The Local Church, One in Spirit

[NOTE: This is the first of three posts based on a recent series of messages I preached called “One at His Table.” The intent was preparation for observing the Lord’s Supper, but the principles have general application for churches seeking greater unity. These are not my preaching notes, but thoughts summarizing the points of my outlines.]

The church at Corinth provides today’s believers with a long list of examples for Christian living in various situations. Unfortunately, many of these examples are examples of what not to do.

One of their most glaring errors showed up in their handling of the Lord’s Supper. We are presented a view of a deeply divided and compromised church, which Paul attempts to straighten out in I Corinthians 11:16-34.

He addresses four areas of their division, and we can learn from these areas—not just a few times each year in preparation for observing the Lord’s Supper, but at all times for the overall health of the church.

Personal conflicts developed in the church in Corinth, but a healthy church must be …

ONE IN SPIRIT.

I. The unity of the whole church is destroyed by divisions anywhere in the church (I Corinthians 11:18).
It is doubtful that everyone in the church was fighting with everyone else, but among them there were conflicts that were infecting the whole church. History and human nature both teach us that a conflict—even of limited scope—will draw usually other parties in and spread if not dealt with quickly.

II. Contentiousness has no place in the church (I Corinthians 11:16).
The word that Paul uses for a contentious person points to someone who loves strife, or perhaps loves to win at strife. When people love to stir up trouble just for the sake of trouble—or insist on having their own way—he says that there is no place for such behavior in the church of God. A born again believer has no business being a trouble maker.

III. A divided church derives no benefit from its assembling (I Corinthians 11:17).
The church comes together to worship Christ, to learn his Word, to be encouraged, to be strengthened, etc. Our fellowship together should be a time of spiritual growth and healing. When a divided church assembles, the result is usually just stress, drama, and bitterness.