Instructions for Church Unity
Conflict is inevitable whenever two or more human beings together for long enough. However, as Christians, we must ensure that our conflict is resolved quickly and in a loving manner so that we will not become divided. Unity is the central topic of 1 Corinthians and one Paul tackles from various angles. However, here in he first chapter, he dives straight into one of the main issues the Corinthians were arguing over and addresses it with firmness.
“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. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
~1 Corinthians 1:10-13
Paul’s frustration is evident. The rhetorical questions he uses in this passage reveals his level of frustration with the Corinthians’ petty arguments. Even though they had received the gospel and believed, they began dividing over the apostle and teacher they followed. The arguments and division were so strong that word had reached Paul over fifty miles away in Ephesus.
Division not only breaks unity but it breaks fellowship within the Body of Christ, causing the believers to lose their effectiveness and focus. The moment we take our eyes and focus off of Christ and turn them onto other matters we leave the mission and purpose of the church: to be the radiant Bride of Christ and shine a beacon of light to a dark world.
The Corinthians had allowed differences of opinion, pride, and sin into their young church that caused sharp division, heated arguments, and ultimately a distorted view God and His design for the church. Therefore, Paul address this fundamental issue head on and exhorts the believers at Corinth to agree and be united in the same mind: the mind of Christ.
Nearly two thousand years later, we struggle with the same thing. Our churches are divided over the most trivial things and believers argue and part ways due to differences of opinion that really don’t matter in light of eternity and according to God’s plans and purposes for our lives as His redeemed children. Therefore, this exhortation to pursue unity is just as relevant for us today as it was in the first century for the believers in Corinth.
In this passage, Paul notes one of the ways in which the Corinthians were divided. They identified themselves with a different apostle and divided on those lines rather than being united under the headship and common lordship of Jesus Christ. While it is totally fine to follow and prefer different teachers and preachers of God’s Word, we must always be careful not to let personal preferences become the one thing we rally around. We must keep a correct perspective and remember that it is Jesus Christ we truly follow and not a mortal man or faithful servant of the Lord. If the Apostles of the New Testament were not intended to follow and identity oneself with, then much less the teachers, theologians, and apologists of our day.
Therefore, don’t become divided along personal preferences, differences of opinion, varying styles of worship, or different types of teachers. Rather, fix your eyes on the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. Identity yourself with Him, rally around His name, and be united in the same mind and a common love and devotion to our Risen Savior.