Quarter’s Theme: ORDERLINESS IN THE CHURCH
Unit 1 – Maintaining Unity In The Church (Lessons 1-4)
LESSON 1 8/3/2015
A DIVIDED CHURCH
Suggested Hymns: G.H.B. 236, 243
Devotional Reading: PROV. 6:16-19
Topic For Adults
DON’T BE A DISSENTING PERSON IN THE CHURCH
Topic For Youths
MAKE NO “GOD” OF ANY MINISTER
Topic For Intermediates
DON’T CAUSE DIVISION
1 COR. 1:10-17; 3:1-9
Memory Verse: Now I say this, that each of you says “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos”, or “I am of Cephas” or “I am of Christ”. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptised in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1:12-13) NKJV
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READING
Be An Agent Of Unity
What God intends for the church is unity in all ramifications. There must be unity of goals, of purpose, of pursuit, etc. Where there is unity, though people may have different opinions, they will cooperate with one another for progress and advancement of the church. In a church where there is unity, the followers will support their godly leaders all the ways, though they may not fully understand what the leader is doing in the present time. The Bible confirms that unity is good and pleasant when it is displayed among brethren. Do you live in unity with your fellow brethren, co-workers and neighbors? Remember, you are to unite with people in godly things, don’t cooperate with workers of iniquities to do wickedness.
Point of Emphasis: It is good and pleasant when brethren dwell together in unity.
Prayer Point: Lord, help me to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3)
It is the plan of God that the Church should be a centre of excellence and unity. It
should be a place where other institutions in the society should come and learn principles that will make them grow and succeed. Alas, the church is gradually losing this power by various negative attitudes among its members that are bringing divisions, disunity, rancour and acrimony. The vices that should be anathema among Christians. This week’s lesson focuses on those traits that make a church to be a divided one.
NOTES ON THE LESSON
(1) THERE ARE CONTENTIONS AMONG YOU (1 COR. 1:10-11)
Apostle Paul was a leader per excellence. He received a letter from the Corinthian church and top on the list of reports was the contentions and divisions among them, which was reported to him by members of Chloe’s household. Instead of him to start rebuking them for the evil among them, he greeted them with the love of God (verses 1-9). After his salutation, he then beseeched them in the name of the Lord. This is language of intreaty and not of command. He knew that spiritual lessons are to be inculcated with love, prayer and spirit of humility and not so much with eloquence, command and human philosophy.
The irregularities and disorders which he had learned pertained to the divisions and strifes which had arisen in the Corinthian church. This divisions had been influenced by philosophy and the ambition for distinction and the exhibition of popular eloquence among the Corinthian teachers. As a spiritual leader who did not want further divisions among the members but restoration, he had to beg them in the name of the Lord Jesus to do certain things. First, they were to speak the same thing. Second, they should stop the divisions among them. Third, they were to be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and fourth, they should have the same judgment. These are some of the steps we can take to arrest and settle contentions among us.
(2) IS CHRIST DIVIDED? (1 COR. 1:12-17)
Paul put the nature of the divisions among the Corinthian church in proper perspective in the above verses. There were camps among members of the Corinthian church along the lines of various teachers that had been coming to minister to them. Some were so fascinated with the teaching and preaching of Paul that they fell in love with him. Some fell in love with the eloquence of Apollos. Some others fell in love with the style of administration of Cephas (probably the judaisers) and some said they were for Christ (v. 12). Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with one falling in love with one minister or the other but it becomes a problem when one loves a minister and disparages the others, or when one uses such occasion to cause divisions and creates factional groups in the church.
Paul used a rhetorical question to bring his point to the Corinthian Christians when he asked them if Christ is divided among various leaders. Even for those who supported him, he did not praise any of them rather he asked if it was Paul that was crucified for their salvation. He declared and that he did not baptize anybody in the name of Paul. Therefore, there is no need of “over” appreciating the grace of God on his life or any other minister’s live to the neglect or undermining the great sacrifice which Jesus Christ had done on the cross when he laid down His life for the sins of the world.
Paul raised the question of baptism in vv 13-17 because he knew that in the prevailing custom of his day, to be baptised in, or into the name of someone, implied that the baptised was to be the disciple of him into whose name or religion, he was baptised. So when Paul said he did not baptize anyone in his own name, what he was saying in essence is that, “Did I ever attempt to set up a new religion, one founded on my own authority and coming from myself”? On the contrary, have I not preached Christ crucified for the sin of the world and called upon mankind both Jews and Gentiles to believe in Him?
(3) CARNALITY: A HALLMARK OF A DIVIDED CHURCH (1 COR. 3:1-9)
Because of the attitude of the Corinthian Christians seen in parts 1 and 2 of the lesson, Paul called them carnal people and babies in Christ. He saw them as immature people who could not be fed with solid spiritual food, but rather with spiritual milk. The word carnal implies that they were not wholly natural or unregenerated, they were in-between, but the people had much of a carnal tendency. Yes, they had been converted to Christ, but they had not dealt with the fleshly and natural tendencies in them. They still carried over their natural attitudes and behavior that were conditioned by the system of the world, which are quite different from the lifestyles of God’s kingdom.
Paul listed certain traits of carnality in them in v.3 which include envy, strife, and division along the lines of different ministers in the church with differing and diverse graces and gifts of the Spirit. Every Christian and every local assembly need to check himself or herself or itself if there is any of these traits of carnality. They should and deal with them squarely before it escalates to an unbearable level that will bring injury and bruises to the body of Christ.
Apostle Paul took time to teach and explain to the Corinthian Christians that all the ministers they were talking about, though they had different graces, gifts, styles, etc, yet they were all ministers of Christ, being used by Christ in their various ways to bring God’s blessings to them. While, it is not wrong to appreciate them, pass good comments about them, clap for them and love them, yet we must not do all these to a set of ministers and despise others. In addition, we must not make carnal comparison between ministers, nor must we do anything that will cause the ministers to enter into unnecessary and carnal competitions with any other ministers. Members must be careful with what they say or do to ministers and must never consider any minister superior and some inferior. All are God’s ministers and will receive their rewards from God.
There is a saying that if there is no crack in the wall, lizard cannot enter into it. This is also applicable to our lesson of this week. A divided church is not about a dilapidated building but about the attitudes and behaviours of members of the body of Christ which are pulling down the church instead of building it up. Check your attitudes. Is your attitude building up or tearing down or tearing apart the church of God? Be a uniting force and not an agent of division in the church.
(1) Why do you think Paul was pleading with Corinthian Christians and not commanding them?
(2) What was the cause of division among the Corinthian Christians?
(3) Why did Paul say that he did not baptize anyone?
(4) Explain the term “carnal” or “carnality”.