1 Corinthians 1:13
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
The "contentions" in the Church at Corinth, the report of which had reached St. Paul, and which he here rebukes, were probably not the outgrowth of definite party divisions, but were individual differences as to who among the great Christian leaders should receive superior honour. They were individual strifes, however, that might develop into very serious divisions - schisms (σχίσματα) that would utterly rend asunder the fellowship of the Church. It must have been deeply painful to the apostles that they should thus be set in rivalry with one another, as if they were seeking the ends of their own vain ambition, and still more that their names should be permitted in any way to obscure the glory of the Name of their Divine Master. "Is Christ divided?" The question suggests -
I. THE ESSENTIAL UNITY OF CHRIST. Consider different aspects of this unity. As it regards:
1. His own person. In him we see the blending of the Divine and human in one glorious personality, the balance and harmony of all conceivable forms of moral excellence. No discord in his being, no flaw in his character, no failure in his life; he stands before us in every light, on every side, a complete, symmetrical, and perfect whole.
2. His redeeming purpose and the means by which he effects it. He comes to deliver men from the power of evil, to turn them from their iniquities, to restore them to fellowship with God. The end he seeks is the same for all. "There is no distinction; for all have sinned," etc. (Romans 3:22-24). And as all human distinctions are lost in the common need of salvation, so in Christ the same possibility of good is placed within the reach of all: "As through one trespass the judgment came unto all men," etc. (Romans 5:18). There is but one gospel message, and it is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."
3. The life with which he inspires those who receive him. In whomsoever it dwells this life is always one - one in its affections and energies, in the laws of its development, in the fruit it bears, in the ends to which it leads. The inspiration of a common spirit life is the grand uniting principle amid endless individual diversities. "By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body," etc. (1 Corinthians 12:13).
4. His authority as the sole Head of the Church. There can be no divided authority. In the very nature of things, Christ can own no rival. The body can have but one living head, the source of informing, guiding, and controlling power. Its own unity lies mainly in the recognition of this: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism," etc. (Ephesians 4:5, 6; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 12:5).
II. THE EVIL OF EVERYTHING THAT VIOLATES THIS UNITY. The divisions of the Church of Corinth were deprecated by the apostle as an offence against the fundamental principles and laws of the Christian fellowship. All such divisions have certain marked features of evil.
1. They exalt that which is subordinate and accidental at the expense of the vital and supreme. The form of truth is placed above the spirit, doctrine above life, the instrument above the power, appearances above realities, the shadow above the substance - creeds, systems, men, above Christ (1 Corinthians 3:4, 5). Examine them closely, and you find that all "contentions" in the Church mean this.
2. They engender mutual animosities which are destructive of the fellowship of a common life. Here lies the heart and core of the evil. Mere outward diversities are not so much to be dreaded. Schism is a thing of the spirit. It lies not in the formal separations that conscience may dictate, but in the fierce antagonisms that may unhappily, but not necessarily, grow out of them. Sectarianism consists not in the frank outspoken assertion of individual convictions, but in the bitterness and uncharitableness with which one conscience may assert itself against all other consciences. So that the very spirit of schism may inspire that passion for uniformity which would suppress individual liberty of thought and speech and action. The true schismatics are these who by their intolerance create divisions. Whatever tends to check the flow of spiritual fellowship violates the law of Christ. We do well carefully to watch against the estrangement of heart that difference of religious opinion and ecclesiastical practice too often generates, "giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).
3. They bring public dishonour on the Name of Christ. That Name is the symbol of a Divine reconciliation - the reconciliation of man to man, as well as man to God. But in this case it is made the cause of separations. Christ came to bind men together in a true brotherhood; but thus he is made a "divider." "Where jealousy and faction are there is confusion and every evil work" (James 3:16). And thus the very essential principle and purpose of the Saviour's mission is falsified, and occasion is given to the enemy to blaspheme. Few things have a more disastrous effect in discrediting the Christian cause than the bitterness of contending parties in that Church which is "the pillar and ground of the truth."
4. They squander and dissipate energies that ought rather to be devoted to active service in the Lord's kingdom. Think of the waste of spiritual force these divisions involve! If half the enthusiasm mere partisanship has engendered had been expended on some real substantial work for the good of humanity and the glory of God, how blessed the results might have been! In one sense, of course, all zeal for truth, however subordinate the position of the particular truth may be, is for the good of humanity and the glory of God; but to be contending for the maintenance of comparatively trivial points of difference in violation of the spirit that ought to harmonize all differences, and of the grand responsibilities of the Christian calling, is to be guilty of "tithing the mint and the anise and the cummin, to the neglect of the weightier matters of the Law."
III. THE CURE FOR THESE EVILS. There is but one cure - to keep Christ in all the glory of his being and the supremacy of his claims habitually before our minds, and to open our hearts freely to the inspiration of his Spirit. This will raise us above the littleness and meanness of party strife. A lofty object of contemplation and a high moral purpose must needs have an elevating and ennobling influence on the whole man. It will subdue within us all base affections, will rebuke our personal vanity, will enlarge our sympathies, will chasten our lesser enthusiasms. We shall not be in much danger of helping by our influence to violate the unity of the great household of faith, when our souls are filled with the full orbed glory of the undivided Christ. The expansive Spirit he gives will teach us to say, "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?