Sunday, 16 March 2014
Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:12
Divisions… Paul referred to them in verse 10 and then what they resulted in (contentions) in verse 11. Now he explains the divisions that he has heard about. “Now I say this” is his way of saying, “Now this is what I mean…”
The believers in Corinth had divided into factions based on style of preaching or in some other way. One would say, “I am of Paul” and another would say, “I am of Apollos.” Paul was probably more theologically adept than the rest, having been a Pharisee who was well-grounded in Scripture. Apollos, who is mentioned in Acts 18:24 as “an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures,” may have been a better orator and maybe could have woven a message together which was inspiring and interesting.
But there were other divisions besides these two. Someone else claimed “I am of Cephas.” Cephas is another name for the Apostle Peter. He had been with Jesus from the beginning. He had received his instruction from the Lord and was one of the “inner circle” along with James and John at all of the high points in Christ’s ministry. He could easily have become an object of adoration because of these things. He had seen the miracles, he was there at the resurrection, he beheld the ascension. And he was also the “Apostle to the Jews.” Because of this…. well, “He is my man.”
And yet, there was another faction, “I am of Christ.” This sounds right (and it is, if truthful), but it can also be interpreted in a negative way as well. If someone isn’t holding to proper doctrine and says “I am of Christ” then those who follow him will be led astray. To say “I am of Christ” then must be followed up with proof of that claim or it is worse than fire in a hay pile. It is what leads to cults, feelings of superiority, bondage, and never coming to know the truth. Therefore, one must be extremely careful when evaluating such a claim.
Paul is going to continue to discuss this in the verses ahead and will not leave the matter without a full explanation of what is appropriate. But from what he has said in this verse alone, it is apparent just how wrong this attitude is. And yet, even though it is clearly presented in the Bible, we still fall into this same trap today.
How many thousands of people identify their doctrine with John Calvin (Calvinism)? How many identify their allegiances with a pope? How many claim total adherence to the doctrine of Christ and yet are actually deeply entrenched in cults? This is the reality of the world we live in. We get swept up in idol worship of a great orator; we get sidetracked by someone who is supposedly theologically competent, but we don’t check what they say. Maybe we get so caught up in a denomination that we feel salvation comes only through it. This may sound nuts, but it is more prevalent than one might think.
Let us not make such errors. God has revealed Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible is what tells us of Him and His work. Therefore, let us continually return to the fountain of Scripture and check our doctrine against it. When we place our allegiance in a man, we will always be disappointed. When we put our hope and trust in Christ as He is revealed in Scripture, we will always be edified and in a right standing with God.
Life application: It is fine to hold a pastor in high esteem. In fact, the Bible says that we should render them “double honor” (1 Timothy 5:17) if they “labor in the word and doctrine.” However, let us not place them on a pedestal as an idol. Rather, we need to never forget that our allegiance is to Jesus Christ. May we never divide Christ as we see has happened at the church in Corinth.
Lord God, I thank you for those who teach and instruct in Your word and in proper doctrine. But Lord, help me to not place any person in a position which would exalt them at the expense of my devotion and allegiance to You. In the end, all people are fallible and are susceptible to error. Remind me to check with Your instruction manual on all matters of faith and doctrine. Thank You for being with me as I keep my eyes on Jesus! Amen.