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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 1:10-17


Schism in the Local Church
1st Corinthians 1:10-17

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.
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.
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.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
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.

We have now completed our examination of the opening section of this book. Paul describes the nature of the local church, he writes of its completeness and its enrichment, and he reminds the Christians at Corinth of how they came into this blessed state, through the sovereign action of the Triune God in their lives. It was because of the Faithfulness of God the Father, the Function of God the Holy Spirit, bringing them into the Fellowship of God the Son. You would think, having been so graciously blessed of God that the Corinthians would respond by wholeheartedly uniting together in the work of the Lord. But that is not human nature, and while we remain in this body, there will be personality clashes, and differences of opinion and division. In Corinth, such problems are chronic!

The Concord that is Requested
Firstly Paul makes a series of pleas for unity among the congregation at Corinth.

a) Unity in the Brotherhood! Paul makes a ‘silent’ argument here. He calls these people ‘brethren.’ (and in v11) They are his brothers and sisters, members of the same family. That is an interesting comparison, for in a family there ought always to be family love, and it should over-ride all of the disagreements that will occur. Many a family has squabbles, disagreements, fall-outs, but they always remain as family! So it is with the local church, we are a family, and as a family we ought to love each other with the love of Christ. We may disagree, we may have some differences of opinion, but overriding all of that is the LOVE OF GOD WHICH IS SHED ABROAD IN OUR HEARTS! And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:5. There is family unity in the church!

b) Unity in Speech! They are to ‘speak the same thing!’ Now this does not mean that we are all to say exactly the same words! Rather that we are to have the same testimony! To believe the same Christian essentials!

c) Unity in Fellowship! The people at Corinth we enjoined to make up their differences, and be untied together in fellowship. He says that we are to be ‘perfectly joined together.’ The phrase used is interesting. It is a medical term, used for the process in which broken bones would be knit together again after a fracture. He is here, without making direct reference to it, using the analogy of the body to describe the church.

d) Unity in Discernment! There is judgement required among the people. They are not meant to just be people with no opinions on anything, blindly going along with everything that is put to them. They are to exercise some judgement, some discernment!
Is such a level of unity in a local church just wishful thinking? If not, how could it ever be achieved? Some will argue that we are far too diverse for this type of unity in the church. I agree. On a purely human basis, we are much too different too ever find such a level of agreement. But Christ is the unifying factor in the local church! We do not seek to promote our own ideas, but to serve the Lord together! Let me give you an example of how the LOVE OF CHRIST CAN UNITE THE MOST DIVERSE PEOPLE.

God’s saving love can break down barriers between Christians!

The Commendation that has been Ruined
Their good testimony was ruined. We have seen how this church could have been so perfect, so effective! They were richly blessed, spiritually! They were endowed with every spiritual gift, yet division hampered their effectiveness, and their testimony was ruined! The people from Chloe’s household knew of the divisions, and when Paul spoke of it he used the Greek word ‘scandalon,’ the word from which we get our word scandal. It was scandalous, what was happening at Corinth, and it was being spoken of throughout the rest of the churches!
These believers in Corinth were so involved in factional infighting within the church, that they were perfectly useless in evangelism

The Contention that is Revealed
What is this scandal at Corinth? It was the scandal of schism within the local church. These people had not broken away from the church or caused a split. They were still members of the church, yet within the church they were guilty of causing division among the people. They did this by choosing a ‘party leader,’ following a man, a disciple, a great preacher, and then aligning themselves with him. This was being done without the permission or approval of the man concerned!

a) The Parties Involved! Paul identifies four groups of schismatics within the Corinthian church:

The PAUL party! These were people who claimed to be followers of Paul. Probably a group of Gentile Christians, for Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul had always preached the doctrine of Christian freedom. Is it possible that these people had taken that teaching out of context, (become antinomians) and had begun to live licentious lives? They wanted to be believers, but they did not want to live the life?

The APOLLOS party! Acts 18:24 gives us a little information about Apollos. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesiansus. He was a man of Alexandria, a Jew, a man eloquent of speech, who was living at Ephesiansus. Well the Alexandrians were great intellectuals! They were great thinkers, and they would have been enthusiastic about oratory. This party would have made Christianity into a great philosophical system. They would have had deep, intellectual debates about tiny little doctrinal matters, and if anyone in the church were unable to understand their deep theological insights, and their mighty intellectual discussions they would have been despised as unworthy and treated with contempt.

The PETER party! Followers of Cephas, the Greek word for Peter. These people would be the Jewish party within the church. They would be going around the church, telling Gentile believers that they must observe the Jewish laws and ordinances in order to be baptised! They were legalists who preached the keeping of the law, and belittled grace.

The CHRIST party! There was even a party who called themselves, the party of Christ, as if the others did not belong to Christ at all! They were the ‘super-spiritual’ people! They were, (they believed) the only true Christians in Corinth! You can well imagine them, a little intolerant group of self-righteous people, who would recognise no-one else as having Christ but them! You even get this today. Some time ago I met a Christian lady who claimed to be interested in theology. Somehow we got into a discussion on worship and I tried to explain the historical reformed position on worship explaining for her the regulative principle, and the differences between Calvin and Luther. Calvin, I explained, believed that worship should only consist of what was specifically sanctioned by Scripture, while Luther believed that we may admit to worship anything which is not expressly forbidden in the Scriptures. The lady’s retort was, “I’m not interested in Luther oCalvin, I’m only interested in what Jesus taught.” She was implying that my historical perspective on the subject meant that I was uninterested in the teachings of Christ, which was totally untrue!

So here are these four distinct groups within the church. All mutually exclusive, all denouncing each other, all claiming to be right, while everybody else is wrong, and all of them doing the devil’s work by tearing the church apart. Now, notice,

b) The Pride Identified! They were using BAPTISM as their badge of identification. Each group would say, I was baptised into the Paul party, or I was actually baptised by Peter, so I am of his faction etc. This gives Paul reason for some salient points on baptism.

Baptism involves households. Our baptistic brethren will tell us that the Bible is silent with regard to the baptism of infants. Of course it is! The biblical records of baptisms in the early church is a record of the baptisms of NEW BELIEVERS. These people had come from a pagan or a Jewish background. They were coming into the Christian faith from other religions. They made professions of faith and they were baptised! We would do the same! But there is a clue to early baptismal practises in these verses. Paul says, I baptized also the household of Stephanas: 1 Cor. 1:16. Now throughout the NT there are records of people coming to Christ, and the baptism of their household. Acts 16:15. Acts 16:33. Can we possibly suggest that in all of these households there were no babies? It is highly unlikely! The Shorter Catechism clarifies the matter for us. It asks, ‘Who may be baptised?’ The answer is, “Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church , till they profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church (professing Christians) are to be baptised.”

Baptism involves the Name of Jesus. But this is not a baptismal formula. There are some who will baptise, “In Jesus’ name,” and in doing so they misunderstand this. Our formula for baptism is given by the Lord Himself. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Matthew 28:19. This reference is to the purpose of Baptism, to identify with the Christian faith! There were many ‘baptisms’ in the ancient world, in both pagan and Jewish religions, and the reference to baptise in Jesus’ Name is to simply remind readers that they are being baptised into the visible church of Christ, as opposed to some other religion.

Baptism is not a saving ordinance. We touched on this before, and Paul reinforces that belief for us now. He tells the Corinthians that he did not come to baptise, but to preach! If baptism had been a saving ordinance, then Paul would have gone around baptising everyone he met, for if that had been the case, everyone so baptised would be saved! We noticed in a previous study that baptism is a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace, but it never makes a person a Christian!
Baptism should never be a cause for division. The whole argument of Paul here is that baptism is not and never should be, a cause of division among Christians! It should never be used for meaningless point scoring. Of course we can have fellowship with other Christian believers who have different views on baptism. The mode of baptism is not that important, and we can surely agree to differ on who may be baptised. In Ephesians, the verse, ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism’ is set in the context of a passage on unity!

There are more important things, and Paul mentions one of them here, the preaching of the Gospel Message!

The Criteria that are Required.
Here are the really important issues that faced the church at Corinth and which are still crucial today. These are vital issues, on which evangelicals of all shades should unite, and local churches should never divide:-

The PERSON of Christ. Paul asks, ‘Is Christ divided?’ The answer is no. We cannot detach even one element from the doctrine of the person of Christ! His Virgin Birth, Sinless Life, Atoning Death, Glorious Resurrection, Ascension, Intercessory Ministry, Glorious Return! You can’t just pick and choose which aspect of the person of Christ you want and ignore the rest!

His PROPITIATORY Sacrifice! “Was Paul crucified FOR YOU? It is a question! It was not Paul, but Christ who was crucified FOR THEM. His death was FOR ME! This is vital. We must loudly and stridently proclaim that the Cross was no accident, no martyrdom; that Jesus went to Calvary to die for sinners, and that it is only by that atoning death on the cross that men can be saved for all eternity.

The INABILITY of man! Paul could not save these people. They were incapable of being saved by their own labours and their own works. “Not the labours of my hands…”

The PRIMACY of the GOSPEL. Christ sent Paul to preach the Gospel. One of the marks of a truly evangelical church will be the proclamation of the whole counsel of God, the unchanging Gospel, from His unchanging Word!

Now these are the doctrines upon which we can agree and unite with other Born Again Believers, yet look how divided we are! The devil is at His work against Christ’s church today, and the sinner is the loser for it. The devil keeps us arguing over trivial matters, over personalities, Bible versions, head-coverings etc, and thus he distracts us from the really important issues, and the cause of Christ is hindered. Seek and proclaim the really important issues, the timeless, unchanging values of the faith. Seek that true unity of mind which Paul demands in verse 10. What an effective church we would be! What a testimony. What unity of purpose! What blessing would ensue!

From → Sermon Notes

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