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1 Corinthians 1:10–12

“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” (v. 10).

We noted in our last study that the Corinthian church, at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, was experiencing strife related to the misuse of spiritual gifts (see 1 Cor. 12–14). However, other issues were causing trouble among the Corinthian believers as well. As we see in today’s passage, the Christians in Corinth were separating into different factions.

Paul reports in 1 Corinthians 1:11 that some of “Chloe’s people” told him about quarreling in Corinth. These arguments were causing some to separate into different groups, each of which claimed to follow a particular individual (v. 12). Many commentators believe that Chloe was a Christian businesswoman, and her people were probably employees of hers who belonged to the Corinthian church or had met the Corinthian believers in the course of their work. In any case, the disturbance in Corinth was so profound that it motivated Chloe’s people to bring news of the arguments to Paul in Ephesus, where he was living and working when he wrote 1 Corinthians.

What was the nature of the factionalism at Corinth? It probably was not related to differences in foundational doctrine. Paul does not condemn any of the groups listed for the content of their teaching, and Paul was never afraid to condemn any teaching that denied the gospel (Gal. 1:8–9). Instead, it seems that different Christians in Corinth were using their association with particular teachers to try to assert power in the church. We should be clear, however, that this does not mean the named teachers approved of this.

In practice, the factionalism may have looked something like this: The first converts in Corinth might have said, “I follow Paul,” to claim a right to a greater position in the church because they were converted under the ministry of their church’s planter (Acts 18:1–8). Others, possibly because they prized eloquence of speech above all else, may have replied, “I follow Apollos,” and demanded that only the best speakers should lead the church (vv. 24–28). Maybe the individuals who professed, “I follow Cephas [Peter],” had a close personal connection to Peter and believed they should have authority because they knew one of the original twelve disciples (Matt. 10:2). Those who said, “I follow Christ,” might have been individuals who thought they were above the fray altogether, like those today who say, “No creed but Christ,” to argue that they follow no particular church tradition.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

John Calvin comments, “Then only will there be Christian unity among us, when there is not merely a good agreement as to doctrine, but we are also in harmony in our affections and dispositions, and are thus in all respects of one mind.” Sound doctrine is necessary for true Christian unity, but by itself it is insufficient. We must also love those with whom we agree and not seek to use personal associations to advance ourselves in the church.

For Further Study
  • Numbers 12
  • Proverbs 10:12
  • Ephesians 4:1–3
  • Philippians 2:1–4

God’s Blessing on the Corinthians

The Source of Power

Keep Reading The State of Theology

From the January 2021 Issue
Jan 2021 Issue