1 Corinthians 1:10-17

The Danger of Division.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. – 1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT

One of the most dangerous enemies of the body of Christ is any kind of division or internal strife that creeps into its midst. Infighting and internal dissension can be highly destructive to the unity of a local fellowship. That’s why Paul immediately addresses a situation going on within the body of believers in Corinth. He had received news that there were quarrels taking place between believers and he was disturbed enough to deal with it at the very beginning of his letter. It seems that factions had developed within the church and they were centered around personalities. “Some of you are saying, ‘I am a follower of Paul.’ Others are saying, ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Peter, or ‘I follow only Christ'” (1 Corinthians 1:12 NLT). The church had become a personality cult, with various factions choosing a different individual as their “leader.” Paul does not go into a great deal of detail regarding the cause of these factions, but it probably had something to do with the role each of these individuals had played in the conversion of the various church members. If someone had been led to faith by Apollos, they naturally held him in high esteem and viewed him as their mentor. If Paul had been the one to lead them to Christ, they developed a natural affinity and affection for him. So people were more than likely choosing sides based on the role these men had played in their spiritual birth and development. And it had led to arguments and an unhealthy situation within the church.

But Paul calls them out. He exposes the danger of their infighting, and demands that they seek unity – “be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” There is no place within the body of Christ for factions of any kind, especially man-centered “fan clubs” that seemingly elevate individuals to the same status of Jesus Himself. In the case of Corinth, some of these people were calling themselves followers of man, rather than followers of Christ. Somewhere along the way, they had missed the point. Paul, Peter and Apollos were simply tools God had used to bring the Gospel to the Corinthians and to assist them in their spiritual growth. These men were essential to the process, but were never intended to be afforded rock star status among the Corinthian believers. But it happens all the time. Cults of personality exist in churches all across the country. People become followers of men rather than followers of Christ. And in larger churches where you have larger staffs, you can end up with factions based on the particular minister or ministry heads and the role they play in the lives of various individuals. Younger people can end up with a natural affinity to younger pastors. Older members of the congregation can end up preferring a minister closer to their demographic. If a particular minister played a role in someone’s salvation, it can become natural for that individual to hold that pastor in higher regard. But all of this can lead to divisions and a lack of unity. Again, that is why Paul appealed to them to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

Much of what Paul had to deal with in his letters to the various churches had to do with unity and division. Why? Because it was always a real threat to the integrity and health of these new congregations. In his book, The Story of God As Revealed in the Holy Bible For All Mankind, Raymond Anderegg writes, “…the apostles make it clear that two of the biggest threats to the kingdom of God are false teachers and division within the Church, and both threats are treated as equally important. Thus, two of the worst sins a Christian can commit are to reject the gospel of Jesus Christ for another gospel (religion) and to cause strife and division among our brethren, the body, or Church, of Christ.” Disunity is destructive. Division is deadly. It robs the church of its power. It diminishes the body of Christ’s influence among the lost. It gives the enemy a foothold and an opportunity to sow strife and dissension in place of love and forgiveness. Ours is not to be a man-centered religion based on personality, but a Christ-centered faith based on His sin-defeating work on the cross on our behalf. When we start making the church a cult of personality by making much of men, we diminish the sufficiency and singularity of Christ as the sole focus of our faith.

Father, from the very beginning, mankind has wanted to make it all about man. We tend to want to worship ourselves or someone else instead of You. We find it easy to make much of man. We so want to elevate men to positions of prominence and importance because it seems to give us hope for ourselves. But it was never meant to be about us. We make lousy gods. We make terrible saviors. We are incapable of providing long-term, sustainable help and hope for anyone. Which is why You sent Your Son. We are to make much of Him. We are to worship Him and Him alone. Forgive us for the divisions and silly factions we create based on personalities. Help us remember that we are followers of Christ and no one else. Create in us a unity that is focused on Him. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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