Because of Paul’s frequent correspondence with the church in Corinth, we know a great deal about this early body of believers. His letters to the Corinthians are perhaps the most often referenced of the Epistles but I think a lot of that has to do with how those first century people are relatable to Christians today; especially younger followers of Jesus. The church Paul wrote to was young, passionate, gifted, culturally engaged and recently converted. The Corinthians also happened to be prone to quarrels as it seemed. Members of this church began draw up their own factions among themselves as followers of certain teachers. There appeared to have been a faction devoted to Paul and another devoted to the Apostle Peter, and their respective adherents were in opposition to one another. The schism disturbed Paul so much he expressed relief in that he had only baptised a few members of their congregation. He exhorts them to end the divisions among them, to no longer claim allegiance to his teaching or any of his other partners in Ministry, but to align themselves to the gospel of Jesus.
History tends to show trends among people will often resurface, and even after two millennia, we seem to find ourselves in the same quarrels Paul wrote to Corinth about. Still to this day we argue amongst ourselves about which books we ought to be reading, which churches we should attend and which pastors we ought to listen to. If a Biblical scholar were tasked with paraphrasing this passage with modern vernacular, he or she might as well insert “Bill Johnson” and “Timothy Keller” for Apollos and Cephas. God calls His church to be in fellowship with Jesus as one. The gospel ought to compel us to come together, no matter how different we are. Later on in 1 Corinthians 12 when Paul writes about the body of Christ, he makes it abundantly clear that while we are not called to be homogeneous, we are meant to live cohesively together as one unit. Though we have differences, we are all on the side of Jesus.
It’s easy to take sides and go to the extremes, but we must not let ourselves become petty. Can God’s people truly be unified in spirit if we’ve grown conceited and judgmental towards another? How much better could we be the body of Christ if we chose to serve and support one another instead of nitpicking? Unity sometimes means refusing to fuel an unnecessary argument and it can also mean speaking out against pettiness. It looks like praying for other churches and ministries you’re not directed associated with and choosing to see them as friends in God. It means having a personal knowledge of God apart from what we receive from other teachers. In ourselves, it means asking God to humble us and grow us in trust of His word.
When you truly align yourself with the truth and with the gospel of Jesus, you tend to find that the people in the other camp weren’t that much different from you either.
Author | Justin Patton