Summary: We all know that division causes problems - but where does it really come from? Paul gives us insights and warnings that any one of us could be the cause of division in our church. Find out the qualities of a good and bad leader.
For an audio copy of this message, go to: www.LivingWatersWeb.com
10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
First off, I like how Paul begins – “in the name of our Lord Jesus”. It’s not in Paul’s name or the church’s name that Paul wants divisions stopped – but in Jesus’ name. If we would only remember who it is we belong to when we backbite, quarrel, and divide – maybe we’d think twice.
Then Paul says “I appeal to …. That all of you agree with one another.” It literally means: “to say the same thing.” This doesn’t mean that we all chant the same mantra – but it’s being “perfectly united in mind and thought.” Our purposes need to be the same, our goals, our perception and our judgment.
“Division” is where we get the English word “schism.” It means to tear a garment. If you’ve been in a church where there is division it is like tearing a piece of cloth – its messy and hard, and it ruins everything. Contrast that with “to unite” which comes from the word for mending fishing nets.
When the fishermen were out there casting their nets, catching big fish – sometimes they would tear from use. You’d see them spend hours in the evening mending those nets so no fish will escape. That word picture should be in our minds – as we Christians are focused – not on each other – but on catching souls for the Lord – sometimes in the process people get bruised up and thrown around – so we should spend time mending, understanding each other, comforting each other, healing each other – instead of doing what Christians do all so well – the only army that shoots its wounded!
So with that in mind, Paul launches into the problem at hand:
11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."
The dispute that some folks from Chloe’s family brought to Paul involved people aligning themselves with different leaders. Paul spent a great deal of time in Corinth – Apollos – a gifted orator and apologist – came afterward. Perhaps Peter came through as well – each group had their “favorite” leader – to the exclusion of the other.
This is so often what happens in divisions. One leader or prominent member of the church doesn’t get his or her fair share, or their way, or they feel slighted – and everyone rallies around their favorite person. Maybe these factions formed around those that brought them to the Lord – but notice that none of the actual men named are doing the dividing – people often make up things to support their cause.
“If Apollos were here he’d give you what for – you’re wrong!” or “my apostle can beat up your apostle!” The problem is – we are focusing on man instead of God – and I find that is often the case when division happens. Either a leader puts him or herself above the Lord, or people raise up a man above what he should.
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
The problem is, when man divides the church – who really gets divided? Or as Chuck Smith says “when the body of Christ gets divided, who bleeds?”
The beginning of verse 13 is a rhetorical question – basically saying “the body of Christ should not be divided into rival groups.” The focus is on the Lord Jesus whose body we are – Paul didn’t go to the cross, and when you are baptized you are not baptized into the name of a man, but in the name of the Lord – to belong to Him – not coming under the authority of a man to the exclusion of others in the body of Christ.
14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)
This may give us a clue as to the nature of the dispute in Corinth. The lines of dispute may have formed around the leaders that first brought them to the Lord and baptized them.
In those days there were not the denominations we have today – which sprung up because of divisions over doctrine and rallying around one man over another. Baptism continues to be a source of strife within the church – some denominations claim you have to be baptized in their water or you aren’t saved. Paul I think shoots this down in verse 17: