Summary: A call for unity based in our common experience of Christ, our baptism into Him, and the preaching of the cross.
AN APPEAL FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
The Apostle Paul had heard from some members of the household of Chloe that cliques were forming in the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:11). A report from Chloe was evidently serious enough to raise Paul’s concerns; and at the same time Chloe was respected enough for Paul not to hesitate in disclosing his source to the erring congregation. These groups were evidently labelling themselves by different Christian teachers, and were intolerant of anyone who varied from their own idiosyncrasies (1 Corinthians 1:12).
It is not uncommon, even to this very day, to find disparate groups within the church who are so at odds with each other that they seem determined to tear the church apart. It is very sad to see brethren who were at College or seminary with one another rending whole churches over personalities, or about special interests which may or may not have the mark of apostolicity about them. Such things should not be, and have done untold damage to the witness of the church down through the ages.
Paul was appalled at this situation, and pleaded with the brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to find some common ground (1 Corinthians 1:10).
The Apostle was not calling for a boring uniformity, but for a dynamic unity based in:
(a) the common experience of Christ;
(b) our baptism into Him (1 Corinthians 1:13); and
(c) the preaching of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Paul found it not at all flattering that his name had been attached to one of these groups - but recognised that the greatest insult was to the Lord Himself, and to the integrity of His body (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
The three rhetorical questions in 1 Corinthians 1:13 all expect a negative answer:
(a) Christ is not divided, and neither should His body (the church) be divided;
(b) Of course Paul was not crucified for us – and neither was Apollos or Peter, or anyone else but Jesus; and
(c) Neither were we baptised in the name of Paul, or anyone else, but in the name of Jesus.
It is a very human touch when Paul tries to remember who he personally baptised (1 Corinthians 1:14-16). Paul recognises that baptism is a very important part of Christian initiation, but was not first and foremost what he was called to do. Paul was called to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17), and it hardly matters who got down in the water with the catechumens, as long as they were obedient to the instruction to be baptised.
Paul is in his element as he describes the simplicity of the gospel, thereby warning against the potentially diabolical effect of worldly wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17). Preaching the gospel is the same as preaching the cross of Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:18). The amazing thing is that true preaching does its own work, without the manipulative tricks of the rhetoricians.
As the word of God, the preaching of the cross will accomplish that for which it was sent (cf. Isaiah 55:11). For those who are perishing it will appear foolish: and if they are determined that it is foolishness then they will not be able to enter into its potential. For those of us who are being saved: we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the preaching of the cross is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
We have this in common with all believers;
along with our baptism into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:13); and
our participation in the Lord’s Table (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26).