But I urge you, believers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in full agreement in what you say that there be no divisions or factions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your thinking and in your opinions and judgment [about matters of faith].
For I have been informed about you, my brothers and sisters, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are quarrels and factions among you. Now I mean this, that one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” or “I am a [disciple] of Apollos,” or I am a [disciple] of Cephas (Peter),” or “I am a [disciple] of Christ.” Has Christ been divided [into different parts]?
( 1 Corinthians 1:10-13a) The Amplified Bible
For some historical and cultural context, I narrowed my research to: “Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians” by Kenneth E. Bailey, a professor of theology in the Middle East for 40 years.
I learned that Corinth had been a Greek City that had been destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C. and then rebuilt by the Romans to become a trade city in 44 B.C. In Corinth, a thriving commercial town in the first century, there were various ethnic communities, three of which would have the dominated the young Christian community. In order of importance: Romans were the top, Greeks were next, then the Jews, (who were considered powerless foreigners).
As Paul was a Roman citizen, Apollos was Greek, and Cephas was a Jew from Galilee, it is not surprising that each of the ethnic groups would have leaned toward a leader that was of their group, but it was causing serious strife and division in the whole community.
It also was evident that there were leaders in the church community who were inciting the conflict. Partly to protect Chloe’s household from reprisal, Paul used his, Apollos’ and Cephas’ names to identify the problem without pointing fingers at the most likely trouble makers.
Then there was the group who “claimed” to be real “Disciples of Christ” as pointing to the rest as not really “true believers”. Their attitude of superiority would have caused a great deal of division in the community, too.
The question Paul asked of them, “Has Christ been divided?” [into different parts?], can still be asked of his church today. Comparison, competition and one-up-man-ship still exists in church communities around the world.
To remind myself of the community I’m in as well as the whole church of Christ, I have paraphrased 1 Corinthians 1:2 from the Amplified Bible.
To the church of God at South Fellowship in Littleton, to those who are sanctified (set apart, made holy) in Christ Jesus, who are selected and called as saints (God’s people), together with all those who in every place call on and honor the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
This week, think about our community called “South Fellowship”. Look at what is in bold white letters on the fellowship area wall and think about what it means that Jesus is undivided both in heart and in the way he calls us to live in community with each other.