1 Corinthians 1:10-17 – Solving the Problem of Disunity

A translation and sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 12 Oct 2008


10. Now I am calling you over, brothers,

       on account of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

               in order that you might keep speaking the same thing

               and that there might not continue to be divisions among you,

               but that you might be mended

                      through [having] the same mind

                      and through [having] the same opinion.

       11. for it has been shown to me

               concerning you, my brothers,

               by the men from Chloe,

               that quarrels continue to exist among you.

12. Now [what] I’m saying is this: that each of you are saying, 

        “As for me, I am of Paul,”

        and, “As for me, I am of Apollos,”

        and, “As for me, I am of Cephas,”

        and, “As for me I am of Christ!”

       13. Christ has been divided!

               It wasn’t Paul who was crucified for you,

               neither were was it into the name of Paul that you were baptized!

14. I’m thankful to God that I baptized none of you

               except Crispus and Gaius,

       15. in order that no one might say that you were baptized into MY name.

               16. Now I did also baptize the household of Stephanus.

               As for the rest, I don’t know if I baptized anyone else.

       17. For Christ did not commission me to baptize, but rather to evangelize –

               [and that] not by sophistication of words,

               so that the cross of Christ would not be nullified.

I. The Problem introduced:

1. We currently have divisions in the church

A.   It was an issue in the Reformation:

§        Calvin “nothing is more inconsistent in Christians than to be at variance among themselves”

§        Yet Calvin experienced divisions in his church in Geneva. Ironically, his own commentary on I Cor. bears this out on the Dedication page: “Would that when this Commentary first saw the light, I had either not known at all, or else had known thoroughly the individual whose name, hitherto inscribed upon this page, I am now under the necessity of erasing! I have, it is true, no fear of his upbraiding me with fickleness, or complaining that I have taken from him what I had previously given, for having intentionally made it his object, not merely to withdraw as much as possible from me personally, but also to have no connection with our Church, he has left himself no just ground of complaint...”

§        Calvin had originally dedicated his commentary on I Cor. to a nobleman named Jaque de Bourgogne (a.k.a. James of Burgundy). But, during a church service where Calvin was preaching on the doctrine of predestination. A certain Mr. Bolsec stood up during the sermon and criticised predestination in favor of the free will position. Bolsec was imprisoned for this on October 16,1551. Calvin then wrote a letter to the Churches of Switzerland, urging them to kill or permanently imprison Bolsec so as to keep him from being able to escape from Switzerland and teach in neighboring countries. He wrote, “We are desirous to clear our Church from this pestilence in such a way that it will not, on being expelled from it, do injury to the neighboring Churches.”

§        Jaque de Bourgogne thought this was a bit over the top, so he wrote to the leaders encouraging them to be more moderate in their treatment of Mr. Bolsec. When Calvin caught wind of this, he got mad at Jaque and used his influence to run Jaque out of town. And he re-wrote the dedication page to his commentary on I Cor. and dedicated the book to someone else.

§        Don’t be too hard in judging Calvin, though, for he had had a rough year defending the church from the designs of Charles V and defending himself against charges of heresy instigated by two ministers of his own Consistory, both of whom were given to drunkenness.

B.   It’s an issue in Reformed churches today:

§        I was once orienting some poor soul in the various Presbyterian denominations – the PCUSA, PCA, OPC, EPC, ARP, RPCES, RPCGA… “What does RPCGA stand for?” my student asked, and before I could answer, “Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly,” my son Beni quipped: “Reformed People Can’t Get Along.”

§        In the last church were I was an assistant pastor, there was a church split several years before I arrived. The pastor had been preaching that baptism saves. Now, he may have been trying to use “save” in the wider New Testament use of the word and taking a more Anglican stance on the issue, but I think he was also trying to be provocative and get a rise out of some people. And it got ugly. That pastor took half the congregation down the street a few blocks and started another church. When I showed up years later, people in both congregations were still hurting from the rift, but no one was willing to admit fault to the other.

§        Here in Manhattan, we’ve had friends we thought would join Christ the Redeemer Church, but never did, and the main reason is that we practice infant baptism and they don’t.

§        There are lots of other things to divide over now, too. Such as:

·     Political party – In most of the circles I’ve run in for the last few years, I got the impression that it was not acceptable for Christians to be anything but Republicans. I hope this is not the case, because I’m a Constitution Party guy. We’ve got bona fide Christians here this morning who are Democrats too.

·     Age – We’re not a college student church. We’re not a young married church. We’re not a large family church. We’re not a military church. We’re all of the above – and whatever God brings together in us!

·     Education of Children – We are not the Homeschooling church. We are not the Christian School church. We are not the Public School church. We’ve got all of the above.

·     Entertainment – alcohol, movie-watching (PG-13? R?), etc.

2. Situation in Corinth

A.   The church in Corinth was divided over a lot of issues:

§        They were arguing about whether or not Christians could eat meat offered to idols,

§        They were arguing about whether or not Christians could marry,

§        They were showing off with spiritual gifts in order to prove that some were more spiritual than others,

§        People were interrupting public worship by disorderly conduct,

§        They were aligning themselves behind one Christian leader and criticizing the rest of the people in the congregation who were aligned with a different Christian leader,

§        They had a feminist group vying for power,

§        Even during communion, they were dividing into rich people at one table and poor people at another,

§        and Christians were suing each other in the public courts.

B.   Since Paul had planted the church in Corinth, he had kept tabs on the church:

§        Paul seems to have paid a second visit to Corinth before writing his epistle, For in 2 Cor. 12:4; 2Cor. 13:1-2, he speaks of his intention of paying them a third visit, implying he had already twice visited them.

·        During his three years' stay at Ephesus he could have easily hired one of the many ships that travelled between Ephesus and Corinth and revisited his Corinthian converts.

·        This second visit was probably a short one (compare 1 Cor. 16:7); and was probably painful and humiliating to Paul as he saw (2 Cor. 2:1; 2 Cor. 12:21), the scandalous conduct of so many of his own converts. (JFB)

§        Apollos had gone to Corinth with letters of commendation from Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:28-19:1), but apparently left because of factions in that church (1 Cor. 1:10-12) and returned to Ephesus. When Paul urged Apollos to go back, he declined (1 Cor. 16:12).

§        Paul then sent Timothy over to Corinth to put an end to the factions (1 Cor. 4:17), but the outcome was uncertain (1 Cor. 16:10.)…

§        Some of the household of Chloe who were familiar with the situation in Corinth had also brought word to Paul in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:5-7)

§        The church in Corinth also had sent a committee (Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus) to Paul in Ephesus.

§        And Paul had also already written a brief first letter to the Corinthians directing them "not to associate with fornicators." (1Cor. 5:9-12) That letter probably also mentioned the fund-raiser he was organizing for the poor in Jer­usalem (1Cor. 16:2) So 1st Cor. is actually Paul’s 2nd letter to them.

C.   Verse 12 mentions 4 factions in Corinth: For the most part we can only guess:

§        “I am of Paul” party:

·        May have been people converted under Paul’s ministry

·        Perhaps baptized by Paul

·        Probably liked systematic theology because that’s how Paul taught

·        Probably also were hard-core about the Gospel for Gentiles

·        Paul also had refused to be supported by a patron, but rather worked for his living at Corinth, so he may have been the blue-collar working-man’s apostle of choice

§        Apollos Party:

·        From Alexandria, Egypt – maybe black.

·        Came after Paul and baptized people. “I planted, Apollos watered” (3:6).

·        Preferred his teaching style – philosophical, rhetorical, eloquent.

·        Maybe like a Barak Obama.

§        Cephas Party:

·        Aramaic for Peter (Jn. 1:42).

·        The “real” apostle.

·        Probably name-droppers, not representative of Peter himself.

·        Probably Judaizers (Gal 2:11-14), who insisted that Gentile converts get circumcised and follow Jewish food laws and customs.

§        Christ Party:

·        Perhaps they weren’t willing to submit to any of the apostles.

·        Perhaps they thought they could hear straight from God and didn’t need the Bible.

·        Perhaps like the Christian Church of today, they got fed up with everybody’s denominationalism and conflicting creeds and tried to form a non-denomination which had “no creed but Christ” and turned into just another denomination.

D.   Archaeology and house church size in Corinth

§        Some amount of splitting up would have been natural in a home-based church.

§        Romans 16:23 - Gaius’s house was where the church in Corinth initially met.

§        Thistleton cites archaeological evidence that churches in that era tended to break up and meet in two different homes once they got up to 40 people in attendance.

§        Dividing into multiple meeting places because no one place is big enough for everybody to meet is fine.

§        There may even be cultural reasons to preserve and enjoy different historical worship traditions.

§        But splitting over schools of orthodox doctrine or splitting over interpersonal conflict was not o.k. in Paul’s book.

E.   Clement testified to continued divisions in Corinth in 95AD

§         First Epistle starts, “The Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

§         …we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury…

§         (Chapter 45) Ye are fond of contention, brethren, and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation. Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit… Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you? Have we not [all] one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And have we not one calling in Christ? Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that “we are members one of another?” Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how He said, “Woe to that man [by whom offences come]! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about [his neck], and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones.” Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all…

§         Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached? Truly, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because even then parties had been formed among you. But that inclination for one above another entailed less guilt upon you, inasmuch as your partialities were then shown towards apostles, already of high reputation, and towards a man whom they had approved. But now reflect who those are that have perverted you, and lessened the renown of your far-famed brotherly love. It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that such a thing should be heard of as that the most stedfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters. And this rumour has reached not only us, but those also who are unconnected with us; so that, through your infatuation, the name of the Lord is blasphemed, while danger is also brought upon yourselves.

§         (Chapter XLVIII.) Let us therefore, with all haste, put an end to this [state of things]; and let us fall down before the Lord, and beseech Him with tears, that He would mercifully be reconciled to us, and restore us to our former seemly and holy practice of brotherly love… Let a man be faithful: let him be powerful in the utterance of knowledge; let him be wise in judging of words; let him be pure in all his deeds; yet the more he seems to be superior to others [in these respects], the more humble-minded ought he to be, and to seek the common good of all, and not merely his own advantage.

F.    We see here some of the solutions proposed by Clement of Rome, a godly man a generation after Paul, but let us look at what Paul himself writes in I Cor. 1 about the solution to this problem:

II. God’s solution:

1. Fight against church splits by maintaining a unified front and working to be mended in the same thinking patterns.

A.   The father of Alexander the Great perfected a fighting technique that made the Macedonian army almost invincible. It has been nicknamed the “Turtle” formation, because the soldiers would form patterns where everyone’s shield was positioned facing the enemy so that the whole army was covered by a “shell” and not vulnerable to arrows.

§        Imagine what would have happened, however, if two soldiers were to get mad at each other and turn their spears and shields to face each other? They would then become vulnerable to the enemy’s arrows because their shields wouldn’t be facing the enemy anymore. As Christians, we need to maintain a unified front so that we don’t get taken out by our own in-fighting.

B.   Paul’s words in v.10 are literally “keep speaking the same thing” rendered “agree” in the modern English versions.

§        There’s a group of pastors here in Manhattan that I pray with about once a month. One is Nazarene, one is Southern Baptist, one is Independent Baptist, one is Charismatic, one’s in a home church, a couple are non-denominational, but when we pray, we start saying the same thing together. I agree with my Charismatic brother when he prays for healing. I do some soul-searching along with the Nazarene pastor as he prays. I say Amen a bit more when my black brother prays, and I agree with him when he prays for city issues I’ve never thought to pray about before. We use scripture as a common language to unite us.

§        Reformed zealots are notorious for confronting quickly every problem they perceive with other people’s theology. There is a time for some of that, but as a general rule, we must find ways to show as much solidarity as we can with others who share faith in Jesus Christ.

C.   Paul uses a term for mending fishing nets (Mt. 4:21) toward the end of v.10 - translated “perfectly joined together/united/made complete” in some versions. The word means “to put in order, restore to former condition” (Arndt &Gingrich).

D.   How do we get this restoration?

§        By being of the “same mind and same judgment/opinion/purpose/intention/thought.”

§        This means that Christian unity is a thinking unity, not a mindless ecuminicism.

§        We achieve that unity by studying the same Bible together and coming to the same conclusions on the major issues together. It is unity in knowing sound doctrine.

§        Calvin explains that the “same mind” means having the same faith in God, and “judgment” means having a will to love your brother.

E.    God’s Call to unity in:

§        John 17 – Jesus prayed that His people would be one as He is one with God.

§        Eph 4 – One lord, one faith, one baptism

§        Phil 2 – have this mind in yourselves which was also in Christ…cross

F.    Solution #1: Maintaining a unified front and growing together in the same Biblical thinking patterns.

2. Keep Christ central rather than yourself.

A.   ILLUSTRATION: Tuning fork: A.W. Tozer, “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to be come ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.” (The Pursuit of God)

B.   v.10 “I exhort/beseech/appeal to you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”

C.   v.13 – “Is Christ divided?”

§        Absurdity of a cutting Jesus in half and the two halves doing different things

§        “We murder, to dissect” – William Wordsworth

D.   “Was Paul crucified for you?”

§        By this bit of humor, Paul puts the focus back on the centrality of Christ

§        We were redeemed by Christ in His death. When you were baptized into Christ, you were enlisted under his banner and will never have any other spiritual lord.

E.    “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

§        Baptism was to be in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Mt. 28:18ff – not anyone else.

§        It doesn’t matter who baptized you. It doesn’t matter if that person was a fake Christian who left the church later. What matters is that you received the sign and seal of your covenantal relationship with God.

F.     “Jesus is enough. He is substantive enough to be the basis of your unity... If [you] would be Christ-centered instead of people-centered or issues-centered,  disunity will take care of itself.”  ~Steve Ratliffe

3. Preach the cross rather than getting involved in intellectual rabbit-trails.

A.   Don’t get off on the rabbit trail of baptism. Keep the cross central. Some of us were immersed, some were effused, some were sprinkled. Some here were baptized as infants, others as adults. It’s over now; don’t get worked up over whether you got wet the “right” way. The Bible doesn’t teach us to make issue of how you were baptized. Christ’s work on the cross is what saves you, not your baptism.

B.   (v.17)  “not with sophistication/wisdom/cleverness/eloquence of words/speech lest the cross of Christ be made of none effect/void/nullified/emptied.”

§        Calvin: “No effect if… just eloquence and show… the teaching of the gospel… should savor of the nature of the cross… despised and contemptible rather than glorious in the eyes of the world… The … Corinthians were tickled with a silly fondness for high-sounding style, hence they needed… to be brought back to the abasement of the cross… the gospel in its simplicity without false ornament.”

§        In Corinth, the cosmopolitan merchants were using Christianity as a way to gain social status. This has been a problem throughout history.

§        Today, missionary friends in majority-world countries have told me that most seekers want to become Christians so that they can move to America and get wealthy. It’s a constant struggle to explain to people who come with worldly motives that becoming a Christian is not about being American or being wealthy; it’s about being a follower of Jesus. It’s about the way of the cross.

4. Identify your unique calling and stick to it.

A.   “I was not sent to Baptize but to Evangelize” v.17

B.   Paul’s commission in Acts 9:15 does not mention baptism.

§        The chief thing for Paul was to make Jesus known to “Gentiles, kings, and the Children of Israel”

§        Doesn’t mean he repudiated baptism – Paul obviously baptized Crispus (the former president of the synagogue in Corinth) and Gaius and everybody in Stephanas’ house

§        (and, by the way, I Tim. 3:4 says that Paul considered a man’s children to be part of his house.)

§        Exposure of public to gospel is the first step, the apostolic calling. Church development happens after that – that’s apparently what Apollos was good at.

C.   What is your calling in life?

§        What have I noticed in the Bible that God commands me to do?

§        What do I love to do?

§        What do Godly counselors urge me to focus on?

§        What opportunities has God opened up for me already to do?

§        When these things line up, you can be confident that you have a calling.

D.   Once you are clear on your calling, don’t get distracted from it. Keep it front and center. This will help the church stay unified.

E.    Jesus is another great example of this kind of focus on calling. His calling was to save the world (John 12:47). He was perfectly capable of judging the world and being a great king, but He didn’t take that path when He was sure that His father wanted him to save the world through dying on the cross. While Jesus was suffering for our sins on the cross, He could have called a thousand angels to rescue him and kill all the bad guys, but He didn’t because He knew He needed to stick to His calling. Without His death there would be no church to call into unity.

Follow Christ’s example. Stick to your calling. Preach the cross. Get yourself out of the way and keep Christ central. And present a united front with your fellow believers by working to be of the same mind. And by God’s grace, this church will not break apart.


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Westcott-Hort GNT





10  παρακαλωPAI-1S  δε  υμας2AP  αδελφοιVPM  δια  του  ονοματοςGSN  του κυριουGSM  ημων1GP  ιησου  χριστουGSM  ινα  τοASN  αυτοP-ASN  λεγητεPAS-2P  παντεςNPM  και  μη  ηPAS-3S  εν  υμιν2DP  σχισματαNPN  ητεPAS-2P  δε  κατηρτισμενοιRPP-NPM  εν  τω  αυτωDSM  νοιDSM  και  εν  τη  αυτη  γνωμηDSF  

10  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

10  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 judgment.

10  Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

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.

11  εδηλωθηAPI-3S  γαρ  μοι1DS  περι  υμων  αδελφοιVPM  μου1GS  υπο  τωνGPM  χλοηςGSF  οτι  εριδεςNPF  εν  υμιν2DP εισινPAI-3P

11  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

11  For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.

11  For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you.

My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.

12  λεγωPAI-1S  δε  τουτοASN  οτι  εκαστος NSM  υμων2GP  λεγειPAI-3S  εγω1NS  μεν ειμιPAI-1S  παυλουGSM  εγω  δε  απολλωGSM  εγω1NS  δε  κηφαGSM  εγω  δε  χριστουGSM  

12  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

12  What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ."

12  Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ."

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.”

13  μεμερισταιRPI-3S  ο  χριστοςNSM  μη  παυλος  εσταυρωθηAPI-3S  υπερ  υμων2GP  η  εις  το  ονομαASN  παυλου εβαπτισθητεAPI-2P  

13  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

13  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

13  Has Christ been di­vided? Paul was not cru­cified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

14  ευχαριστωPAI-1S  [τω  θεω]DSM  οτι  ουδεναA-ASM-N  υμων2GP  εβαπτισαAAI-1S  ειCOND  μη  κρισπονASM  και  γαιονASM  

14  I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

14  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

14  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

I am thankful X that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,

15  ινα  μη  τιςX-NSM  ειπηAAS-3S  οτι  εις  το  εμονS-1ASN  ονομαASN  εβαπτισθητεAPI-2P  

15  Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

15  so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.

15  so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.

so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.

16  εβαπτισαAAI-1S  δε  και  τονASM  στεφαναGSM  οικονASM  λοιπονASN  ουκ  οιδαRAI-1S  ειCOND  τιναX-ASM  αλλονASM  εβαπτισαAAI-1S  

16  And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

16  (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

16  Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

(Yes, I also baptized the household of Ste­phanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)

17  ου  γαρ  απεστειλενAAI-3S  με1AS  χριστοςNSM  βαπτιζεινPAN  αλλα  ευ­αγγελιζεσθαιPMN  ουκ  εν  σοφιαDSF  λογουGSM  ινα  μη  κενωθηAPS-3S  ο  σταυροςNSM  του  χριστουGSM  

17  For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

17  For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

17  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of humans wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.