Exposition of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Unity under the cross of Christ

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Verse 10 marks the sharp transition from prior thanksgiving into issues within the Corinthian church. Paul states from the outset that a problem within the church demands resolution in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:10). Hidden within the English translations is a threefold repetition of the word for same all say the same thing (1 Cor. 1:10, NET Bible margin) . . . be restored with the same mind and the same purpose (1 Cor. 1:10b, Common English Bible).

The Greek verb Paul employs for agree (1 Cor. 1:10) is colorful. It is used in Mark 1:19 for mending a torn fishing net; it also was used to describe setting a broken bone.[1] The restoration of unity in relation to witness, mind and purpose would satisfy the appeal that there be no divisions among you (1 Cor. 1:10). We do best in applying these ideas when we stress Pauls solution — a thorough pursuit of unity — rather than entering into speculation about the exact nature of the disagreements in the Corinthian church.

In calling the Corinthians brothers and sisters (1 Cor. 1:11), Paul speaks as no Roman would speak except to a blood relative. He is emphasizing their unity in Christ. Paul has had word of actual quarrels in the church that involve people taking different sides. Paul identifies these groups by using the names Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter), and Christ (1 Cor. 1:12). The best explanation appears to be that Paul made up the slogans (e.g. I am of Apollos) to be put-downs of such petty bickering rather than actual self-designations by the groups involved. He presents a childish caricature to illustrate the presence of radical individuality in the church.[2]

It is likely that the final clause I follow Christ is a sample of Pauls sarcasm,[3] yet it has a literary purpose in that it allows Paul to simultaneously lampoon the divisions while gathering all of the Corinthian Christians under the banner of Christ as he develops his argument.

In 1 Cor. 1:13, Paul resorts to shocking language to make his point. The question Is Christ divided? expects the answer yes! By their disunity, it is as if Christ has been torn into parts! Greek grammar next signals that the following two questions (Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?) expect the answer no. It is absurd to put Paul on the level of Christ, who alone went to the cross for our sins. Equally foolish is the idea that anyone would have been baptized into union with Paul — no!

Almost as an aside, Paul mentions baptizing Crispus and Gaius (1 Cor. 1:14). We learn in Acts 18:8 that Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord. They were among the first to believe Pauls preaching in Corinth. Another who trusted in Christ was Titius Justus, a Gentile whose large house stood next to the synagogue (Acts 18:7). When Paul mentions in Rom. 16:23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, many believe his full name is Gaius Titius Justus.[4]

Paul returns to the subject of 1 Cor. 1:1, his sending by Christ. He was sent to preach the good news with plain speech about the cross of Christ (1 Cor. 1:17) because those persuaded by clever rhetoric would not experience the power of Christs death and resurrection. No one, then or now, is won by clever speech; we gain salvation only by trusting in Jesus, who died for us on the cross and rose again to a new life for God.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 43.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 48.

[3] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 49.

[4] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 62, footnote 71.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!