October 11, 2023
The American freedom fighter, Patrick Henry, used the phrase, “united we stand, divided we fall,” in his last public speech, given in March 1799, in which he denounced the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. Clasping his hands and swaying unsteadily, Henry said, "Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs." At the end of his speech, Henry fell into the arms of bystanders and was carried, almost lifeless, into a nearby tavern. Two months afterward, he died.
A divided church must break the heart of God.
The early church in Corinth was in this very state when Paul wrote his first letter to them. There were numerous problems there and disunity was at the top.
As he begins his first letter to the Corinthians, he makes a heartfelt plea. “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 (1 Corinthians 1:10).
What unites God’s people? Paul gives the answer in 1 Corinthians.
First, he reminds us that the cross of Christ unites. It was the cross that saved us from our sins. The cross washed, sanctified, and justified us (1 Corinthians 6:11). The cross changed our relationship with the world and united us as one in Christ.
Paul is extremely upset in 1 Corinthians 1, because of the factions among God’s people. Some of them followed Paul because he was the founder. Others followed Apollos because he was there and very intellectual. Another group followed Peter because of his Jewish background, while the very spiritual group followed Christ because He is better than all the rest.
What does Paul do? He brings them back to the cross. “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” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The cross cuts across our selfish ambitions for place and power. The cross empties our hearts of pride and arrogance. The cross keeps us separate from the world and unites us to one another at the feet of Jesus.
Always, always, always keep the cross forefront in your heart and mind.
Second, he reminds us that the wisdom of God is important when it comes to unity. This concurs with the Old Testament writers who often reminded us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).
The cross is the wisdom of God. To the Jews it was a tripping hazard, and to the Greeks, of whom there were many in Corinth, it was total foolishness, but to believers, the cross was/is the power of God.
Paul highlights the wisdom of God, which is sourced in His Son: “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
It is one thing to know the truth; it is another to practice truth in the wisdom that comes from God. Truth and wisdom go hand-in-hand. Throughout the book, Paul deals with issues for which they needed correction, such as immorality, lawsuits, Christian marriage, Christian freedom, public worship, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection of Christ. These truths require wisdom both in the teaching of them and in the living of them.
What happened to the Corinthian believers is that they were acting in a carnal, fleshly way instead of under the control of the Holy Spirit. Paul makes a big deal of this in Chapter 2.
The Holy Spirit will provide wisdom that is from above (James 3:13-18).
Lastly, Paul emphasizes the importance of the love of God when it comes to unity. It is indispensable to the welfare of a local church. If the true love of God is missing, then we are like resounding gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1). We may have great sermons and wonderful gifts, but if love is not present, the atmosphere becomes hard, cold, and mechanical.
These are the characteristics of divine love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
As we seek to unite together for the glory of God, let us keep the cross of Christ, along with the wisdom and love of God, close to our hearts. Remember the quote, “United we stand, divided we fall.”
Thank you for praying this week for our prodigals and for revival.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel