Unity is important.
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The church is called to glorify God with one mind and one voice. Disunity is a terrible hindrance.
Paul wrote to quarreling believers in Corinth. They were divided. They were putting more faith in their human leaders than in Christ. The bickering was resulting in factions.
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
There were other problems in Corinth. Paul addressed them, too. But Paul was distressed at their lack of unity. It was hindering them from working toward their purpose.
The Apostle begins to end this same letter by reminding them of the importance of the gospel:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, emphasis added)
Paul didn't ignore the various issues and problems they were experiencing. Nevertheless, Paul points these believers to the most important truth of Scripture: the gospel. This is the truth that unifies all believers.
Paul received this message directly from the risen Lord Jesus. This glorious gospel declares that Jesus is the promised Messiah from the Scriptures who came to fulfill God's promises revealed through the Scriptures:
- That He died for our sins according to God's predetermined plan (e.g. Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22);
- That He was buried (e.g. Isaiah 53:9), and;
- That He was resurrected on the third day (Isaiah 53:10; Psalm 16:10) fulfilling God's promises and demonstrating to the world that Jesus, whom we crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ (Psalm 2; Daniel 7:9-14; Acts 17:30-31, Romans 1:4).
This glorious truth is of first importance. It is the basis for unity in the church. Not just in Corinth but everywhere.
Instead of fighting about lesser things, Paul encouraged these followers of Jesus to refocus their attention on the gospel. He called them to heed the implications of this truth. They were to stop debating which preacher/teacher they liked best. By focusing on the differences between Apollos, Peter, Paul, and Jesus they were failing to notice that these teachers all were united in the gospel.
So what are the implications of the gospel? Jesus is risen. So what?
Paul states plainly that the resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the truth of Christianity. All of Christianity - not just the parts that make us comfortable.
It guarantees the reality of the coming resurrection. It promises judgment for all people. It declares with power that Jesus is the appointed King of Heaven and Earth. It proves He will reign until all of His enemies are put under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25-27). It verifies the truth that it is only through repentance and faith that anyone is able to be saved from the wrath that is to come.
Think about this for a minute.
Really, think about it.
Is there anyone you know who is not in Christ?
If so, what does this mean for them?
If you are a follower of Jesus, His resurrection proves the truth of your salvation. It also proves the truth of condemnation resting upon all who do not believe.
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36)
Paul cuts straight to the heart of the matter with his application:
Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:34)
Paul urged these believers to dwell soberly on the truth of their salvation in Christ and the condemnation that is upon the world. In light of this, his application is to stop sinning. Stop paying attention to unimportant matters. Stop bragging about yourself and your favorite teacher/leader. Stop putting your eyes on the world and the things that are fading away.
Stop sinning. Seriously.
But why does Paul say we need to be sober minded and stop sinning? Is it because sin is making the Corinthians unhappy or causing them to miss out on God's blessings in their personal lives? That's not what Paul says.
Paul tells them exactly why they need to stop sinning. It's because some have no knowledge of God.
Believers have received the revelation of God (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Through hearing and believing the message we pass from death into life. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16-19).
Paul said the mere fact that there are some in Corinth who were unaware of this truth is something the church ought to be ashamed of. They should be ashamed that the world perished around them without the opportunity to hear the gospel. Why hadn't they heard? Because it is the responsibility of the church - every member - to proclaim the gospel to the world.
Sadly, in Corinth, the believers were too busy arguing amongst themselves and preoccupied with their own individual pursuits to obey their Lord and Savior in proclaiming His glorious gospel to the perishing.
Do you agree with Paul?
Do you think it's shameful when believers hide the gospel from the world? Do you agree that it's shameful that we who know the truth are not willing to pay the cost to bring this message to those who are lost and perishing?
Do you not know that it is required of servants of Christ that we be found trustworthy in our stewardship of the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)?
Who do you know who has no knowledge of God? How many in your city are perishing with no real idea of the gospel call to repent and trust in Christ alone?
What are you doing to put them in mind of the coming judgment and the command from the risen King for all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31)? How is your church leadership equipping and sending out the body of Christ to declare with one mind and one voice the gospel in your community?
If the answer is "nothing," then Paul suggests that we, too, should be ashamed.
Fortunately, God is pleased in His grace to give us further opportunities to be found faithful and trustworthy with His gospel - even if we've been negligent in the past!
God is able to use His church for the praise and glory of His name (Ephesians 3:20-21). He has made us adequate for the task of proclaiming His glory and goodness to the world (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, 1 Peter 3:9-10). Therefore, let us no longer live for ourselves. Let's live for Him (Galatians 2:20) in the strength He provides knowing that He is able to accomplish what He has begun (Philippians 1:6)!
Get equipped. Obey your King. Glorify your God.