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 judgement. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarrelling among you, my brothers.
Last week I highlighted the wonderfully positive remarks by Paul in the opening verses of this book. We also noted the gracious conclusion of the Epistle in Paul’s own hand.
Paul does not, however, shy away from the issues that needed challenging in the life of the Corinthian Church. His first target is the disunity that was apparent among the People of God. It seems that there were various groups who claimed allegiance to individual itinerant preachers by whom they had probably been baptized. Cephas refers to Peter who had travelled to Corinth with his wife and evidently made a particular personal impact on the believers. Apollos was well known to Paul and likewise made a significant impression on the Church following Paul’s departure. There was even a faction who apparently perceived themselves to be somewhat superior to all the others and are identified as those who exclusively follow Christ in some special way.
Paul had proclaimed one Gospel in the power of the cross of Christ. It must have been immensely distressing that after so short a time believers in Corinth were following the opinions and practises of other Church leaders. The disunity that resulted was painful to him and he robustly challenged the situation.
Our unity in Christ is at the very core of our faith, yet division has plagued us for centuries. On the big stage we have division between the Eastern and Western Church; between Catholic and Protestant; between reformed and liberal and charismatic. At the denominational level we have every complexion you can imagine and within the local Church we are not without culpability. Division within the local congregation may well be different and involve personalities and preferences, but the record of Jersey Churches for instance isn’t very impressive.
I recall the banner across the entrance to the marquee in Keswick on the first occasion I attended the convention there in 1956 – “ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS” – that is a bold and unequivocal statement – and it’s absolutely, gloriously, wonderfully true. There is only one family of God. (RS)