United in Christ – We Overcome Selfish Divisions (January 26, 2020)

Sermon Text:  1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Pastor Daniel Schmidt               

Most likely you have heard it said, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” But have you ever heard the saying, “While there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, there is an ‘E.’ Selfishness has no place on a team, because EVERYONE is important.” Or, what would an orchestra sound like, if everyone simply played what they wanted to play. Rather than beautiful music, it would just be a lot of noise. Today, God’s Word from the Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, encourages you and me to get rid of the noise. As we continue our sermon series “Untied in Christ”, today from God’s Word we will see that through the Lord of the Church and the power of his Word WE OVERCOME SELFISH DIVISIONS.

As we heard last week, in the opening of his first letter to the Christians in Corinth, Paul reminded them that united in Christ, they lack nothing. The blessings of faith, the forgiveness of all of their sins and eternal life in heaven are their free gifts because of Jesus, their Savior. In the verses before us today, Paul wants to remind the Corinthians that another blessing which they enjoy by being united in Christ, is being united with one another.

The Corinthians needed this reminder because selfish divisions had popped up in the congregation. As was read earlier, “My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’”  The Corinthians were putting the man before the message. Some said they liked Paul. Others said they liked Apollos, who was the leader of the congregation after Paul left. Still others wanted to sound more noble so they said that they followed one of the Lord’s original disciples, Cephas, or Peter. Others wanted to top that and said that they followed Christ.

Because of this selfish division, Paul writes: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” The Lord’s Apostle knows how destructive division can be, so he is begging the Corinthians, in the name of the Lord of the Church, to put an end to these selfish divisions. Rather, he wants to see them united “in mind and thought” (or “purpose”).

What is that purpose? Paul writes, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Don’t misunderstand what Paul is saying in these verses. He knows that Baptism is a great blessing that the Lord has given to the Church. He is thankful that the Lord used him to bring baptism to some. But Paul doesn’t want anyone to feel that they are somehow a better Christian because they were baptized by him. As he always does, Paul points the Corinthians back to the Word of God and to Jesus their Savior, who went the way of the cross to win the forgiveness of all of their sins. Remembering that they are united in Christ, the Corinthians will overcome selfish divisions.

As the enemy of the Church, Satan loves to see division. He knows that the more division he is able to cause in a congregation, the less the Gospel message will be shared. You and I will confess that there are times when we are guilty of causing that division. From time to time, we make the personalities of our Called Workers more important than the message that they are sharing. Or, we might think to ourselves, “At least I have a better relationship with Jesus than that person over there!” At those times when you and I are guilty of causing division because of our selfishness, we confess that sin and remember that by God’s grace you and I are UNITED IN CHRIST. In Jesus our Savior, we enjoy the forgiveness of all of our sins, including the sin of causing selfish division. In thanksgiving for our forgiveness, you and I want to go out and share the Gospel message of Jesus with others.

That’s why we have been spending some time together during our meetings between services the past three weeks. Such meetings remind you and me that we are all united in Christ. Such meetings help us to put aside selfish divisions, as we talk with one another and share our thoughts with our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. While we do have different thoughts and different answers to the question “What’s Next?” for the ministry of St. Matthew’s, it is important to remember that our purpose is the same. As we sing in the hymn, 

We all are called to service, to witness in God’s name. 

Our ministries are different; our purpose is the same: 

To touch the lives of others, with God’s surprising grace, 

So ev’ry folk and nation may feel God’s warm embrace.

This is also why we have united with our Brothers and Sisters in the Wisconsin Synod. United in Christ, united together, we train workers to be the next pastors, or teachers or staff ministers in our churches and in our schools. We support missionaries who go out on our behalf to places where you and I are not able to go, whether that is here in our own country or around the world. United together, we preach the gospel to those who are not yet united with Christ.

While there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, in the word ‘church’ there is a ‘u’ and a ‘r’. Putting aside selfish divisions, remember that you are united in Christ; and, you are united with your fellow believers to share the message of Jesus with others. Amen.