Summary: 1) The Plea for doctrinal agreement (1 Corinthians 1:10), 2) The Parties that were loyal to particular leaders (1 Corinthians 1:11–12), 3) The Principle of oneness in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:13), and 4) The Priority of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:14-17).
Tragically—though it is forbidden by God, is totally out of character with our redeemed natures, and is in complete opposition to everything our Lord prayed for and intended for His church—fighting does occur among believers, among those who are called to be one in the Lord Jesus Christ. Few things demoralize, discourage, and weaken a church as much as bickering, backbiting, and fighting among its members. And few things so effectively undermine its testimony before the world. Fractured fellowship robs Christians of joy and effectiveness, robs God of glory, and robs the world of the true testimony of the gospel.
Among the Corinthian church’s many sins and shortcomings, quarreling is the one that Paul chose to deal with first. In unity lies the joy of Christian ministry and the credibility of Christian testimony. The first need of the Corinthian church was for harmony. It is also the need of many churches today. With this discussion, Paul moves into the exhortation and instruction that occupies the rest of the epistle.
Quarrels are a part of life. We grow up in them and around them. Infants are quick to express displeasure when they are not given something they want or when something they like is taken away. Little children cry, fight, and throw tantrums because they cannot have their own ways. We argue and fight over a rattle, then a toy, then a football, then a position on the football team or in the cheerleading squad, then in business, the PTA , or politics. Friends fight, husbands and wives fight, businesses fight, cities fight, even nations fight—sometimes to the point of war. And the source of all the fighting is the same: humanity’s depraved, egoistic, selfish nature. It destroys the unity that God establishes.
In verses 10–17 he deals with four basic areas that relate to unity: 1) The Plea for doctrinal agreement (1 Corinthians 1:10), 2) The Parties that were loyal to particular leaders (1 Corinthians 1:11–12), 3) The Principle of oneness in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:13), and 4) The Priority of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:14-17).
1) The Plea: Doctrinal Agreement (1 Corinthians 1:10)
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (ESV)
To Appeal/Exhort (παρακαλῶ) does not mean “I beg” but rather “I call upon you,” “I summon,” “I admonish you.” This word is tactful and brotherly, and yet Paul is not forgetting that he writes as an apostle of Jesus Christ, v. 1. The authority he would exercise is the same whether it speaks softly or finds itself compelled to speak sternly (Lenski, R. C. H. (1963). The interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second epistle to the Corinthians (p. 38). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.).
Paul had been careful to establish his apostolic authority in the opening words of the letter. But now he appeals to them as brothers. In so doing he moderates the harshness, without minimizing the seriousness, of the rebuke. They are his brothers and each other’s brothers, and should act in harmony as brothers. Paul realizes that the quarreling of the Corinthians has not yet resulted in schism, but he knows that he must call his readers back to a living relationship with the Lord and do so pastorally and positively (Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, p. 44). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.)
They had all been “called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1:9) and are now being lovingly exhorted by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to agree, to eliminate divisions, and to be united/made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. Because they were one in fellowship with their Lord, they should be one in fellowship with each other. Their unity in Jesus Christ was the basis for Paul’s appeal for unity among themselves. As in many of Paul’s letters, believers’ identity with Christ is the pad from which he launches his call to holy living. To be perfectly united does not mean that Paul required everyone to be exactly the same. Instead, he wanted them to set aside their arguments and focus on what truly mattered—Jesus Christ as Lord and their mission to take the light of the gospel into a dark world (Barton, B. B., & Osborne, G. R. (1999). 1 & 2 Corinthians (p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.).
What we think, say, and do is right or wrong not primarily because of its effect on us or on others but because it does or does not conform to Christ and bring honor to Him. Our behavior as believers has its most direct relationship to Jesus Christ. When we sin or complain or quarrel, we harm the church and its leaders and our fellow believers. We also put a barrier between unbelievers and the gospel. But worst of all, we bring dishonor to our Lord.