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”