promised Land. They came back and acknowledged the Land was plentiful and abundantly fruitful, but in making that observation they lost sight of God and focused on the task, the opposition, the obstacles between them and the gracious provision of God. The consequence was that fear overwhelmed them and kept them from what God wanted to give them by grace. Joshua and Caleb on the other hand kept their focus and faith in God and as a result experienced the fullness of God’s gracious provision.  
  4. Be thankful and humbly understand that to be proud is to be blind (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Peter 5:5-6). The proud think they are the reason for their blessing and that is spiritual blindness that does not know God’s grace. Every good and perfect gift comes from God by His grace (James 1:17). Everything and anything of any goodness or value in our lives, comes from God. We can only take credit for that which is sinful in our lives. Therefore , God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble who understand His gracious provision.
  5. 7.) Be thankful and realize the lack of blessing comes from unbelief rather than the lack of devotions (Joshua 1; Romans 4). We are wrong to think that God blesses based on our faithfulness in devotions; it is based on who He is, a gracious God. God’s blessings are not contingent on our works or efforts. The phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” is not from the Bible. We do benefit from reading and studying the Bible and praying, and fellowship and worship, but those are more channels of God’s grace than means of purchasing God’s grace. These four aspects of our walk with God are His means of communicating and pouring out His blessing on us, but He is not limited to these. These are things to be done in loving appreciation and a hunger to know God more, not to leverage blessing from God. God blesses us even when we miss a time of Bible study, even when we fail to pray, even when we neglect fellowship, and when we are worshipful. God is gracious in spite of us. That is the nature of Gods’ grace (Romans 5:8).  
  6. Be thankful and realize that to teach that devotions bring God’s blessings is to reverse God’s order. Devotions do not produce God’s blessings; God’s blessings produce our devotions (Romans 2:4;3, 24; 4:4; 11:6; 2 Corinthians 5:14-16). The person who understands and is growing in God’s grace, who appreciates the grace of God , that is the one who goes to devotions in loving appreciation and a thankful heart and profits all the more. Devotions are a product of God’s grace; God’s grace is not a product of our devotions. Our devotions go deeper and are more consistent the more deeply we grow in and understand God’s grace. The one who knows God’s grace, grows in their devotions.

 

  1. Be thankful and know that true praise rises spontaneously from my recognition of God’s grace in my life (Romans 11:34-35). When we realize God’s grace in our lives, we can’t help but praise the Lord (Hebrews 13:15). When Paul came to the end of his great inspired treatise on the truths of God’s grace and God’s gracious plan for Israel in Romans chapters 1-11, he could not help but burst out in praise. God’s grace produces praise in us. Praise is the product of God’s grace revealed in us and to us.

  1. Be thankful and know the proper response to God’s grace is loving appreciation. Any effort or work we do for God should be motivated purely by a loving appreciation for His gracious provisions (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Romans 5:5; 12:1-2; 1 John 3 and 4). This response will save us from the fleshly carnal service of obligation and guilt. Service for God initiated and propelled by a sense of obligation and or guilt, is not acceptable service to God. Our motivation should be and must be. Loving appreciation for God. When love is our motive, God is blessed and ministered to by us, and we are blessed and ministered to by His grace.

God’s grace is something we need to receive and it is something we need to share (Ephesians 4:29). We need to be agents of God’s grace (Colossians 4:1-6). [1]

 

Five Products of God’s Grace

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 – “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In the four short verses of 1 Corinthians 1:5-9, Paul mentions five benefits of God’s grace in the lives of the Corinthians for which he was thankful for.

 

First, Paul was thankful that God’s grace had enriched the Corinthians (1:5,7). The word “enrich” means “to make wealthy” (Strong’s # 4148 -  πλουτίζω plŏutizō, ploo-tid´-zo). [2] God’s grace gives us eternal wealth. We are so rich because of God’s grace. We have a heavenly inheritance waiting for us (1 Peter 1:4). Our lives are filled with all that comes from knowing Jesus (John 10:10). We have the Holy Spirit to help us in our every weakness (Romans 8:26). We have God’s word to guide us (Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12). The blessings of God’s grace are too numerous to list. He has given us purpose and meaning in life and a hope to sustain us through to the end.

Paul points to the particular enrichment of the Corinthians “in all utterance and all knowledge” which refers to the spiritual gifts he mentions later in verse 7. Paul will go into a detailed explanation of what spiritual gifts are and how they are to be used in 1 Corinthians 12-14. He is likely referring to the particular spiritual gift of “word of knowledge” which is a supernaturally given knowledge and insight in a given situation. Those gifts which fall under the heading of “utterance” would be: prophecy; teaching; evangelism; word of wisdom; word of knowledge; tongues; and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). 

Second, Paul was thankful for the confirmation of their testimony the Corinthians had by God’s grace (1:6).The word “confirmed” refers to stability (Greek BEBAIOO – Strong’s #950 -  βεβαιόω bĕbaiŏō, beb-ah-yŏ´-o). [3] Paul was thankful for the firm belief the Corinthians had in God. They had many faults, but confidence in their relationship with Jesus was apparently not one of them. Later in verse 8 Paul uses the same word saying, “who will also confirm you to the end.” God’s grace is able to sustain, stabilize and confirm us to the end; the end being when we meet Him either at the rapture or death (see Romans 14:4; 16:25; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 2:6-7).

Third, Paul was thankful for the “revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” the Corinthians looked forward to by the grace of God (1:7). The “revelation” (Greek APOKALUPSIS Strong’s # 602 - ἀποκάλυψις apŏkalupsis, ap-ok-al´-oop-sis) refers to the hope in the future prospect of Christ’s return. The word “revelation” here literally means, “unveiling.” It is as though Jesus is hidden from our sight now, but a time is coming when He shall appear in the clouds with power and great glory (Matthew 24:29-31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:7,13; 4:13). That is something to look forward to and that is something we ought to be thankful for.

Fourth, Paul was thankful for the blamelessness the Corinthians had by God’s grace (1:8) As we mentioned earlier, our righteousness is based on the work of Jesus not our own (2 Corinthians 5:21) and therefore, in light of our many failings, we have much to be thankful for. The word “blameless” means literally “unaccused; blameless;irreproachable” (Greek ANEGKLETOS – Strong’s # 410 - ἀνέγκλητος anĕgklētŏs, an-eng´-klay-tos). [4] The salvation provided by God’s grace through faith in Christ grants us a status before God of unaccused or “blameless.” (See also Colossians 1:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13; 5:23-24). Because of Christ’s work on the cross put to our account, no one has a basis to bring an accusation against us. This is especially important to understand and be thankful for given that one of the titles of Satan is “the Accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10).

Fifth, Paul was thankful for “the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” that God faithfully invited or called the Corinthians to share in (1:9). “Fellowship” (Greek KOINONIA – Strong’s # 2842 - κοινωνία kŏinōnia, koy-nohn-ee´-ah) refers to “communication; communion; participation; interaction.” This fellowship or communication is with the Father through the authority provided in Christ by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. God’s grace and faithfulness has provided a basis and way for us to fellowship, communicate with and relate to God through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Fellowship is one of four essentials to a apiritually healthy church as well as spiritually healthy individual. (The Four Essentials are: Steadfast devotion to the teaching of the word of God; fellowship; breaking bread or worship of god at the Lord’s Table; and prayer.) That is an awesome concept; that sinful humanity can interact with God Almighty who is holy, loving, just, good and gracious. Certainly that is reason to prostrate ourselves in worship and thanks before God.

These five things: our wealth in Christ; our stability in Christ; the revelation of Christ; our blameless standing in Christ; and the fellowship and relationship we can have with God through Christ, these are all provided by God’s grace and reason to be greatly thankful to God.

But now we turn to the other side of the coin. While we are blessed in such a great way by God’s grace, we do not always respond the way we ought to and that leads to trouble and sin.

The Troubling Problem that Opposes the Cross of Christ

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 – “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.”

We have so much to be thankful for when we consider the grace of God. When we focus on God we will indeed be thankful. But when we take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on ourselves or others, we are doomed to disarray and difficulties in our walk with the Lord. That is exactly what we see in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 where Paul identifies the symptoms of the root problem of carnality. The problems mentioned by Paul in these verse are an affront to the cross of Christ. Paul pleads with the Corinthians to be unified and not divided. What do these verse tell us about the troubling problem that opposes the cross of Christ?

First, this problem is worth pleading about (1:10a). The word translated “plead” comes from the Greek term PARAKALEO (Strong’s # 3870 -  παρακαλέω parakalĕō, par-ak-al-eh´-o) and means, “to call near, i.e. invite, invoke; implore; beseech, call for, . . . exhort . . . intreat, pray.” [5] this is a word of great emotion and Paul used it elsewhere in his inspired writings.

When he wrote to the Romans and came to the end of his doctrinal treatise on the powerful gospel of God he was inspired to write:

  • Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Paul pleaded with the Romans in light of God’s gracious provision revealed in the first eleven chapters of Romans, (i.e. “therefore”), that they present themselves in full surrender and holiness to God. Paul said this was the only “acceptable” or reasonable thing to do in light of God’s grace.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he is inspired to use the word “beseech” in two notable ways. First he is inspired to write:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:20 – “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Here Paul uses this word to convey the truth of God’s “pleading through us.” That is an incredible concept. Holy Almighty God has chosen to use us to plead with a lost world! What a privilege! What a responsibility!

Lastly, Paul also says in his second letter to the Corinthians:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:1 – “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”

It is very appropriate for Paul to plead with the Corinthian recipients to take full advantage of God’s grace and not neglect it or disregard it. God’s grace is there for us like a glorious gift, but it must be received and surrendered to if it is to have a full and not “vain” or empty effect (Strong’s #2756 – Greek KENOS). These verses are all very important to look to in order to give us insight into verse 10 of chapter one in First Corinthians (See also 1 Corinthians 4:16; 10:1-6; Galatians 4:12; Ephesians 4:1).

Second, this problem contradicts the nature of Jesus (1:10b). Notice too that Paul pleads “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” To refer to the “name” of someone is to refer to their nature. (An example of name change equaling a nature change can be seen in the life of Jacob in Genesis 32). Therefore, it is against the very nature of Jesus to be divisive and that is why Paul is pleading with the Corinthians to mend their ways. Their divisions are tarnishing the name of Jesus! As those who associate themselves with the Name of Jesus, we ought to pay close attention to how we are representing the Lord (compare 2 Corinthians 5:20).

One of the offenses of Israel pointed out by God was that, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, . . .” (Romans 2:24; Isaiah 52:5). This was one of the most severe offenses of Israel. This should not have been and it should not be either, but it does indeed happen when those who name the name of Jesus Christ act unlike Christ in division and contention. That was the problem in Corinth and that is the problem in many churches in our present day.

When dealing with opposition and potential conflict we have to strike a balance based on the life example of Jesus. Jesus drove out the money-changing manipulators from the Temple of God (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11: 15-17; Luke 19:45-56; John 2:13-22). He told those who put their faith in religious tradition that they must be born again (John 3). He confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who opposed Him (Matthew 23).. But He also offered a place of privilege to the one who would betray Him (John 13:26). He gave the one who would betray Him opportunity to repent (Luke 22:48). He even offered him a final chance at friendship (Matthew 26:50). He rebuked the unbelief of the disciples (Mark 16:14). And when His disciples failed Him miserably, He was still open to forgiving them, even if one had denied Him three times and cursed Him (Matthew 26:55-58, 69-75; Mark 14:48-54, 66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27). And Jesus went out of His way to gracious forgive and reinstate Peter ( Mark 16:7; John 21:15-19). Jesus never confronted anyone or indulged in conflict or divisive actions for selfish reasons. Jesus only acted to defend the truth of God’s word and the glory of God. Jesus is our example (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).

Third, the problem is division in the body of Christ (1:10c). Paul pleads that there be “no divisions” (Greek SCHISM - Strong’s #978 -  σχίσμα schisma, skhis´-mah), no “split or gap.. . division, rent, schism.” [6] He is pleading for them to be united! Paul is pleading with the Corinthians to stop their divisive carnal behavior and he has no doubt also been before the Lord pleading in prayer that He help them to stop it too. Contention and division is the symptom of carnality.

There are times when it is necessary to take a stand against those who are sinning (see Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 5 and what Jude is inspired to write in Jude 3). It is not carnal to take a stand for truth and rightness; it is carnal and sinful to contend and divide the body of Christ for selfish motives aimed at self-promotion, self-exaltation; or any self-centered reason.

Fourth, the preferred alternative to divisions is unity (1:10d). Paul’s desire is that they be united, “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” The word “perfectly” means “completely; altogether” (Strong’s # 2675 -  καταρτίζω katartizō, kat-ar-tid´-zo). Paul is pleading with them to be mended back together wherever their relationship have been torn. [7]

The unity of the Body of Christ is a source of great joy (Psalm 133). Such unity is a product of the Holy Spirit working in the Church (Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 4:4-6). When people yield to the Holy Spirit, unity is the result.

Fifth, the problem of divisions is something church leadership should address (1:11). Paul states that those of Chloe’s household had brought this situation to his attention. When divisions cannot be resolved between the immediate parties, then the situation should be brought to the attention of church leadership. The word “contentions” used here refers to “wrangling; quarreling; strife; contentious debating: (Strong’s # 2054 -  ἔρις ĕris, er´-is). [8] Contentions are a work of the flesh or carnally produced (Galatians 5:19-21). The only way to combat these fleshly sins is by walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:18, 22-26).

Leadership is not to go looking to pick a fight, but should be able to apply God’s word effectively in divisive situation (2 Timothy 2:24-26). That doesn’t mean that the person who is the source of the contention will listen and repent, but it does mean they will be given a chance to do so.

Sixth, the cause of divisions in the church is taking one’s eyes off of Jesus and His cross work and putting them on people (1:12-16). This is the key to so many problems in the church. When people get their eyes off of Jesus the result is divisions. Paul points out to them that they are dividing into groups headed up by people such as “Paul . . . Apollos . . . Cephas [the Greek name for Peter].” They were evidently trying to gain prestige by aligning themselves in groups attached to names of people they felt were influential. One group went so far as to invoke the name of Christ, but this not in a true sense but in a sense of one-ups-manship (1:12-13). We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Seventh, religious rites are often connected to the cause of divisions (1:14-16). Apparently this divisive situation had led to some seeking to corner the market on baptizing people. Religious rite are often the point at which the body of Christ divides. Look throughout history and you will see the church divided east from west because of a conflict over religious rites. Baptism and the various modes thereof (e.g. immersing; pouring; sprinkling) even today is a source of divisions in the body of Christ. Paul then states flatly and clearly he was glad that he hadn’t baptized but only a few of them because he was not called to baptize but to preach the gospel.

The thing to remember is that religious rites are powerless against the carnal fleshly nature (Colossians 2:20-23). Instead we need to look to the cross of Christ for help (Colossians 2:3; see also Colossians 3:1-17).

Eight, the gospel good news of the cross of Christ is not something that is to be served with mere human “words of wisdom” but in the power of God (see 1:17 and 18). The power of salvation is not in the rite of baptism, or any other religious rite, it is in the “cross of Christ.” And therein is the root of the problem here, those who divided the body of Christ did so because they had lost sight of the cross of Christ. What we need to be mindful of when we gossip or act divisively in the body of Christ is that JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS FOR THE ONE YOU ARE DIVIDING WITH! We need to ask ourselves when we are tempted to act divisively, “is it really worth harming one Jesus died for?” We need to ask, “Am I acting like Jesus? Or am I acting in my own wisdom and understanding?”

Ninth, focusing on anything or anyone other than Jesus and the cross renders the cross of Christ ineffective (1:17). When people take their eyes off of Jesus and His cross, the consequence is always division, contention, conflict and causing the cross of Christ to “be made of no effect.” The words “no effect” are translated from one Greek term KENOO (Strong’s # 2758 - κενόω kĕnŏō, ken-ŏ´-o) which literally means, “to make empty, . . . to abase, neutralize, falsify. . . make (of none effect, of no reputation, void), be in vain.” [9] When, for whatever reason, the cross of Christ is not viewed as sufficient or is removed from its position of centrality in the life of the church and the individual believer, the result is neutralizing the effect God intends and that can only come through the cross of Christ. When we take our eyes off of Jesus and the cross, we unplug ourselves from His power and short circuit His grace by our carnal ways. When we turn away from Jesus and the cross, we turn away from God’s way of victory and life and fall into our way of defeat and death.

Conclusion

The thing to remember about God’s grace is: God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9); and God’s grace is what makes us what we are (1 Corinthians 15:10). Because of this we ought to be thankful for God’s grace (1 Corinthians 1:4).

In the next section we will look more closely at the contrast between God’s ways and human carnal ways of operating. But we have already seen the many blessings of God’s grace in the cross of Christ that we should be thankful for; we have also seen what happens when we turn away our focus from Jesus and the cross. When we turn away from Jesus and the cross it doesn’t make for a pretty picture.

Being much concerned about the rise of denominations in the church, John Wesley tells    of a dream he had. In the dream, he was ushered to the gates of Hell. There he asked, "Are there any Presbyterians here?" "Yes!", came the answer. Then he asked, "Are there           any Baptists? Any Episcopalians? Any Methodists?" The answer was Yes! each time.           Much distressed, Wesley was then ushered to the gates of Heaven. There he asked the             same question, and the answer was No! "No?" To this, Wesley asked, "Who then is           inside?" The answer came back, "There are only Christians here." (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)

Christian, you need to keep your eyes on Jesus and His cross; that way you will honor Him and not make His work of no effect.

 

 

 



[1] See Chuck Smith – WFT tape #I45133 Romans 6:23 and William R. Newell’s great commentary Romans Verse-By-Verse, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Pub. Kregel Classics, 1994, p. 245-247

 

[2]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[3]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[4]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[5]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[6]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[7]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[8]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[9]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

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