Divide and fall out!

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Who is your own favourite Christian leader, speaker or writer? Who has most influence over you in living your Christian life? Do you see any problems in having your ‘favourites’?

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Bible passage 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Divisions in the Church
 10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."

 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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It's ok to disagree…
Human beings are always likely to have arguments or disagree with each other. In a sense there is nothing wrong with that. We ought to be people with strong preferences and opinions. Being a Christian is not all about always agreeing with each other or being indifferent to all issues, large or small. Think of Jesus.

…up to a point!
However, what we have here is disagreement which brings division and party-spirit. They have their favourite leaders and thereby disrupt the essential unity of the Christian body. Of course, this news comes to him by way of gossip (v 11)! From what we know of the personalities of Paul, Peter and Apollos in the rest of the New Testament, what do you think attracted people to each of them?

Notice how Paul denies any part in all of this. In 2 Corinthians 10–13 he writes that he is even accused of being very weak and pathetic, untrained and unimpressive. Here he focuses upon the cross and his calling to be a preacher (v 17). His reputation and standing with them is secondary to what really matters.


How would you paraphrase verse 17 in your own words to express the central issue around which all Christians can unite? Where do you see disunity in the church today? Pray for God’s grace in those situations.

Robert Willoughby

Deeper Bible study

O come, let us return to the living God, let us bow before the one who is our Maker.

We hear the cry of Paul’s heart now as he begins with a brotherly appeal. He is earnestly imploring family members to remember who their Father is and behave as God’s children should. The church is neither a club nor an organisation, but a family. Family members don’t always agree, but Paul appeals for them to stop exalting leaders in the way that has blighted this first-century fellowship. He mentions Jesus Christ ten times in the first ten verses, to build his argument for unity on the one who taught it so clearly: ‘A new command I give you: love one another’ (John 13:34).

Paul’s appeal for unity is not a command or an order, but it carries the weight of his love for the church and his concern for its witness. If there is a split or division in any Christian group or church, it dishonours the name of Christ. It is dangerous to lift up leaders and put them on pedestals. The cult of personality has no place in the church. When such leaders fail, as they will because they are human, the effects can be catastrophic for the cause of Christ. When I was a young believer a man whom I admired greatly as a dynamic and powerful leader fell into sin and was dismissed. The bottom fell out of my world. Then I read the words of Jesus to Peter when he was concerned about what God was doing in John’s life – ‘what is that to you? You must follow me’ (John 21:22).

Division blunts our effectiveness in mission. A divided church is like a torn fishing net. If schism is not fixed it will undermine our testimony and render our evangelism powerless. That’s why Paul dealt with it right at the start of his letter.

Eric Gaudion

Unity is all-important

David Prior1 helpfully analyses the causes of the strife at Corinth around two key Greek words:

Haireseis = the root of our word ‘heresy’
First, different groups in the church had chosen to emphasise different aspects of life in Christ. The problem was selectivity (Greek: haireseis). Selectivity is all right until the particular emphasis becomes the be-all and end-all.

Schismata = the root of our word ‘schism’
Second, selectivity can lead to splinter groups. The Greek word translated ‘dissensions’ is schismata.

The different parties had organised themselves around different leaders in the church. What seems to have happened here is that while arguing about matters of theology and Christian experience, they had lost their love for one another.

How easily this can happen! As long as our knowledge is partial (see 1 Corinthians 13:9) there will be disagreements among us. We must never allow these to break our love and fellowship with one another.

Paul makes use of some techniques used by orators of his day (and still in use). In verse 13 he asks some rhetorical questions. Obviously, the answer to these is ‘No!’ But by asking them in this way, he makes the reader realise how stupid the questions are and therefore how wrongheaded their attitudes are.

The people
Apollos was a Jewish Christian from the famous university city of Alexandria in Egypt. Not only does he seem to have had an excellent education, but he was also a gifted orator, and when he came to Corinth he was a very effective evangelist.

We read in Acts 18:26, however, that when he was in Ephesus his understanding of the gospel was incomplete, as he knew only about the baptism of John. Aquila and Priscilla took him under their wing and ‘explained to him the way of God more adequately’.

Later, when Paul came to Ephesus (see Acts 19:1–7), the converts were re-baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and prophesying.

Cephas is Peter.

We don't know anything else about Chloe.

Crispus was probably the leader of the synagogue, mentioned in Acts 18:8.

Gaius is a common Roman name, but this is probably the Gaius of Romans 16:23, usually identified with the Titius Justus of Acts 18:7 who showed hospitality to Paul in Corinth.

Stephanas is mentioned here and in 1 Corinthians 16:15–17, where he is praised as one of the first Greek converts for his devoted service of the Lord's people, and as a Christian leader.

Annabel Robinson

1 The Message of 1 Corinthians (BST; IVP, 1985)

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Once again (Jesus, Christ)
Matt Redman
Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com

  • Song: God only wise
  • Composer: Eoghan Heaslip & Nick Herbert
  • Artist: Eoghan Heaslip
  • Album: Wonderful Story
  • Publisher: Survivor Music
  • Copyright: Copyright © 2008 Thankyou Music
  • Buy this album here 

  • Rachael Hampton | Monday, 04 December 2017

    Such a joyous relief Cath! Thanking God with you all. Jack, I found your comment meaty, and the song very pertinent - and relevant on many levels. Indeed we wait, groaning and travailing along with creation, for all that The Child will bring, while we even now rejoice that He has come. Now and not yet. There will be no divisions, no schisms in Heaven.

  • Hugh Skeil | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the centre - Christ on the Cross - be trivialised Into mere words. Message Bible

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    The three questions in verse 13 all have the emphatic answer of no! Paul did this to show the absurdity of these divisions among the Corinthian Christians. Jesus is the one who provided salvation for them. Since there is only one Christ Jesus, there should only be one body of Christ. An earlobe or a liver, we're all equal in the body and my prayer for 'the church' is that we be brought to a high degree of oneness in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  • Rosemary Fairweather | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Thanks and praise that your worry and fear has been transformed into joy Cath. Thanks for sharing the news with us. May Gods love and blessings surround you.

  • Hilary Dale | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Lord work more in our hearts so we stop seeking followers of ourselves, and, like Paul, resist any involvement in schisms, but preach just the Message so You have more followers. O how the Devil has fun dividing to "conquer". Lord may your Spirit transform us!

  • Hilary Dale | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Dear kind WL family, I'd appreciate some support in praying my son through a dodgy teenage party tonight. There will be much alcohol and craziness, lots of fun too...but it's a sixth form organised do, so important to be a part of in many ways. But please pray that he may make choices by the Spirit not by the flesh! And that the sober fun will outshine the drunken fun! Thankyou.

  • Jean MacKenzie | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Praying for your son at this party tonight, Hilary.

  • Eileen Smith | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    praying HILARY

  • Carol Stockman | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Would appreciate prayer today as I have to have another procedure in hospital to stem the fluid build up by inserting a drain. This will be the sixth visit to hospital in ten days and I am very weary.

  • Eileen Smith | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    --- and for you CAROL

  • Angela Munday | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Father God as we grow and mature, we leave our childlike ways behind us; a child learns to make their own choices and to be responsible. Jesus accepted a wooden cross to die upon to give us the gift of life with You. May this truth be ever in our hearts as we share our lives in this world......"Live in harmony with each other"; Jesus unites us and in our maturity may we learn to walk away from people and situations that threaten the peace that only You can give us. Thankyou Father that You teach us day by day and always watch over us in perfect love. Amen.

  • Linda Penrose | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Praying CAROL

  • Angela Munday | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    I am continuing in prayer for you CAROL - may all go well at this hospital visit. I pray you are receiving good nursing to help your recovery.

  • Lynda Spencer | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Praying for you, CAROL, that the Lord will give you strength, relief from your symptoms, healing for your body, and His peace. HILARY, praying also for your son. I remember how hard it was for me to let my sons go out into the world with all its temptations and dangers, but you are doing exactly the right thing in praying for your boy and asking others to do the same. May the Lord bless you and give you His peace today.

  • Christopher Brann | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Who is your own favourite Christian leader, speaker or writer? Jesus is leader and speaker; Paul as writer.

  • Jack Russell | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Rachael. thank you for your encouragement. It delights me that you are ready for meat and don't have to be fed milk. On divisions and being accused of being weak, have you ever known what it is like to be told to "man up" only then to be told that what you are doing is causing distress and anyone who does that is not being loving? Perhaps the first place for protection against division is in oneself so that one can stand on a frim foundation and not be blown about by approval or disapproval or any doctrine, political movement, activism etc. One thing is for sure, that when it risks the disapproval of one's own peers is when one's loyalty shows - whether it is to Christ or whatever is politically expedient, comfortable and safe at any particular time. Paul didn't choose to have a rock star like following but to go a route that ultimately led to imprisonment and death. I wonder what each one of us would do in similar circumstances. Would we choose what is easier or would we choose what is powerful and honouring to God?

  • Ruth Lewis | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Dear HILARY, I am praying that your son will make Godly choices at the party, and not be tempted by the flesh. I have prayed this prayer so many times. Having 4 sons and now my young adult grandsons and granddaughters, I am forever crying out to God to keep them from hurt, harm and danger. I pray for them to use Godly wisdom as they go through life. I pray the Lord will dispatch His Angels of protection around them as they go about their days and nights. This I pray for your son also and I pray for you that you will rest in the Lord, keeping in mine that He does not want us to worry or be anxious about anything, especially after we have prayed to Him for help. I want you to have the Assurance that your son will be just fine, that he will not be swayed by the flesh, because God hears and answers our Prayers!!!

  • Ruth Lewis | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Dear CAROL, I am praying for you that you will feel the presence of God comforting you as you go for the procedure. I am also praying for complete healing for your body. Please listen to this song by Don Moen on Healing. Jesus is our Healer!!! https://youtu.be/7BuquFCyOzk

  • Colin Anderson | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Elsewhere in Corinthians Paul says to have no dealings with those in the church who are immoral. So sometimes there has to be separation, otherwise the cross of Christ will be emptied of its power.

  • Rebecca Huie | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Praying for you, Hilary, that the Lord will surround your son with angelic protection and wisdom beyond his years. (In the US, the legal age for drinking is 21. Anyone serving alcohol to someone younger may be punished by law. The adults in charge are accountable- I don’t know whether this applies to your circumstance or not.) God bless you, dear Hilary. Praying for you, Carol, as you return to the hospital, that this time you will find treatment and relief/release from this ongoing situation. May the medical personnel give you the treatment you need so that you will not need to return anytime soon. Lord sustain you and heal you. God bless you, Carol.

  • Hilary Dale | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Thankyou for encouragements and prayers. We are in UK where law is less strict on drink, and the current norm for much of 16+ culture is huge amounts of alcohol supplied by parents...they need to learn to manage and have self control amidst the great fun. But it often feels way out of control, especially with big "official" school gatherings...Angels needed! Will update you tomorrow!

  • Rebecca Huie | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Thank you, Hilary; I didn’t know that about UK 16 y.o. drinking. I’ll amend my prayers. Grateful for the information. Prayers!

  • Barbara Sabin | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    I remember very well when I was a girl my Mother remarked to my Dad that she wasn't going to Chapel as she wasn't keen on the preacher and my Dad very firmly said she was free to do as as she wished but that regardless of who the preacher was he would be going to worship. I have never forgotten that. We all have different gifts. Psalm 133 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. Remembering you in prayer CAROL .

  • Angela Evans | Tuesday, 05 December 2017


  • Hannah Strachan | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    Hi Jack, you have a very similar writing style and writing content to a previous WL user. I hope you don't mind me asking, but is 'Jack Russell' a psuesdenym?

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