1Co 1 10-17 Fix Your Mind
So, you all want peace and unity, do you? Yeah… I’m not so sure about that. There’s one, big problem: your minds.
Our minds, you see, need fixing. We can never achieve any kind of unified peace on earth because 1. We have too many changing ideas about peace. The truth is that 2. Only Christ’s gospel can truly unite us.
The situation that Paul referred to in Corinth is a case-in-point. They had problems finding peace in the congregation because they were following many different voices. “One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’”
As it turns out, of course, all of these men were good men to follow, so how were sayings like these disrupting unity? Paul tells them that the problem isn’t so much with these sayings as it is with their minds: “I appeal to you, brothers, 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.”
The Holy Spirit’s specific choice of words in this section paints a clear picture of what kind of problem Corinth was dealing with. The word for division here rarely refers to a doctrinal problem, nor does the text get into any doctrinal issues. The real problem was sort of on par with what we might call a clique.
So, basically Paul is telling the Christians in Corinth that he wants them to get past these sayings that were causing their cliques. Instead, he wants them to be “perfectly united in mind and thought.”
Now, if you’re like me, you read that and you go, “‘Perfectly united in mind and thought’? That’s not going to happen! We think too differently!”
I tend to agree. But, then, I also believe that’s not exactly the authentic meaning of this text. This isn’t about pipe dreams of unity that can’t be attained. This is talking about a unity that Christians can and do attain—with the Lord’s help, of course. That’s why the theme this morning is “Fix Your Mind,” instead of something like, “Be Perfectly United.” Paul isn’t asking for some kind of mind meld. He’s calling for standard repairs.
You see, the verb in the Greek that is translated here as “perfectly united” is the same one that is used in the gospels for preparing fishing nets (Mathew 4:21; Mark 1:19). The more the nets were used, the more repair they needed. They would drag those fishing nets across the lake trying to catch fish, but in the process they would snag them on all kinds of things under the water that caused damage. As a result, the nets would need to be regularly repaired or they would become unusable.
Much like our heads! Seriously—all kidding aside. Just as you can expect a net to be damaged through regular use, so you can expect your mind to be damaged as it is dragged through the polluted water of this world. An un-repaired mind, however, does not simply lose fish. It loses unity. So the less time you spend repairing the damage caused to your poor mind as it is dragged through the stones and snares of living in this world, the harder it will be to stop true unity from slipping through your grasp!
That’s what was happening in Corinth. “I follow Paul!” “I follow Apollos!” “I follow Cephas!” “I follow Christ!” If their minds had been regularly repaired after being dragged on a daily basis through the world’s perspective of how to build a church, none of these catchphrases would have been an issue for them!
But instead they had factions forming, probably based on nothing more substantial than leadership styles or perhaps on the success various men had had in bringing more people into the church. These were all servants of Christ! Oh, and the group that seemed to show no respect for Christ’s servants out of supposed loyalty to him wasn’t helping, either. Their minds needed repair!
I suppose we might find parallels in sentiments like “Our church will fail if we can’t get our projects moving the way that Pastor Hopf used to,” or, “We need someone here who’s more personable, the way that Pastor Heyer was.” Pastor Hopf, I understand, was good at moving projects along. Pastor Heyer I know to be an exceptionally personable man. But God chose each of your pastors at their given times for his own reasons, and the church does not stand or fall on sets of gifts or styles of ministry.
How utterly amazing it is that such purely human thoughts ever cross our minds when the biggest threat to true unity is so neglected by so many among us: our careless attitude toward growing unity through an ever deeper study of God’s Word!
In chastising the Christians in Corinth for the very same weaknesses that plague us Christians here in Otsego, Paul also pointed them to the only thing that could truly fix their minds: the Gospel of Christ in Word and in Sacrament. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” he asks them.
The gospel in Word and Sacrament is the only thing powerful enough to fix our minds for true unity. Our shifting human ideas about unity can’t compare. Word and Sacrament are not human powers, and Paul was thankful that his particular work among them bore that out: “Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.”
He was not putting down baptism, but emphasizing the source of true power: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Here is true power…
No. Christ is not divided. The powerful truth is that he is true God and true man united in one person to be the perfect Savior for our eternal needs.
No. Paul was not crucified for us. Neither was any pastor, teacher or other model of faith that we hold in high regard. Their only true power was in uniting us to the power of Christ crucified.
And, no, we were not baptized into the name of Paul or anyone else of purely human origin. We were baptized into the name of the one, great Trinity, Lord over all creation, Maker of the Heavens and the Earth and the author of our salvation. The power of his Word combined with the water of our baptism fixed us in eternity and prepared us as God’s children.
Word and Sacrament—that’s true power. And in this gospel power we find true unity and true peace. Paul corrected, announced forgiveness and fixed their minds in the same breath. Similarly, as we look at our all-too-common disregard for contact with the gospel in Word and Sacrament, we find that we are self-condemned. But, by fixing our minds upon the gospel of Christ once again, by tasting his forgiveness at the table and remembering our baptisms, we also find forgiveness for our focus on the fleeting fancies of our natural mind’s opinion of power.
Friends, I want you to understand something about the human mind. Please understand this. Our minds all have good intentions—so far as they understand what intentions truly are good for us! But, like nets dragged through polluted water, our minds pick up all kinds of things in this corrupted world! When you spend three times the amount of time in front of your computer or television as you do in front of an open Bible or in church, how can you not expect that your emotions will lead you astray and that your mind will need fixing before it knows the correct path?
Like Paul, I appeal to you—both in the name of and for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ—to find true unity. You won’t find it in seeking a church where sin seems least apparent to the casual observer. You won’t find it in the opinions of the latest morality books nor in the intellectual media. You won’t find true unity by focusing on humanly desirable personality traits—especially if it’s in men that God sent in order to focus you on Christ!
You will find true unity with your brothers and sisters—unity in mind and in purpose—as together we fix our minds through regular study in God’s Word. There you will find an absolute truth that will point out the flaws in your ways of thinking. And there you will find absolute, unconditional forgiveness for every snag and snare that has entangled you.
Fix your mind on the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and find peace for the facing of your past failures and their consequences. Fix your mind on Christ, and he will repair it for its work. Fix your mind, for Christ has fixed our destinies. Amen.