Paul had been told about problems in the church at Corinth. As it seems that he had established this church (Acts 18) he obviously feels the responsibility to do something about it. The first problem Paul addresses, although it may seem minor, is something that could split and ultimately destroy the fellowship.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-
10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised into the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no-
During this series of studies I want to try to cover each verse but first we’ll look at verses 14-
Paul didn’t want to get side-
Where does division in the church begin?
Usually when two people are not able to agree. This could be over a major point of doctrine, or perhaps the colour of the carpet.
There can be two different problems here: The first is where two people are simply unable to agree with each other. Friends then take sides and a split becomes inevitable. This was a problem in the Philippian church.
(Philippians 4:2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.)
What has caused division in the church historically?
It is not necessary to list any specific problems – rather point out the many denominations in existence today, and even sub-
I say ‘I believe in Creation’, someone else says ‘I believe in Evolution’. I will never change my opinion – and neither will they. Someone else will have strong views on the second coming. Others would be Calvinistic rather than Arminian.
So how we all ‘agree in the Lord’?
However passionately I believe what I do, I won’t force my ideas on others.
In fact I wouldn’t discuss the topic at all if we can’t do it in love (on both sides)! We must simply agree that we have different opinions.
Sometimes this occurs between leaders in the church, and they themselves may happily continue to work together without any problem. But there may be those in the congregation who will take sides, and align themselves behind one or the other. Then divisions can occur.
We need to remember that some of the more religious Jews would have been used to happily spending time listening to their favourite Rabbi, and arguing points of scripture among themselves. Greeks too would have loved a good philosophical argument and they too would have had their own favourite Philosophers.
In the church at Corinth, and in many churches today, there was a problem caused by strong personalities with different views on different points of doctrine.
We saw in our first study that the church at Corinth was started by Paul. Apollos, who had become a skilful and powerful preacher, then took over the leadership.
Read Acts 18:24-
24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
Did it matter that Apollos had a different view if he ‘taught about Jesus accurately’?
Appolos was accurate in what he taught, but it is probable that his understanding was the same as the others at Ephesus that Paul met in Acts 19:1-
That could have caused problems in the new church at Ephesus. How was that dealt with?
Read Acts 18:27-
27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
19:1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus.
Paul was obviously happy to leave the new church in Corinth in the hands of Apollos as he moved on. Paul believed he himself had been sent to the Gentiles, and he did not agree that the old Jewish customs were important. But The Apostle Peter was a different proposition. He believed that he had been sent to the Jews and liked the old practices to continue.
Read Galatians 2:6-
6 As for those who were held in high esteem – whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favouritism – they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognised that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.
And verse 14:
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
It is quite likely that news of Peter’s preaching would also have reached the Corinthians and some were drawn to that.
The church at Corinth was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Already the congregation would have been biased based on their original ethnic differences. To find preachers that agreed with your way of thinking would have been quite logical. But this had led to factions in the church.
Those converted under Paul (probably many of them Greeks) no doubt felt strong allegiance to him. Others preferred the preaching style of Apollos. Others (maybe mainly Jews) readily accepted Peter’s position. Still others, demonstrating their superiority, would say they followed Christ alone. But these views led to quarrels (1 Corinthians 1:11) and it was dividing the
Each member of a church has an individual responsibility here. We all have personal preferences and if we can’t have our own way we must learn to be gracious. But there may come a time when we feel that we have a problem that is so serious, we can’t ignore it any longer, and we need to share it with a friend.
Write on board: STAGES OF A PROBLEM
That may look straightforward but
Suppose I had a bar of chocolate – a Bounty – and I asked ‘can I share it with you?’ My intention would be that you take half of it away with you. But it doesn’t work that way with problems
When someone asks to share their problem they really want you to take not half, but all of it away. Unfortunately what usually happens is that not only are they still left with it, but now you have a copy of it as well. The danger is that this could produce two people with the same problem. What we want is no-
So what we must do is ask them to explain their problem.
It is important to listen carefully, perhaps repeat it back so you know you have understood. So you can say: ‘Yes I understand your problem’. or: ‘I understand why you have this problem’.
But of course the next thing they will ask is
No! Stop to think! Don’t immediately agree!
Then, EITHER say: ‘I don’t agree it is a problem because ..... ‘
Or: ‘I agree it is a problem – for you, and
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot:
What should we do if we feel we have a valid concern and need to share it
with someone? How can we do it without offloading it onto them?
(Discuss – there will be many views!)
We must also be alert for people who want you to agree with a judgement
that they have made. ‘Well I didn’t think much of ……(perhaps: the message / the music / the meal / the coffee /………….) Wasn’t it terrible?’ This is just the same as what we saw above – someone has a problem and wants to share it.
But what actually is their problem? The basic problem is a judgmental attitude. But it has arisen from what has just happened – perhaps the person has been annoyed / disturbed / become jealous / been frightened etc
Again, never be tempted to say ‘yes, I agree’ (even if you do). A better immediate response would be to answer their question with a question.
What could you ask?
How about: ‘Why do you say that?’ That should at least buy you some time to think!
Sometimes the interpretation of scripture can lead to division. Paul and Peter were among the first to grapple with doctrine in the early church, but it has taken hundreds of years to sort out much of what is currently accepted and there is much disagreement still.
Probably the most obvious example was between Calvin and Arminian and those who have supported one or the other throughout history! And the
many hours spent arguing about predestination, without conclusion, should have been time spent preaching the gospel. And the doubts put into people’s minds by skilled debaters have actually resulted in weakening their faith.
So how should we deal with our own problems? We must consider the seriousness of our problem in the light of the work that Jesus has given us to do – not is it affecting our ministry, but rather is it affecting the ability of
Christ to use us?
What’s the difference? In what way is what we do for Jesus different to how
he wants to use us?
If our problem is serious and continuing, then take it to the Pastor, or a
mature Christian who is likely to be able to give a sensible reply – not just share it with a friend who you think may agree with you.
Before we leave this, let’s just look at verse 17
17 For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power
He drops in a salutary reminder (v17b) – it is the simple message of the
Cross that has amazing power.
How can it be possible to empty it of that power?
By wrapping it in our own ‘words of wisdom’.
In one sense, this was what has happened with Calvin and Arminius. Now the discussion of their ideas can became more important than the message of the cross – and so it becomes emptied of its power.
That’s a good place to stop – and to remember why we are here: Christ did
not send us to discuss our problems, or even points of doctrine, but to preach the gospel!
Martin Luther said:
‘The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my
name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians.
What is Luther? The teaching is not mine.’
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