Acts 18:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

(sermon note:04-28 sermon note)

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks.


Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about Jesus and Satan who were having a discussion one day as to who was the better computer programmer. This went on for a few hours until they finally came to an agreement to hold a contest, with God as the judge. Jesus and Satan sat themselves at their respective computers and began. They typed furiously, lines of code streaming up the screen, for several hours straight. Seconds before the end of the competition, a bolt of lightning struck, taking out the electricity. Moments later, the power was restored, and God announced that the contest was over. He asked Satan to show what he had come up with. Satan was visibly upset, and cried, “I have nothing! I lost it all when the power went out!” “Very well, then,” said God, “let us see if Jesus fared any better.” Jesus entered a command, and the screen came to life in vivid display, the voices of an angelic choir pouring forth from the speakers. Satan was astonished. He stuttered, “B-b-but how? I lost everything, yet Jesus’ program is intact. How did he do it?” God smiled all-knowingly, “Jesus saves.”

Indeed, Jesus saves! Jesus has been saving people for a long time now and will continue saving for a long time to come, of this we can be certain! It’s what Jesus knows how to do best! We like to ask ourselves in any given situation, “what would Jesus do?” (Or at least we ought to ask ourselves such a question!) WWJD…perhaps some of us have a bracelet with this helpful reminder on it. Invariably the answer to that question is always the same: Jesus would save! Jesus saves through his words. Jesus saves through his healings. Jesus saves through his death and resurrection. Jesus is all about saving, plain and simple. Whether he always remembers to save what he’s working on in the computer is up for debate. But it’s fun to envision both Jesus and Satan sitting at computers frivolously pounding out code. I suppose Jesus has that ability if he walks alongside all the programmers in the world. Just never considered it before.

I lifted up that one because Jesus and Satan did something that the good people of Corinth were struggling to. They came to an agreement, albeit one of competition. Paul had moved on from Thessalonica, where we were last week, and encountered a new challenge among the people of Corinth. Recall that Paul stressed the necessity of Jesus’ death and resurrection to the Thessalonians. Say what we will about Jesus, but it was his death and resurrection that truly set him apart as the Messiah. Sure, he could preach and teach and heal with the best of them, but it was his death and resurrection that truly distinguished him from anyone else that has ever lived in this world. No one has ever died and raised him/herself from the dead after several days. The death and resurrection define Jesus as the Messiah, the one who saves. It’s no wonder we dedicate an entire season of the year to reflect on Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is a pivotal event that is the foundation of our Christian faith!

Now then, Paul knew this and tried to stress its importance to the good people of Thessalonica. We reflected on the necessary-ness of Jesus’ death and resurrection along with a couple other necessary beliefs as foundational to our Christian faith. When he pressed on to Corinth, before he could even begin preaching and teaching on Jesus’ death and resurrection, he had to first get them to simply stop bickering among themselves. Corinth was a large port city where many people gathered to exchange in trade and ideas. People brought with them a variety of wares and beliefs from all over the world and when they gathered it was a whole lotta selling and arguing and not a whole lotta listening. Paul’s challenge was to simply get their attention and focus on the singular, unifying message of the gospel. “Listen, everyone, I know you all have a multitude of beliefs and customs, but my message holds you all together. Jesus not only saves but he unites as well! Just listen!” Of course, easier said than done. Anyone could make such a claim…”if you only believed what I believe, then we would be in harmony!” A tough challenge indeed!

Alas, Paul wasn’t alone in trying to unite people. Jesus himself had been trying to unite people long before Paul. And he had done a pretty good job of it too! Jesus preached and taught and healed in such a way that united us all and brought us closer together. Nothing he did was for selfish gain. Everything he did and said was for the benefit of others. And he taught us the importance of looking out for each other. The two greatest commandments: love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love each other as he loves us. Love each other…love is the single greatest unifying force that the world has ever known! Love holds ALL things together! Love is the most important gift from God as Paul tells us elsewhere in Scripture. We’ll come back to this next week but for now it is enough to reflect on the unifying nature of Jesus that was reflected by Paul.

Paul’s challenge with the Corinthians to unify them and bring them into harmony would resurface when he pressed on to the good people of Philippi. We hear this illustrated in his letter to them, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” (2:1-4) Isn’t he simply repackaging Jesus’ commandment to us, to love each other? Why? Because there is great joy to be found in loving each other! Friends, there is no greater joy in this world than the joy experienced in loving another person (aside from loving God, of course!).

We are to love each other and be in agreement with each other. Less focused on selling and arguing our way through life and more focused on being in harmony with each other and the world around us. Jesus says in Matthew, “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (18:19) What a powerful gift! Anything we ask for in agreement with each other will be granted to us! Just imagine what we could receive if only we agreed upon it!

Both Paul and Jesus were driven to unite us and bring us into agreement with each other. It’s no wonder Paul offers that critical remark at the end of our reading for this morning: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The Corinthians were perishing because they were not of one mind and one spirit. Let us learn from their mistake and seek to live in harmony with each other, listening and loving each other. After all, he died and rose from the dead to save us ALL! Let us continue to celebrate this and give thanks for it. Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.