The Sin of Division
Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians because he had learned of the problems in the church. The family of Chloe had told him that the church was divided (1:11). Paul had also received a letter from the Corinthians asking him several questions (7:1). Earlier, he had written a letter to them which the Holy Spirit did not include in the New Testament (5:9).
Paul addressed his letter to “the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1:2). The church is called “the church of God” because it was planned by God and belongs to Him. In other places, it is called “the church of Christ” because it was built by Jesus Christ and paid for by His blood (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28; Romans 16:16).
Those who are members of the church are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” The word “sanctify” means to “set apart from others.” Those who are set apart are called “saints,” which means “holy ones.” Christians are called by the Gospel (II Thessalonians 2:14). They are set apart from sin and the sinful world. They must live holy lives of service to God (I Peter 1:13-16).
The family of Chloe had told Paul of the division in the Corinthian church. Different groups had been formed in the church. Three of the groups claimed men as their leader. Some said they followed Paul. Other said they followed Cephas (Peter). Still others claimed to be disciples of Apollos. There were those who said they followed only Christ. They were correct, if they were not guilty of having a wrong spirit, and regarding Christ as if He were a mere human leader.
Paul showed the Corinthians how wrong they were by asking several questions. First, he asked, “Is Christ divided?” The answer is clearly, “no.” If Christ is not divided, neither should His followers be. Then, he asked, “Was Paul crucified for you?” Of course not; Christ, not Paul, died on the cross for our sins! Why should we claim to follow a man like Paul? It was Christ who died for us.
Paul next asked, “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” The phrase “in the name of” means “by the authority of.” All that Christians do must be done in the name of the Lord (Colossians 3:17). Since the Corinthians had been baptized in the name of Christ, why did they claim to follow Paul?
Paul preached and practiced baptism (Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8). But he did not always perform the act of dipping in water the people he had taught. This was probably done by his helpers such as Timothy and Titus and others. There were a few at Corinth whom Paul had baptized with his own hands. He was glad there were not many, because some might think they were baptized in his name. Paul’s work was to preach the Gospel. If he did that, then those who believed and repented would be baptized.
It is wrong for us to follow men or women today. We must follow Jesus Christ. It is sinful for the believers of Christ to follow different teachings and wear different names. Jesus prayed that all who believed in Him would be one (John 17:20-21). Let us give up the names and doctrines of men, and follow Jesus Christ only! Let us honor Him by wearing His name, and following His teachings which are found in the New Testament.
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