Author: Ron Graham
Paul heard that the Christians in Corinth were no longer united in Christ. They had split into factions supposedly following rival apostles as equals of Jesus. Paul says, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1Corinthians 1:13).
¶“10I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree. Let there be no divisions among you, but rather be perfectly united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren” (1Corinthians 1:10-11).
¶“12I mean that each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas,' or 'I follow Christ.' 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1Corinthians 1:12-13).
¶“14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I cannot recall whether I baptized anyone else)” (1Corinthians 1:14-16).
¶“17For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1Corinthians 1:17).
This division in the congregation at Corinth was a disaster. What caused it? The Corinthians had lost sight of the core elements of Christianity. Paul is thinking of three of those elements as he fires the three rhetorical questions in verse 13...
“Is Christ divided?” (1Corinthians 1:13a).
The Christians in Corinth were the body of Christ there. Paul told them, “You are the body of Christ and members individually” (1Corinthians 12:27). Christ has one body and he is not divided. The members of his body should be united.
“The [human] body is one yet has many members. The members of that one body, being many, are one body. So also is Christ. For by one Spirit you were all baptized into one body...” (1Corinthians 12:12-13).
The division of the Corinthians into factions went entirely against this foundation principle. That's why we must take care to keep ourselves members of Christ and not members of some religious party or faction.
Paul exhorts, “All of you agree. Let there be no divisions among you, but rather be perfectly united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1Corinthians 1:10). This can be accomplished. Paul doesn't ask the impossible.
It is possible to be “perfectly united” if we confine ourselves to the wisdom revealed by God. “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the holy people” (1Corinthians 14:33).
“Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches...” (1Corinthians 2:12-13).
Some people think we cannot agree on the meaning of those words. But Paul said, “By revelation Christ made known to me the mystery as I have briefly written already, by which when you read you will understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3-4).
Paul didn't think that people who read his words would have different understandings of what he said. He thought that they would understand his knowledge and be able to agree on it.
“Was Paul crucified for you?” (1Corinthians 1:13b).
This question goes to the heart of the problem at Corinth. They had forgotten a core principle of the Christian faith. “I made up my mind to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Corinthians 2:1-2).
Paul understood that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved it is the power of God” (1Corinthians 1:18).
Paul however continued to preach “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures, and that he was seen...” (1Corinthians 15:1-8).
The Corinthians needed to be reminded of what Jesus did for them, and to be united in him and his sacrificial death for their “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1Corinthians 1:30).
The Corinthians were not properly remembering Christ’s death at the Lord’s Supper (1Corinthians 11:17-34). That indicated their moving away from the core of the gospel —Christ crucified.
Jesus was crucified for you. Nobody else was. So why should you follow and give allegiance to somebody else?
“Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1Corinthians 1:13c).
Paul preached the same baptism that was preached to him when he was told, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
This baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ brings people into the death of Christ of which we have been speaking. Paul said, “Don't you know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3).
The Corinthians were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because Christ was crucified for them and it was into His death they were baptized. No one else's name is appropriate for baptism, “no other name under heaven” (Acts 4:12), because no one else’s blood could wash sins away.
For that same reason it is inappropriate to be a disciple of anyone but Jesus, or to call onself a Paulian, Wesleyan, Lutheran, or Campbellite. Neither Paul, Wesley, Luther or Campbell died for us and we were not baptized in their names. Why then should we call ourselves by their names or any other name but Christ’s?
Before we close this lesson, we should look at why Paul said, “I thank God that I baptized none of you... For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel...” (1Corinthians 1:14,17).
If Paul thought baptism was unimportant, why did he ask the question, “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” alongside the question, “Was Paul crucified for you?” (1Corinthians 1:13).
Paul could not have meant that baptism is unnecessary. He believed and taught that people are baptized into Christ’s death where alone there is salvation (Romans 6). We must not make him contradict his own teaching and what he himself was taught in Acts 22:16.
Paul was a travelling apostle. As he preached from place to place, he felt it wise to let the Christians in that place baptize the converts, rather than doing the baptisms himself. This avoided the danger of people attaching importance to the person baptizing, rather than to the Christ into whom they were being baptized.
Everyone baptized into Christ’s death should "boast" only in Christ and his death. That makes everyone united in Christ. On the other hand, misplaced pride and importance causes division.