The church at Corinth was dealing with sexual immorality, believers taking one another to court, marital problems and the subject of marriage, believers stumbling one another in regards to eating meat offered to idols, people questioning Paul apostolic authority, chaos and disorder of spiritual gifts, a total lack of reverence in partaking of The Lord’s Supper, and, last but not least, some were spreading a heretical doctrine about the bodily resurrection.
Keep in mind as you process this list that this church is *sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (1.2), in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (5-7).
So, if you were writing a letter to correct this body of believers, where would you begin? What would be the first thing that you would address and put at the top of your list?
I find it very interesting that with all the problems Paul is going to address in this letter, the very first thing that The Holy Spirit impresses upon his heart is none of the above. He addresses division, disunity and discord within the church.
- Why? A house divided cannot stand. A house that is not walking in the shadow of the cross and the grace and love of Jesus Christ is going to crash and burn.
This problem of division, disunity and discord was contrary to the teaching and prayers of Jesus Himself.
John 17.20-23 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 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. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
1.10 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 (schisma) among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Paul addresses a church that, like many in our day, is both deeply flawed and greatly loved. This is the 10th reference to The Lord Jesus Christ in the first 10 verses, leaving no doubt as to the One Paul believed should be the source and focus of Corinthian unity.
Paul begs them to be “perfectly joined together” (v. 10), which in the Greek is a medical term that refers to the setting of a bone that was broken or out of joint. They were in Christ, but they were also broken, in the flesh and carnal relationally.
Paul is not exhorting the saints to “all agree” on every subject, as our translation suggests. There are non-negotiable doctrinal absolutes that must all embrace as the body of Christ. But as we unpack this book, we will soon come to chapters 8-10, which deal with matters of conscience and secondary issues. Paul expects Christians to disagree as to matters of conscience and secondary issues.
When Christians have different convictions on what we call “neutral” matters, or secondary issues, they are not to dispute with one another over them (Romans 14:1). Rather they are to keep their convictions to themselves (Romans 14:22).
If we were speaking in musical terms, Paul is not calling for the church to sing in unison—everyone singing the same note at the same time—but rather he is urging the entire church to sing the same song, in harmony. This is what Christian unity is about.
Augustine wrote: In essentials unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.
What is “the same mind”? that Paul is referring to here? It is the mind of Christ. Phil. 2:5–8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
1.11 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.
Contentions comes from a Greek word that speaks of strife, quarreling, and wrangling that was taking place in the church at Corinth. The primary problem in the church at Corinth was a disunity problem, and it needed to get nipped in the proverbial butt.
Please note that in verse 10 and 11, Paul addresses them as brothers. He addresses them from the perspective of not just an apostle, but also a brother in Christ.
1.12 Now this I say, that every one (the entire church) of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
Let’s take a brief look at the 4 different styles of ministry that the church in Corinth were blessed by.
- Paul – Paul was considered the apostle to the Gentiles because he emphasized truths that would be especially important to the Gentile mind. He also clarified the limited need for Gentiles to follow Jewish ritual and dietary laws.
- Apollos – Apollos made a major impact upon the Corinthian church after Paul’s departure. He was noted as a gifted speaker, which would have contrasted Paul, who was not known as an eloquent speaker.
- Cephas – This was a term for Peter and was a reference to the apostle who was known as one called to minister to the Jews. As seen in Galatians 2:11-17, Peter’s emphasis was different than Paul’s because he helped the Jews incorporate their traditions and beliefs with their faith in Jesus.
- Christ – This seems to refer to a group that took pride in making direct reference to the teachings of Jesus and disregarded the legitimate place of the apostles and prophets in the early church. Any church, denomination or ministry that are built upon personalities and preferences instead of Jesus Christ is a recipe for disaster, because the moment the personality dies, or is out of the picture, the foundation crumbles of the ministry crumbles.
There were factions developing within the church following these gifted leaders: there was a Paul faction, an Apollos faction, a Cephas (Peter) faction, and a faction that seemed to be more pompous than the rest by claiming to be of Christ.
I might add here that I do not believe that any of these men were cause the divisions. They all contended together for the faith. They maintained the unity of the Spirit, and they all exalted Jesus Christ. It was the members of the church in Corinth who were guilty of making the divisions.
These factions were not theological in nature given that each one taught the same gospel. All believers belong to Christ (3:22-23), so He should not be claimed as just another party.
Paul explains why they were divided: they had their eyes on men instead of on Christ. They were trusting in the wisdom of men (2:5); they were glorying in the works of men (3:21); and they were comparing one servant with another and boasting about their favorite teacher. They were infatuated with how their favorite teacher taught or preached to the point where they could not receive the truth from any of the other vessels God raised up.
In chapter 3, Paul proves that this infatuation with men was a mark of carnal living, evidence that these “spiritual Corinthians” were actually babes in Christ.
To elevate a human teacher to the point where the allegiance shatters the body of Christ means that we have lost sight of the infinite and overwhelming worth of a crucified Savior.
Matthew 23:8-12 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
1.13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
It appears that these saints were taking pride in the person who baptized them. Some people appear to have been proud and looked down on others who were not baptized by as great a celebrity teacher as their baptizer.
In verses 13-17, Paul lets the air out of the tires of these proud name droppers by telling them that baptism is not a celebrity affair, and compared to the preaching of the gospel
To be divided into factions contradicts the very nature of the church that has many members but is one body.
The three questions in this verse were rhetorical and expected a definite no. These questions highlight the absurdity of a selfish, party spirit within the church.
Pastor Chuck Smith said, When the body of Christ is divided, who bleeds? Jesus.
G. Campbell Morgan said, “I have noted that the more spiritual a man becomes, the less denominational he becomes.”
How serious is division, disunity and discord? In the Old Testament book of Proverbs, chapter 16 & 19, we find things that God calls an abomination.
Proverbs 6.16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
Proverbs 6.19 he that soweth discord among brethren
The Hebrew word for abomination means, something disgusting; a tragic mistake.
A person that sows division, disunity and discord among the brethren within the church is an abomination in the eyes of God, equal to the sexual perversion or abominations listed in Leviticus 18.22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.
This is how serious Paul saw the issues of division, disunity and discord.
1.14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
The synagogue ruler whose conversion is recorded in Acts 18:8.
1.15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
1.16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
Paul assumes that all believers have experienced baptism and that they have been instructed about its meaning.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe; baptism is a symbolic expression of that belief. The gospel is the good news that anyone who receives Christ as Savior and Lord will be saved. Baptism is a public expression of that salvation and the testimony of Jesus Christ and His saving grace.
Water Baptism is not pointless. It was commanded by Christ
Matt. 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost
Practiced by the early church Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized:and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Water baptism and The Lord’s Supper, are the two ordinances that are practiced by the church.
Have you been water baptized since you came to faith in Jesus Christ? Sign up in welcome center.
1.17 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 (void of power and authority).
Paul’s denial does not degrade baptism; he is simply emphasizing that baptizing is not his primary role. As an apostle, Paul’s primary job is to preach the gospel, teaching those seeking God to be baptized. The one who performs a baptism is God’s instrument; the convert’s loyalty must be to God alone.
The phrase wisdom of words refers to a kind of rhetoric and persuasion that characterized the Greek orators. Paul preached the good news of God’s salvation through the cross of Christ in plain speech, not in a manner that manipulated or impressed his hearers.
Paul never burned out because his goal was simple and singular, never changing, never wavering. “I came to you,” he said, “preaching nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
The problem of exalting men
Whenever we exalt the vessel, and thereby diminish the treasure inside, we have diminished the ministry of Christ.
Is there anything about the way you live the Christian life that calls attention to humans rather than the Lord who is at the heart of your faith?
The body is one
Just as a physical body, though made up of many members, is one, so also the church, which is the body of Christ, cannot be divided. The church is one, and it is our responsibility before God to endeavor to maintain that unity of The Spirit in the bond of peace. Are you an agent of unity or an agent of division, disunity and discord in the body of Christ or in this church family?
God’s one message of salvation and counseling
As we see all throughout the New Testament epistles, the church is not the home of sinless, perfect people, but perfectly redeemed people who are saints. The epistles deal with doctrinal issues. They deal with practical and morality issues. They deal with marital issues and the issues of family life. They deal with the workplace and finances. In other words, church problems are people and sinners problems, and life at times can be messy and complex.
Every sin starts within because our whole lives are oriented in the direction of ourselves. –Alistair Begg
But I submit to you dear church family that the solution to every problem that plagues every person is the same: The gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
In the cross of Jesus Christ we obtain forgiveness, healing, deliverance, mercy, patience, grace, understanding, love and power to walk in newness of life.
Have you trusted Jesus Christ as Lord of your life? Savior of your soul?
1 Corinthians 15.1-4 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
John 1.11-13He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
A decision to live separate from Jesus in this life is a decision to live separate from Jesus in the next.