One Body: 1 Corinthians and the Unity of the Church

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Dear New Life in Christ Church family,

Unity is a precious thing for the church and something worth our greatest efforts to maintain. Where does unity come from? Unity comes from having a shared identity and purpose. Objectively, in the church, it comes through Jesus Christ. Through faith in Him, all His people are united together as One body where He is the Head. Subjectively, we experience unity as we together focus on Jesus Christ.

I am reminded of this in my study of 1 Corinthians. Over the last week, I’ve had the blessing of focusing on our upcoming sermon series, through this amazing and interesting letter. Written to a divided church in need of rescue and help, the book of 1 Corinthians is a study in church unity. As the church in Corinth had become more lax in doctrine and morals, it also became more and more fragmented. They took their eyes off Jesus and put them on personal agendas, self-indulgence, self-promotion and party infighting. They had taken their eyes off of Christ. This letter was written to get their focus back on Jesus and His truth, and to do it together.

Reading a letter to this ancient church makes me think of our own church. Every day, I gave thanks for the unity within New Life in Christ Church. It is a breath of fresh air in a very fractured world.

But we need to remember that our unity requires us to focus on Jesus. Preserving it requires us to keep our hearts set upon Him as our hope, and our doctrine must be formed by the Scriptures.

The pursuit of unity frequently requires us to set aside our personal opinions, personal agendas, personal preferences and personal interests under our confession of faith in Christ. It requires us to give the benefit of the doubt, to speak and think well of others, and to talk through issues as they arise. It requires clarity in stating our convictions and practically living them out. We have our confession, simply stated, that Jesus is Lord. Our unity is built upon His covenant promises and the fact that He has brought us into those promises by faith.

Our nation is divided. We are divided in politics. We are divided in beliefs about race. We are divided in beliefs about the proper response to the COVID pandemic. That is why it is so imperative for the church to live in our Bible-based, Christ-centered unity. In this way, we are a witness to the world (John 13:34-35). The church becomes a respite in a place of hope and peace.

On a practical level this means we need to set aside, and sometimes be less vocal, about the things that differentiate us. Our nation is divided along ideological grounds. It is also divided when people focus on what divides us rather than what unites us. In contrast to this standard, the church must unite around the truth and focus on what brings people together – the gospel.