Summary: Unity in the church, No Christianity without the cross!
In our reading of 1 Corinthians Ch 1 we read of the Apostle Paul writing to the Church at Corinth, in difficult times and in difficult circumstances. The passage is about the divisions caused by certain individuals within the Church. So Paul again seeks to set forth the message of a Crucified and risen redeemer. He seeks to set forth a message of a need for unity, faith and trust in the Church. And he appeals to his people to place that trust and faith first and foremost in the person and purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Corinth was a place of great wealth. A city set at the heart of one of the most important trade routes of the ancient world. A thriving, busy and important city. My scripture tells me that it was also known or had a reputation for sexual immorality, religious diversity and corruption.
In Acts ch 18 we read of the very beginnings of the Church at Corinth, of that man Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue of whom it gives this wonderful testimony, “he believed in the Lord together with his entire household”. Interesting to read too earlier in that passage how we read of Paul testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus, and it says when they opposed and reviled him he shook out his garments and said to them “your blood be on your own heads I am innocent. From now on I will go to the gentiles”. Paul takes up here his calling and commission as Apostle to the gentiles, and how much the richer we are for it!
These were difficult times and circumstances, mixed cultures, immorality, wealth and discord. How like the country and circumstances in which we live today. Sadly how like the Church today. This was Paul’s Church; he had much to do with its beginnings. It could be said however that this church was pulling itself apart over disputes of leadership and following. Some said they followed Apollos maybe because of his wonderful gift of language and eloquent speech, some claimed Paul himself for his apparent spirituality, other Peter or Cephas maybe because of age or because of the maintained stance on circumcision and ritual. Others maintained no leadership short of Christ.
Many today are looking for that great preacher or leader to turn men and women to God in some great revival. Sometimes I feel like that! The folly is that so often it is belief in a man, or woman and not in the one who sends him! That is what sells Christians today short. At Corinth It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with any of these leaders; they were all great men of God, rather when we elevate mere men, however great they are, we can be distracted from following the Lord.
Paul addresses them firstly by setting his position forth as a man called by the will of God to be an apostle. So often we see Paul, perhaps because of his beginnings as a persecutor of the Christian church, having to re state his position.
In Romans “Paul a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an Apostle”. In Philippians “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus”. And that classic statement, perhaps the best of all from his letter to the Galatians “Paul an Apostle not from men nor through man but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead”
Paul perhaps had this identity issue, or perhaps he heard those doubtful accusations that followed him, which meant he needed to state and re state both himself and his purpose. Not being one of the original twelve Apostles or disciples he feels a need to state his calling. Here was a man of great learning, an accomplished scholar as we have studied earlier; he had sat at the feet of the greatest spiritual leaders of the day. Of impeccable background, he didn’t come from any ordinary background; rather he was an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin. Deuteronomy ch 33 v 12 Moses states his final blessings on the tribes of Israel just before his death. Mathew Henry says Benjamin is here called beloved of the Lord the father of this tribe was Jacobs’s beloved son, the son of his right hand, and he calls us to note that those are blessed indeed who are called beloved of the Lord. This was the tribe that remained faithful with Judah in the revolt at the time of King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Read 2 Chronicles chapter 11. This was the tribe who could claim faithfulness to the Davidic line, the line from which was to come Messiah; they were faithful to God and his call.
Mount Mariah on which the temple was built was in Benjamin’s territory, so we have that statement Deuteronomy 33 v 12 “The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety. The high God surrounds him all day long and dwells between his shoulders.”