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Day 216

Unity

Wisdom Proverbs 19:3-12
New Testament 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
Old Testament 1 Chronicles 16:37-18:17

Introduction

Years ago, I was speaking to a friend of mine who is not a Christian. He said this to me:

‘I don’t understand. You Protestants and you Catholics, you look exactly the same to me. You both have church buildings that look the same. You both say the Lord’s Prayer and do stuff with bread and wine. Whatever it is you disagree about (and I have no idea what it is) has absolutely nothing to do with my life. However, whilst you are fighting each other I am not interested.’

It struck me then how damaging disunity is to the church and our witness to the world. No wonder Jesus prayed for ‘complete unity’ (John 17:23) and the apostle Paul was passionate that we should be ‘perfectly united’ (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Unity is at the core of our faith. We believe in one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is unity in the Trinity. Disunity, on the other hand, has been the curse of humankind ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin.

Jesus died to bring reconciliation and unity. Thank God that today, all around the world, we are seeing a lowering of denominational barriers and a greater unity in the church.

Wisdom

Proverbs 19:3-12

3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin,
        yet their heart rages against the Lord.

4 Wealth attracts many friends,
        but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.

5 A false witness will not go unpunished,
        and whoever pours out lies will not go free.

6 Many curry favor with a ruler,
        and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.

7 The poor are shunned by all their relatives—
        how much more do their friends avoid them!
    Though the poor pursue them with pleading,
        they are nowhere to be found.

8 The one who gets wisdom loves life;
    the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and whoever pours out lies will perish.

10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury—
    how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!

11 A person’s wisdom yields patience;
    it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

12 A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion,
    but his favor is like dew on the grass.

Commentary

Unity in relationships

In this passage is one proverb that is of utmost importance for unity in our relationships: ‘Good sense makes a man restrain his anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression or an offense’ (v.11, AMP).

I have been challenged by this verse many times in my life. It is so easy to be offended. It is easy to hold a grudge. It is easy to seek revenge. If responded to in this way, even one small offence can lead to the breakdown of a relationship. It can end a friendship.

On the other hand, there is something glorious about overlooking an offence. This means refusing to be offended. It means refusing to hold a grudge. It means refusing to take revenge. It is hard to do. But it is of utmost importance if we are to maintain unity in our relationships.

Prayer

Lord, forgive me when I am too easily offended. Thank you that, through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, you overlook my offences. Help me through that same power to overlook the offences of others.

New Testament

1 Corinthians 1:1-17

1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving

4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge — 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

A Church Divided Over Leaders

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Commentary

Unity around Jesus

Corinth was a large cosmopolitan city that attracted people from every nation, culture and religion. In many ways, it was similar to a city like London, Hong Kong or New York. It was a commercial centre. It was a centre for arts, recreation, literature and architecture. It was a place with many museums and theatres.

The people of Corinth were wealthy, hard drinking and sexually promiscuous, and it was notorious for immorality.

In AD 50, Paul went to Corinth to plant a church. He stayed with his friends Priscilla and Aquila. He got himself a job and started preaching the gospel. He started a church in a house and stayed eighteen months until the spring of AD 52. Then he handed the church over to Apollos and moved on to plant more churches.

Some time later, Paul received a report that in his absence all kinds of problems had developed, including division in the church. Three or four years after planting this church (c. AD 53–54), he wrote this letter to try to deal with some of the issues.

Quarrelling and disunity began very early in the church’s history. In Corinth, it seems that the different factions were divided not so much by doctrine, as by mindset. Instead of being united in Christ they split into factions based purely on the leader they most respected – Paul, Apollos or Peter (Cephas) (vv.11–13).

Even before Paul starts his appeal for unity and love, we can see in his introduction and greetings how the theme of unity runs deep in Paul’s thinking. The basis of our unity is the person of Jesus:

  1. Relationship with Jesus
    Paul writes to ‘those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours’ (v.2).

    Every Christian in the world is someone who is sanctified in Jesus Christ and who calls on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is not divided (v.13) and neither should we be. We share the same Lord.

    You are all called into ‘fellowship’ (koinonia) with Jesus (v.9). Spend time today enjoying his friendship. This is the deepest and most intimate relationship possible. Koinonia is the word used of the marriage relationship. We all love Jesus deeply and intimately.

  2. Grace of Jesus
    Paul writes, ‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus’ (vv.3–4). To be a Christian is to experience the grace of God given to you in Christ Jesus. You are loved. Grace means undeserved love. It is supremely shown in and made possible through the death of Jesus Christ for each one of us. Every Christian in the world, of every church and denomination, is someone for whom Christ died. His grace is the basis of our unity.

  3. Spirit of Jesus
    Paul writes to the Corinthians, ‘Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift’ (v.7a). The Spirit of Jesus Christ lives in every Christian. Paul goes on to expound in this letter how each of us has spiritual gifts, because we have the Holy Spirit living in us. Every Christian in the world has the Holy Spirit living in them just as he lives in you.

  4. Hope in Jesus
    Paul goes on to say, ‘as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (vv.7b–8). We all await the return of Jesus. One day we will be completely united in him. In the meantime, we have a common hope.

Paul is passionate about this unity. He writes, ‘I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought’ (v.10).

He is not happy to settle for a superficial unity. He appeals for perfect unity. In our lifetime, we may not succeed in seeing the complete unity of the church. However, never settle for less. Pray for it and seek to do all you can to bring it about. Jesus prayed that we might be brought to complete unity (John 17:20–21).

Prayer

Lord, I pray for unity in our local church and in the church around the world. Thank you that we see visible signs of a greater unity. May we be brought to complete unity in order that the world will believe in you.

Old Testament

1 Chronicles 16:37-18:17

37 David left Asaph and his associates before the ark of the covenant of the Lord to minister there regularly, according to each day’s requirements. 38 He also left Obed-Edom and his sixty-eight associates to minister with them. Obed-Edom son of Jeduthun, and also Hosah, were gatekeepers.

39 David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the Lord at the high place in Gibeon 40 to present burnt offerings to the Lord on the altar of burnt offering regularly, morning and evening, in accordance with everything written in the Law of the Lord, which he had given Israel. 41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the Lord, “for his love endures forever.” 42 Heman and Jeduthun were responsible for the sounding of the trumpets and cymbals and for the playing of the other instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were stationed at the gate.

43 Then all the people left, each for their own home, and David returned home to bless his family.

God’s Promise to David

17After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent. ”

2 Nathan replied to David, “Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.”

3 But that night the word of God came to Nathan, saying:

4 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in. 5 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another. 6 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar? ”’

7 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 8 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men on earth. 9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies.

“‘I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you: 11 When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever. ’”

15 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.

David’s Prayer

16 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 17 And as if this were not enough in your sight, my God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You, Lord God, have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men.

18 “What more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant, 19 Lord. For the sake of your servant and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made known all these great promises.

20 “There is no one like you, Lord, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 21 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth whose God went out to redeem a people for himself, and to make a name for yourself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 22 You made your people Israel your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

23 “And now, Lord, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised, 24 so that it will be established and that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty, the God over Israel, is Israel’s God!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

25 “You, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. So your servant has found courage to pray to you. 26 You, Lord, are God! You have promised these good things to your servant. 27 Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Lord, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever.”

David’s Victories

18In the course of time, David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and he took Gath and its surrounding villages from the control of the Philistines.

2 David also defeated the Moabites, and they became subject to him and brought him tribute.

3 Moreover, David defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah, in the vicinity of Hamath, when he went to set up his monument at the Euphrates River. 4 David captured a thousand of his chariots, seven thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses.

5 When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down twenty-two thousand of them. 6 He put garrisons in the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, and the Arameans became subject to him and brought him tribute. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.

7 David took the gold shields carried by the officers of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 From Tebah and Kun, towns that belonged to Hadadezer, David took a great quantity of bronze, which Solomon used to make the bronze Sea, the pillars and various bronze articles.

9 When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer king of Zobah, 10 he sent his son Hadoram to King David to greet him and congratulate him on his victory in battle over Hadadezer, who had been at war with Tou. Hadoram brought all kinds of articles of gold, of silver and of bronze.

11 King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold he had taken from all these nations: Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek.

12 Abishai son of Zeruiah struck down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 13 He put garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.

David’s Officials

14 David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people. 15 Joab son of Zeruiah was over the army; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 16 Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelek son of Abiathar were priests; Shavsha was secretary; 17 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief officials at the king’s side.

Commentary

Unity under one King

God’s desire has always been for unity among his people. Just as we see his desire for unity among his people in the New Testament, so we see in the Old Testament that he desired unity for the people of God.

Sadly, the history of the people of God in the Old Testament was also one of disunity. There was only one period in Israel’s history where there was any real semblance of unity. That was the period we now read about in the Book of Chronicles. David united ‘all Israel’ (18:14).

This was a period of great blessing for the people of God. Nathan said to David, ‘Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you’ (17:2). ‘The Lord gave David victory everywhere he went’ (18:6b). ‘David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people’ (v.14).

This unity continued in the reign of Solomon. The chronicler sees the unity of this period as the ideal. Writing hundreds of years later, he is not naïve about the failings of King David, and neither is he slow to point out the temptations of Solomon that spelt the beginning of the end of this golden age – gold, horses and many wives (see Deuteronomy 17).

After hundreds of years of disunity, he hopes that one day Israel will have a king who can do what even David and Solomon could not fully do. He longs for a king who will bring, among other things, total and permanent unity to the people of God. The fulfilment came about, not through an earthly king, but through a heavenly one.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you are the Anointed King, who more than fulfilled the expectations of Israel. Thank you that you have the power to unite the entire human race under your lordship. Thank you that one day we will see this unity.

Pippa adds

1 Corinthians 1:8

‘He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

I sometimes feel a little nervous about the final (judgment) day. But it is encouraging that Jesus is going to keep us ‘strong to the end’.

Verse of the Day

1 Corinthians 1:8

‘He will keep you strong to the end…’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org))

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