Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:13 NIVUK)
In Corinth, unity in the church had been fractured at the point where it so often breaks down – where the focus is on human beings rather than Christ
(1 Corinthians 1:12). Within the one church of Jesus Christ, rival groups were quarrelling with each other over their allegiances to different leaders. To address this Paul, with three pointed questions, shows us the things that will promote unity in the church and they all centre on Jesus.
First, Paul draws our attention to the nature of Christ. He is one; and since there is one Christ and he cannot be divided, Christians in the same body may not be divided. So, Paul asks,
‘Is Christ divided?’ (1 Corinthians 1:13) The implication is that this is a preposterous idea, and so if we are in Christ and looking to him, then it is equally ludicrous that the members of the church be divided.
Then Paul goes on to discuss the nature of our salvation. It was Jesus who bore our sins and forgave humanity as we crucified him. It is our common indebtedness to him exclusively as our Saviour which binds us to every other believer. It is he who has purchased each of us by his blood. How then can we say that we belong to Paul or any other person? So, Paul asks,
‘Was Paul crucified for you?’ (1 Corinthians 1:13) No! Not Paul or anyone else other than Christ, so don’t give them your adoration.
Finally, Paul looks at the nature of baptism. In baptism, we are baptised into the death and resurrection of Jesus
(Romans 6:1–14), and baptism, therefore, becomes a symbol of our union with Christ as the one from whom all of God’s riches flow. So, Paul asks,
‘Were you baptised in the name of Paul?’ (1 Corinthians 1:13) Astonishingly, the Corinthian Christians were making baptism a cause of division instead of unity by maximising what Christ had minimised; for instance, the issue of who had baptised them. That’s why Paul said, I’m glad I didn’t baptise any of you, with a few exceptions.
(1 Corinthians 1:14-17)
The true unity of the church is created not by human beings but by God and is grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But we can fracture it by our human centredness or maintain it by allowing Christ to be at the centre of everything. The unity that only Christ can bring has been beautifully described as: ‘All wills bowing in the same direction, all affections burning with same flame, all aims directed to the same end – one blessed harmony of love.’
May God increasingly make his church display such a glorious pattern.
Father forgive our divisions and give us the courage to seek that unity in Christ, which is your gift and your will,
Have a good week maintaining unity.