Unity is a word that gets tossed around a lot – not just in the church, but in society at large. In our divided world, it seems to be something we all want, but how? And why?
In John 17, even Jesus pleaded with the Father for unity among His followers!
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
He prayed – and continues to pray – that we would be one.
How? Through common belief in Jesus.
Why? So that the world may believe that God sent Jesus.
This is at the heart of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth.
He is writing to a divided, broken church struggling with a number of besetting sins, which we’ll read about in the coming months, urging them to work toward unity for the sake of the Gospel.
This messy church probably would’ve caused many of the more prideful among us to begin our letter with, “HEY CORINTH. GUYS, GET YOUR STUFF TOGETHER. YOU’RE EMBARRASSING CHRISTIANS EVERYWHERE. SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???”
But interestingly, Paul does NOT begin the letter in this way at all! He doesn’t begin by listing their many struggles with sin. He doesn’t open with their brokenness. He doesn’t initially identify them by their divisions.
Instead, he reminds them who they are, why they exist, and most importantly, who God is.
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours…
Called to be His holy people!
Part of the global family of God!
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
Recipients of great grace!
For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you.
Enriched in every way!
Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
Not lacking anything!
He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
God is faithful!
And He has invited you into fellowship with Jesus.
This is how Paul opens his letter to these struggling believers in Corinth. Make no mistake —in the next paragraph he dives into areas of sin, and calls for repentance and changed hearts. He does not avoid truth, or hard things, as we’ll read together.
But this truth is steeped in and sandwiched by grace.
If you, like many Corinthian Christians, find yourself struggling with a sin that won’t seem to go away – or find it challenging to love others in the family of God, leading to divisions in your community – read the first nine verses of this letter this week.
If you are a Christian, these words Paul addressed to the church at Corinth are also true of you! Do you believe them? Do you believe God’s grace is sufficient for you? It’s this belief that draws us to repentance, to intimacy, and ultimately to unity!
This is where unity begins. This is where mission begins.
May we become one in Christ so that the world may know Him.
May we be unified – not for the sake of unity itself – but for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
See you Sunday!