How Important is Unity? And Why is it so Important?

How Important is Unity? And Why is it so Important?

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 1:9-17

9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.


We already saw the backstory of the church at Corinth, and how it came about that Paul had arrived there with a new determination to preach the straight, unadorned Message of the Cross.

As we saw earlier, virtually all of the teaching in both Corinthian Epistles is corrective in nature. That is at least partly because of the extremely corrupt environment in which the Corinthian believers lived, This next segment, verses 9-17, addresses the first of those corrective teachings.


Disunity, division, and heresies (which means to “pull apart”) can come from a variety of sources, but they always stem from the same root. We behave by nature as self-centered sinners. We easily turn our resentment or jealousy or bitterness toward those around us. Any little fault, (whether real or imagined, and whether doctrinal or behavioral) in any other individual, then becomes grounds for our criticism and rejection of the other person.

In John 13:34, 35 Jesus gave the “Prime Directive” regarding our relationships with one another. He commanded us to “love one another.” It amazes me that we do not see this tendency toward rejection, self-serving criticism, and judgmental thoughts or behavior as direct disobedience to that Primary Commandment.

But we seldom see ourselves in the light of God’s Word. We constantly compare ourselves to others. If we think we are superior to others, we will become smug and vain. If we think that we are inferior to others, we may become depressed and bitter. We may even become convinced that “God does not love me as much as He does them.” Do you see how that quickly became an accusation against God?

Disunity can have Different Outward Forms


Paul addresses doctrinal unity first. He wanted the people to stop bickering over minor things, and learn to be at peace. (How do I know it was “minor things?” In Ephesians 4:3-7, Paul gave seven “unities” that are the core issues. That’s one reason: Those “unities” pretty much have to be there. In the second place, the things he mentioned next were very much “peripheral issues.”)

Historically, the church has split over ridiculously minor issues: (the color of the carpet, which side of the room the piano is on…or whether to even allow a piano… etc.) The unbelieving world laughs to see our silly, sinful infighting, and concludes that our message is a lie!

“Personality Preferences”

Paul next addressed the issues of “respect of persons, and favoritism.” He said that a particular group of believers had shared with him that schisms and “cliques” were forming at Corinth, based on “who claimed who as their mentor,” etc.

Paul saw that the “issue” that was currently causing division in Corinth was, “Whose team are YOU on? Who is YOUR mentor and teacher?” They each said things such as “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”

People do that today, too, clinging to some specific teacher (or to a denomination, which is already contrary to God’s will.) He warns us right here that the divisions are not good. We can see that whole churches and denominations have split over such “personality cults.”

Some people completely forsake assembling themselves together with other believers. Why? Because they choose to listen to some teacher on the radio or television at that time, instead. (That is not a good excuse: today it is possible to go online and listen to such teachers at any time, day or night. Listening to your “favorite televangelist” does not force you to disobey the command of God. (Hebrews 10:25—“forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.”)

Respect of Persons

Next, apart from that sort of “low-energy” disunity, there is the foundational issue of “Who is our Master?” To whom do I owe loyalty and obedience? It is not primarily to Paul, or Apollos, or any other human leader: it is primarily to the Person of Jesus Christ. Paul asked these rhetorical questions. The implied answer in every case is, “NO!

  1. Is Christ Divided? (No!)
  2. Was Paul crucified for you? (No!)
  3. Were you baptized in the name of Paul? (No!)

Jesus is not divided. And the “One Body of Christ seen in 1st Corinthians 12:13 is all believers everywhere, as pointed out in verse 2. Therefore, we also should not be divided.

Is there Conflict in Authority?

Does our commitment to the authority of Christ diminish our submission to one another? No! it increases it, as we are commanded in Ephesians 5:21 to “submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” This is a little like asking a soldier, “To whom did you swear your oath of allegiance?” He will reply that it was “to the US Constitution!” Does that mean he does not have to obey his immediate supervisor? No! In fact, unless his supervisors clearly abandon obedience to their joint commitment to the Constitution, then he must obey those duly sworn and commissioned officers.

God has set up authorities in all of our lives, all under His supreme authority. In general, we are not free to see ourselves as “Lone Ranger” Christians. Ephesians 3:10 reveals that, God says that His eternal plan is to demonstrate His own righteousness to the Angelic Host in Heaven, through the Church as a whole. His work is always in keeping with His eternal plan. He has chosen to glorify Himself through the behavior of the Church as a whole. And we can fail to cooperate!

So, Who Baptized Who?

It is interesting to read the names of the people Paul listed as the few he baptized. Paul called Crispus and Gaius by name. Crispus would be important to the Corinthian believers because he had been the chief ruler of their Synagogue (before he became a believer and lost that position.) Paul baptized him.

Gaius, however, was not from that town at all—we see him in the next chapter of Acts, serving with Paul at Ephesus, and, in Acts 20, we find out that Gaius was from Derbe. But he was a co-laborer with Paul, and he was known to Paul’s audience. Paul baptized him, too.

In verse 16, (almost as an afterthought,) Paul remembered that he had also baptized the household of Stephanas. But this one verse and again in chapter 16 are the only two places Stephanas was mentioned. 

So, Who was Stephanas?

They knew who he was: 1st Corinthians 16:15-18 says,15I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) 16That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. 17I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. 18For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.

Submitacknowledge”…Those are words with which we are not necessarily comfortable. But both require that we set aside self and look at our fellow-servants through God’s eyes.

And … Who Cares?

Paul concluded that, if there were others whom he had baptized, he had simply forgotten them. (That allows us to see the degree of importance Paul attached to water baptism.) But the main point here, is that there was no special value to having been baptized, or led to Christ, or having been trained by “someone special.” (I have known people who knew J. Vernon McGee personally and used to attend his church. That is certainly a privilege, but they did not hold it up as something that set them apart from other believers.)

In 1st Corinthians 3:5-9, Paul will return to this issue, regarding “who is who:”

5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers (Servants!) by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: (They are in unity!) and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9For we are labourers together with God: (Remember Philippians 2:13!) ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

Why was Paul “Unconcerned” About Who He May have Baptized?

Many missionaries today keep careful records of “who they baptized” and, especially, “how many.” I have even known missionaries whose primary “claim to fame” was how many church buildings they built. If that truly is what God sent them to do, then they are blessed for doing His Will. But it raises some questions in my mind:

Paul said the reason he was unconcerned about “who and how many,” is that baptism was not his primary assignment! He said, 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

Paul even set aside the robes of his “superior education.” He saw it as a potential detriment to the assigned goal of winning souls for Christ.

So, Paul claimed that his primary assignment was to preach the Gospel. The Great Commission teaches that our primary job is to preach the Gospel. All the Epistles underscore our assignment as ambassadors of Christ. So, how likely is it that someone truly has a totally different assignment? What chance is there that God has “changed His mind” about the job He assigned us all to do?

But, What about Unity? Why is it So Important?

Go back to the first “correction” Paul addressed: He begged them to practice Unity, in doctrine and in action. Looking back at the Gospels, we see that Jesus gave three ways by which the World is to Judge the Church:

  1. Agapé Love: In John 13:34, 35. He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; As I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love, one to another.”
  2. Unity: In John 17:21 Jesus said, “ That they all may be One; as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be One in us: that the World may believe that thou hast sent me.
  3. Good Works: In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said,  “Ye are the light of the World. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”

God-Ordained Priorities

God ordained these three things by which the World is to judge the Church. Perhaps we need to especially concern ourselves with those three, as all three affect our testimony as believers in Christ.

How do we get along with other believers? Do we go out of our way to treat them with Agapé Love? Do we seek ways to find common ground, or are we constantly stressing the differences between us and other believers? Remember that the World is watching!

Ephesians 4:3 tells us to “endeavor to maintain the Unity of the Spirit, in the bond of Peace.” God created that unity. We need to find ways to maintain it!

Lord Jesus, please help us to recognize the seeds of disunity and root them out before they can grow to cause broken fellowship. Help us to see opportunities to serve one another with Your Agapé Love. Modify our behavior to consistently reflect your Grace, so that our behavior lights the way for others and brings Glory to You.

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