To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is an epistle written to straighten out a church with a host of serious problems. Yet as such it is helpful and enlightening and inspiring to see how Paul the theologian addresses his deep, rich theology to specific, messy, practical issues as Paul the pastor.
Puritan pastor Richard Baxter took an old Latin phrase and popularized it in his day, in English. It is simple, but profound: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Why was Baxter so concerned to see Christians publicly, charitably, doctrinally unified? Baxter, writing in 17th century England about the evil effects of division in the church, made this observation:
Not long ago I was asked to give a biblical overview of “The Oneness of Humanity” at a Christian hip-hop album release party. The more I thought about this subject, the more prominently I perceived it in Scripture. This issue is touched on all over the place in the Bible, but my task was to give a bird’s eye view of this topic, flying over it to hit some major points. I hope that sharing a brief outline of my message will be like the ravens that brought Elijah food; I hope it leaves you hungering for more of what