(based on 1 Corinthians 1:10-17)
According to Chuck Smith’s commentary, despite their giftedness, the church at Corinth was rife with carnality. This tells us giftedness does not equal spirituality. Realizing this fact should motivate us to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Paul appeals not by his own power or authority, but by the name of Jesus, that the Corinthians turn their eyes away from self-identification based on personal preferences, and instead be unified in following Jesus and proclaiming his gospel.
This appeal holds the same intrinsic value today as when Paul first voiced it. In John 17:20-21 Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
But the Church today continues to struggle to attain to such unity. What can you and I do about that? How can we end divisions and become united in mind and judgement?
Chloe’s people reported to Paul that there was quarreling among the believers in Corinth. At least they were honest and open about their divisions. They all knew where everyone stood. Today we tend to hold our disagreements close to the vest. We avoid making waves in order to keep up the appearance of unanimity. Not unlike the hypocrites Jesus called whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27), we tend to act nice on the outside while keeping those things that divide us hidden inside.
Those in the church of Corinth were outwardly drawing their lines of distinction:
“I follow Paul.” “I follow Apollos.” “I follow Cephas.” “I follow Christ.”
I include “I follow Christ” in this list of divisions because it was used in a quarrelsome way, coming from an attitude of superiority. Those who used this phrase weren’t actively seeking unity, but justifying their own judgementalism, implying, “I am right and you are wrong”.
In Paul’s rabbinical style he responds with three rhetorical questions:
“Is Christ divided?” “Was Paul crucified for you? “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
The Corinthians well knew what Paul was saying. And so should Christians today. Christ did not call Paul for recognition and acclaim. Nor does he call any person to be elevated above others in some special church hierarchy. In Mark 10:45 he said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And he told his disciples, “…he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (Luke 9:49).
Modeling the Great Commission, Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He was simply called to preach the gospel, not with words of eloquent wisdom lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17).
This is the church’s single unifying purpose — not the eloquence or wisdom of individual messengers, but the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). We can all take steps to deny our “selves”, lay aside our various pet preferences and opinions, turn to Jesus and find our unity in him. Unless we do, we will never really be able to love one another (John 13:34-35).
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)