Divisions and Wisdom (Part 4 of 8) (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
and I of Apollos;
They quarreled about their ministers. Paul and Apollos were both faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, and contributed to their faith and joy: but those who were inclined to be quarrelsome broke into parties, and put their ministers at the head of their factions: some were advocates for Paul, perhaps because he was the most inspirational and spiritual teacher; others were advocates for Apollos, perhaps because he was the most eloquent speaker; some Cephas, or Peter, perhaps out of respect for his age, or because he was the apostle of the circumcision; and some were for none of them, but were devotees of Christ only. So, as it often happens, the best things in the world are corrupted, and the gospel along with its institutions, which are in perfect harmony are made the engines of disagreement, conflict, and fighting. This is not a criticism of our religion, but a very sad evidence of the corruption and depravity of human nature. Note, How far will pride carry Christians who are in opposition to one another! So far as to put Christ and his own apostles at odds, and make them rivals and competitors
and I of Cephas;
The church at Corinth had its beginning in the Jewish synagogue; Crispus being the chief ruler, and Sosthenes his successor (probably), were converts. That's why some Jewish leaven, though not as much as sprang up in Rome, is traceable to the Church there: Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I (2 Cor 11:22 ). Some were devoted to Peter, and opposed to both Paul and Apollos, whom they considered upstart ministers, by comparison to Peter, who was with Christ from the beginning, and saw his miracles, and heard his doctrines; and, besides, he had the apostleship and Gospel of the circumcision, and on this account they greatly appreciated him. It is supposed that this faction consisted of the converted Jews, who still retained a fondness for the ceremonies of the law: Peter was their minister, and they were called by his name.
Peter expressed his own peculiar views when teaching, and it is probable that his teaching was not regarded as entirely harmonious with that of Paul (See Galatians 2:11-17). Paul taught among the Gentiles that it was not necessary to observe the ceremonial laws of Moses; and, it is probable, that Peter was regarded by the Jews as the advocate of the contrary doctrine. Whether Peter had been at Corinth is unknown. If not, they had heard of his name and character; and those who had come from Judea had probably reported that he taught the observance of Jewish ceremonies, unlike Paul.
If it is wrong to boast "I am of Peter," how much worse is it to boast “I am of the Pope!"
and I of Christ;
Some say these are the words of the apostle, declaring who he was of, and for, and belonged to; indicating that they, like him, should call no man on earth father, or master, or be called by any other name than that of Christian. Others consider them to be the words of the Corinthians, a small part of them who were very poor and objectionable and therefore mentioned last. They chose to be known and called by no other name than that of Christian; but I think that these were a faction and party that should be condemned along with the others. It’s true they were for Christ, but at the same time, they were opposed to Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, and any other ministers of the word. They were for Christ without his ministers; they were wiser than their teachers; they were above being under any authority or regulation. The other factions attributed too much to the ministers of the Gospel, but these diminished and devalued them, and denied they were of any use and benefit. Some people who are for Christ may be guilty of using his name to deceive men.
We can’t know for certain why this sect professed to be the followers of Christ, but it was probably due to one of the two following causes:
(1) Either they had been in Judea and had seen the Lord Jesus, and as a result, regarded themselves as exceptionally favored and distinguished; or,
(2) Most likely, because they refused to call themselves by the name of any inferior leader, and wished to regard Christ alone as their Head, and possibly prided themselves on the belief that they were more conformed to him than the other sects.
So, the question we should ask ourselves is this; “Are there three sinful parties in this verse, or four?” Despite the numerous opinions to the effect that "I of Christ" represents a sinful separation no less than the other slogans, this student cannot agree that there was ever anything wrong with a follower of the Lord claiming to be "of Christ." The persuasive assertions of many
to the effect that the Christ party was a self-righteous little group insisting that they alone had the truth are as ridiculous as they are uncorroborated by any solid evidence. Paul himself declared that he was "of Christ:" “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trusts to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so, are we Christ's” (2 Cor 10:7; KJV). Certainly, the evidence is strong enough that he made the declaration in this verse: the "AND I OF CHRIST" are not the words of a faction at Corinth but of the blessed apostle himself. William Barclay interpreted the verse this way: "I am of Paul; I am of Apollos; I am of Cephas - but I BELONG TO CHRIST." I am convinced that these are the words of Paul; However, I am also of the opinion that there was a faction in the church that was just as adamant about being “of Christ,” as the other factions were about being of their particular minister. How I wish that everyone could say along with Paul; “I am of Christ.”
This explains the nature of these quarrels. In almost all the apostolic churches there were quarrels between the Jewish and Gentile converts. It is apparent from the contents of this and of the following letter that these quarrels were instigated by false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:1315
); that these teachers were Jewish (2 Corinthians 11:2216
); and that they endeavored to undermine the authority of Paul as an apostle. The two principal parties in Corinth, therefore, were Gentiles calling themselves the disciples of Paul, and Jews claiming to be the followers of Peter.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
The grounds for our allegiance to Christ are, first, that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God; second, that he has redeemed us; third, that we are consecrated to him in baptism. All these grounds are unique to Christ. There is no other being in the universe to which believers have a relationship with other than their common Lord. Therefore, there is one Christ, one redeemer, one baptism; Christians cannot be divided without violating the bond which binds them to Christ. The triple question, which is verse 13 was intended to expose and correct the sin of the three groups glorying in people, but they do not cast the slightest reflection upon those who were "of Christ," who are the only ones that could have given the proper response to Paul's question. The other three groups, however, would have been forced to confess that neither Paul, Apollos, nor Peter had been crucified for them, and that they had not been baptized into any of those three names.
Is Christ divided?
"Is Christ divided?" no; His human body was not to be divided; not one of His bones was to be broken, (John 19:3617
; Psalms 34:2018
); the seamless garment He wore was not to be rent asunder (torn), (John 19:23, 2419
); nor is His mystical body, the church, to be torn in pieces by splits and divisions; nor is any part of His Gospel different from, or opposite to another part of it; His doctrine does not change from one minister to another (at least it shouldn’t). Christ is not, cannot be, or will He ever be divided from His Father; they have the same nature, despite the fact that He is a distinct person. And He cannot be divided from Him in His works and actions; He and His father were jointly involved in creation, providence, and grace. Christ’s two natures, human and divine, are united in one person; they are distinctly different, and are not to be confused, yet they are not to be separated like two distinct persons. Also, He cannot be divided from His Spirit; He and His Spirit are distinctly different persons, but they have the same nature, gifts and graces. The Spirit of God implants His grace in the hearts of men: it comes from Him; it makes men like Him, and glorifies Him. Christ cannot be divided from His church and people; there is a close union between them, and He dwells in them.
In this verse, Paul cries out “Is Christ divided?” and then he proceeds to show the indecency of their divisions and strife. His general argument is, that Christ alone ought to be regarded as their Head and Leader, and that His claims, arising from His crucifixion, and acknowledged by their baptism, were so unsurpassed that they could not be divided, and the respect due to Him should not be given to any other. The apostle, therefore, asks whether Christ was to be regarded as divided. Whether this single supreme Head and Leader of the church had become the Head of different opposing factions? The absolute absurdity of supposing that, showed the unseemliness of their aligning themselves with different leaders.