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1 Corinthians 1:4 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 34 secs

Testing, 1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:2

 

The first nine verses of 1 Corinthians gives us the introduction. Paul begins with thanksgiving, and the thanksgiving focuses on what the Corinthians have in Christ, what we have in Christ. What we are going to discover in this epistle is that the Corinthians faced just about every problem that people face in life, and they usually handled them the way most people do, and that is the wrong way. So Paul has to straighten them out. That is to our benefit because we get to listen in on his correction for them and his instructions to them, and see how he handles them.

When we come to verse ten we come to the first major section in this epistle. It covers from verse 10 to the end of chapter four, and it is usually described as dealing with divisions in the church. That is sort of the occasion for this remark because there are four factions or cliques within the congregation that are vying with one another for power. The interesting thing is the way Paul handles that. Any church, any group of people, any company or business, has a tendency for people to congregate together around certain leaders. That is just normal, it doesn't have to be something that is negative. Sometimes there are cliques that form, and when those cliques begin to emphasize exclusion to other people that is when it becomes bad. But every time a group of people get together there are always problems eventually and that is because we are all sinners. Everybody has a sin nature and when people are operating on arrogance eventually there is always going to be a breakdown in relationships, there are always going to be problems.

The way modern man wants to solve a problem is they want to get people together and sit around a table and open up some manner of discourse to find out what the real problems are, what the concerns are, what you are sensitive to, and find out what the other person's problem are, and we get into this kind of an inter-personal dialogue based on all kinds of psychological models of human behaviour. The problem is that most of us don't realize that this whole approach to problem-solving and inter-personal relationships and conflict management (they call it) is always grounded on the psychological framework of looking at human behavior. Notice, here we have a church that is having some major conflicts and schisms and we want to pay attention to how Paul handles this. This is the divine viewpoint strategy for handling any personal problems. He doesn't do it by having people sit around, holding hands, going through some sort of sensitivity training; he doesn't handle it in any of the approaches that we are used to in our conflict management, personnel management type of approaches. The Scripture says that there is a different way to approach this and that is from the framework of Scripture. Man always handles his problems through various different techniques which we classify under the general heading of human viewpoint and all of it is an outgrowth of pagan thinking. (Paganism is not a pejorative term, is refers to any category of thinking that is not biblical) So there are only two ways of looking at life, God's way and the pagan way, and there are only two strategies basically for dealing with things in life and that is God's way and the pagan way. So it is not just a matter of what we do, it is also how we do things; it also affects methodology. We are going to get a glimpse of that and how Paul addresses this issue of divisions in the church at Corinth.

A couple of observations before we get into the section of verses 10-17.

1)  First of all, the divisions that exist in the church at Corinth are not doctrinal divisions. Paul handles doctrinal divisions in a completely different manner. In Galatians he condemned the false doctrine, and in chapter two he confronts Peter head on. A lot of people, when they get into 1 Corinthians, want to make this a doctrinal thing and they want to focus as though there was some sort of doctrinal disagreement. But that is not the issue here. If we carefully read chapters 1-4 Paul is not correcting any particular doctrine.

2)  What Paul is correcting is the framework within which this congregation is looking at their leadership. It is not a doctrinal problem, therefore, it is more of a political problem. The terminology that is used here is more often found in the language of politics, the language of a civil government and the problems of a civil government. He doesn't use language that is related to doctrine.

3)  In Paul's correction he is consistently stressing wisdom in contrast to foolishness. A vast number of all the times that the words foolishness and wisdom are used in the New Testament they are used in these four chapters. That is a major theme. When there are words like foolishness and wisdom used this much in this sort of space it says something. So Paul is addressing the problem by saying they are looking at life the wrong way—from their culture, not the framework of the Scriptures.

 In verse 10 we have a plea for unity, a request. NASB "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment." Paul addresses them as brethren and says that he exhorts them to all agree and that there not be any divisions among them. Then in verse 11 he says how he received this information that there were problems in the congregation, and in verse 12 he tells us what these problems are: four different divisions within the congregation relating to four different people. In verse 13 he skips his subject and says, "Has Christ been divided?" So he is still talking about division but he starts with division in v. 13 at the beginning and his last phrase is "were you baptized in the name of Paul?" He moves from division to baptism. Why is that? And then he spends the next three verses talking about baptism and by the time he ends this paragraph in verse 17 he says Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel. He starts the section by talking about the fact that there are divisions and problems in the congregation, moves through the subject of baptism, and ends with the gospel.

Then he is going to move from the cross, defined as the real power of God in v. 18, and begin to contrast that, the gospel as the power of God, with the wisdom of this age, in v. 20. Ten times in these next chapters there is the mention of a fool or foolishness in contrast to 26 mentions of a word related to wisdom—wisdom or the wise, or something like that. That should tell us right away that the major emphasis in this section is going to have to do with the contrast of God's wisdom with man's wisdom which is classified as foolishness.

By verse 26 he begins to contrast divine methodology with human methodology, and this includes the whole concept of public speaking or preaching. Then in chapter two there is a shift from the divine viewpoint and human viewpoint methodology to an explanation of the mind of Christ. In verse 4 of chapter two he says: "my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom [relating to the understanding of Greek rhetorical style], but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." At that point he begins to talk about the Holy Spirit and the role of the Holy Spirit in revelation, and that is going to be the subject of verse 6 down to the end of the chapter—how the Holy Spirit revealed the mind of Christ to us and how we are able to learn it.

We want to get the whole road map here. He starts of with the divisions in the congregation. To solve the problem of divisions and to help them understand why they need to quit this he goes to baptism, then to the cross, then he deals with the contrast in the way in which people think and approach life (human viewpoint vs. divine viewpoint), then we get divine viewpoint from the Holy Spirit in the revelation of Scripture, and then when we get to chapter three he is going to come back to the division. Then he moves into rewards and the judgment seat of Christ. Why is that? From the judgment seat of Christ he moves in vv. 16, 17 to emphasizing the fact that every believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit sets apart the body of the believer as a temple for the indwelling of the Shekinah glory of Jesus Christ. From that he comes back to the problem of foolishness vs. wisdom at the end of chapter three, and then in chapter four he is going to apply everything he has said in chapters two and three to the role of the apostles and apostolic authority, and concluding in 4:20 by saying that the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. Now you can't understand that sentence of you don't understand everything that has gone before. That is why you always have to study things in context. What he is saying here, "does not consist in words," is the Greek approach to rhetoric and oratory which put its emphasis on style and manipulative techniques as opposed to content. So the power that he mentions is power that is going to go back to an understanding of the cross and what God has done for us at salvation, in contrast to the human viewpoint or Greek culture approach which puts emphasis on words and the whole concept of a group of men that were coming to the forefront at this time called sophists and their whole methodology.

So to understand a lot of what is going on here we will be looking at Greek culture and how that has affected the people in the congregation. We are not any different from the Corinthians. We were all saved out of a cultural context and we think a certain way. But the way that we were taught to think and approach life and to problem-solve is unique to our culture, but it is not necessarily biblical even though it may be influenced by a certain amount of biblical truth that has a sort of residual effect in our culture. It does not mean that the frame of reference for our thought is biblical or that the framework of our thinking is the framework of God's thinking. The purpose of coming to church, the purpose of the pastoral ministry, is to teach. We are here to learn how to think biblically. One of the major themes in this section is that the Corinthians have failed to learn how to think biblically. They are thinking just like unbelievers, they are operating like unbelievers inside the congregation, and it is going to be emphasized again and again in the entire epistle that they continue to think and act just like unbelievers and are just like a new group—a new social group, a new club, or a new school of thought and they are all calling themselves Christians now. They are not thinking or acting any differently from the unbelievers around them. This is a problem we still have—very much so in the church today—that most churches do not understand that the purpose of what happens in the pulpit is to teach people how to think differently.

In effect, what happens in the process of spiritual growth is that God the Holy Spirit is demolishing the thought forms, the value systems, the norms and standards, the thinking methodology that we develop through years of human viewpoint training, and He is erecting a new edifice. But of we don't give Him the information through the consistent detailed study of God's Word, day in and day out, then there are no tools and there are no materials for the Holy Spirit to reconstruct this new edifice.

1 Corinthians 1:10 NASB "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment." Paul begins by using the verb PARAKALEO [parakalew], the present active indicative. This is the verb form of the noun PARAKLETOS [paraklhtoj] for the Holy Spirit, and it means literally to call alongside. As a noun it has the idea of a helper or an assistant, and this refers to the Holy Spirit who is the one who is our helper and assistant who enables us to live the spiritual life; but as a verb it has a different set of meanings. It means to ask, to request, in some cases it might even mean to beg, it means to appeal, to summon. Its primary use in Greek rhetorical style or in oratory was to introduce some sort of appeal that was designed to manipulate, to sway, or to convince people. Paul doesn't use it this way. If Paul was to use it that way it would be in contrast to the very message that he was using it in. The word basically was used in two different ways in the literature of the first century. One was in this specific technical Greek rhetorical style where it was designed to have some sort of manipulative aspect to it. Or it was used to make a simple request, and that is how it should be translated here. "Exhort" in the NASB is not a good translation; it should be "I ask you" or "I request of you." Paul is making a request based on his apostolic authority. Then he says, "though the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," and there he uses another technical construction, the preposition DIA [dia] plus the genitive. We have seen DIA plus the genitive in Ephesians 2:8, 9—"by grace you have been saved through faith." DIA plus the genitive always has the idea of means or instrumentality, that it is through something, not because of something. He is asking this through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the one who commissioned him as an apostle and sent him on a particular mission, and as an apostle he is a direct representative of the Lord Jesus Christ and he is laying the foundation of the church, according to Ephesians 2:20. So the Lord Jesus Christ is working through the apostles in directing the church. Sp Paul is once again reminding them of his apostolic authority which is a major issue with the Corinthians. They are going to question his credentials and whether he really has authority over them. So Paul begins by emphasizing his apostolic authority. The "name" always emphasizes the character of someone; in other words, because of who Jesus Christ is.

The term "brethren" is a term that is all-inclusive of men and women in the congregation and is a term related believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. So here again we are emphasizing the fact that all of these messed-up, screwed-up, confused, carnal Corinthians are all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and Paul has authority over them as an apostle. Her ask of them, "that you all agree." This is not in a doctrinal sense because the issue is not talking about doctrine. He says, "that there be no divisions among you." This is the Greek word SCHISMA [sxisma] which can refer to strong divisions, but it can also refer to just differences in thinking or differences in judgment. It was used to describe some things that were torn apart physically, or literally ripped apart, and is was also used in a metaphorical sense to describe division between people. This use of division between people can be traced as far back as Herodotus in the 5th century. It was also used in the first century BC and then later by Clement of Rome in 96 AD when he was referring, once again, to divisions in the Corinthians church. Some churches have been deeply divided over doctrine but they tend to split into different congregations. This is till one congregation so the problem of divisions here is real but it is not so deep and rigid that is it causing the congregation to split into different congregations. But there are disagreements and the cliques that have developed in the Corinthian church and for the next 50 years it is going to be plagued by this same kind of problem. Paul is requesting them that they agree and that there not be any divisions among them.

These divisions, as we will see, always come from mental attitude sins and the sin nature. In verse 11 says that Chloe's people have informed him that there are quarrels among them, and this is the same word used for strife in Galatians 5:20, which talks about this as being one of the manifestations of the works of the flesh or the sin nature. Paul is countering that and he says they need to have the same kind of thinking and the same judgment. The word that is translated here "same mind [thinking]" and "same judgment" are words that are used typically in political discourse of the day.

1 Corinthians 1:11 NASB "For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's {people,} that there are quarrels among you." Paul has learned this through the grape vine, so to speak. Chloe is the name of a woman and she is not in Corinth. Apparently she had a business, probably a trade business, in Ephesus, and some of her employees who were believers travelling back and forth from Ephesus to Corinth. When they got back to Ephesus they went immediately to Paul and told him that there were some significant problems in the Corinthian church.

1 Corinthians 1:12 NASB "Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas,' and 'I of Christ.'" The strife is related to personalities. They are not dividing up according to doctrine because as far as we can tell at this point there is no doctrinal disagreement between Paul, Apollos, Peter, and of course, of Christ. But what we do have here is something typical of the sophists, the philosophical schools in Greece at this time. What would happen in the culture at large is that they would become attracted to different teachers and personalities and then they would develop different schools around these different leaders and personalities. This doesn't mean that Paul, Apollos and Peter were in opposition to one another but the people were attracted to one teacher, another is attracted to another teacher, and they began to develop these cliques and personality cults related to their teachers. This was beginning to have a divisive effect. So how does Paul handle the problem of division?

1 Corinthians 1:13 NASB "Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" The way he asks the question implies a negative answer. Christ has not been divided; of course not. He asks these three rhetorical questions in order to focus the answer. The answer to all three is no. Notice how he uses himself here because he is making the point that none of these—himself, Apollos or Peter—are really the issue. The issue is Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross. It is fascinating that he moved from a division of Christ to baptism, because apparently there were some in Corinth who had been down in Judea and some were baptized by Peter, some by Apollos, and so whoever baptized them they seemed to be emphasizing him as the leader of a particular school of influence.

1 Corinthians 1:14 NASB "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius." Paul is emphasizing the fact that he did baptize, so that when he says [17] that Christ did not send him to baptize but to preach the gospel he was not saying that he, Paul, was not supposed to baptize anyone. Cf. Matthew 28:19, 20. Baptism is a picture of what happens at salvation in terms of positional truth. So once again we see that Paul is coming back to the same subject that he emphasized at the beginning of the epistle in his prayer of thanksgiving, and that is that we have been given everything in Christ. We have been given salvation, we are identified with Christ, we are in Christ, and we are identified with His death, burial and resurrection. Because of that we have been given forty things that are ours—40 spiritual blessings, realities that are ours, that belong to every single believer—at the instant of salvation. In water baptism or believer's baptism it is to be for believers only. It is not for children, unless they have a clear understanding of salvation, it is not for infants, and it is done by immersion. The reason is that it is a picture. Just as the Lord's table is a picture of what Christ did on the cross—the bread a picture of His person, the cup of His sacrifice on the cross where He paid the penalty for our sins—believer's baptism is a picture of positional truth. It is simply a teaching tool that God has initiated for the church age in order that new believers have an accurate understanding of what took place at salvation in terms of positional truth.

1 Corinthians 1:15 NASB "so that no one would say you were baptized in my name." So apparently they were going around distorting this into the fact that they were baptized in the name of one of these leaders.

1 Corinthians 1:16, 17 NASB "Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other." The point that he is making is that baptism is secondary, proclamation of the gospel is primary. "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void." What does Paul mean by cleverness of speech? This is going to introduce the main theme that Paul is going to deal with in the next three chapters, and that is the rhetorical, oratorical techniques of secular culture vs. the clear content-oriented explanation of what Christ did on the cross, where the power is in the cross, not in the words of the preacher. The issue is the message of what Jesus Christ did on the cross when he died as a substitute for us. When people hear that message, when God the Holy Spirit makes that real to them and they respond to that in faith alone in Christ alone, that is the power of the gospel. It is not to be diluted or destroyed by mixing it with human viewpoint techniques of speech or oratory in order to manipulate people's emotions and get them into salvation. It has to be based solely on content and on a clear understanding of the gospel and what the Lord did for us on the cross.