1 Corinthians 1.10-3.23

Title: Five Characteristics of a United Church

Text: 1 Corinthians 1.10-3.23

CIT: Paul has warned the Corinthians about division in the church.

CIS: I want to encourage each member to strive for unity in the body.

Introduction: This morning, we’re in 1 Corinthians beginning in 1.10. But, we’ll also visit Acts 18. So, go ahead and mark those two spots.

Last Sunday I began my sermon series in 1 Corinthians. The Series will focus solely on this letter from the standpoint of what is a Healthy Church. Our first take was that a Healthy Church is focused upon her Lord. We looked at multiple blessings that Paul identifies for his readers. This morning we continue with that same line of thinking and delve into some of those thoughts Paul brought out in his introduction.

Namely, this morning, Paul teaches us that a Healthy Church is undivided. I want to take his teaching and show you 5 characteristics of a unified church.

In this modern era, there are many issues that threaten the unity of a local church. We will find some of these same issues at work in the church at Corinth. Paul warns them against these issues and clearly outlines for them the very issues which bring division.

My goal isn’t to just look at what Paul says is dividing that church, but rather to turn that around and see the positive side of what Paul is saying. I think Paul is saying here that there are at least five (5) unifying Characteristics of a healthy church in his letter. And so, I’ve entitled my message today: Five Characteristics of a United Church. We see right away that this is Paul’s main thought: read v 10.

Transition: united: to put to order, restore, organize. It is this idea of coming together and doing the same things. This is his thesis statement and over the next couple of chapters he’ll address the very things that are causing divisions in their church; we find the first of these five characteristics as we continue reading; rd v 11-13;  A Unified Church Displays:       

I. The Gospel (1.10-18)

exp.: rd v 13; This is a checkmark every church should make! A unified church lives, breathes, exudes The Gospel; it reeks the Gospel! rd v 14-16; evidently, they were bragging about who baptized them; rd v 17-18; Here is the key! The Gospel is where the power of the Church lies!

ill.: Mark Dever: My friends, let me be clear about what Christianity teaches. There is one God who has made us all. We have sinned against him – we have done what we wanted rather than what he has told us to do. We have rebelled against him, and so he is rightly committed to punishing us, as our sins deserve. But, in his great mercy, he came in Christ – fully God and fully man – and lived a perfect life with no punishment of his own to bear. Yet, Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of all those who would never turn from their sins and trust in him. He rose to new life, and he offers us new life as well if we will turn from our sins and trust him. We lay hold of Christ savingly by believing in this message and having faith in him.

Components of the Gospel Message:

  1. God is Holy.
  2. We are not. We are sinful. (Demonstrate by using a phone in between the hands.)
  3. Nothing we could ever do could remove the sin that separates us. So, God acted on our behalf.
  4. Good sent Jesus to die and pay the penalty for our sin.
  5. By trusting in what Christ has done, we can have our sins forgiven and the relationship we desire with God can be established.

app.: A display of the basic gospel message is so vital to unity. Listen to Ray Ortlund: rd The Gospel, pg 39-40

The exaltation of any one person (other than Christ) and/or their pet projects undermines the gospel and wreaks havoc in a church. But, The Gospel lived out by members, brings unity within the body.

t.s.: A unified church displays the gospel in every aspect of her existence. And #2, a unified church displays…

II. Humility (1.26-29)

exp.: Why? Because it crushes egos! Rd v 26a; ouch; rd 26b-29; Wow, when you look at it that way; look at that! – foolish, weak, low, and despised; Let me ask you: What were you before you came to Christ? Foolish? Weak? Despised? Maybe “D” for ‘all of the above’; We see this also paralleled in the Philippian’s church;

Here’s a helpful hint to practice: When we see Christ in his glory – we gain a greater perspective of who we are.

ill.: βῆμα; Judgment seat; well, we really have nothing to fear if we’re saved; really? Will you just stroll into the presence of the Lord – What’s sup Big Guy?  So how will you be? What will you offer? Here is my…

ill.: Do you know the difference between humility and humiliation?

app.: You know, even when your church is doing well, it isn’t a reflection on who is serving here. It’s only because God is blessing us. That’s humbling. The church is no place for any, one person to be exalted (other than Christ, which is the message of the Gospel). So, we come, humbling ourselves and exalting Christ alone!

t.s.: Christ will share His glory with no one. There is only room for him at the top. Humble yourselves, therefore, before the Lord. Moving on, there is a 3rd characteristic mentioned here…

III. Wisdom (2.1-10)

exp.: he began talking about wisdom back up in 1.18; pick up in 1.28 – 2.3; Paul is giving himself as an example; not of humility, but of understanding; rd v 6-8; Does Paul know what he’s talking about? You bet he does! In Paul’s day, many would meet in the town square, as it were, and speak. They would win people to their views and beliefs by their eloquence and wit. They would win debates, answer questions and gather followers; But Paul didn’t do things that way. His message wasn’t exactly like theirs – (1.23) a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles; Acts 18.1-10; and look at the inspiration he received; Acts 18.11;

app.: So, yes, he does know what he’s talking about because what the world calls foolish or considers a stumbling block is really the wisdom of God; and that’s where we and many churches like us are – at this moment!

I’ve been asked a couple of times what my vision is for the church. I outlined it a little this past Wednesday night. There is a fad in the churches today that seeks to be like other churches – ones that are growing in number. But I don’t see in Scripture anywhere, where the Word tells us to copy churches that are growing in number as a measure for health and stability. What I see here, is that we’re to be a church that is focused on her Lord and working toward unity in our relationships. My vision, My goal: A Healthy Church!

app.: there are churches doing it right and succeeding, some in a very short time and others over years; For us, the concern is: are we acquiescing to the world’s ways or are we sticking with what the Scriptures teach? Even when it is a struggle, it really is the way that displays our wisdom; our godly wisdom; it also displays unity…

t.s.: The Gospel, Humility, Wisdom. The 4th characteristic is…

IV. Maturity (3.1-3)

exp.: he begins to touch on it here in this passage (rd 2.6); skip down to ch. 3; rd v 1-3; what we see here is an immature congregation focuses on the flesh and the world; whereas a mature congregation focuses on spiritual matters; We see this cry from the writer of Hebrews and also from Peter in his 1st Epistle: strive for maturity!

ill.: When Christopher was a baby and a little boy, he was so big he always played with older kids, especially his brother – who is nearly three years older than him. Lisa tells the story about an incident he had in Harlingen (tell of run-in with 10-year-old). “Sometimes C acts like a 7-year-old!” “He is only 7 years old!”

app.: Paul was saying that the Corinthians had plenty of opportunity for growth and they were still acting like babies. Unlike Christopher, who was acting his age, these believers were still so immature..

t.s.: but a sign of a healthy church is its maturity, its wisdom, its humility, and the Gospel being lived and proclaimed. But there is one more…

V. Service (3.5-10)

exp.: rd v 5; we’re servants; 6-10; we’re all just workers here; we don’t own this place; we call it our church, but really, it belongs to God! It is his, – we are his, he bought it with his blood – that is why Paul said back in 1.13: Was Paul crucified for you?

And when people try to make it their own, that causes division, not unity; but Paul offers an ominous warning for those who would divide the church as if it were there’s; rd v 3.16-17;

app.: Listen, no one can destroy the Church of God, it is his and he will protect it; however, an unhealthy, local congregation that is divided because of a person’s passion to make it their own is in danger of destruction! Oh, my, that person is in danger; If this body, that meets right here in this place, is not his, then we are in danger!

But, if we are healthy, unified in every way, we are his and he will use us to glorify himself! 

t.s.: So, what are some takeaways? Let’s look at some Observations:


  1. We need a clear, concise method of sharing the gospel. A Gospel is reflected in the lives of the membership and a Gospel is shared through their ministry and mission. Sometimes, you only have a minute or two at a convenience store, or while waiting for your car to finish being repaired.
    1. One Verse Evangelism; Romans 6.23
    2. The Gospel in one minute; Remember the components of a Gospel Message?

Components of the Gospel Message:

  • God is Holy.
  • We are not. We are sinful. (Demonstrate by using a phone in between the hands.)
  • Nothing we could ever do could remove the sin that separates us. So, God acted on our behalf.
  • Good sent Jesus to die and pay the penalty for our sin.
  • By trusting in what Christ has done, we can have our sins forgiven and the relationship we desire with God can be established.
  1. Can you see how these other four characteristics are foundational to sharing the gospel? Humility, maturity, wisdom, servanthood? Can you see how a lack in any single one of these foundational characteristics can hamper your witness? Which one of these is your weakness is hindering your presentation of the Gospel to others? Is it Pride? Immaturity? Foolishness? Selfishness?
  2. You need to take care of yourself. This last application is hard to share. It seems a bit rude and confrontational. I don’t mean to be rude – that isn’t my intention; however, confrontational? Yeah, I think I just need to speak the truth in love. Some of this stuff can be frustrating for a pastor. Why don’t we take care of ourselves? I’m serious! Studies have shown that people will not take care of themselves. They just don’t.

Ill.: An article in the Annals of Internal Medicine, published in 2014, presented a study on how Americans simply don’t take care of themselves. The Incidence and determinants of primary nonadherence with prescribed medication in primary care: a cohort study. I got this from Jordan Peterson – I don’t typically read medical journals! The article states that a full one-third of patients who are prescribed a medication won’t have the prescription filled. Of the remaining 67%, half of them will get the meds, but not take them correctly, at the prescribed time, or finish their proper course. Now, I’m not pointing fingers. I’m right in the midst of those who don’t have it filled or don’t take it correctly. If it wasn’t for my wife, I’m sure I’d be dead.

I think this statistic is probably pretty accurate for spiritual matters, too. God gives us prescriptions for life. You could call them commandments. But here is where I’m going with this: I look at these Characteristics (Humility, Wisdom, Maturity, Service) and I see so many lacking. Sometimes I identify a false humility, foolishness, and immaturity and I’m blown away that folks won’t listen. It’s like we think this is for everyone else, but not me. I’m better than that. I don’t need your prescriptions! Will you please, begin putting into practice the prescriptions for a healthy spiritual life?

Matt 7.24-27 – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Which foundation are you building your life upon? Which foundation is the church being built upon? Let’s pray…


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Filed under 1 Corinthians, Acts, Discipleship, Scripture

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