Many people today ask why the church seems so lacking in unity or why there are so many divisions in the church. Sadly, many who ask these questions never look into the Bible for an answer. However, when we look into the Scriptures we find that God has much to say about divisions in the church, what causes them, and what can heal them.
In chapter 3 of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he deals with this very issue of divisions in the church. Apparently, some of the Corinthians were trying to pick certain Christian leaders whom they could follow and were then dividing based on which leader a person happened to like.
Paul says that such nonsense has nothing to do with mature Christianity (I Cor 3:1-6). Paul explains that Christianity is not a popularity contest and that one’s standing before God is not based on celebrity culture.
How interesting that in the world today, so many people who call themselves Christians still wish to make Christianity a celebrity culture. Every time a celebrity or Hollywood star claims to have become a Christian, many people in the church become full supporters of that celebrity. Sometimes, it happens more subtly in the church when a famous preacher or Christian author begins to hold more influence and authority over a group of Christians than anyone else.
But Paul makes it very clear that such ideas and actions derive from the world and not from Jesus. He claims that such Christians are immature in their faith and are still acting like children when they should be growing up into maturity (I Cor 3:3).
Rather than a popularity contest, Paul says that Christianity is something completely different. Instead of thinking in those immature categories, Paul suggests Christians think of themselves as fellow workers in the field of God. Each of us has a job and responsibility and we are not to follow one of the other workers (I Cor 3:9-11).
Our ultimate foundation, according to Paul, is what Christ has done for us, not a particular preacher or author. Christianity is not about certain charismatic personality types and people who look good on stage. It is about God’s son, Jesus, coming down to die for us and save us when we were in the worse mess of our lives. It is about a Holy and Just God who reaches out in love to the undeserving and rebellious human beings He created. So perhaps the next time you see celebrity culture and charismatic personalities causing division in the church, just remember, God had a few things to say about that type of nonsense in I Corinthians 3.
The unity to which God calls Christians is something significantly better and far more profound. This unity is not based on personalities that come and go but rather on eternal truth and the reality of what Jesus has done for humanity. When an individual or church is truly unified around Jesus, there will be no time for celebrity culture. Also, by this unity, the modern church might do what the early church did: “turn the world upside down” for Christ (Acts 17:6).
Nate lives in Australia with his wife and son where he is engaged in pastoral work and pastoral training in the Asia-Pacific. His theological training has been concentrated in the areas of New Testament, Apologetics and Cross-Cultural studies. He enjoys traveling, literature, theatre, classic movies, and good food. He also likes to collect movie soundtracks and any material by C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien.