1 Cor. 1:10-13
Paul deals with the first problem which the Corinthian church is facing, it’s about division. Well, this
problem still exists and persists today. It is present during the early stage of the church and until now
it’s still a major problem. Even the 12 Apostles at time were divided. So today we will be talking
about this problem and what the Apostle is telling them do. I put two illustrations at the beginning of
this message to emphasize the seriousness of the problem. The truth hurts but it’s the reality which
we fail to see with our own eyes despite of the words and warnings written in the Scriptures which
others thinks are too familiar for them.
Illustration 1: When Christians Fight …
A recent issue of National Geographic included a photograph of the fossil remains of two sabertooth
cats locked in combat. To quote the article: “One had bitten deep into the leg bone of the
other, a thrust that trapped both in a common fate. The cause of the death of the two cats is a clear
as the causes of the extinction of their species are obvious.
When Christians fight each other, everybody loses. As Paul put it in Gal. 5:15 But if ye bite and
devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. Peter A. Alwinson
Illustration 2: Denominations in the Church
Being much concerned about the rise of denominations in the church, John Wesley tells of a dream
he had. In the dream, he was ushered to the gates of Hell. There he asked, “Are there any
Presbyterians here?” “Yes!”, came the answer. Then he asked, “Are there any Baptists? Any
Episcopalians? Any Methodists?” The answer was Yes! each time. Much distressed, Wesley was then
ushered to the gates of Heaven. There he asked the same question, and the answer was No! “No?”
To this, Wesley asked, “Who then is inside?” The answer came back, “There are only Christians
here.” (1 Cor. 1:10-17)
Martin Luther said, “I pray you leave my name alone. Do not call yourselves Lutherans, but
Christians.” John Wesley said: “I wish the name Methodist might never be mentioned again, but lost
in eternal oblivion.” Charles Spurgeon said, “I say of the Baptist name, let it perish, but let Christ’s
own name last forever. I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist
living.” Source unknown
I. Paul’s Reaction: Exhortation
A. Paul does not begin with the problem of divisions but with a positive exhortation to
maintain Christian unity.
B. His appeal, “Now I beseech you”. He was speaking to them from the very depths of
his heart, begging them urgently.
C. He calls them “Brethren”. He wanted them to know that he was speaking to them as
brothers in Christ, a fellow believer or a fellow Christian.
D. In the midst of the problem and the carnality of the Corinthians, they are still
“brethren”. None of us are perfect, erring believers are still brothers in Christ.
E. Paul was appealing “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
1. This was to tell them that the only head of the church is our Lord and Saviour
2. By beseeching them in the name of Jesus Christ, Paul tries to makes them aware
that their divisions are carnal, man-made, and should be ended or avoided.
II. His Aim: Teach them about Christian Unity
A. It is to “speak the same thing” and to be “perfectly joined together in the same
mind” and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).
1. This means the believers at Corinth were to believe the same thing, hold the
same doctrines, the same spiritual convictions, the same scriptural goals. (Rom.
15:6; Phil. 1:27).
2. Doctrinal unity must be based on the Bible only. (Jn. 17:11, 21-23, Acts 2:46,47).
3. True Christian unity is to hold the same doctrines from the Word of God, to
believe whatever the Word of God says, regardless of how “minor” it might
appear, to have the same spiritual convictions, the same Scripture-based
4. Perfectly joined together means to restore something that was broken or
separated so it is no longer divided. This can easily be illustrated in the NT by the
disciples mending their nets.
5. Paul tells them to be “in the same mind and the same judgment”, This means
they need to agree on what they believe and what they decide to do.
6. There is no support here for the ecumenical or New Evangelical “unity in
diversity” philosophy or for the idea that there should be unity in the cardinal
doctrines while “minor doctrines” should be ignored.
“To remain divided is sinful! Did not our Lord pray, that they may be one, even as we are one”?
(John 17:22). A chorus of ecumenical voices keep harping the unity tune. What they are saying is,
“Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must come together in one visible organization,
regardless… Unite, unite!”
Such teaching is false, reckless and dangerous. Truth alone must determine our alignments. Truth
comes before unity. Unity without truth is hazardous. Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 must be read in
its full context. Look at verse 17: “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” Only those
sanctified through the Word can be one in Christ. To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel.
Charles H. Spurgeon, The Essence of Separation, quoted in The Berean Call, July, 1992, p. 4
III. The Problem: Division
A. The word division means “schisms”, split or gap.
B. In verse 11, Paul mentions the word” contention” which means debate, strife,
variance, quarrel, rivalry.
C. The situation here is they are having divided opinions as to the various leaders
within the church.
D. This was very disappointing for Paul, because it will not be a good testimony to the
unbelievers and may become a hindrance in proclaiming the gospel to them.
E. Paul knew of the church’s divisions by the testimony of the house of Chloe (1 Cor.
1:11). We don’t know much about Chloe but she may be a faithful member of the
church and Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, mentioned 1 Cor. 16:17, were
probably the sons of this Chloe or someone that represented her household.
F. The division is composed of 4 groups each supporting different personages namely:
1. Paul – He founded or started the Corinthian church. Paul led them to the Lord
and taught them many spiritual things. So, they look up to him as their leader.
2. Apollos – described as an “eloquent man”, “mighty in the Scriptures”, “fervent in
the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord. (Acts 18:24-25).
They must have been impressed by his ability to expound the scriptures to them
and by his faithfulness.
3. Cephas – Peter was linked to Jesus and was one of the chosen disciples and one
of the chosen apostles; and on top of all of this Peter was one of the inner circle!
The scriptures do not give us an exact occasion where Peter visited with the
church of Corinth but it is easily seen that there was a group within the church
that was attached to Peter. Probably they are of Jewish origin.
4. Christ – thought of itself as the most spiritual of all, in that it followed the Son of
God alone and no mere man like Paul, Peter, or Apollos. They ignored the fact
that Christ promised to lead His disciples into all truth (Jn. 16:13) and that Peter
and Paul had received their authority directly from Christ and taught only that
which was given to them by the Spirit of God. I honestly think that this group is
dangerous, for those who think of themselves as being of Christ also think of the
rest as not being of Christ. Paul, Apollos, and Peter are all faithful servants of our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and they are not false teachers.
G. Let me remind you that Paul, Apollos, and Cephas have nothing to do with this
problem. They did not start it. It was not a leader problem. It was the believers in
Corinth, the followers, who made this up because of their preference as to who will
be their leader.
H. It is wrong for Christians to follow men and to be divided by personalities. All true
Bible preachers are united in doctrine. Christ, Peter, Paul, and Apollos taught the
same doctrine. See 1 Cor. 3:5-6. True Bible preachers have different gifts,
personalities, and manner of speaking, but they should not be exalted on that basis.
To exalt one sound Bible preacher over another and to make man-centered divisions
I. Until now, there is still division among Christians. So many denominations, some
conservative, some modern, some liberal, some are very much concerned about
their doctrinal distinctions, some about their Bible translation, and many more.
Illustration 3: Division
A flourishing church was once reduced to complete ineffectuality. Sunday school had customarily
been held in the afternoon. But the pastor and others in the church wanted to change it to the
morning hour. They knew that the Sunday school superintendent was strongly opposed to this.
Rather than face the matter openly with him, they met in secret and voted to change the hour.
When he learned of it, his feelings were deeply hurt. Angry words were exchanged. People in the
church began to take sides, and soon a sizable faction moved out. Bitterness quenched the work of
the Spirit, and what was once a deeply spiritual and soul-winning church became a poorly attended
one. Lacking support, the edifice itself became shabby and unattractive, reflecting outwardly the
destructive result of jealousy that led to strife and divisions.
Mark Twain used to say he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they
could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few
adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic; soon there was not a living thing
IV. Paul’s Correction: Denunciation of division (1 Cor. 1:13)
A. Paul ask a difficult question: Is Christ divided?
B. No human leader, not even an apostle, should be given the loyalty that belongs only
C. Such elevation of leaders leads only to contention, disputes and a divided church.
D. Christ is not divided and neither is His body the church.
E. In comparison to what Christ has done, the apostle Paul belittles himself.
F. Christ is the Son of God, He has redeemed us, we are consecrated to Him in baptism.
All these grounds are unique to Christ. To no other being in the universe stand in the
relationship which they all sustain to their common Lord. As, therefore, there is but
one Christ, but one redeemer, but one baptism, Christians cannot be divided
without violating bond which binds them to Christ and to one another (Hodge).
The problem in the Corinthian church was not because of the leaders but the members.
It is their carnality, immatureness and pride that causes the division. Though Christians
need to be united, we must avoid ecumenicalism. Truth comes before unity. We cannot
fellowship with the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist,
Pentecostals, Calvinists, Catholics, etc.