Summary: This was the first problem Paul dealt with in his letter to the Corinthians because a divided church won’t last long.
The church at Corinth was in a sad state. The fellowship of the church was about to collapse. Listen to some of the things that were occurring and see if they sound familiar: verbal accusations, differing opinions, competitive positions, power struggles, envy contention, grumbling, griping, complaining, murmuring, quarreling, attacking, and gossiping. It was believer against believer. A severe split was about to take place.
So in Paul’s letter to them, this was the first problem he dealt with because a divided church won’t last long. There were a lot of other problems that needed to be dealt with and Paul does deal with them in this letter but the people couldn’t handle ANY of the problems if they were not one in spirit and mind.
The ministry of ANY church cannot effectively go on until the people of the church stand together. Worship, missions, reaching out and ministering to others will all be affected.
But thank God there is an answer to every division in every church. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, gives eleven answers or solutions to division in a church. The answers are sound. In fact, these answers will pull any divided church together if the people are willing to listen. Paul doesn’t start giving the answers until verse 17 and the answers continue through chapter 4.
In tonight’s portion of the letter, Paul emphasizes the problems in the church before he gets to the answers. READ v. 10.
Paul begins by exhorting them to agree. Notice that Paul doesn’t have fire in his eyes or a fight in his heart. There’s no trace of anger when he writes. His heart is tender and full of joy. He graciously appeals to the Corinthians. He says, “I appeal to you.” He pleads and begs them. He calls them brothers twice in just two verses.
The exhortation is strong. It’s direct and straightforward. There should be no problem in understanding it, because it is plainly and simply stated. He exhorts them to agree in speech—quit talking against each other, accusing, attacking, murmuring, grumbling, griping, complaining, and gossiping. Quit using the tongue to stir dissension and division.
He tells them to allow no dissension “among you.” This division is not outside the church. It is inside. Paul saw this church as fuming and fighting from within. All the problems didn’t come from outside the church and cause the division. They started from inside the church, believer against believer.
Paul asks them to be “perfectly united in mind and thought.” The Greek words used in this verse gives the idea of a torn net being repaired and mended, or a man’s broken and dislocated limb being restored to its proper place. The union is to be both in mind and thought. So the exhortation is for the Corinthian church to restore itself—not just to be united together—they are to be perfectly united together in mind and thought.
READ v. 11. The problem of quarrelling had gotten so bad that some believer within the church went to Paul about the matter. Just who he was in not known. We just know that he was from the house of Chloe, who was apparently a believer well known to the Corinthians.
Chloe was probably a citizen of Ephesus and not of Corinth because Paul would never have identified his source of information if that person had lived in Corinth. Some of the arguing parties might turn against Chloe and her household. Paul was writing to Corinth from Ephesus, so a member of Chloe’s household probably reported the matter to Paul on some return trip from Corinth.
The nature of the division of the church is more clearly defined by the word “quarrels.” There was a severe strife between factions and cliques in the church.
READ v. 12. Everyone was exalting some former minister over the other ministers of the church. Those who weren’t exalting one minister over the other were becoming super-spiritual by proclaiming they were followers of Christ, not of man.
Let’s take a quick look at what were probably the three basic problems causing the division in the church.
1. There was the problem in preaching ability and style. There was no difference in the messages preached by Paul and Apollos. They both preached the gospel of Christ, but there was a difference in their style of preaching and ministering. Acts 18:24 tells us that “Apollos was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 2 Cor. 10:10; 11:6 says Paul was not a great orator. So some undervalued Paul as a preacher and supported Apollos. They failed to see God’s distinct call and gifts to each minister.
Paul was gifted in understanding the Scriptures and as an administrator in church order. Paul excelled in strengthening believers, in growing disciples, and in establishing churches. He was a church planter. Based upon what we read in verse 12, it looks like the Apollos followers began to intellectualize and socialize Christianity and were turning away from why the church existed which was to follow the doctrine of salvation in Christ and that believers needed to walk in Christ day by day.