The Factions At Corinth
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Now I beseech you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing…

The word translated "divisions" is the original of our word "schism," which means a "rent" as in a garment, and then a division in a society or a separation from it. These internal divisions had begun to show themselves at Corinth, if not in the form of regularly defined parties, at least as forces that were moving in that direction, and which, if not checked, might soon lead to open rupture. On what principles these divisions rested, we are left to gather from the watchwords of each.

1. The Paul party would consist for the most part of those who were the firstfruits of the apostle's labours at Corinth, and who asserted his full apostolic authority. Not content with this, they had ranged themselves under his name in opposition to others. They seem to have boasted of their liberty in respect of some things which gave offence to more scrupulous consciences, such as eating things sacrificed to idols, and to have treated uncharitably the more contracted views of the Jewish Christians.

2. The Apollos party is named after Apollos, who came to Corinth shortly after Paul's departure. He was "a Jew, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures" (Acts 18:24); and from his education in his native city he was probably well acquainted with Greek philosophy and literature. Hence his style of teaching was more learned and rhetorical than Paul's, and it attracted the more cultured among the Corinthians, who began to contrast it with the simple, unadorned style of the apostle. Agreeing in doctrine and spirit, the two teachers differed only in gifts and manner of teaching; but this did not prevent the would be philosophers and rhetoricians of Corinth from using the eloquent Alexandrian's name as a party watchword.

3. The Cephas party was mainly composed of Jewish converts, unlike the two previous parties, which were made up of Gentiles. In it we recognize the representatives of that Judaizing tendency which Paul had so frequently to combat. Bringing with them their notions of Jewish prerogative, they sought to impose the Law of Moses even on Gentile converts, and to bind about the neck of Christianity the yoke of legalism. It was natural for this party to call themselves after the apostle of the circumcision, and to contrast his eminence among the twelve with the position of Paul; while they sought to make compulsory the stricter practice of their favourite apostle, in opposition to the greater freedom allowed by the apostle of the Gentiles.

4. The precise character of the Christ party is more difficult to determine. The most likely view is that they rejected all human authority, refusing to acknowledge Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or any other eminent teacher, and calling themselves simply by the name of Christ. They did this, however, in such a way as to degrade that Name to the shibboleth of a sect, and were thus as guilty as the others whom the apostle here condemns. Among the parties of our own day there are not wanting those who disparage an accredited ministry, and call themselves simply "Christians." In view of these factions consider -

I. THE EVIL OF PARTY SPIRIT. The existence of parties and differing schools of thought in the apostolic Churches leads us to search for some root in human nature whence they spring, and this we find in the limitations and varieties of mental constitution. No single mind can take in the whole of Divine truth so as to hold it in proper balance. There is sure to be a projection of one portion to the comparative obscuring of others, - a looking only at one side of the sphere while the other is out of view. Witness the variety to be found among the apostles. While there is no contradiction in the views of truth presented in their writings - all teaching the same fundamental doctrines - we cannot read them without observing that each lays stress on a different portion of the truth from the others. The difference between Paul and James, e.g., is so evident that not a few shallow readers have pronounced them irreconcilable; while a comparison of both with John reveals other characteristics equally peculiar. And what is true of these inspired teachers is true of the Church in all ages. Christianity does not obliterate individuality. The Holy Spirit works on the lines already laid in nature, and thus the foundation is prepared for varying types of doctrine and life. This diversity is not a thing to be deplored, but rather to be rejoiced in. How high a purpose it is fitted to serve, our Lord showed in selecting apostles, each one of whom was different from his fellows. It needed minds of different hues to transmit the different rays of which the pure light is composed. And God still makes use of the many types of mind to hold up before the Church the many aspects of truth, thus enriching the general body of Christ and preventing it from becoming narrow and one sided. This is the use of different schools and parties in the Church. They serve to give expression to the many sidedness of the Christian faith and life. But how readily does this natural and useful diversity give rise to hurtful divisions in the body of Christ! We must not confound the factious spirit which Paul denounces with an enlightened attachment to one particular branch of the Church. We may prefer that branch to others because it appears to us the most scriptural in doctrine, government, and worship, without denying to other branches the marks of a true Church, or overlooking the part they play as members of the one body. Party spirit consists in elevating that which is peculiar to our own sect above that which is common to us with others, and thereby unchurching them. The progress of the kingdom of God in the earth is made subordinate to the success of our own denomination or faction. The spirit that wrought such mischief at Corinth has been busy in the Church ever since. The divisions of Christendom are the scandal of Christianity. It is not merely that the Church is everywhere split up into sections, but that this has led to party strife and jealousy. How much bitterness of feeling has it engendered! how much unchristian speaking! Men glory in their distinctive shibboleths more than in the great doctrines of grace which are our common heritage. The guns of one division of Christ's army are too often directed against another division, instead of being turned against the foe.


1. The Head of the Church is One. "Is Christ divided?" There is no schism in Christ the Head; why should there be in the body? Why rend asunder that which was intended to be one? The members of the human body have different functions to discharge, but the one does not deny to the other its due place in the body (1 Corinthians 12:12, etc.). So with the members of Christ's Church; all belong to the same body, which owns the same Head. The spirit of faction breaks up this unity into a monster of many bodies and many heads. There is but one Head and one body - one Christ and one Church.

2. Salvation is not due to human teachers. "Was Paul crucified for you?" Do you owe your redemption to him? If not, why should you call yourselves by his name? Party spirit raises the party name above that of the common Lord, thus putting the servant in the Master's place. It gives undue prominence to men, and virtually leads to idolatry. He who died for us must have no other put by his side, and no name but his own called over his chosen and ransomed Church.

3. Party spirit is opposed to the true significance of baptism. "Were ye baptized into the name of Paul?" The baptismal formula (Matthew 28:19) implies that all thus baptized are to be regarded as devoted to him whose sacred Name is pronounced over them. It involves a vow of perpetual allegiance. The administrator of the ordinance, even though he is an apostle, is of no consequence in the case. Paul thanks God that it was so ordered that he baptized only a few persons at Corinth, and that thus no pretext was afforded for calling themselves by his name. His mission was not to baptize, but to evangelize. Baptism, therefore, is hostile to party spirit, since we are not baptized into the name of man, but into the Name of the Three One. Hence, like the sister sacrament, it is a symbol and pledge and expression of the unity of the Church. That brother, from whom you differ so widely, was baptized into the same thrice holy Name as yourself. "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5).

III. EXHORTATION TO UNITY. The apostle is not content with a negative, but sets before them the positive duty of unity.

1. Unity of mind. "That ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (ver. 10). Oneness of disposition and oneness of view, in opposition to the division that prevailed. This is to be cultivated by all Christians. It was a characteristic of the early Church: "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32). When the same Spirit is dwelling in men's hearts, it will appear in unity of sentiment, opinion, and purpose with regard to religion.

2. Unity of utterance. "That ye all speak the same thing." The inner unity should find an outward expression. Hence the utility of confessions of faith as a testimony to the truth held in common, and an evidence of unity in the faith. Short of this, however, there is implied harmony in the utterances of the Church as opposed to the party cries that were heard at Corinth. Men that are at heart one should take care lest their public statements convey an opposite impression. In every free and healthy Church there will be more or less discussion, in which difference of opinion on matters non essential will be revealed; but this should be conducted in such a way as "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). There may be a saying the same thing in Paul's sense, while there is no mechanical uniformity of expression.

3. A powerful motive to unity. "I beseech you through the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ." That Name is dear to all Christians, whatever other titles they may give themselves, and a regard to it is the strongest reason that can be urged for any course of conduct. If we love Christ and seek his glory, let us cease from strife, and regard all believers as our brethren. What Christian heart can resist such pleading? - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

WEB: Now I beg you, brothers, through the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

The Factions
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