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"Is Christ Divided?"
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Wednesday AM Bible Study
March 7, 2007
Theme: Paul points out the danger of dividing up the body of Christ through 'schisms'.
There's something in us that loves cliques. And if it results in divisions in the body of Christ, it's a very bad thing. Among the problems that Paul addresses concerning the church in Corinth, he chooses to deal with this one first.
It's a strategic problem to deal with for two reasons. First, solving it helps bring about the sort of context (that is, a loving, mutually caring church family) that enables all the other problems to be dealt with effectively. And second, solving it helps to establish the apostolic authority of the one who is writing the letter.
It's a perpetual problem in the church; and is a sign of “carnality” in the body (see 3:1-4). And as is true of so many of the problems Paul deals with in this letter, the solution is to once again be restored to a right view of the preeminence of Christ over His church.
I. PAUL'S PLEA (v. 10).
A. Paul begins by “pleading”. The word he uses is not one that indicates a “command”; but rather, one that means to “call upon” someone to do something. And the spirit in which Paul exhorts his readers is shown in the fact that he calls them “brethren” (v. 10, 11). He speaks to them not as a superior, but as an equal in the Lord Jesus Christ. Where the grace of Jesus Christ reigns, “commands to inferiors” become “pleas to brethren”.
B. But Paul's exhortation, though gentle, nevertheless carries authority. He makes this plea to them “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Jesus truly is “Lord”; but Paul makes it clear that He is “our” Lord—a Lord and Master that he shares in common with his readers.
C. Paul's plea concerns three things:
1. That they all “speak the same things”. Here, it's Paul's concern that they bear a uniform testimony with one another. This doesn't mean that it's wrong in the church to disagree about lesser matters (an issue he'll deal with in chapters 8-10); but that they be united in the essentials (Eph. 4:1-6).
2. That there be no “divisions” among them. The word Paul uses is schisma, which basically refers to a tear in a piece of cloth. Metaphorically, it refers to a division or a schism between people. Again, this doesn't mean that there can't be disagreements amongst brethren who are unified (Phil. 3:15-16); because that wont happen until we're all in glory. But it does mean that there must not be a breaking up of the body of Christ into factions that stand in opposition to one another.
3. That they be “perfectly joined together”. The word used is one that speaks of the knitting together or mending of a net (Mark 1:19). They are to be joined and intertwined together “in the same mind” (which speaks of the area of thoughts and attitudes), and “in the same judgment” (which has to do with the area of opinions and purposes).
D. Note Paul's wisdom. Before he tells them what's wrong in their conduct, he sets before them what right behavior looks like.
II. PAUL'S CONCERN (vv. 11-12).
A. Paul says that the news of their failure to keep to this standard was “declared” to him by “those of Chloe's household”. Who this woman Chloe was isn't known to us today; but apparently she was someone who had a familiarity with the believers in the church in Corinth, and they with her. Note that this wasn't a matter of some 'anonymous' complaint. Paul let them know who it was that expressed the concern to him.
B. The concern was that “there are contentions” (the word used being a strong word for “fights” or “quarrels”) among them.
1. Paul elaborates that these contentions are of the nature of the people associating themselves by identity with certain teachers—and probably thus, certain 'factions' that drew their separateness illegitimately from these teachers. Some said that they were of Paul. It's interesting that Paul mentions this faction first—probably to defuse any idea that he approved of it. They may have identified themselves to Paul because of his strong, biblical style of teaching. Others said they were of Apollos. These probably identified themselves with a more rhetorical, philosophic approach to teaching. Still others said they were of Peter. These were probably drawn to Peter's practical, down-to-earth approach. And still others—probably very arrogantly— claimed that they were of Christ. These probably sought to disassociate themselves from any earthly teacher; and thus, discounted apostolic authority.
2. The thing that seems to have been the identifying connection with these leaders was baptism. It may be that some based these factions—according to them—on whose name it was by which they were “baptized” (see Acts 19:3). If this is so, then it underscores what a horrible thing a 'schism' spirit is in a church.
III. PAUL'S ARGUMENT (vv. 13-17).
A. Paul deals with this by, first, asking a series of rhetorical questions that draw attention to the doctrinal issue involved.
1. “Is Christ divided?” Paul asks. The very idea is outrageous! Jesus gave Himself in order to make us “one” in Him (John 17:20-21).
2. “Was Paul crucified for you?” Paul next asks. Again, the idea is unthinkable. Yet, how could the people ignore the Lord who was crucified for them in order to attach themselves to a mere man?
3. Finally, Paul asks, “Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Once again, an unthinkable idea. To speak of Paul's “name” would have meant to be baptized into all that Paul is. And who was he that it should be in his name that anyone was baptized?
B. His personal defense (vv. 14-17). This last point is further elaborated by Paul.
1. He thanks God that his ministry was not marked by baptism. This isn't because he didn't agree with doing baptisms, but because he didn't want a faction to be organized around the baptisms he might have performed—lest anyone say that they were baptized in his “name”. (He didn't to start 'the Church of Paul'; or have anyone say that they are baptized 'Paulianites'.)
2. He apparently performed some baptisms; specifically, of Crispus, the synagogue ruler (Acts 18:8), and Gaius, apparently Paul's host in Corinth when he wrote Romans (Romans 16:23). He later remembers that he also baptized the household of Stephanas, who are mentioned at the end of this letter (16:15-18). He remembers no others besides; but his mention of this, and then his additional comment about remembering the household of Stephanas, demonstrates his integrity in what he says. (Incidentally, his words here argue against the 'dictation theory' of inspiration. God's words didn't pass 'mechanically' through Paul; but Paul was “moved” or “carried along” by the Holy Spirit what he wrote. See 2 Peter 2:20-21).
3. Paul defends that this was because Christ didn't send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel. To preach the gospel would be to cast the net; but to baptize would be to gather the fish. Both roles are proper; but Paul believed his primary calling from Christ was as a “net-caster” and not a “fish-gatherer”. In fulfilling his role, Paul felt that it was vital that he not preach the gospel “with wisdom of words” (that is, with high-sounding, rhetorical style); lest people be drawn to his words instead of to the Savior. He did this so as not to make “the cross of Christ”—a humble thing that the wise of this world consider “foolish” (v. 18)—to be of “no effect”. He was pursuing life-transformation; not wisdom-appreciation.
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