Christian Unity: Trouble in Corinth

by Bryant Evans on January 2, 2013

Christian unity was slipping away in Corinth. The church there was fractured and was in danger of falling into sectarian division. Paul gently rebuked the brethren and called for their unity. We can learn from their troubles.

Ultimately, Christian unity is founded in Jesus Christ. When I enjoy the proper relationship with my Lord, I will then have a similar relationship with all others who enjoy that same relationship. Addressing the Corinthians Paul asked, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). The obvious answer is no! He continues, “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Again, the answer is no. The Corinthians had allowed Jesus to slip from his place of preeminence and instead were dividing into clicks (1 Corinthians 1:12).

What was  the result of this cliquishness? They were no longer united and were speaking different things. Their allegiance was to mortal men (most of them) and only a few were clinging to Jesus. Look at Paul’s encouragement:

” 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.  For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.  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.”  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)” (1 Corinthians 1:10-16)

Jesus Desired Christian Unity

Paul’s encouragement is rooted in the authority of Jesus. That’s what he means when he says “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus wants his people to speak with a single voice. Jesus desires unity. 

His authority arises from his own sacrifice and from his place as our High Priest (Hebrews 8:1) and Chief Shepard (1 Peter 5:4). By gathering themselves into groups, their were rejecting Jesus’ own desires.

Christian Unity in All Things

Some suggest a so-called unity-in-diversity as an acceptable concept. It is not. Paul’s call, by the authority of Jesus, was to speak the same thing, have no divisions and to share in the same judgement (vs. 10). Such is impossible with unity-in-diversity.

The religious landscape is not united. We do not all speak the same thing. There is little unity among Christ believing people today. We have surrounded our favorite preachers and accept anything and everything they say. We are no longer interested in the authority of Jesus but instead place our faith in men and in their councils, conventions and synods. How embarrassing to quote a creed or confession when discussing some doctrine.

Christian Unity Ends Quarrels

Evidently, Paul was responding to a letter from someone in Chloe’s house. They were concerned because arguments were arising between members. It would seem that the only quarrel that would arise would pertain to the teachings, doctrines and direction of the church. Almost the entire book of 1 Corinthians deals with sin in the church family and chaotic worship.

Where would such quarrels lead? They would lead to our world. They would lead to sectarianism and denominationalism. I don’t think it is a stretch to look at 1 Corinthians chapter one as a form of incipient denominationalism. Remember, there were no denominations in the earliest days of the church. There was one church. In fact, the oneness of the church was so strong that there was not even a single name for the church. There was no need to denominate the brethren into groups. They were striving to be the body of Christ. Only when we begin to divide do we face quarrels.

It’s time to end our acceptance and tolerance of a divided Christendom. Jesus was not divided and he prayed that his people would not be divided. Can we reject everything but his Word? Can we all stand together there?

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter  @jbevans.

 

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