Read 1 Corinthians 1:10–13. What does this passage tell us about how important Paul believed unity in the church was?
Having refuted the allegations that his gospel was not God-given, Paul directs his attention in Galatians 2:1, 2 to another charge being made against him. The false teachers in Galatia claimed that Paul’s gospel was not in harmony with what Peter and the other apostles taught. Paul, they were saying, was a renegade.
In response to this charge, Paul recounts a trip he made to Jerusalem at least fourteen years after his conversion. Though we’re not totally sure when that trip took place, no trip in antiquity was an easy affair. If he traveled by land from Antioch to Jerusalem, the three-hundred-mile trip would have taken at least three weeks and would have involved all kinds of hardships and dangers. Yet, in spite of such difficulties, Paul undertook the journey, not because the apostles had summoned him but because the Spirit had. And while he was there, he set his gospel before the apostles.
Why did he do that? Certainly not because he had any doubt about what he was teaching. He certainly did not need any kind of reassurance from them. After all, he already had been proclaiming the same gospel for fourteen years. And though he did not need their permission or approval, either, he highly valued the other apostles’ support and encouragement.
Thus, the accusation that his message was different was not only an attack on Paul but also an attack on the unity of the apostles, and on the church itself. Maintaining apostolic unity was vital, because a division between Paul’s Gentile mission and the mother-church in Jerusalem would have had disastrous consequences. With no fellowship between the Gentile and Jewish Christians, then “Christ would be divided, and all the energy which Paul had devoted, and hoped to devote, to the evangelizing of the Gentile world would be frustrated.”—F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 111.
What are some issues that threaten the unity of the church today? More important, after we define them, how do we deal with them? What issues are more important than unity itself?