Lesson 3

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

1:10 Now I beg you, brothers, through the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1:11 For it has been reported to me concerning you, my brothers, by those who are from Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. 1:12 Now I mean this, that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," "I follow Apollos," "I follow Cephas," and, "I follow Christ." 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul? 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius, 1:15 so that no one should say that I had baptized you into my own name. 1:16 (I also baptized the household of Stephanas; besides them, I don't know whether I baptized any other.) 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not in wisdom of words, so that the cross of Christ wouldn't be made void.

Today's Lesson 

After establishing the salutation of this letter and including the prayer, Paul begins immediately to discuss the most pressing issue with the Corinthians. There are divisions among them. They have begun to divide up into different sides. One group believes one thing; another group, something contrary. In every human community, there is a natural tendency to fracture, to separate, based on perceived differences.


At least part of the divisions that Paul is instructing the Corinthians to avoid is based on personalities. Paul lists four divisions among the Corinthians. There may have been more. Some followed Paul, some Apollos, some Cephas (Peter) and others Christ. One would expect Paul to automatically write that they all should follow Christ, but he does not do so. Perhaps this is because of some strange doctrine that those who claimed to "follow Christ" at Corinth were advocating. Instead, Paul uses these divisions to make an important point about our faith.


"Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?" With this series of rhetorical questions Paul illustrates the problem with the divisions in the Corinthian church. Some people followed Christ and some Paul. But there is no division between Paul and Christ in Paul's mind. Paul is a servant of Christ and His select apostle. Who among the Corinthians would seek to divide them? And for what purpose?


The same is true for Apollos and Cephas (the Aramaic name for Peter). This tendency to divide and follow one person or another had created divisions where none had previously existed before. Apollos followed Paul as the primary evangelist and preacher in the city of Corinth. He was said to be a very learned man and some scholars believe that he may have been the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But in nothing that we have are we given the slightest hint that Apollos disagreed with Paul about anything.


Likewise with Cephas. Peter was the apostle to the Jews in the same sense that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. But Paul consistently taught that there was no difference in the message of the gospel for Jew and Gentile. Paul taught the same gospel as Peter. There was no distinction. There was no division.


The last three verses in Today's Scripture contain biographical information. Paul declares that Christ sent him to preach, not to baptize. This does not imply that Paul thought preaching was more important than baptizing, in fact the whole meaning of the passage is that we are all one in Christ. Each of us is given a role to play. One role is not better than another. The last idea, that the gospel of Christ is not based on the wisdom of man, will be the focus of the next lesson.


When we seek to divide the truth of the gospel and claim a portion for ourselves we violate the spirit of the gospel. God brings people together. Once we were lost, in Christ we are found. Once we were far from God, now we are brought near. Once we were enemies, now we are beloved children. Let us not seek to divide the household of God. Let us always seek to bring everyone to the God who reconciled us to Himself through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus our Lord.


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