Divisions over Preacher Loyalty — Paul begins this section of the letter with a description of the problem of divisions as “Chloe’s people” have reported it to him. The Corinthians are exhibiting a haughty devotion to one or another of various Christian preachers.
10 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 judgment.
- Appeal. Grk parakalo, meaning to urge.
- This should be a very familiar term. How many times have you seen this term in Paul’s writings? This is a favorite such term of Paul, occurring 54 times in his letters.
- Paul’s appeal is three-fold:
- That all of you agree
- That there be no divisions among you
- That you be united
- The authority for this appeal is the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- That all of you agree. Grk “that you all say the same thing.”
- Divisions. Grk schismata, related to schizo meaning to tear or to rend.
- Jn 7:40-43. When they heard Jesus’ words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him.
- Jn 9:16. Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.
- Jn 10:19-21. There was again a division among the Jews because of Jesus’ words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
- Same judgment. Grk “same purpose.”
- Paul is emphasizing the unity of doctrine in the local assembly, not the spiritual unity of his universal Church.
- Doctrinal unity, based completely on Scripture, must be the foundation of all church life. Weak commitment to doctrine will severely weaken a church and destroy true unity. In its place, there can be only shallow sentimentalism or superficial harmony. (paraphrased from John MacArthur Study Bible notes)
- Jn 17:11, 20-23 [Jesus praying about his disciples and the Church]. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…. 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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
- The demand here is also for external unity “in decisions made among themselves—unified in truth by beliefs, convictions standards, and in behavior by applied principles of living. The only source of such unity is God’s Word which establishes the standard of truth on which true unity rests.” —John MacArthur
11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.
- Reported. (Gk. dēloō) means to “show,” “make clear,” or “reveal” something.
- Chloe’s people (Gk. tōn Chloēs, lit., “the ones of Chloe”) may have done this by an oral report.
- Cf 1Co 5:1. It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…
- Cf 1Co 11:18. When you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.
- Who was Chloe?
- Chloe’s identity and location are unknown, as well as whether these people are friends, business associates, family, or servants from Chloe’s household. We don’t even know whether Chloe was male or female.
- Chloe was probably an important or influential person in the church in Corinth.
- The only thing we know is that Chloe was known to the church in Corinth.
- Quarreling. Grk erides (from eris).
- This is much stronger than schismata in v10. One cannot be civil while manifesting eris.
- Ro 1:28-29. Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.
- Ro 13:13. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.
- 2Co 12:20. I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
- Gal 5:19-21. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
- 1Ti 6:3-5. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
- Some say the Corinthian Christians were divided into factions on the basis of who had baptized them (v14–17). I think this is reading too much into this passage.
- The main point here is that they were divided into factions. Why is really irrelevant, and I’m not convinced Paul’s statement on baptism later in this passage points to the reason for the factions.
- I think the fact that there were very few people who were baptized by Paul (see v14-15) points to baptism not being the primary basis for the divisions. If it were, those claiming to follow Paul would be very few.
- Who was Apollos? Paul knew Apollos well as we see from this letter.
- 1Co 16:12. Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.
- Apollos’ rhetorical skills were impressive, and the Corinthian Christians had received him gladly after Paul’s departure.
- Ac 18:24-9:1. Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.
- Cephas is the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek name Peter. Both names mean rock in their respective languages and both refer to the apostle Peter.
- Jn 1:40-42. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
- 1Co 15:3-6. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
- Gal 1:18. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days.
- See also Gal 2:7-14.
- Unlike Paul, Cephas was married and may have traveled to Corinth with his wife.
- 1Co 7:6-9. As a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
- 1Co 9:3-5. This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?
- Apparently one faction in Corinth, claiming to be above it all, took the slogan “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
- Paul uses rhetorical questions to address this problem. These questions are designed to show the absurdity of unquestionably following any human leader.
- These questions all anticipate a negative answer. Questions prefaced with μή (me) in Greek anticipate a negative answer. This can sometimes be indicated by using a “tag” at the end in English (e.g. NET “Paul wasn’t crucified for you, was he?”).
- No church authority should be given the loyalty that belongs only to Christ. When a leader is elevated to that status, it leads to divisions in the church. In extreme cases, where a leader is the sole recipient of such elevation, it leads to that local body becoming a cult.
14-15 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.
- Crispus was a synagogue ruler in Corinth before he was converted to Christianity by Paul’s preaching there.
- Ac 18:8. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household.
- Since Romans was written from Corinth, Gaius may have been Paul’s host mentioned in Romans 16.
- Ro 16:23. Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you.
16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)
- As far as I can tell, nothing is known of Stephanas.
- I do not know. Does an admission of a lack of knowledge indicate that Paul’s writings here are not inspired? After all, isn’t Paul writing what the Spirit is telling him to write? How can the Holy Spirit of God not know something?
- The doctrine of inspiration does not mean that Paul was taking dictation from the Holy Spirit. It means that everything God wanted Paul to include in his letter was included, and that without error. It was Paul that didn’t remember whether or not he baptized anyone else, not God. And it is not important for the letter to include more details besides the fact that Paul didn’t remember.
17a For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel,
- Not … to baptize. Baptism is subordinate to the proclamation of the gospel, though Paul does consider baptism important.
- Ro 6:3. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
- Col 2:11-12. In him … you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
- Hearing and believing the gospel, unlike baptism, is essential to salvation.
- Ro 10:17. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
- 1Co 1:21. Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
- Eph 1:13-14. When you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
- Luke made Paul’s mission clear in recording Paul’s retelling of his conversion experience to King Agrippa II.
- Ac 26:16-18 [Jesus speaking to Paul]. Rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
- The Corinthians need to center their lives on the gospel, not on the various preachers in whom they can take pride.
This passage starts a major section of this letter (going through chapter 4) on a very serious issue within the Corinthian church, that of divisions. In this passage, Paul addressed the issue of divisions over loyalty to different preachers. The Corinthians’ pride had led them to value outward appearance and eloquence over the genuine work of the Spirit.
There is a serious problem in many churches, that of what has been called pastor worship. In some churches leaders are not to be questioned; their words are to be accepted as truth without question or investigation. This is one modern-day example of the issue described in the Corinthian church, though usually it escalates to a cult-like status rather than internal divisions.
Another modern-day example is that many Christians like to follow their favorite speakers, pastors, or authors, and cannot accept any criticism of their teachings. They will defend their favorite teachers ad absurdum. When error is pointed out to them, they will swear to the end that their teacher’s interpretation of Scripture is the only correct one, even if they cannot understand or explain why.
In Acts 17:10-11, Dr. Luke commends the Jews in Berea for not blindly accepting what Paul claimed.
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Luke saw the Bereans as “more noble” in their looking to the written words of Scripture as their final authority, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. By commending this activity, Luke encourages this searching of the Scriptures as a pattern for all believers.
Though I’ve stressed the problem of following our favorite teachers and leaders too blindly—because I believe that’s a major problem today that this passage brings up—the underlying issue that Paul is addressing is that of divisions in the church. It just so happens that in the church in Corinth, the divisions were based in part on people’s favorite leaders. We’ll look at more on this as we continue in our study of this section on divisions in the church.