A church is a group of people from many different walks of life, backgrounds, and interests who find their unity in the gospel of Jesus Christ. At times divisions occur in the church. When we let our preferences get in the way of our mission, believers are unnecessarily divided.
First Corinthians mentions several areas of potential division in a church: leaders, immorality in the church, going to secular court against fellow believers, marriage, meat offered to idols, conduct of women in the church, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, and Jesus’ resurrection. Paul’s fatherly love for this church drove him to confront its problems and to call it back to unity in Christ.
Believers Should Be United through Christ
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul called the church to unity in three ways.
1. They should agree with one another. Unity comes through a common confession of the gospel—Jesus Christ and Him crucified (see 2:2). Paul was calling the believers to doctrinal and theological unity.
2. There should be no divisions among the Corinthian Christians. Paul was calling them to relational unity based on their identity in Jesus Christ. The Corinthian believers were to be united together in Christ, not divided into factions that separated them from one another.
3. The church should be perfectly united in mind and thought. Paul was calling them to missional unity, reminding them that there’s no room for disagreement about the nature of the gospel or the mission to be ambassadors of God’s reconciling work in Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:16-21).
All Believers Belong to Christ
In 1 Corinthians 1:11-12 Paul addressed quarrels that threatened the church. Some members claimed to belong to Paul, some to Apollos, some to Cephas, and some to Christ. However, the truth is that all believers belong to Christ.
Believers Must Put Jesus before All Other Leaders
Paul’s contempt for the church’s rivalry and division is clear in 1 Corinthians 1:13-15. Even though Paul laid a foundation as a skilled builder of the Corinthian church (see 3:10), he wasn’t interested in building his own little kingdom. He was an apostle of Jesus who preached Christ only and Christ sufficient so that Christ’s kingdom could flourish. He said the Corinthians should think of him and Apollos as servants of Christ and as managers of the mysteries of God (see 4:1). Nothing more, nothing less. We ought to think of leaders we respect in this way as well.
All Believers Share the Same Salvation
In 1 Corinthians 1:18-23 Paul was contending with two objections to the message of the gospel.
1. Jews asked for signs. For the Jews, the cross was identified with a curse, not a blessing (see Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). For this reason the cross is “a stumbling block to the Jews” (v. 23); it’s a divisive claim on God’s behalf.
2. Greeks sought wisdom. Paul’s argument compared the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of God. For the Greeks, wisdom meant the teachings of their pagan philosophers. Because the gospel didn’t meet the logical standards of their thinkers, they rejected it as foolishness.
“We preach Christ crucified,” Paul said in verse 23. This claim, at its heart, is divisive to the world, but to those God has called, it’s God’s wisdom and power. The cross divides because the world seeks its own way, but the only way to God is through His crucified Son.
For Paul, the cross of Christ was a rallying point and unifier for the church. There should be no disagreement, disunity, or division about that among God’s people. There’s no higher authority than our Lord, who Himself prayed that His followers would live in unity with one another (see John 17:20-23).
This article is an excerpt from the Bible study Explore the Bible: 1 Corinthians—Remember Who We Are by Clint Pressley.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers®. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.