A Family Feud

A Family Feud

Sermon Series: A Church with Problems

Sermon Title: A Family Feud

Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

During the time Paul was writing, Corinth was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire.

  • I mentioned last week that Corinth was located with water on both sides.
    • It was an Isthmus which connected Macedonia with Peloponnesus.
    • An Isthmus is a narrow strip of land with water on both sides.
    • The Corinthian Isthmus was just over 4 miles at its narrowest point.
      • Ships bringing goods would offload on one side and the goods would be carted to the other side and reloaded onto other ships; or, if the ships were small enough, they would be lifted from the water and rolled across on rollers.
      • This would save the time and danger of the long sea voyage which would have been required otherwise.
  • Because of having this importance in the lives of commercial seafarers, Corinth was known as a wealthy region.
    • Murphy-O’Connor said in his book “The Corinth that Paul Saw” that it was similar to San Francisco during the time of the American Gold Rush.
    • It had a reputation for its banking industry and its inhabitants represented every tier of society from the rich to the poor.
  • Corinth was also a place of worship for many of the false gods of antiquity.
      • Poseidon, the god of the sea, was worshipped in Corinth, likely because of its being frequented by those who lives were spent on the sea.
      • I mentioned last week the worship of the goddess Diana, also known as Artemis, whose temple is actually in Ephesus from where Paul is writing, so I mispoke.
      • In Corinth, it was actually the worship of Aphrodite which was the focus.
        • Aphrodite (or Venus in Roman mythos) was the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation (associated with Ishtar, another mythical goddess of fertility).
        • The Temple devoted to her sat atop the Acrocorinth, or the Upper Corinth, which was a large rock which sat overseeing the ancient city.
        • There is some debate among scholars as to what went on in the temple, but it is apparent that part of the worship included the use of what were called “Temple Prostitutes”.
          • One writer argues that there may have been over 1,000 Temple Prostitutes.
          • Though some modern historians argue that this number was likely exaggerated.
    • In either event, it is obvious that the worship of the false Greek and Roman deities had a profound influence on the morals of Corinth.
      • As we noted last week, Corinth became synonymous with abandoning morality.
      • A “Corinthian Woman” was a way of describing a woman of ill repute.

In our message last week, I mentioned that it was Paul who founded the church in Corinth.

  • Paul entered the city on his second missionary journey after having left Athens.
  • It was there that he met Priscilla and Aquila and worked making tents together with them.
  • Later, when Priscilla and Aquila went to Ephesus, they met a man named Apollos.
    • Apollos was mighty in the scriptures, that being the Old Testament.
    • But he did not have a full understanding of the Gospel of Jesus.
    • As a result, Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and taught him the truth (Acts 18:26).
  • After this, we find Apollos in Corinth (Acts 19:1).
    • It is clear that he played a very important role in Corinth based on Paul’s writings.
    • 1 Corinthians 3:6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
    • So we would rightly understand that Apollos had served a role of preaching and teaching among the people in Corinth.

Understanding the background of Apollos gives us some foundation for the section of text we are examining this week.

  • Paul has ceased with his introduction and is now moving into the meat of his message.
    • He has stated how much he is thankful for the church and the grace of God shown to them.
    • But now it is time to deal with her problems.
  • And her first problem is DISUNITY — There was a Family Feud rising within the body.

NOTE: This disunity will be the overarching issue Paul deals with from here through chapter 4.

The first issue of DISUNITY that Paul addresses the fact that CLIQUES/SECTS have formed, each one claiming for itself a different spiritual figurehead; so he attacks the issue of DISUNITY head on…

1 Corinthians 1:10–17 “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.”

I want to make a point about Paul’s opening.

    • Throughout vv.1-9, he stresses the name of Jesus Christ several times.
    • In 9 verses, he uses the phrase “Jesus Christ” or “Our Lord Jesus Christ” seven times.
    • Here is uses the name of Jesus again.
      • Such repetition should not be ignored.
      • Paul is making a point that unity is centered in our relationship to Jesus Christ.
      • NOTE: I would not know most of you if it were not for our mutual faith. In fact, many of us would have no reason for our friendship if it weren’t for Christ.
      • Illustration: “Mike Collier, My Friend” Mike Collier and I have talked before about how different we are. Outside of Christ, we have very little in common. Yet, we have some of the sweetest fellowship in the world because of our common faith in the Savior. When we fellowship, we fellowship around Jesus.
    • I would argue Paul is stressing the name of Jesus because it it in Jesus we find our genuine unity.
      • If the only things that bring us together are our mutual likes and interests, our enjoyment of the same sports or appreciation for similar political positions, the fact that we homeschool, etc, that won’t last.
      • Only unity in Christ brings true, lasting unity.

Paul calls them, in the name of Jesus, to a mutual agreement with no divisions.

    • This almost seems like an impossible appeal.
    • In any group of any size, it is almost certain there will be disagreements.

The call to “No Divisions” here must be understood in the context of “ESSENTIAL THINGS”.

    • The unity that Paul is calling for is a unity of faith.
    • That is, a unity on the essentials of doctrine and belief.
      • QUOTE: St. Augustine coined the phrase “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity (Love)”.
      • The only issue with this is that the question of what is essential and what is non-essential has to be addressed.
    • For Instance:
      • Is it essential that we all believe in the Trinity? I would say yes.
      • Is it essential that we all believe in the full deity and humanity of Christ? Yes.
      • Is it essential that we all believe that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone? Yes.
    • BUT…
      • Is it essential that we all agree on the formation of our millennial position?
        • Some would say that it is necessary.
        • Some churches will not allow a man to serve as an elder unless he subscribes to a particular eschatological position.
      • I do not believe that such extensive particulars are in Paul’s purview here.

Paul’s concern for division and unity is based on his love for the people and his desire that they love one another.

    • He is concerned most with the divisions which are driven by a lack of love and consideration for one another.
    • Two men can have a doctrinal difference on a non-essential matter and still serve together in love and mutual respect.
      • But some men thrive on disunity and finding ways to separate rather than come together.
      • The Bible calls these “factious men” (Titus 3:10).
      • These are men who “stir up foolish controversies, dissensions and quarrels.”

THIS IS WHY PAUL IMMEDIATELY ADDRESSES THE ISSUE OF QUARRELING

11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 

We know very little of this woman “Chloe”, but apparently she was a known woman who had servants who had traveled to see Paul.

    • In that travel, they had relayed the message regarding the divisions.
    • They told Paul that there was quarreling.

NOTE: It is important to note that Paul is pointing to the SOURCE of his information: CHLOE’S PEOPLE.

    • This is not idle gossip or chatter… this is a person in the church who is willing to be named and is willing to address the issue head on.
      • Keep In Mind: One of the worst things that happens in churches is gossip.
      • People come to me and say, “I heard about so and so” or “I was told about such and such”.
      • But what is the SOURCE of this information?
        • Know this: If you come to me and say, “I heard that someone is upset about X” I am gonna ask who it is.
        • If they wont allow their name to be mentioned, I have no desire to listen.
        • If you come to make a charge against someone else, you better be able to back it up with more than just secondary information.
      • QUOTE: Dr. Jay Vernon McGee “One must admire Chloe there in Corinth. Chloe told it as it was, brought it out into the open, and said, “There is trouble in our church, bad trouble, and it needs to be dealt with.”

The word quarreling is Gr. e¶rideß – Named for the mythological “Eris” the goddess of strife and wrangling. 

    • The word literally means to cause strife, selfish rivalry, to express differences of opinion, with at least some measure of antagonism or hostility.
    • Paul is calling the people away from this type of hateful hostility.
    • He is calling them to deal with one another in love.

But instead of dealing with one another in LOVE, they instead were dealing with one another with a sense of SELF-RIGHTEOUS PRIDE

YOU MAY ASK: Pastor, where do you see SELF-RIGHTEOUS PRIDE here?…

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.” 

Notice how each factious group has aligned themselves with one of the leaders in the church.

    • This is way of establishing authority for a clique or sect.
      • Paul was the founder of the church … so claiming him was a way of saying, “I have been here from the beginning.
      • Apollos had been responsible for much of the growth in the church … so claiming him was way of saying, “I have been a part of this church’s vibrant growth.”
      • Peter represented the Judaism out of which Christianity was born … so claiming him was a way of hearkening back to the ancient traditions.
      • Christ, of course, was the Savior of the church and her rightful head … claiming Him was a pious way of claiming ultimate authority.
        • NOTE: This was also an exclusionary tactic.
        • By claiming “I am of Christ” there is an implication that “the others were not of Christ”.

All of these claims are fallacious.

    • Paul was not leading any of these people to divide.
    • It is certain that neither was Apollos or Peter.
      • They were claiming these figureheads out of arrogance.
      • It was if they were saying, “Arguing with me, or going against me, is tantamount to arguing with Paul, Apollos, Peter, or even Jesus!”

They were not being driven out of a sense of love for the brethren, but out of self-righteous pride

So, Paul asks an obvious question…

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 

Anyone who claimed Paul as the head of their sect was missing the point of his teachings.

    • Paul never wanted to have a church devoted to him.
      • He wasn’t sacrificed for sin.
      • Neither was his name included in any formulation of baptism.
    • His desire was to point people to Jesus Christ.
      • Not a small sect which claimed Christ as exclusively their own.
      • But the entire church which is saved by faith in the work of Christ.

VV. 14-17 is Paul’s further explanation of how his ministry was never about him.

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.”

NOTE: Alister Begg points out here that we see the beauty of God’s inspiration.

    • Even though the writers were kept from error, they were not made omniscient.
    • Paul speaks as one unsure of his own history, having been busily about the business of preaching and even unsure about how many he had actually baptized.
    • It doesn’t point to any error, or even potential for error, but rather the reality that the Bible was written by men as they were carried along by the Spirit of God.

This issue of creating sects around certain “celebrity” leaders in the church was obvious a very serious issue.

    • Paul addresses it here in his call to unity.
    • He will address it again in chapter 3.
      • In that section he says that such behavior is carnal – fleshly, worldly. (1 Cor 3:4-7)
      • 1 Corinthians 3:4–7 “For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow
    • So while we may not see such division as terribly disruptive, Paul does.
      • He addresses this kind of foolish division multiple times in this letter.
      • He wants the church to know that such division and false alliances to anyone and anything but Christ are dangerously destructive.

WHETHER MOST WILL ADMIT IT OR NOT, DIVISION IN THE CHURCH IS DESTRUCTIVE, AND PAUL IS WRITING AS AN APPEAL FOR UNITY. 

  • This does not mean that every issue will be seen the same way by everyone.
    • Paul is not calling the church to be mindless robots; he will address liberty later.
    • Only in extreme cults do we see people who are punished for having a varied opinion.
  • But on the issues that matter — issues of faith, morality, and truth — there should be no division among us… we should seek UNITY IN THE ESSENTIALS.

And when there are disagreements over secondary issues, they are to be handled with grace and patience, rather than with the taking of sides and building of cliques.

  • Far too many churches divide over things which do not matter.
    • Entire churches have split into factions over things as small as:
      • The color of the carpet
      • The placement of the pulpit
      • The clothing choice of the pastor
      • The song selections of the worship leader.
    • Note: The reason for the plethora of churches which are scattered about in our city has little to do with the desire for diversity, as much as it has to do with the inability of Christians to gather together in unity without quarreling!

As a local body of Christ, there is little we can do to heal the divisions which exist within the universal body of Christ in the world.

    • But there are things we can do to heal divides which exist between us.
    • And the most important thing we can do is settle in our mind that we want to listen to Paul’s appeal for unity and seek to be “of one mind”.

BUT HOW? HOW ARE WE TO DO THIS?

  • I point you back to what Paul has already made his focus in this text: the Lordship of Christ.
  • As I said, from v.1 to v.10 Paul repetitiously uses the name of Jesus emphasizing Him as LORD.
    • If we are to have genuine “unity”…
    • If we are to truly be “of one mind”…
    • If we are to be unified in our “judgments”…
    • If we are to truly be “devoid of Self-Righteous Pride”…
    • WE MUST SUBMIT OURSELVES TO THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST.
      • Anything which breaks down the unity we have under the Lordship of Christ is not of God.
      • It is self-righteous, prideful, and ultimately demonic.
      • Things of which factious men enjoy, and against which righteous men should stand.

In his commentary on this passage, Dr. Jay Vernon McGee includes a poem about a family feud in Kentucky and Tennessee between the Martins and the Coys.

Oh, the Martins and Coys, they was reckless mountain boys.

And they took up family feuding when they’d meet.

They would shoot each other quicker, than it took you eye to flicker.

They could knock a squirrel’s eye at 90 feet.

Oh, the Martins and the Coys, they was reckless mountain boys.

But old Abel Martin was the next to go.

Though he saw the Coys a-comin’ he had hardly started runnin’

‘Fore a volley shook the hills and laid him low.

After that they started out to fight in earnest.

And they scarred the mountains up with shot and shell.

There was uncles, brothers, cousins,

They say they bumped them off by dozens.

Just how many bit the dust is hard to tell.

Oh the Martins and the Coys, they was reckless mountain boys.

At the art of killin’ they became quite deft.

They all know’d they shouldn’t do it,

But before they hardly knew it,

on each side they only had one person left.

(“The Martins and the Coys” by Ted Seems and Al Cameron).

Now, that may sound a little corny and maybe even a little silly.

But it unfortunately describes a lot of the feuding and fussing that goes on inside the local church.

Its what Corinth was dealing with… and what a lot of churches deal with… and sometimes even our own.

May we, as the body of Christ, lay down our arms against one another…

Learn to love one another and look to the unity we share in our Lord Jesus Christ.

And when we have a point of contention — which we will at times — may we handle it in ways that seek to build up, and not tear down.

For the sake of our Lord’s name… our Lord Jesus Christ.

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