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The Church Divided

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
February 27, 2023 9:00 am

The Church Divided

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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February 27, 2023 9:00 am

Pastor J.D. kicks off our series in the book of 1 Corinthians, showing how the gospel cuts through the noise and chaos of our lives.


Today on Summit Life with JD Greer. If you want to get your mind, by the way, around the Apostle Paul's entire teaching strategy in whatever book of his that you read, it's this. You take whatever is broken in your spiritual life and you apply the gospel to it because faith in the gospel is the cure regardless of the sickness. Hey, welcome back to another week of solid biblical teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer of the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. Today, Pastor JD kicks off a brand new teaching series in the book of 1 Corinthians showing how the gospel cuts through the noise and the chaos of our lives. First up, the issue of divisions in the church. We may assume that church factions are a new phenomenon, but one glance at the church in Corinth reveals that dysfunction, division, and doctrinal chaos are as old as the church is itself. And yet in the midst of all this conflict, all this division, the gospel provides a voice of clarity and a place of calm. Sounds like a message that we desperately need today, right? So grab your Bible and settle in for today's teaching titled The Church Divided.

Well, good morning, Summit family. We are beginning a new series today on the book of 1 Corinthians. So we're going to be in chapter one, of course.

Chapter one, 1 Corinthians chapter one. Of all our four kids, it was our third child, Riah, who was born the quickest by far. She came lightning fast, as in we did not really, well, we just barely made it to the hospital in time. A doctor called it precipitous labor or preposterous labor or something like that. I can't remember.

But all I know is it was, it was, it was harrowing, as in like when Veronica woke up about 4.15 that morning and she said, hey, we need to go to the hospital. Have you done this two times before? I was like, all right, now we start the timing of the contractions and, you know, kind of work our way and be there. She was like, no, there's no time. Just, we have to go now. And so we're on our way there.

And I remember it was about, at that point about 5 a.m. and I was trying to convince her to let me pull into a Starbucks because, you know, it was going to be a long morning for me and I want to be able to have some energy. And she said, vetoed that, thankfully. We had barely gotten in the hospital, y'all.

I mean, just literally walked in. The people in the emergency room took one look at her and the whole place just went into, because they could tell it was time. And they got her in a chair and they're going up or running up to the room and doctors are yelling and nurses are coming in and they're shouting things about her getting into the right position and not hyperventilating.

I remember people yelling about that and just push, push. And it was just pandemonium. And I could look at Veronica's face and tell that she was panicky.

I mean, because it would never happen like this with us before. And as all this pandemonium is going on around us, a midwife in there leans down very calmly, but very forcefully got right in her face and said, sweetheart, if you will push two times, if you will push two times, this baby will be in the world. Sure enough, I saw Veronica kind of register it. She closed her eyes. She pushed twice.

And Raya Lane was bored. Veronica asked her permission to tell the story. I asked if I could tell it where I was the one who leaned down and actually gave that word of counsel. And she said, just tell it like it happened. And I said, well, what was I doing at that moment? She said, you were part of the chaos.

You were part of the pandemonium. So Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is like a calm, clear voice that speaks to us in the midst of chaos. Things that the church in Corinth you are going to see are in absolute turmoil. And Paul is going to set up the gospel like a lighthouse that is going to guide them through the troubled waters of whatever issue that they're dealing with.

For Paul, the gospel is the clear, calm voice that cuts through the noise. And let me tell you a little bit about the church in Corinth before we start, because that'll help it make a little bit of sense. Corinth was one of the most up and coming cities in the Roman empire.

And Paul had planted the church in Corinth on his first missionary journey. It was a city full of young people. Because of its location, it had a great port. It was an economic powerhouse. It was a place that a lot of people came for vacation. Young, upwardly mobile people from all over the Roman empire came to move in there. Apple had announced they were buildings up in there.

Amazon had announced they were building there. Some of the most famous basketball programs in the world had established their headquarters there. It was a cosmopolitan.

It was young. It was very diverse. It had some great architecture.

You can still see if you're able to ever go travel some of the ruins today. It had all scores and scores of temples to the Greek and the Roman gods. Paul lived in this city for about a year and a half, and he led a lot of these young Corinthians to Christ. He loved this church. He felt close to them. He felt connected to them.

They represented some of his very best work. But after Paul left, Paul started to get reports that they weren't doing very well. Scrolling through their Instagram feeds, he saw some things that really concerned him, primarily in five different areas. First, there were a lot of divisions among the body, factions, tribes.

We're going to see that today. Paul's going to deal with that problem in chapters one through four. Second, they had sex and romance, shall we say confusion, to put it mildly. I guess that's what you would expect in a city full of young people. But sexual sin was happening in the church, and a lot of people in the church were like, well, what's the big deal? It's just sort of how things are in Corinth. Two consenting adults, so I don't see what the big deal is with it.

And we're okay with it. So in chapters five through seven, Paul's going to dish out a lot of hard truth about sex and marriage and singleness and divorce. Third, there was a lot of acrimony over differences of conviction on what Christians were and were not allowed to do. A lot of these new believers had come out of a Jewish context, and they thought, you know, God doesn't change, and holiness is holiness. And so we really ought to pay attention to the Old Testament law. But then there's a lot of other Christians there who were like, hey, we are free from the law, and we don't really need to go back into anything Jewish.

And so I'm just going to embrace my freedom in Christ. And so there was a lot of questions about stuff like that. There was questions about whether or not they could eat things that had been offered to idols, whether or not they should go places where there was idol worship. And I know that doesn't seem like a super relevant question to us anymore, but in dealing with this, Paul is going to lay out a lot of biblical principles that show us how we can deal with differences of conviction in our church today.

Things like how we approach politics or differences that we have and the best way to educate our children, home school or public school or private school, whether we drink alcohol, whether or not we get vaccinated or how often we wear masks. That's going to be in chapters nine and 10. Fourth, their church services were chaotic. They were chaotic. They had a group there that was like, we were really in touch with the Spirit, and they kept having words that the Holy Spirit was putting on their heart, and they were getting up and disrupting the church service. And they were like, hey, if you don't listen to what the Spirit's doing in the church, you are quenching the Spirit.

And everybody there wanted to follow the Spirit, but it just felt like chaos. And they had these questions about tongues, people praying out loud in tongues and saying this is from the Holy Spirit. And so in chapters 11 through 14, Paul is going to give us some guidelines about what it looks like to be a Spirit-filled church and what a mature version of that looks like. Fifth, there were some who were saying that the resurrection of Jesus and a lot of his miracles, in fact, were just not that important.

More important, they said, was what Jesus taught and how he lived, the justice things that he was about and the moral principles he laid out. So in chapter 15, Paul is going to explain to them why the resurrection, an actual physical bodily resurrection, is everything to the Christian. In discussing every one of these problems, you're going to notice that Paul follows a pattern. And that pattern is he defines the problem, and then he leads the Corinthians to evaluate the problem in light of the gospel.

That's why we call it cutting through the noise. You say, hey, move all this and just look at the gospel and that'll guide you through. If you want to get your mind, by the way, around the Apostle Paul's entire teaching strategy in whatever book of his that you read, it's this. You take whatever is broken in your spiritual life and you apply the gospel to it because faith in the gospel is the cure regardless of the sickness. By the way, there is a lifetime of theology in that one sentence. You take whatever is broken in your spiritual life, whatever it is, and you apply the gospel to it because faith in the gospel is the cure regardless of the sickness. The gospel, the gospel, the truth that all of us stand condemned hopelessly before God, but God in his grace came to earth to do for us what we couldn't do for ourselves by living the life we were supposed to live and dying to death. We were condemned to die and then offers us new eternal life, forgiveness of sins, justification. He offers that as a free gift of we will receive it by faith and we spend the rest of our lives in thankful worship response to what he has done for us.

That's going to be his through line. Paul could have written this letter to our church right here in Raleigh, Durham. Am I right? Do we sometimes have divisions in this church?

You're like, no, no, no, no. Summit members seem to agree on everything. Well, clearly you have not been a part of a small group or you are paying no attention to social media. And I don't just mean JV disagreements like Jordan over Lebron or Chick-fil-A over Popeyes or Myers-Briggs or Enneagram or whether or not essential oils cancels real medicine or not, whether the toilet paper should unroll from the top or the bottom.

I'm not talking about those things. We've got members that disagree on some really important matters and who come from some pretty wildly different backgrounds, which is why they approach these questions differently. Is it possible for Christians like that actually be united or is that just a pipe dream y'all? Is that a kind of thing of like, yeah, that's sentimental. We would like that. But when you actually get down to it, it just won't work until everybody has conformed to one way of thinking.

Is that how it is? How about sexual sin, sexual confusion? Is that present in our church? And do we have questions about singleness and divorce? And do some of us have questions about what it looks like to respond to the Holy Spirit in a church service and how to follow him? Do we have people who question Christianity's miraculous claims?

I would say a hearty yes to all of those things. Now I know when I say that, some of you look at that list and you're like, man, divisions and gossip and sexual sin and charismatic chaos. Corinth sounds like a pretty jacked up church. And to be honest with you, I'm not sure that's the kind of church I really want to be a part of. And now you're telling me that the church at Corinth reminds you of this church?

Listen, here's what I want you to see. Any church actually reaching people has these kinds of problems. Because when you reach lost sheep, they come in smelling like sheep. Right? And they leave sheep poop everywhere.

And sometimes you step in it and it smells bad. But y'all, I will take those problems all day long if it means we're actually reaching people. Tim Keller says that there are two kinds of problems that churches have. The first he calls living problems.

Living problems. The church is reaching unchurched people who are bringing in all their unchurched issues. Because a church like this reaches across political lines, they've got to wade through messy political discussions. And because people come from different cultural backgrounds, they've got to wade through uncomfortable cultural clashes.

And because they reach across financial boundaries, they're not always agreed on on the right way for the rich and the poor to relate together in one body. This is Summit Life and a brand new message from Pastor J.D. Greer titled The Church Divided. We'll return to today's teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to tell you about our brand new featured resource available starting today. It's called Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in First Corinthians. Whether you're looking for a way to start creating some consistency in your walk with God, or if you'd just like to go deeper into the book of First Corinthians, these quick five-minute studies are designed to help you grow your faith by cutting through the noise and the busyness of life. Take what you're hearing here on the program and apply it directly to your life by taking just a few minutes each day to solidify all your learning.

This resource is available to anyone who supports Summit Life with a generous gift right now, so give us a call at 866-335-5220 or check it out at Now let's get back to the conclusion of today's teaching. Here's Pastor J.D. People you bring in don't always know how to talk or behave in Christian ways.

Have you experienced this? I remember early on here, I was part of this basketball ministry and by God's grace, it led three or four of the guys to Christ out of this basketball thing, and I asked one of them, one of the best players there. It was our first Easter service. I'm like, man, it would just be awesome if you gave your testimony. And we went over his testimony, and I thought he kind of had it down and everything, and it was super powerful.

Well, he gets up there to share his testimony. I've told you this part before, but they all had nicknames for each other. His nickname was Air, because he could jump so high. One guy they called Flash, because he was just so quick when he would drive.

One guy they called Money, because he never missed a three-pointer. I was like, hey, I need a nickname. They called me No Don't Shoot. That is not a joke.

I wish it were. They were like, well, you're No Don't Shoot. This guy's talking about how I'd come in and started to get to know these guys. And he said, man, I first saw a pastor coming up to play on our team. And he said, he said, I just shook my head. And I said, no, no, no, no, not him.

And here's what he said, he, S-U-C-K-S. I know it's not a horrible cuss word, but just for your kids. And I'm just like, this is my first Easter service. All the grandmas are there.

Everybody's dressed up in their Sunday best. And I'm like, how did I not go over? Don't say things like that in the pulpit. And then I have this even worse thought of like, what else is he about to say? Because I've heard this guy talk on the basketball court.

People, they don't always know how to talk, right? I remember being part of a prayer circle one time or prayer thing. And I'm praying with a guy and he in the middle of our prayer circle drops the F bomb to God, like with no kind of like inhibition that it wasn't appropriate. He's just like, this is so blank and hard, Lord.

And I'm like, I felt like that's sincere, but man, bro, you got to not say that in prayer. Okay. So they don't always know how to talk, but that's okay.

I'll take those problems all day long. If it keeps me away from the second kind of problem, which are dying problems, a church with a dying problem, because in a church like that, everybody's from the same political party. So there's no fights there. Everybody's from the same ethnicity.

So there's no clashes. Everybody's from the same income level. So they all agree about money. Everybody is, you know, from a church background. So they know what to say and what not to say.

They think the same, they look the same, they act the same. They vote exactly the same, but folks, that's not a church. That is a quickly dying Christian country club. So the question is, what kind of church do you want to be a part of? You want to be a church with living problems or dying problems? Because you're going to be a part of a church with problems.

I'll take living problems all day long. You with me? Say, amen. Say, amen. If you agree with that.

All right. So today, today we're going to jump right into the first problem. And that is the problem of divisions. Look at verse 10, chapter one, Paul says, now I urge you brothers and sisters in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you.

By the way, here we go. This is like Paul's thesis statement for the next four chapters, maybe for the entire book. Notice that he invokes the name of the Lord. Paul always spoke with the authority of an apostle, but now he is actually even raising that a level higher. I'm bringing God's name into this.

This is as weighty and important an issue as I'm going to deal with. This is top level, top shelf stuff for Paul. This gets to the core of who we are. Let there be no divisions, no factions, no tribalism, no sense of varsity or JV squads in the church. You say, well, what kind of divisions were there exactly in this Corinthian church? Well, some of them I explained to you were theological in nature. Some of the questions about whether they could eat meat offered to idols and what to do with the Old Testament laws and that kind of stuff.

Some of the divisions, however, were purely personality driven. Look at verse 11. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, that there is rivalry among you. One of you says, I belong to Paul, and another, I belong to Apollos, or I belong to Cephas, which was another name for Peter, or I belong to Christ. Some were like, hey, I'm a Paul guy. You know, Paul is such a good theologian. Man, his testimony is amazing. His letters are awesome.

I'm trying to memorize some of these letters. I just love Paul, team Paul. Others are like, yeah, well, you know, Paul is great with the theology and everything, but Paul is boring.

By the way, Paul himself admitted that in 2 Corinthians. He said, I am mighty in my writing and I am weak in my speaking, which meant that he was boring. You've heard the one about the usher who's seating people in church. And the little old lady asked to be sat in the front row. And the usher said, oh, ma'am, you don't want to do that.

Our pastor is so boring. Like he just, he will put you to sleep guaranteed. And if you're on the front row, everybody will see that. He'll see that. And you'll be really embarrassed.

So don't sit on the front row. And this little lady turned to the usher and said, young man, do you know who I am? He said, no, ma'am. She said, I'm the pastor's mother. And the usher said, do you know who I am ma'am? And she said, no. He said, thank God.

Turned around and walked away. That would have been Paul's preaching. Paul had a preaching style that only a mother could love.

Right? So these people were like, I'm not a Paul guy because Paul, man, he doesn't reach a lot of people because people want to come hear him. I'm an Apollos guy. Apollos, you see, was this guy who showed up in Corinth right after Paul. And Apollos was a guy who they say was just eloquent, which meant he could preach pain off the walls. Now he was a little weak in his theology though. And so every once in a while, one of the other apostles or church leaders had to take him aside and say, Hey man, you didn't really say that exactly right.

Or that's not 100% the right way, but man, could he preach. And so after Paul had planted this little small church, Apollos came in and blew the thing up. I mean, just, it grew and people loved them some preaching of Apollos. So now you've got these factions. Some are like, I'm team Paul. Theology is my jam. And others are like, no, no, no, I'm team Apollos because I'm into growth and reaching people because that's what Jesus wants.

He wants to bring in the lost sheep. And the team Paul's like, well, you stink. And team Apollos is like, well, you stink.

Right? Apollos has weak theology. Yeah, but Paul is boring. And what good is your theology if I'm bored?

I heard of God one time got so bored, he fell out of a window and one of Paul's sermons and died. What good is his great theology if people are dying in the middle of church and things were getting pretty heated. Well, there's another group that felt this way about Peter.

And then my favorite, there was a group that was like, I belong to Christ. Right? Because in every church, am I right? In every church, you got the Jesus juke guy. Right?

I'm not into your theology books or your favorite preachers, just me and my Bible. By the way, commentators say this might have been the most arrogant group of all of them because they just assumed they didn't really need the church. They're just like, just me and Jesus, we're fine. Right? So those are your different personality driven factions.

By the way, do we see these same kinds of divisions at work today? Uh, yeah. You've always, in every church, you've always got Bible knowledge guy. He's like, just give me John Calvin, more John Calvin, John Piper, John MacArthur, the first, second and third John of American Christianity. Right?

Just give me more of those guys. They're always complaining that there's not enough meat in the sermon. And by the way, I am all into spiritual feeding.

I hope that is obvious to you. But sometimes this group I'm telling you is really self-centered. It's all like, all they want from church is for it to be a classroom that puffs up their head with theological knowledge.

But you start to sense that there is pride and self-centeredness at work. They don't care about reaching people and they're not really that much into spiritual growth. They just like to learn. They just like to learn because it makes them feel like they are superior. What's ironic to me about this group is that they masquerade as spiritually mature. They know how to talk that way, but you know what they remind me of? When my kids were like toddlers and they would be in the high chair with the bib and it was time to eat and I wasn't giving them food that they liked and the way that they like it, they just started to bang on the thing.

I feed me, feed me. And then every once in a while they would just show their disgust by taking the plate and just flipping it over, you know, on the floor with the spaghetti on the floor. And that's to me, like the email I get from some of these members that are like, you didn't use enough Greek heiress tenses and have enough Old Testament cross references in the sermon for me to feel like I was spiritually fed. Again, I'm into deep preaching, but for some it's not about spiritual maturity, it's something else. Other people are like, no, no, I'm the experienced guy. I mean, if I don't get goosebumps in church and if the altar is not filled with people weeping after it's over, if I don't cry during worship, it wasn't a spear-filled service. And others are like, no, no, I'm the take care of the body guy. Church ought to be about discipleship. Who cares how big it is? We just got to do life together.

Small groups should last at least four hours. And everyone should know every detail of everybody else's business, otherwise it's not a church. Some are like, no, I'm missions and evangelism.

The whole church's success is measured entirely by how much money and how many people you were sending out. Others are like, no, no, I'm the social justice guy. I'm all about love in our community. That's what Jesus would be like. And still others are like, give me diversity or give me death.

The only thing I care about in the church is that it looks like a rainbow on stage. Now, there's truth in all these things. And a gospel-loving church pursues all of them.

Summit is trying to pursue all those things. And let me further say, there's nothing wrong with being particularly attracted to one of those. Having even a proclivity toward one of those, that might be an evidence of your own spiritual gifting and how you're supposed to contribute.

What is wrong is when those preferences are accompanied by a spirit of division, self-righteousness, and separation. What a powerful message on the importance of unity in the church with Pastor J.D. Greer here on Summit Life. And there's so much more to come.

In fact, this teaching has never before been aired on Summit Life. So be sure to join us each day and invite a friend to join with you too. So Pastor J.D., I don't know about you, but life can often feel overwhelming and even chaotic at times. Everywhere you turn, someone wants something from you, some agenda, some advice, some scheme.

It can feel like just too much, right? So what do we do? Yeah, I think all of us are looking for a way out of the noise and distraction. Right. Listen, I know I sound like a broken record, but the answer is the gospel.

Yes. What we see is that in every chapter of the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul takes the noise of what they're in, whether it's interpersonal conflict or theological chaos. And he just says the gospel cuts through this and gives you a compass that will help you navigate through all the noise and live with peace and security and confidence and strength. This is a book that will surprise you in how relevant it is. And I want to encourage you to dig in for yourself. This month, we've got a study guide. We often provide stuff like this at Summit Life because we really want you to get everything out of this book.

And so we have a study guide that'll take you through some key questions and passages in 1 Corinthians. It's done top quality as all the stuff here produced by our team here at Summit Life. We'd love to give you a copy.

Just go to and you can get one. Thanks, Pastor JD. We would love to send you a copy of Cutting Through the Noise, 14 five-minute studies in 1 Corinthians today when you donate to support Summit Life. We're able to keep this program on the radio and online because of the generosity of listeners like you. So when you're hearing our program, you've got another listener to thank for that message. Give today by calling 866-335-5220. Or you can donate online at I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us again Tuesday for the conclusion of today's message. See you right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-27 14:47:53 / 2023-02-27 14:59:26 / 12

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