TRANSCRIPT | Wed, Sept 23, 2020 | The Importance of Spiritual Unity

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And we love them very, very much. The leadership that Corey and Cassandra provide there, and love to hear you guys lead worship. Love to hear Cassandra sing. Love to hear Cassandra sing. Cassandra will take you to church. Hallelujah. So, I get the privilege of teaching the word. These Wednesday night gatherings for us really are all about doing our best to follow the mandate that Jesus Christ has placed upon us through Matthew chapter 28. And that is to make disciples. And that is what these Wednesday nights are all about. As Jason has already referenced, we do have a discussion guide that you can go to ericgilbert.org and have access to, or even print off. As well, we're going to be providing message notes. And so, there'll be something you can even follow along, fill in the blank with if you'd like, and we're going to be looking at 1 Corinthians, so you can take your Bible or your device and go ahead and pull up 1 Corinthians.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

I'm going to be teaching from the ESV version. And we're going to kind of just move through this, a chapter at a time. We're going to start out by looking actually at that first chapter. And so, I want to read just a handful of verses from the first chapter as we get started. 1 Corinthians 1:10, it says, "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment, for it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas,'" which was another name for Peter, "'I follow Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized no one so that you may say you were baptized in my name.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

I did baptize also a household, but beyond that, I don't know anyone else that I baptized. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ, be emptied of its power." Father. I thank you for the prayer and the worship that's already been offered, but I ask you specifically, God, on behalf of myself and all those folks that are going to be listening, that Lord, we're just going to have a moment here, where they we'll be able to receive from you in a powerful way. Lord, let it be done in the name of Jesus. As I was praying, I realized that I dropped some elements for communion. And so, I'm going to ask them to go ahead and maybe have one prep for me, so I'll have it at the end of the service. It's a great time for you. If you want to join us in that, you can also grab some elements to join us for communion as well.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And so, I asked Pastor Kurt, the one guy who's got bifocals here, to... giving him a hard time. Thank you, sir. You're a good man. So, as we move into this teaching tonight, and taking a look at those verses, specifically, that we've read from chapter one, one of the things that I thought maybe it's important to point out is that, when Jesus was in his preaching ministry, He makes a statement in Matthew 16:18, and maybe you're familiar with it, but he makes a statement that He will build his church. So He says, "And I tell you, Peter, on this rock, I will build my church." And I love the next part of the statement, He said, "And the gates of the hell shall not prevail against it." Can I get an amen from somebody? COVID-19 will not prevail against it. God's going to build his church. So, what Jesus does, He prophesies that his church is coming. So, He's with his disciples, He's not yet begun to establish the church, as we know it, on the earth at that point. And He just says, "The church is coming."

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

But then In John 17, this would be chronologically after Matthew 16, Jesus is in a time of prayer and he's talking to his heavenly father and He says, "I do not ask you for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word." So, not just the disciples, but the believers that would come after the disciples. He says, "That they may all be one, just as you, father, are in me and I am in you, that they may be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." So, what Jesus implies is that the ability of his followers to be in unity will be directly connected to how much the world receives the message that they're preaching about him. So, here's what we learned in those two verses, Jesus has said that his church is coming, but he has also implied that it might struggle with unity. And that unity is going to be essential for the church to be effective.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

It's not by accident that when the church got launched in Acts 2, that it shows that it was launched in a time where they were in one mind, in one place, it signifies that even at the first service, God honored the fact that they were in unity. And I think there's something maybe even underlying there, that needs to be noticed, that, when Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail against it, He's letting us know that the church can not be destroyed from the outside. It cannot be destroyed from the outside. But as He says that... As He's showing us that He has to pray for his church to be unified so that they can be successful, He seems to be showing us that it can be greatly hindered from the inside. So, the church can not be destroyed from the outside, but it can be greatly hindered from the inside.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

So, as Jesus began to establish his church on earth, He hand-picks somebody to be a key player. It's a guy by the name of Saul of Tarsus, and Saul of Tarsus is playing on the enemy's team. In fact, he is a part of persecuting Christians, and evidently, even a part of murdering some Christians. But as he's traveling from one location to the next, Jesus knocks him off his horse, Jesus shows up in person. So, Jesus has died, been buried, resurrected, ascended to the right hand of the father. And Jesus, according to scripture, comes back to earth in a vision format to knock Saul off of his horse and let him know, "Buddy you're playing on the wrong team." And so, he has an encounter with Jesus that leads to him following Jesus with his whole heart. And as he begins to follow Jesus, he, at some point, changes his name to Paul. We don't know that God told him to do that. We just know that he did that.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

Some theologians believe he changed his name because, maybe, the Christians would have thought that he was coming in, in an attempt at espionage. And he maybe was initially trying to get relationships under a different name, until people could believe that he was real. We don't know the whole story. We just know he was Saul, but now in Christianity, we recognize him as Paul. And Paul went all over the place, starting and planting different churches. So, Jesus said his church was coming. And one of the guys that he uses to start building that church on earth is Paul, who later in scripture was actually identified as a master builder when it comes to the subject of a church. And one of the first churches that he's a part of starting is at a place called Mars Hill, which was a place where the philosophers of his day would get together and argue about the deep things in life.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And from there, Paul goes forward and he plants a church in a place known as Corinth. And he spends about 18 months in this place known as Corinth. And he probably, according to some, maybe grows that church gathering to about 50 or 60 people, and then he moves on. And evidently, at the start, things were going pretty good, but Corinth was kind of like a hip town. It was a town that had a lot of activity. It was bustling with seaports. Its communities were alive with activity. And after Paul is gone, at some point, some issues start to develop and this church starts to struggle, and they actually... they start to bring stuff into their lives, sexual immorality, drunkenness, false doctrine. They even started idolizing certain ministerial celebrities. I mean, these people, they started well, Paul's gone, and now they're having issues. And the way that Paul addresses these issues, is he sends a letter back to them.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And so, the letter, there's actually two letters. 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians in your new Testament. And we're looking at this first letter, and the first letter is Paul's attempt to provide counsel. He's attempting to lead them. He's attempting to teach them, and you're going to see he's also rebuking them. And I want you to look with me at verse 10, again, 1 Corinthians 1:10, "I appeal to you. Brothers, by the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, that all of you agree," watch this, "And that there be no divisions among you, but that you'd be united in the same mind and the same judgment." The same mind and the same judgment. So, he's calling them out for disunity. And I think what he's showing us is that if we are in a church and there starts to be disunity, if we're going to get through that and we're going to overcome that, the first thing we have to do is to acknowledge the disunity.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And I think, maybe, before you can acknowledge the disunity, you have to understand what is unity. And maybe, before you can understand what is unity, you have to talk about what it is not. Because there's a lot of confusion about what unity is. And unity is not... It does not mean the tolerance of like all people and perspectives and views. There seems to be this ideology that if we're going to have unity, there has to be this inclusion of just all perspectives in all views. I think this view of unity is false and I think it can lead actually to grave danger, because, we can never elevate unity above truth. You see, at one point, Paul said, later on in Corinthians that he's coming with a whip to straighten things out. So he clearly valued truth above all things. And so, I want you to think about this for a minute. We know that God wants unity.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

We know that Jesus has prayed that we would have unity and that he even implies that his church can't be truly as successful as it would be if it doesn't have unity. But the truth is valued above the unity. Does that make sense? The truth is valued above the unity. So imagine this, you've got children, and anybody got kids? Anybody want those kids to get along? It's things like a... Hallelujah, somebody. I got two sitting here. I like it when they get along. But we've also had moments at our house where these little creepers, they choose to come into a unity for the purpose of disobedience. I can't get no help anywhere. Is anybody got any kids around here? They come into unity for the purpose of disobedience. And I can tell you, in that moment, the whip is formed, because I love it when they get along, but not for the purpose of disobedience. The truth is valued above the unity. And so, God never wants us to compromise truth just for the sake of false inclusivity and false unity.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And so, I think what I liked a lot about Paul is that the Joker is just not afraid of conflict. He realizes that in order to be a peacemaker, sometimes you got to make war. I mean, the dude is arrested. The dude is whipped. The dude is threatened and told to never come back into cities. And yet, even when he's dealing with an issue in the church, he really just doesn't mince words. He just starts dealing with it. And we may talk more about that in a moment, but I want to give you another thing, and that is this, when we're talking about what unity is not, unity does not mean uniformity. Unity does not mean uniformity. You see, in order to have unity, we don't all have to look the same, we don't all have to dress the same, we don't have to go to the same schools, we don't have to go to the same business establishment, just because we have unity in God doesn't mean that it's uniformity.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And I know that the Bible gives us many principles, but the thing you have to realize is that, as God has given us many principles, we're allowed a certain freedom to implement those principles. So, while God might want us to have unity in the principle, he does not necessarily require unity in the method. So, an example of that would be is, the principle is worship. I mean, can I get a witness? We are supposed to worship God. And we're supposed to unify in our worship to God. But as we think about churches beyond our own and the big C church, churches all across the nation, churches all across the world, people are using different methods. Some people feel like they can worship the most effectively through him, other people feel like they can worship the most effectively through a worship course. Like some people, you love to listen to Bethel, other people love to listen to Hillsong, other folks love to listen to Elevation, we all have different methods for how that we choose and feel like that we can best worship God.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

We don't have to have unity in the method, as much as we have to have unity in the principle that worship has to take place. And the issue with a lot of stuff going on in the church today is that we're arguing about the method, and it's messing up the unity in the principle. If we would just celebrate, it's like let's all worship God, and you worship him the way you need to worship him, and I'm going to worship him the way he's called me to worship him, and I feel that I'm having the best success in my worship. And if we could just stop arguing about the method and celebrate the principle, I believe that we would see a greater experience of God. And so, Paul was not arguing for unity through the method, he's arguing, I think, for unity through the principle. And I think you're also going to see that he's not arguing for unity through tolerance. He's arguing for unity in truth. And so, the first thing you got to do is you got to acknowledge the disunity if there is any.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And then the second thing you got to do is you got to locate the disunity. There is a part in this passage that I really like. I think I'm going to use it the next time I have to deal with disunity. 1 Corinthians 1:11, right after verse number 10, he called out the disunity. Now, look at verse 11. "For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there's quarreling among you." Wouldn't you love to be Chloe's people right about there? I mean, they just been memorialized for 2000 years as the one that where the tattletales. Like, how many times has somebody told you something and you go and you try to deal with it, and they're like, "But don't use my name"? like, don't tell them it was... "I'm going to tell you something, but don't tell them it was me." And Paul just throws Chloe's household, some believed that she had servants or there was hired help in her home. He's just put the whole staff on notice.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

There's disunity and I know there's quarreling, and by the way, it was Chloe's people who told me about it. Just throwing that in there, all right. We'll move on and leave that where it's at. Third thing I want you to see is that you have to understand the types of unity. So, you... we acknowledge the disunity, we locate the disunity, and then we understand the types of unity. There's different types of unity. And when you're in a church, there's different types of unity. I mean, hopefully, we get to unify on the method, but we definitely need to unify on the principle. But let's look at that a little bit further. Let's think about the fact types of unity. I think that God wants us to have theological unity. And when it comes to theology, there's a... some people say it this way, that there are closed elements of theology, like closed-hand elements of theology, and there are open-hand elements of theology.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And so, basically, what it means is that, when it comes to closed-hand parts of theology, this is non-negotiable. That the truth has to stand and we're just not even going to argue about this. Then there's the open-handed theology that, you know what, we might interpret this differently, but it's not something that is going to make or break the reality of the gospel, so, we can be a little more open there and be... So, in other words, if it's closed-hand, if you're preaching something other than this, it's false doctrine. On open-hand, it's things that it's just open for interpretation. We can't really, anybody say conclusively that they've got it figured out, if they do, they're probably jumping to a conclusion that's not exactly fair. Does that make sense?

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And so, elements of closed-hand. Salvation. That the Bible is about Jesus, all about Jesus, is always going to be about Jesus. That there is heaven, that there is hell, that God made man in His image, and He created marriage to be between one man and one woman, et cetera. So, closed-hand. Open-hand is when we start thinking about things that it's open for interpretation, and we're just not exactly for sure what it is exactly supposed to look like. And so, there are places where there's a lot of things open to interpret. We talk about the gifts of the spirit, we talk about even the fruits of the spirit, exactly how does it manifest? How does that look? Now, we may feel a little closed fist just because we think we got it figured out, but some of that is places where we're really trying to get an idea of exactly what it looks like. So, here's the deal.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

Closed-hand, open-hand, closed-hand, open-hand, and people, I believe, sometimes, war over things that are open-hand when we should be really fighting for the closed-hand. And if we could figure that out, I think we'd see a greater level of unity come to the body of Christ. And so, we unify around the closed-hand aspects of theological unity. Let me give you another part of unity, relational unity. I believe that God wants his church to be relational. And I think he wants us hanging out together. And I think he wants us in a small group, and I think he wants us breaking bread together, and I think he wants us to be the kind of people that's going to have community beyond just a Sunday morning service, and then we're going to be somebody when we see each other out in the highways, in the hedges, it's not just like walking by each other, but there is a relational unity associated with that.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

If you're not in a small group, go to 3trees.com/groups and get signed up for one, get involved, relational unity. A third type of unity is missional unity. And so, when you think about missional unity, it's unity in purpose and in vision. Look at this 1 Corinthians 1:10. "I appeal to you brothers, by the name of the Lord Jesus, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you'd be united in the same man, same mind, and the same judgment." Paul desired that the church would all be saying the same thing. And you realize what he's drilling into, in the next verse or two, he makes it clear. The thing that he wanted them to be saying was Jesus. That's the thing. The thing, the mission that he wanted them on, was Jesus, because, watch this, 1 Corinthians 1:12. "What I mean is that each one of you says, 'I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephas, I follow Christ.'"

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

He's like, "You guys have made this about personalities and you're all arguing over which personalities got the greatest revelation, and which personality has got the best revelation, and which personality is going to lead this denomination and be this and be..." And so, I'm over here arguing, I'm the Methodist and somebody else is arguing, I'm the Baptist, and somebody else's arguing, I'm the Pentecostal, and not realize that sometimes, all that traces back to someone. Come on, somebody. I can't get no help on a Wednesday night. It's what happens in our lives even to this day, is we're still making it about personalities. "I follow this preacher. Well, I really like this other preacher, and well, I really feel like my preacher's the best. And I really feel like that my pastor is the most gifted." And you cannot go under the mission of a personality if it's not Jesus. The personality that has to be followed, first and foremost, is Jesus.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And so, I'm going to tell you something, at 3trees, we unify behind one name, and it ain't a name of a preacher, and it ain't the name of a church, and it isn't the name of an organization. It's not that a preacher is bad. It's not that the church is bad. It's not that an organization is bad. We organize under the name of Jesus because you can gather in the name of Eric Gilbert, and you'll never feel God, you can gather in the name of 3trees and you'll never, once, sense God's presence. But if you gather in the name of Jesus, even just two or three of you, he'll show up and he'll be in the midst, it's got to be about Jesus, all about Jesus and always about Jesus, because that's the only way you experience God. And so, when we gather in the name of Jesus, we realize our mission, we got a mission. Our mission is to seek the lost, our mission is to make disciples, and our mission is to meet needs. Seek the lost, make disciples, and meet needs.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

Can anybody get behind that and get with that? And so, there can be differences, but there cannot be divisions when it comes to Jesus, because here's what he said, 1 Corinthians 1:13, "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" He said, "I thank God I didn't baptize none of you, except two of you, so that none of you could say you were baptized in my name." And so, Paul's just drawn such a line in the sand. He's like, "You can't make it about a personality." You can honor a personality, and you should. You can serve a personality, and you should. You can serve a personality, and maybe, at times, there's a place for that. But you don't make the personality your mission. And so, what happens is, Jesus has to be the mission.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And Paul's saying, "It wasn't me that was crucified for you. You better serve the one that was crucified for you." And. I guess, as we move on into it, maybe, a thing that we could say, that I've often loved to say, and that is this, what we believe may divide us, but in whom we believe should unite us. You think about the division, here's the deal. There's some of you may be even in this room. I don't know. Maybe, some of you believe in the rapture, maybe some of you don't, maybe some of you believe that Christians will have to go through the tribulation, maybe others of you don't. Maybe, some of you believe that churches should be meeting in person right now, and maybe others think that churches should not be meeting in person right now.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

Maybe, some think that churches should be really vocal about political things, and maybe others think that churches shouldn't be vocal about that at all. And you know what's happening right now, all across the world, the church is divided over those things. Just arguing and fussing and debating over whether we should do this or we should... And at the end of the day, if we would just realize that we make it about Jesus, we just make it about... And maybe, this one's honoring Jesus different than us, but as long as they are about Jesus, as long as they are about Jesus, what we believe may divide us, but in whom we believe should unite us.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And so here's the last thing I'll give you today. That is this, you got to make the main thing the main thing. Can we just say that out loud together? The main thing must be the main thing.

 

Audience:

The main thing must be the main thing.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

Here's the main thing. 1 Corinthians 1:17, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel." That in and of itself is pretty theologically deep. We won't go there tonight, but he goes on and he says, "And not with words of eloquent wisdom." One translation says, "Not with enticing words of man's wisdom, lest the cross of Christ, be emptied of its power." One of the greatest revivals that ever broke loose in America came from a man named Jonathan Edwards. And some believe that it was this verse that it impacted in the most. He wrote a sermon called sinners in the hands of an angry God.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

And he walked to a pulpit, and for fear of using enticing words, he just read it in monotone. And the next thing you know, an awakening breaks loose, and all of America was touched and empowered and experienced God because of a man who said, "I will never empty the cross of its power." And so, I think about that Corinth was a hip place, Corinth was a happening place, Corinth is a place that is having a lot of success, economically. The marketplace is thriving, and Paul shows up in that place, and here's the thing, one of the reasons that the whole deal probably happened with the preachers, remember, Peter was a pretty good preacher. He preached 10-minute sermon, 3000 people got saved. Scripture points out that Apollo's evidently phenomenal preacher, on and on. But Paul...

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert:

So, there were rockstar speakers in that day, rockstar philosophers in that day. People who could communicate well had massive followings, even in that day. And it almost seems like when Paul realized he was in that kind of a place, he even toned down his ability because he didn't want anybody to think it was about him. Ponder that for a moment. And he said, "I didn't do the enticing word thing, man. I didn't want to empty the cross of its power. I want to come in the power and the demonstration of the Holy Spirit." He's basically saying I'm here to prove to you I can preach. I'm not here to prove to you that I can build a great following. I'm here to point you to Jesus because if you got Jesus, everything else will take care of itself. I want to ask them just to begin to...

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