Monday, June 23, 2014

“A Call to Unity” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 29, 2014

Purpose: To focus our loyalty on Christ and not on rival leaders or factions in the church

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (CEB)
(10) Now I encourage you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Agree with each other and don’t be divided into rival groups. Instead, be restored with the same mind and the same purpose. (11) My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people gave me some information about you that you’re fighting with each other. (12) What I mean is this: that each one of you says, "I belong to Paul," "I belong to Apollos," "I belong to Cephas," "I belong to Christ." (13) Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name? (14) Thank God that I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius, (15) so that nobody can say that you were baptized in my name! (16) Oh, I baptized the house of Stephanas too. Otherwise, I don’t know if I baptized anyone else. (17) Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send me to preach the good news with clever words so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

It has been said, “That where two or three Christians are gathered, there will be four or five opinions.” It is important that we understand the difference between “unity” and “uniformity.” Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church was not a call for uniformity, but rather a call for unity in their reliance on Jesus Christ as their savior and redeemer.

The church at Corinth was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey around 50 A.D. You may remember the story from the Book of Acts chapter 18. Paul first met with Aquila and his wife Priscilla, and later with the synagogue leader Crispus. Paul spent about eighteen months in Corinth organizing this group of former Jews and also the Greeks that had both converted to Judaism and then to Christianity. The church at Corinth like many churches today was made up of a diverse group. Some were at the higher end of the social scale and others from the poorest group. Corinth like the rest of the world at that time did not really have much of a middle class. It was probably this imbalance in income that caused Paul to write them about sharing in the Lord’s Supper in chapter 11:17-22.

After Paul left Corinth he settled in Ephesus and that is where he was when he wrote this letter to the church at Corinth. Chloe was evidently a merchant that did business both in Corinth and in Ephesus and she reported what she had heard about the church in Corinth.

I sincerely hope that Chloe was not a gossip, just spreading things back to the founder of the Corinth church. A good friend of mine used the expression, “Sometimes they told more than they heard.” when describing those that told tales.

Paul’s message to the church at Corinth can certainly be applied to today’s churches. There are many issues that divide not just denominations but also congregations. Paul ask that we never lose sight of what unites us. Christ is not divided, he has been crucified for all regardless of rich or poor, man or women, red, yellow, black or white. Our message to the world should be as Paul describes, a simple truth, Christ died for us, and the mission he left with us all, is to share that message with the rest of humankind. As far as I can tell that is all we are told to do. Our instructions come from Acts 1:8 “Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

We are not called to uniformity, and we can disagree and discuss many issues, what we cannot do is lose our focus on Christ and the cross. The one hymn that best describes this is “The Church’s One Foundation” by S.J. Stone. A look at verse three of this hymn probably says what most think about schisms and heresies.
Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

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