Jul. 28. Divisions in the Church Condemned

I Cor. 1:10-3:23

After those brief introductory remarks, Paul began to address the problems of the church. They had “preacheritis.” Some of them were following their favorite preachers. They had not divided themselves into denominations yet, but left uncorrected, denominations could surely follow.

Jesus had prayed on the night of His betrayal that His disciples would remain as one, as He and the Father are one. The Corinthians had taken the first steps toward division. All spiritual blessings are found in Christ so there is no reason to follow Paul or any other human leader.

Paul was thankful that he had only baptized a few of the Corinthians lest they would say that he baptized in his own name and even more of them would be following him. He said that he was not sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel. There have been some who have used this statement to lessen the importance of baptism. In this period of rapid growth in the church, it was more efficient that one person would do most of the preaching and someone else (maybe Silas and Timothy or others) would administer the physical duties such as baptism. Remember that baptism was then and is now required for the forgiveness of sins.

It was Paul’s desire that the Corinthians would understand that the gospel was not a great philosophical wonder. He contrasted it with worldly wisdom. The gospel is foolishness to those who trust in the wise words of men, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Worldly wisdom, however, is foolishness in God’s sight and even what man may see as the foolishness of God is great wisdom.

Even though Paul was well educated, he spoke the gospel in simple language. His message was about the Christ who had died on the cross and His plan to save man through the atoning power of His blood.

Paul realized his grave responsibility to try to reach the hearts of the Corinthians. When he first began to preach to them, he was alone in a hostile environment. He then received encouragement with the arrival of Silas and Timothy and the vision from the Lord promising safety from persecution.

The Holy Spirit was guiding Paul as he wrote this letter—not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Paul referred to the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery that their rulers did not understand or accept. If they had accepted it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. He pointed out that the Holy Spirit, not man’s wisdom, had revealed this mystery to the apostles. In turn, the apostles revealed in their teachings and writings that this mystery is the gospel of Christ (the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins).

The natural man is unable to accept the things of the Spirit of God. It takes the inner spiritual side of man to understand the gospel that Paul preached to the Corinthians and to other churches.

A major problem with the Corinthian church was the lack of spiritual thinking and living. They had lived for the fleshly pleasures of life for so long that they had trouble grasping the spiritual.

Paul had been unable to teach them the advanced substance of the gospel while he was with them because of what he called their carnal lives. Even after several months since he had left them, he said that they still needed milk (basic principles of the gospel).

The divisions that Paul condemned in his letter were the result of the immature behavior of the Corinthians. He reasoned with them that he and Apollos were only mere men doing God’s work.

Paul and his associates had established the church at Corinth. Apollos had taught them after Paul had departed for other areas of work. The men who were involved with the Corinthians were not important. It was God, who must be worshipped.

As Paul continued reasoning with the Corinthians, he presented an allegory depicting the church as a building. He had laid the foundation (Jesus Christ) and others had built on it by converting new Christians.

It was not important who had taught these individuals. The importance was in the type of building material that each of these Christians represented.

These building materials in the church (Christians) are to be of the highest quality precious metals and stones—not of wood, hay or straw representing the bickering and divisions of the Corinthians.

The church will be tested by fire at the judgment and this fire will destroy the inferior Christians, but the ones who converted them will not be lost because of this wickedness.

Paul pointed out that as God dwelt in the earthly temple during the Old Testament law, He now dwells in the church, which is His spiritual temple under the New Testament law. They were defiling this temple by their divisive factions and this was displeasing to God.

The Corinthians were reminded again that in order to become wise, they must accept the ways of the Lord, which the philosophy of the world calls foolishness.