First Corinthians 1:10-17
A Divided Christ?
1. Last week we read the opening statements to this epistle. From here on we will be going into the main issues of this epistle. Paul begins to make candid reference to a problem in the church at Corinth. It was the problem of internal fighting among clicks, which was taking place within the church. These words apply even to us church folks today. We must continue to do battle against the power of sin that brings one person against another and divides them. We want to hear the words being given here as a message given just for us.
The Fighting That Went On At The Church Of Corinth
2. Paul says, "Well, brothers, I warn you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone of you, do not speak selfishly, do not be in discord, but be at one in your hearts and in your minds and be firmly joined one with the other," (1:10). Paul speaks as an apostle in the name of Christ. The church needs to hear this as a warning from Jesus Christ himself. The one looking for the church to be one is none other than Christ himself. Discord is not merely a miserable state to be in, but a sin that goes directly against the expectation of Christ.
3. Paul knew what condition the church at Corinth was in from those of Cloe's house. There was first of all those who claimed that "I am following Paul." The church at Corinth, as it is recorded in chapter sixteen of The Book Of Acts, was founded by Paul and his group. The fact that there were some who outright claimed that "I am following Paul" alludes to the fact that there already were opponents there against Paul. Actually, this particular state they were in becomes clearer as we read further along in the epistle. There were also some people who expressed their acceptance of Paul as an apostle and who supported him.
4. On the other hand, it seems some of them were saying, "I follow Apollo." The person called Apollo appears in chapter eighteen of The Acts Of The Apostles. He was introduced (in Acts 18:24) as "Apollo, a Jew born in Alexandria, an eloquent speaker well-versed in the scriptures." Apollo came over to Corinth and became active there after Paul had established the Corinthian church. It seems Paul was hardly an eloquent speaker as he himself was criticized by certain ones in Corinth, "His epistles are very very powerful, but he is actually a weakling when you meet him, and his talks are boring," (Second Corinthians 10:10). Since an orator came and became active who spoke words of wisdom after Paul, it should come as no surprise even though a flock of followers appeared that emphasized their bond to Apollo rather than to Paul.
5. Also, some were saying, "I follow Cephas." Cephas meant Peter. Perhaps Peter also might have stayed over in Corinth once before. But, even if he hadn't, it was believed that he had great influence as a personal pupil of Jesus and as a representative personage of the church of Jerusalem where some might have claimed he was a founder of the church. It is believed that perhaps a group of Jewish Christians, who claimed a predominant position from the Jew-centered church of Jerusalem, were emphasizing a special tie to Peter.
6. Then at the end there appears in the text some who claimed, "I am following Christ." At first glance, claiming not to follow any human being, but claiming to be following Christ might not look all too unsound. But, when all is said and done we should expect to find a problem in they were a faction fighting sect. In conclusion, it puts following Christ in the same dimension as following some of these other men. In a later epistle Paul spoke to these same people as follows, "If there is anyone who believes that they belong to Christ, please re-consider that we are Christ's just like they are," (Second Corinthians 10:7). When a person claims to be joined to Christ, they must look at others like it is true for them, too. But, that's not what happens, instead what often happens is that those who only emphasize their individual and personal tie to Christ claiming "I follow Christ" end up actually being the cause of the infighting.
7. Well, this was the way it was in the church of Corinth. What should they do? Paul urges them when they were like that to, "Everyone of you, do not speak selfishly, do not be in discord, but be at one in your hearts and in your minds and be firmly joined one with the other."
8. In saying "do not speak selfishly," he doesn't mean "do not speak about what you want." This is a word with the meaning of "to state the same thing." It means to state the same words of faith. "To be at one in your hearts and in your minds" isn't mere emotional agreement in speech. It isn't merely mutual understanding and communication at the heart level. We shouldn't just have heart to heart talks with each other. Both "the heart" and "the mind" have to do with acknowledging the truth of the faith. We won't become one as long as we're irresponsible in matters of truth and we say "Let's become one in heart." We must become one in the truth of the faith. Thus, Paul is not urging them here to speak well with one another, but begins to speak about Christ and his baptism.
Baptism Into The Body Of Christ
9. Paul says, "Is Christ divided into pieces?, " (1:13). Generally, in cases where there is fighting we think that the ones who are involved in it are only the persons directly concerned. Thus, if somebody puts his or her nose into somebody else's personal affairs when he or she has no direct business in it, we might say, "This is my business. Why don't you mind your own business?" But we should not think of happenings in the church in such a way. When there are fights in it, it isn't between one person and another but it involves Christ. Because the church is the body of Christ. The head and the body are one. If we would say anything, the Bible consistently asserts the oneness of Christ as the head and the church as the body. If a person does not love the church body, he or she does not love Christ the head. If we cause division in the church body, it results in dividing Christ. Paul says about this situation, "Is Christ divided into pieces?" We must acknowledge that this is a sin against Christ.
10. In addition, to those who would say "I am following Paul," Paul primarily says this, "Was Paul crucified on the cross for you?" As I mentioned before, there were some in the church at Corinth who were in opposition to Paul. They think that those who made a claim for the aforementioned sects of Apollo, Cephas, or Christ were more or less the ones who comprised the opposition against Paul. Well, if some people have been acting hostile against us, don't we seek for many of them one by one to understand us or to become our friends? But [then], even when such a situation existed [for Paul], Paul was not happy about the existence of those who were claiming, "I am following Paul." Because for Paul it was more important for the body of Christ to become one than for him to have allies. Christ indeed is foremost important. Because he was the very one who was crucified. Paul [could] not stand equal to Christ. Even though their relationship with Paul was so important, that relationship should not be so important that they had to maintain it to the point of harming the body of Christ.
11. Paul also went on to say, "Were you baptized according to the name of Paul?" It is translated "according to the name of Paul," but originally it was the phrase "in the name of Paul." He is asking, "Did you receive a baptism wherein you were admitted into the name of Paul and joined to Paul?" No, they didn't. They should have received a baptism wherein they were brought into the name of Christ and joined to Christ. That should have specifically been the way they were added into the church. After that, Paul says because I am saying that the reason "Christ sent me was not to administer baptism, but to make the gospel known," (1:17), we shouldn't think that he is downplaying baptism. Much rather, in the text here he is regarding it as so important that he must by all means make mention of it in this matter of bonding with Christ.
12. Baptism as you know makes use of water. Water can be felt by the hand and seen by the eye. The rite of baptism is done in the church visible to the eye. There are specific and actual people there visible to the eye there. According to this, baptism is connected to an invisible faith relationship to Jesus and to a visible reality on this earth. This matter of baptism won't allow for making a relationship with Jesus into just a heart or a head activity. Because baptism connects us to the visible body of Christ.
13. Therefore, if I put it contrastively, the person who does not value baptism always ends up making faith an activity in the heart and in the head [alone]. Or at best they only regard it as much as some indispensable item in their life. It is no more than a text book mentality of the faith. Thus, what happens is that while claiming a love for Christ they are filled with contradiction where they repeatedly bring injury and destruction to the body of Christ. They even become such people who say, "I don't follow any human leader, I follow Christ."
14. A decisive event took place just once at the cross of Calvary. The scriptures turn our eyes onto that truth. The one who hung on the cross was just one, Jesus Christ. The one who actually shed his blood on this earth for us and redeemed our sin was just this one person alone. In his presence, everything is put on an equal playing field. All people and every person's experience is relativized. Becoming a christian means through baptism one is admitted into the name of just Him alone. It means to become a part of His body. The believers at Corinth needed to know this so much. I would say we too need to acknowledge this deep inside.