Disunity and Fragmentation

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, 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.”

1 Corinthians 1:10-12

As we enter the first section of the letter, we might notice that Paul hasn’t provided a thesis statement, a statement that tells us what he is going to talk about in this letter. If I were writing it, I might say it this way: “It has come to my attention that there are some serious problems in your community, and I am writing to you today in an attempt to help you to correct the situation.”

I point this out because this is the first level of context that we need to keep in mind as we continue through the letter: Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to identify and correct several major problems they were experiencing in Corinth, c. 55 AD. If we forget that, we may run into difficulty understanding Paul’s comments later on in the letter.

While Paul didn’t announce his overall reason for writing the entire letter, he does clearly mark his change from one topic to another, and here we can easily see that he has moved on from prayer and thanksgiving to a discussion of disunity among the members of the congregation beginning in v. 10: Quit fighting amongst yourselves! To add gravity to his appeal, he cites his source of information, eyewitness accounts from Corinth itself from members of Chloe’s household. According to his sources, people in the church are divided by their support for individual church leaders: Paul himself, Apollos, Cephas (Peter)… and Jesus. Ironically, Paul, Peter and Apollos are all on the side of Christ – they are not supportive of this division:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

1 Corinthians 1:13-17

Apparently, people were being divided along the lines of who was baptized or brought to belief by whom in a sort of rivalry between leaders that was concocted by followers. Could this thinking be like we might find when several people are fans of a sports team, but then divide over who the team’s best player is? Naturally scholars divide over whose theory on this subject is the best, but whatever the reason for the division Paul is telling the people to knock it off.

Paul then goes on, in an interesting way, to say that he’s glad that he personally hadn’t baptized very many of them so that his faction isn’t a big mover in this division and goes on to point out that many came to relationship with Christ through his teaching, which hadn’t been terribly eloquent, lest his performance should in any way, overshadow the cross of Christ, which is the whole point of everything.

This is a lesson that would be important for all of us to take notice of, particularly those who are leaders in the church: We must never overshadow the real reason for everything: Christ. We must never encourage people to become followers of us, for we follow Christ, and anyone who is influenced by our leadership or teaching, must be focused on Christ, for in the end our jobs are to bring others face-to-face with Jesus Christ, and then we must get out of His way.

Much has been said this week about Billy Graham, and rightly so, for his was a simple message of salvation through Jesus Christ. His message was simple, clear and centered only on Christ, and so must ours be simple, clear and centered entirely on Christ.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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13 Responses to Disunity and Fragmentation

  1. BT says:

    This is the greatest need in the Body of Christ –

    I appreciate the soundness and the depth of your ministry – it is rare and needed.

    https://aword.info/2016/12/29/unity-the-natural-state-of-all-things-in-god-excerpt-coming-book/

    Blessings
    Brian

  2. Sadly, his admonishment didn’t last more than a couple hundred years, then the splits began; and, once the genie was out of the box the splits exploded. Now, like Pandora, it is too late to close that box.

  3. Steve B says:

    “While Paul didn’t announce his overall reason for writing the entire letter, he does clearly mark his change from one topic to another, and here we can easily see that he has moved on from prayer and thanksgiving to a discussion of disunity among the members of the congregation beginning in v. 10:”

    His reason for writing this letter is embedded in Verse 11. The household of Chloe had sent Paul a letter. Paul is addressing each of the concerns from the letter that was sent to him. I had missed this for years. When Paul finishes one topic he starts another from that letter. Everything up to the end of Chapter 4 is to do with division. Chapter 5 starts the topic of fornication etc etc.

  4. Amen. It is all and completely about Jesus. Great reminder.

    Be blessed.

  5. Sue Love says:

    Yes, absolutely the focal point is Jesus Christ, especially in talking about the subjects of division and unity within the church. In today’s world, and in today’s worldly church, there is also much focus on these subjects, but the central focus is not Jesus Christ but the teachings of humans, and human goals, objectives, purpose statements, mission statements and the like.

    So, often those who are truly united with Christ, but not with humanistic philosophy, get tagged as dividers because they want the focus to be on Jesus Christ and on the truths of God’s Holy Word and not on the teachings, philosophies and marketing schemes of men building their earthly businesses they call “church.” And, so they use manipulative techniques to try to shame people into unifying with them, too, using scripture out of context to try to prove anyone not on board with the worldly teaching and methods is not following scripture.

    So, just be aware that everything in the church being taught about unity and division does not come from God or from the Word of God, but some is taken out of context and is used to manipulate naive minds into conformity with a diluted gospel and the teachings and plans of human beings.

  6. Wally Fry says:

    His message was simple, clear and centered only on Christ, and so must ours be simple, clear and centered entirely on Christ.

    That was really great Don, and timely it seems. We get so bogged down in issues not related to the Gospel that we just forget it sometimes. I believe all of these things matter a lot. Things are correct, and things are incorrect. I believe God expects us to study, learn and try to get proper meaning and doctrine. But when that clouds the real message we are not doing right. 

  7. photojaq says:

    “We must never overshadow the real reason for everything: Christ.” Amen to this. If we could just remember it!

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