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…
How numerous these have been since Paul wrote! How many of them springing directly from human weakness, folly, or wickedness! How alien to the true spirit of Christianity, and to the prayer of Christ - "That they all may be one"!
I. A GREAT EVIL. Cause of:
1. Weakness. Cooperation hindered. Strength expended in opposing each other instead of sin and Satan. Great opportunity offered for Satanic attack. Unity is strength; division is weakness.
2. Scandal. The contempt of the world is not only experienced, but largely deserved. The Head of the Church is dishonoured. The renovator of society shows its own need of renovation. Satan has achieved a triumph in the very Church founded to overthrow him.
3. Unchristian feeling. Unity begets more love; division more hate. Church quarrels have often proved most bitter. A united Church is an Elim, a divided Church a Marah.
4. Hindrance to unbelievers. Conversions are stayed by Church divisions. Men seeking peace hesitate to cast in their lot with those who are flying at one another's throats. The strait gate is sometimes quite blocked up by bickering, quarrelling Christians. A crucified Christ invites, and a divided Church repels, the sinner. Men can find plenty of division, estrangement, hate, and fight in the world, without troubling to enter the Church. Church division is a serious stumbling block to the unbeliever, and often causes him to continue an unbeliever.
II. ARISE FROM VARIOUS CAUSES.
1. Frequently, as among some at Corinth, from favouritism towards leaders in the Church. This favouritism may be:
(1) In respect of personal qualities or position. Apollos was eloquent and captivating; Paul spiritual and simple; Cephas had peculiar charm through his long association with Christ, and represented the Jewish element to the minds of the Corinthians. Instead of enjoying all the teachers in common, folly suggested division and monopoly, and thus loss all round.
(2) In respect of real or supposed doctrinal tendencies. Some at Corinth, having a love for "wisdom of words" and the philosophies of men, would with their old and only half discarded beliefs pleading powerfully, incline towards the brilliant scholar of Alexandria, who might seem to favour a more rationalistic system than that of Paul. Others, with Jewish prejudices still strong, might shelter themselves under the name of Cephas, as they attempted to combine Christianity and Judaism by a large sacrifice of the former. Then, as now, men asked themselves what doctrines they liked, and held to these. Instead of seeking "the mind of the Lord," we are very prone to seek our own minds; and then, what wonder if there be "divisions among us"? If truth were sought instead of manufactured, how much more unity of doctrine and practice there would be in the Church of Christ!
(3) Through the carnal disposition to exalt the servant unduly, losing sight of the Master. It is easier to follow men than to follow Christ. There is a good deal of the heathen in us: we love to have a god whom we can see. We are much like the Israelites when Moses went up into the mount; and it is not, therefore, very surprising if we soon discover that our new teacher and guide is a gorgeous and resplendent calf. Only Christ is fit to be supreme in our life. Directly we put men in his place, we begin to follow that which is imperfect, and we draw its imperfection upon and into ourselves.
2. Sometimes, as with one section at Corinth, from repudiation of all earthly leaders. "We are not of Paul, or of Apollos, or of Cephas; we are of Christ." This position has been assumed in later times. It possesses not a little plausibility, but investigation discloses its true character. One has well said of the Corinthian section, "It was in no Christian spirit that they set up their claim to be of Christ." That love to Christ is more than suspicious which ignores his accredited servants. It is no great compliment to a king to reject his ambassador. The apostle could say, "We are ambassadors for Christ." Christ has a ministry which is not to be ignored. As Christ's servants are never to be put in Christ's place, so the place of Christ's servants is not to be made void. Not improbably these who claimed to be "of Christ" claimed to be the only Christians in Corinth. It is possible to cry, "Lord, Lord!" very loudly, and to have none of the Spirit of Christ. That man could know nothing truly of Christ who failed to recognize in the Apostle Paul a true servant of the great Master.
III. HOW TO BE DEALT WITH.
1. In a spirit of meekness. "I beseech you " - not "I command you." Assumption and arrogance widen the breach.
2. In love. "Brethren" - not reprobates, outcasts, heretics. Hard words make hard hearts.
3. With discretion,. Paul shows discretion in not mentioning Cephas or Apollos after ver. 12. He does not object more to the parties under their names than to the one under his own. It is most suggestive that he appears to castigate his own party chiefly. He objected to all parties. For himself, he wanted only his legitimate position. To rebuke our own followers for following us unduly and factiously is indeed a sign of grace in the heart, and of heavenly wisdom too.
4. With candour. "Concealment and mystery sow distrust and destroy love."
5. By turning thoughts towards Christ. A hidden Christ makes a divided Church. If we saw the Master more clearly, we should see the right place of the servants better. Paul beseeches, not for his own sake, but for Christ's sake. He did not fear that this would encourage those who said, "We are of Christ." He showed them the real Christ. This was the best medicine for their spiritual ailment. They had been making a Christ to go before them. Many false Christs are worshipped and served.
6. By argument. The reasonableness of unity. Paul urges that Christ is not and cannot be divided, and that if the Corinthians are Christ's, they should not be divided either. As there is only one Head of the Church, there should be only one body. By divisions Christ will seem to be rent asunder. Teachers are not centres of unity; for perfect unity there can be but one centre - that is, Christ.
7. By taking a blameless course one's self. Paul will do nothing to foster division. In his condemnation, as we have seen, he sacrifices his own party first, and ridicules the idea of the undue exaltation of himself: "Was Paul crucified for you?" Many try to heal Church divisions by abasing their opponents and exalting themselves. Paul is singularly clear in this matter; he sharply rebukes those who would transform Paul into Pope. Avoiding every occasion of increasing the evil, he rejoices that he has not baptized many Corinthians, lest this should be wrested into an attempt to acquire pre-eminence, and consequently dishonour fall upon the pre-eminent Christ. Some Church divisions may seem necessary: for example, when professors walk disorderly or embrace erroneous views. It may be then our duty to separate; yet we should preserve the spirit of charity, and seek to be most loyal to Christ. But how many Church divisions are more or less after the Corinthian type! - H.
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.