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United in the Power of Christ

1 Corinthians 1:10-31

The other day I saw a clip of a high school band, and some of the band members were really showboating: dancing and then playing as loud as they could. It was funny because a couple of the tuba players were blasting and they began distracting the other band members. They initially seemed to be wanting to make sure everyone heard the band, but it quickly ruined the whole thing.

Their playing went from loud notes to indistinguishable blaring. They were not in sync with the rest of the band so the power of the group died away. It was ironic that these guys were trying so hard to make the band heard but it ruined everything. 

It is better to have a controlled sound than a blast, sound in tune and in step with others gets stronger. 

If you trust the others on your team, then you can rest in what each is doing. You rest in what you are able and you don't compensate and make things worse. When you do that, you line up with others, you begin to feel the power of being in sync with the band and the power of the whole. 

When someone doesn't rest in that they start over elevating themselves, or maybe some other individuals. They are no longer united as a whole but isolated individuals, and the integrity of the whole is compromised. You want to tell them to be united and rest in the power of the group as a whole.

I think Paul has a similar message to the Corinthians in this passage. Factions and divisions have creeped into the church at Corinth, and these exist because they are not resting in the power of the gospel. They have failed to see what Christ has accomplished for them, and because of that they are elevating individuals. This is a problem for churches when they fail to see the power of God and individuals begin overplaying their part. 

In this passage Paul asserts it is the power of God in the cross of Christ, and that they are to unify around and boast about it. Christ is bigger than all other leaders and the only one able to bring the change people need.

Text:

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. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow 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 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:10-31 ESV)

A United in Christ

 

This letter begins with a warm greeting but Paul now goes into a report he has heard about the church. There are problems in Corinth. They have written letters to each other. Now he has heard something, and what he has heard is that there are divisions in the church. 

Schismata. Divisions. It can be the pulling apart of garments that have been sown together. When you pull in different directions you undercut each other. 

“but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1Co 1:10 ESV)

This is the goal for any church. There are distinctions and differences. Unity in essentials. Liberty in non-essentials. Charity in all things. Part of being united is being united in what is essential so you can differ on non essentials. 

The divisions created regard the people/the leaders/the men who have taught them. Apollos. Peter. Paul. Who do you follow?

People boast of who baptized them and it set others into a frenzy.  It is like us on Sunday morning watching church at home. There are toys laying on the floor of our living room and they have not been touched in weeks. No one cares about them. But then someone will go over and pick one up and start playing with it. As soon as that happens someone else wants it. “That’s mine!” You haven’t played with it, thought about it, touched it. But now that someone wants it you want it. Toys are best used to God’s glory and to love others with, but we make it about ourselves. There is no difference in the envious heart of a child and the envious heart of an adult other than the object we crave. 

Minimized Christ and so people are bigger/more important than they should be. 

The church here explodes into a game of oneupmanship. Here the issue is who they follow and or were baptized by. 

Paul tells them Christ is far greater than these mere men. 

V 13 “is Christ divided?” Apportioned? You portion off dessert. You only have so much and so you portion it so everyone gets some. If someone gets too much another then doesn't’ get any. Is that how it is with Christ? Is there only so much to go around? Not at all! It is possible that Paul and Peter are used by him. It is possible that your previous church was used by God. It is possible that this church can be used of God. 

V13. “Was Paul crucified for you?” Another poignant question. Sometimes the best attack is not a silver bullet argument but a question that gets them thinking?

Employ use of questions. When you disciple people don’t feel like you have to know everything. Ask questions. Find out what their understanding of the gospel is. Do you believe in God? Where are you from? What is the political climate of your country? What is religion like there? Do you know who Jesus is? When issues arise in church or your family ask questions?  Isn't that what doctors do? Ask people, “Why are you so upset?” 

*The biggest issue on the divisions is that they are not focused on the biggest issue.* They are not focused on the place of Christ but the place of people.  V17 for Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel. 

**The gospel is what the church is about.** But churches get into arguments about baptism, by this person, or this way. What is more important is if you have trusted in the gospel that gives significance to baptism. Baptism is significant as it points to the good news of Jesus. Don’t miss the bigger issues here. 

First and foremost we are a church about the gospel. We want people to hear what Christ has done for us. It’s not hey, come to my church and hear about our sports program. It’s not come and hear about our school program. It is come and hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

What is first and foremost to you? What do you get bent out of shape about? Do you get upset when someone doesn’t adhere to your political ideology? What do you most want people to know and hear… 

  • The Power of God in the Gospel.

Do you look to the cross as the power of God? Maybe you think the power of God displayed in a tornado, a hurricane, a 1967 GTO, some of you it is the power of your new battery that allows you to game on your computer for days. Maybe you think the power of God is seen in delivering you, getting you a new job, keeping you healthy. God’s power is seen in those, but none of those are said to be “the power of God” like the cross is. 

The cross is utter foolishness to those who are perishing. Why would you ever believe someone who had been crucified to be your Savior. That is a sign of defeat. A liar. A criminal. A loser. The worst of the worst. Name one other person who was executed through capital punishment that you say is your hero. Do you see the foolishness that they would have seen with this. Jews wanted a sign of deliverance. Greeks looked for wisdom, they wanted a plan so brilliant it screamed of coming down from heaven. The cross is that but you have to look under the surface. 

Let me give you a few reasons the gospel is the power of God. I want to do so by mentioning what Christ is for us. 

 

“who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” (1Co 1:30 ESV)

  1. Redemption. 

The cross is the power of God because it delivers us from the dominion of darkness and brings us into the kingdom of light. The cross saves us. Medicine will not save your soul. A better education will not save you. None of those make you a child of God. 

Redemption: that is the freeing of a slave. We are slaves to sin and disobedience. We need to be set free from that power. The cross sets us free. Do you know that the power to overcome is found in the cross of Christ. 

V18. foolishness to those perishing, but to those being saved it is the Power of God for salvation. 

The power of Christ is seen in his resurrection from the grave. That power is at work in those who believe. If you want a transformation in your life you need to tap into  God’s power working through the cross. 

Do you want assurance that your sins can be forgiven? Samuel Davies, “The preaching of a crucified Savior gives the strongest assurance to guilty sinners that their offended God is reconcilable and willing to receive them upon their penitent return to him.”

  1. Wisdom

People want to follow a good plan. Do you know the cross is God’s wisdom to deal with all the problems in the world?

In the cross God upholds the moral standard he has for the world and is able to pardon sin and forgive guilt. You can’t just pardon and say “It's no big deal you did that.” You can’t just dismiss the hurt that we do to others through our wrongs. The cross says it is wrong. It says you shouldn’t do that. It says God is righteous and will bring all to judgment. 

But it also says God is so loving, so kind, so gracious, that he is willing to step in and take the judgment we deserve. God is willing to insert himself into the problem to make a solution. The cross displays the perfections of who God is in the strongest possible way. That he is the supreme ruler of the world and maintains the honor of his rule. 

Socrates, Plato could not find a better way to display the perfection of God

If you need help trusting in the wisdom of God and his plan for your life, then look at what he has done in the cross.

Christ’s attributes are most wonderfully displayed in Christ crucified. Justice shines brighter than if every sin had been punished without mercy; and mercy shines brighter than if every sin had been forgiven and every sinner made happy without any justice.” Samuel Davies. 

  1. Sanctification

That is growing more like Christ. If you need hope for change if you need fuel for the journey then look to the cross. It is where we find power. 

You can't look to the cross, know Christ died for your sins, and then remain indifferent to the fact you continue doing those things over and over again. That he died for your sins of sexual lust, that he died for your sins of envy, sins of self righteousness thinking you are better than others, that he died for your sins of laziness

“In the cross God’s hatred of sin is discovered in the most striking light; the evil of sin is exposed in the most dreadful colors; and so a warning is given to all to deter them from it.”

God is not indifferent to your ignoring him. The cross proves that. 

It is the greatest display of God’s love and mercy. It is a display of obedience to God.  It is his greatest display of how to become more like him

When you taste the deliverance from sin you don’t want to go back. You can't enjoy them any more when you know Christ has something so much better. Can a man enjoy a meal that he knows is poisoned and leading to his death. 

God uses the work of Christ to soften the hearts of men. “Looking to the cross will melt your heart of stone like snow before the sun". 

 

  • A United Boast in the Cross

31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."  

We are to be united in voicing the greatness of Christ. We boast of what we love and have confidence in. Do you boast of Christ? Is he great to you?

The Corinthians forgot! They stood under Paul’s teaching for 18 months. Had his letters. Talked with and met him, but they forgot. How much more do we need to be earnestly in god’s word. They forgot and were boasting about men.

How much more so us! Do you boast of your political candidate? Do you boast of your job title? Do you boast of your knowledge in an area? Or do you boast of Christ? Be quick to talk about what he has done. He is your everything. If you do not talk regularly of Christ then you are not boasting of him. You have forgotten!

I believe this is one of the great dangers of the church today. She has forgotten the power of the cross. We fail to tell others of this power. Forget evangelizing, how about talking to your wife about it. Talking to those in the church about it. I think the church needs to wake up

It's been a shock being back in the south. How many businesses play Christian music, use God in the mission statement. That is great, but I think often it is a hollow shell. I have been in Christian ministries who couldn’t tell me anything about advancing the message of Christ. I have heard sermons that have nothing to do with Christ. “Four steps to a better you” and the very thing that Paul said is the power of God is absent. Forgotten. Pushed aside to be more socially accommodating. The message Paul boasted of is absent. And I think many people are comfortable living in a Christian culture that is not actively boasting of the cross. That doesn’t walk into the culture aware of the power in the cross. Doesn’t see the power, the wisdom, sanctification, redemption that are in the cross, and that without the cross people are destitute of those things. 

If we have the power of the cross of Christ at work in our lives why are we depressed about the things we have done in the past. We ought to rejoice he has redeemed us from that. Why are we anxious about our future when we see the wisdom of God bringing the greatest possible good out of the greatest evil in the world (crucifixion of Christ). Why do we feel like failures when we see our God is able to bring change in us through the cross? Stop belittling the power of the cross. Stop minimizing his greatness. Stop ignoring him and being content to be stagnant. 

Be a faithful parent: boast of Christ and his power at work in you and in your kids. Be a good neighbor and boast of Christ. Boast of him in your life and in your words. Boast of Christ to your parents. Remind them what he has done for you. Boast of Christ in your church. They need to be reminded. Pray for peoples' eyes to be opened to this power. That might be the greatest way to intercede for people!

Church, are you aware that the cross is the power of God for salvation??? Have you forgotten or do you simply not believe. We are moving into a new season. The organizational confusion that has plagued us is being removed. I'm excited for that. But if we are not going to live unified in the power of God we are not going anywhere. 

We have had opposition over the last few years. The early church had opposition but it broke out of it. I kept telling myself we just need to focus on God and have a consuming passion for him and I think our issues would take care of themselves. It didn't happen. We had to resolve this issue. I have had to ask how committed I am to God’s power. How committed to the cross of Jesus are you. 

We have work to do. There are many in this community who need Jesus. There are many who don’t know him and his power. We need to go big. 

If we are going to reach people in this area it is going to take everyone going all in. Inviting people. Praying fervently. Jim Elliot, famous Christian missionary and martyr for the faith, read “God ministers are flames of fire, and he began asking and praying, “Am I Ignitable.”

I m not good with cheesy slogans and creative ways events. Partly they just don't motivate me. If you're not motivated by God I can't do anything with that. Let's be a people that wants to be faithful. That believes God can and will work. 

Discussion Questions

  1. How have you seen people or churches change when they are not focused on the power of Christ? Why is it so important to be centered on Christ?
  2. What are some ways that you see God’s power in the cross of Christ? Which way is most encouraging to you right now? 
  3. How can you “boast” of Christ in day to day life? How might boasting of him encourage you and others?