1 Corinthians 1:10-16
Now I beseech you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing…
I. THERE WERE FOUR PARTIES IN THE CHURCH AT CORINTH.
1. Those who held by Paul himself. They owed to him their salvation; and having experienced the efficacy of his gospel, they thought that there was no other efficacious mode of presenting Christ to men. So probably they fell into the mistake of all mere partisans, and became more Pauline than Paul, and were in danger of becoming more Pauline than Christian.
2. Those who were grouped round Apollos, who watered what Paul had planted. He fitted the gospel into their previous knowledge, and showed them its relations to other faiths, and opened up its ethical wealth and bearing on life. His teaching was not opposed to Paul's, but supplementary of it; and 1 Corinthians 16:12 shows that there was no jealousy between the two men.
3. Those who gloried in the name of Cephas, the apostle of the circumcision, whose name was used in opposition to Paul's as representing the original group of apostles who adhered to the Jewish law. Extreme Judaizers would find in this party a fruitful soil.
4. That which named itself "of Christ." From 2 Corinthians 10:7-12:18, it would appear that this party was led by men who prided themselves on their Hebrew descent (1 Corinthians 11:22), and on having learned their Christianity from Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 10:7). They claimed to be apostles of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:13) and "ministers of righteousness" (1 Corinthians 11:15); but as they taught "another Jesus," "another spirit," "another gospel" (1 Corinthians 11:4), Paul does not hesitate to denounce them as false apostles.
II. THE APOSTLE HEARS OF THESE PARTIES WITH DISMAY. What, then, would he think of the state of the Church now? There was as yet in Corinth no outward disruption; and indeed Paul does not seem to contemplate as possible that the members of the one body of Christ should refuse to worship their common Lord in fellowship with one another.
1. The evils attaching to such a condition of things may no doubt be unduly magnified; but the mischief done by disunion should not be ignored. The Church was intended to be the grand uniter of the race; but instead of this, the Church has alienated friends; and men who will do business and dine together, will not worship together. Had the kingdom of Christ been visibly one, it would have been without a rival in the world. But instead of this the strength of the Church has been frittered away in civil strife. The world looks on and laughs while it sees the Church divided over petty differences while it ought to be assailing vice, ungodliness, and ignorance. And yet schism is thought no sin.
2. Now that the Church is broken into pieces, the first step towards unity is to recognise that there may be real union without unity of external organisation. The human race is one; but this unity admits of numberless diversities. So the Church may be truly one in the sense intended by our Lord, one in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, though there continue to be various divisions and sects. As amidst all diversities of government and customs it is the duty of States to maintain their common brotherhood and abstain from tyranny and war, so it is the duty of Churches, however separate in form of government, to maintain and exhibit their unity.
3. There may be real union without unity in creed. This unity is desirable; and Paul entreats his readers to be of one mind.
(1) True, the Church has gained much by difference of opinion. Were all men to be agreed there might be a danger of truth becoming lifeless for want of the stimulus, and doctrine has been ascertained and developed in answer to error.
(2) But as a visitation of cholera may result in cleanliness, but no one desires that cholera may come; and as opposition in Parliament is an acknowledged service to the country, yet each party desires that its sentiments become universal; so, too, notwithstanding every good result which may flow from diversity of opinion regarding Divine truth, agreement is what all should aim at.
(3) But what truths Me to be made terms of communion? The answer is, the Church of Christ is formed of those who are trusting to Him as the power of God unto salvation. He is in communion with all who thus trust Him, whether their knowledge be great or small; and we cannot refuse to communicate with those with whom He is in communion. No doctrinal error, therefore, which does not subvert personal faith in Christ should be allowed to separate Churches. Paul was contemplating Christ, and not a creed, as the centre of the Church's unity, when he exclaimed, "is Christ divided?" In all Christians and all Churches the one Christ is the life of each. And it is monstrous that those who are virtually united to one Person and quickened by one Spirit should in no way recognise their unity. It is with something akin to horror that Paul goes on to ask, "Was Paul crucified for you?" He implies that only on the death of Christ can the Church be founded. Take away that and the personal connection of the believer with the crucified Redeemer, and you take away the Church.
III. From this casual expression of Paul we see HIS HABITUAL ATTITUDE TOWARDS CHRIST.
1. He was never slow to affirm the indebtedness of the young Christian Churches to himself: he was their father, but he was not their saviour. Not for one moment did he suppose that he could occupy towards men the position Christ occupied. Between his work and Christ's an impassable gulf was fixed. And that which gave Christ this special place and claim was His crucifixion. Paul does not say, Was Paul your teacher in religion, and did he lead your thoughts to God? did Paul by his life show you the beauty of self-sacrifice and holiness? but "Was Paul crucified for you?"
2. It was not, however, the mere fact of His dying which gave Christ this place, and which claims the regard and trust of all men. Paul had really given his life for men; but Paul knew that in Christ's death there was a significance his own could never have. It was net only human buy Divine self-sacrifice that was there manifested. Through this death sinners find way back to God and assurance of salvation.
3. This unique work, then — what have we made of it? Paul found his true life and his true self in it. It filled his mind, his heart, his life. This man, formed on the noblest and largest type, found room in Christ alone for the fullest development and exercise of his powers. Is it not plain that if we neglect the connection with Christ which Paul found so fruitful we are doing ourselves the greatest injustice, and preferring a narrow prison-house to liberty and life?
(M. Dods, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.