Third Sunday after the Epiphany (January 22, 2017)
- First reading
- Second reading
1 Corinthians 1:10-18 | New Living Translation (NLT)
10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”
13 Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. 16 (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.) 17 For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.
18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.
This week’s reading continues where last week’s left off. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, but apparently from this passage, there are some divisions in the church. We often think division in the church is a new thing – but it isn’t. Division in the people of God has been around almost since creation.
Paul appeals to the authority of Christ. In his writings, Paul has clearly established that Jesus has been given authority by God over all things…and Jesus is also the head of the church. Jesus himself said that he was given authority by God.
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus has not given us the authority to create division – we can do that all by ourselves – but Jesus has given us the authority to go out and preach the Good News. Jesus tells us to go and make disciples. Just this week, Pam and I were at our district leadership meeting (which I have really enjoyed) and we heard once again the strategic focus of The Wesleyan Church:
Celebrating every time a disciple makes a disciple and a church multiplies itself, until The Wesleyan Church has a transforming presence in every zip code.
We have been given authority to go and make disciples – Jesus gives us a good idea – in a concise statement as to what the church should be doing. I love the strategic focus above. It gets to the heart of what we are called to do.
Yet, the church struggles with this – and we end up in division. This is why Paul writes, “by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no division in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
Paul tells us that there were some who say, “I follow so and so” or “I follow someone else.” We do not follow humans – Paul reminds us of that very clearly. Christ has not been divided and neither should we. Paul states this in a big way. First, he asks the question, “Have I, Paul, been crucified for you?” and then a second question, “Did I baptize you in the name of Paul?” Paul emphatically states, “NO!”
Paul then goes on to remind us, “Christ sent me to preach the Good News – not with clever speech.” We are reminded that the Good News is above all else in making disciples. Paul fears in clever speech the cross of Christ will lose its power. I think those of us who are ministers of the gospel are quite aware that there are many who think what we do is foolishness. It makes no sense that the cross and the resurrection are our salvation. We want so much to do it on our own. But for those of us who are being saved (I like that – being saved – it really is a crisis and a process) the cross is the very power of God.
The mission of Christ (which is what this season between Epiphany and Lent is all about, is preaching the Good News of the Kingdom. He is calling each one of his followers to spread his light. That should unite us in purpose. Let’s join Christ in his mission – we are followers of Christ – not of human wisdom – but followers of Christ. Let’s unite in Christ’s mission to teach the Good News of the Kingdom.