Day 48…1 Corinthians 1:
1 Corinthians 1:10-17: The Message or the messenger?
At the church in Corinth the believers were favouring different preachers (sound familiar?) The whole New Testament hadn’t been written yet so the believers depended heavily on the preaching and teaching for spiritual insight into the meaning of the Old Testament. Unfortunately they had split into factions–each following his / her favourite preacher even though they all spoke the same message!
Paul admonishes the believers to remember the single message that had brought them all to faith and stop comparing messengers!
v.10-11, Paul urges the believers to stop arguing among themselves, stop allowing divisions in the church BUT be in real harmony or unity…”be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” [this doesn’t mean Paul wanted them to be exactly the same. He wanted them to set aside their arguments and focus on what really matters--spreading the Message or the Gospel of Jesus to the world. The divisions and factions were hindering the Gospel as well making the church look ridiculous to outsiders]. Paul knew all about the problems because of “Chloe’s household.” [some commentaries say that Chloe lived in Ephesus where Paul was writing this letter and got word of the arguments in Corinth because she had servants living in Corinth who passed on the word to Paul]. So Paul wrote this letter.
v.12-16, then Paul tells them exactly what he had been hearing, some of the believers are saying “I am a follower of Paul” [he founded the church, even though he was Jewish he had been called to minister to Gentiles, so he attracted many of the Gentile believers. He used logical arguments but apparently didn’t have strong speaking ability]. Others said “I follow Peter” [he was a Jew and probably attracted all the Jewish believers who had started to doubt Paul’s apostolic authority]. The third said “I follow Apollos” [he was a very eloquent and well known speaker who had a dynamic ministry in Corinth. He probably attracted the highly educated and distinguished believers in the church]. Final group said “I follow Christ” [they may have boasted a special relationship with Christ OR he may have decided to not follow any human leader and follow Christ alone]. Then Paul asked them rhetorical questions to get them thinking about the divisions in the church. “Has Christ been divided?” [no, Christ is one and so they should be one in unity as believers]. “Was Paul crucified for you?” [obviously no. Only one had been crucified for the believers and only one could be to pay for the penalty of sins--Jesus]. “Were any of you [believers] baptized in the name of Paul?” [no. They were only baptized in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit]. Then Paul notes the few people (Crispus, Gaius and Stephanas family) who he did baptize and he is thankful he only baptized those few because they couldn’t boast that they had been baptized by him as a form of pride that they were only his disciples.
v.17, then Paul states very clearly his purpose in life “to preach the Good News [Gospel].” He wasn’t sent to baptize people. Paul wasn’t minimizing baptism, instead he was making everyone know his sole purpose and giftings supported it: preach the Gospel! And when he said “not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ lose its power” he was speaking about not getting caught up in the preacher but focus on the Message, otherwise this would empty the cross (or the act of what Jesus did on the cross–salvation) of its power and message.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? This passage brings back bad memories of a group of people who had aligned themselves with one preacher (style) and had compared all other preachers to that person (style) so much so that it hurt the church. Today one of the biggest problems in our churches is that people are so focused on the speaker or style in which he delivers, that the Message gets lost. And like the church in Corinth believers today even go as far as divide themselves from other believers because of a certain preacher. I won’t say names, but I believe one group has become the “new legalism” of today. They say “it’s our way, or the highway.” I believe this saddens God.
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? The first thing that comes to mind is to be faithful as a preacher of the Gospel message. Study hard, prepare well and present with excellence. I don’t want to loose that importance in this discussion. But the second thing is to not compare other preachers or styles to others. And appreciate all preachers for what God has gifted them to do. I hope those of you who are reading this that have got caught up in this comparison game would stop right now! And focus on the Message and less on the messenger.
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