Summary: Paul addresses the problem of church division
It is said when the British and French were fighting in Canada in the 1750s, Admiral Phipps, commander of the British fleet, was told to anchor outside Quebec. He was given orders to wait for the British land forces to arrive and then support them when they attacked the city. Phipps’ navy arrived early. As the admiral waited, he became annoyed by the statues of the saints that adorned the towers of a nearby cathedral. So he commanded his men to shoot at them with the ships’ cannons. No one knows how many rounds were fired or how many statues were knocked down, but when the land forces arrived and the signal was given to attack, the admiral was of no help. He had used up all his ammunition shooting at the “saints” (Our Daily Bread).
Too many Christians today are like Admiral Phipps. They are so occupied with attacking other saints that they are of no help --- only a hindrance --- to the cause of Christ.
TEXT: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
The church in Corinth was a divided church. Was there any hope for them? Is there any hope for us?
PROPOSITION: Though division is a problem in every church, it can be corrected by refocusing on our Lord Jesus Christ.
I. DIVISION IS A PROBLEM IN EVERY CHURCH (vv. 10-12).
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 (v. 10).
The Greek word for “divisions” is found two more times in 1 Corinthians. These passages reveal the reasons why division will always be found in a church.
A. Because unbelievers will always be in a church.
“I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (11:18-19). Paul expects some disunity in the Corinthian church because he assumes that some of its professing Christians are not genuine. So there is a “necessary” disunity in a church because of the reality of false profession.
B. Because Christians will always struggle with pride.
“God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (12:24b-25). This passage teaches us that the opposite of division is having “equal concern for each other.” Why do we find it so difficult to have “equal concern for each other”? The answer is . . . pride. Disunity is always rooted in pride. Pride is a sin every Christian struggles with.
Augustine once said, “Should you ask me: What is the first thing in religion? I should reply: the first, second, and third things therein is humility” (Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes, p. 456).
Application: I am not so naïve as to think that division is not a problem in our church.
If division is always going to be a problem, you might wonder, “Why even bother to seek perfect unity?” Paul was well aware of the barriers to church unity, but he still instructed the Corinthians, “Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace” (2 Cor. 13:11).
Pride was obviously at the root of the divisions in the Corinthian church. (Notice the word “I” in verse 12.)
My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 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” (vv. 11-12).
Certain members of Chloe’s household had informed Paul of quarreling among the Corinthian Christians. We don’t know who these people were, but the Corinthians surely would have known.
Application: In naming his informers, Paul lays down an important principle. We should not pass on news about our fellow believers unless we are willing to be quoted in the matter. If this example were followed today, it would prevent most of the idle gossip that plagues churches today.
John’s Gospel helps us to better understand the nature of the Corinthians’ division and quarreling:
At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21).
Just as the Jews had divided opinions about Jesus, the Corinthians had divided opinions about their Christian leaders.