Jan. 23, 2011
1 Corinthians 1:10-18

I once owned a 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix sedan and drove it nearly 200,000 miles before my growing family required a minivan. Early one spring, the automatic transaxle failed. Only first gear and overdrive would function, which made for adventurous driving! I finally managed to get the car to a shop. Upon explaining the problem to the repairman, he asked me how much time had passed since the transaxle was serviced with new fluid and a new filter. I sheepishly replied, “At the factory.” He rightly asked, “Did you expect it to keep functioning without performing the necessary maintenance?”

What is true of an automotive transaxle—or any other piece of equipment—is also true of the church. Proper function requires constant maintenance. Among God’s people, unity compromises a major key to proper function. A divided church will not and cannot reach the lost and edify the saved; a Great Commission church must be a greatly unified church. The gospel itself is at stake.

Unity, though, is not a quality to be achieved, but a state to be maintained. Proper functioning requires unity, and unity requires constant maintenance.

In 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Paul’s heart breaks over the division in the Corinthian church. He appeals to its members in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to allow “no divisions…but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” In order for the Corinthians to become united, though, they first had to…

Recognize the Destruction of Divided Loyalties (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)
From its beginning, the Corinthian congregation had been helped along by several great leaders, including Apollos, Peter and Paul. Unfortunately, the people began to express loyalty to one particular leader over another. We simply cannot know what each faction promoted, but we do know they were more committed to their favorite church leader than to Christ! They lost sight of their true loyalty!

The destruction of divided loyalty continues in churches today. If a person attends a particular congregation only out of loyalty to the pastor, a staff member, a teacher, a musical style or ministry program, then disappointment and disunity certainly will follow. Human leaders sometimes fail, often eventually leave and always die!

Likewise, humanly devised programs always fall short of expectations. Loyalty only to leaders and programs always places the church mere inches away from division, because it’s a shallow, fleeting form of loyalty.

Embrace the Unifying Power of Singular Loyalty to Christ (1 Corinthians 10:13-18)
Paul refuses to take sides in the leadership debate in Corinth. Instead, He dispels the division by pointing them toward their true loyalty—the gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds them Christ isn’t divided by their debates and that none of the leaders they hold so dear did anything to gain their salvation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Paul then affirms his role in ministry—simply to “preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 10:17), because it is the power of God to those being saved (1 Corinthians 10:18). The task of gospel preaching belonged also to Apollos and Peter, and belongs to every gospel minister in every generation.

Gospel ministers exist not to gain the loyalties of people, but to urge people to keep a first loyalty to Christ and His gospel. This true Christian loyalty leads to authentic Christian unity—a unity by which people invest their lives in the church because of their first loyalty to Christ, not because of loyalty to a person or program. Gospel-driven, pride-killing unity must repeatedly be expressed and constantly maintained.

In our culture, the power of personality and the lure of entertainment pervade nearly every aspect of lives—including church. Consider then, what drives your church participation. Loyalty to people or programs always will fail and fracture, but loyalty to Christ always will remain sure and secure.

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