1 Corinthians 1 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
The apostle Paul first visited the City of Corinth on his Second Missionary journey. After he was persecuted in Macedonia and discounted in the city of Athens, he was well received by the Corinthians and spent about eighteen months with the believers there in the year 50-51 AD because many Jews and Gentiles had come to faith in Christ. He later would return again to the city briefly on a third missionary journey in 52 AD before moving on to spread the gospel elsewhere. It was soon after that he wrote this First Epistle to the Corinthians from the city of Ephesus in modern day Turkey.
And he wrote this letter primarily for two reasons. In v.11 Paul references a report that he received from Chloe’s people that there had been some quarreling amongst the brothers in the church. Many were boasting in their wisdom, and forming divisions in the church which Paul addresses in the first four chapters of his epistle. Then, also, in that same report from Chloe’s people in 5:1, Paul had heard of some very egregious forms of sexual immorality within the church, which shouldn’t surprise us given the pagan background of the new believers in Corinth and the temptations that they must have faced on a daily basis in the city. Then in ch.6, Paul had also heard about the believers actually suing one another in court, and so he addresses that issue as well. Thus, in the first six chapters of the epistle, Paul is dealing with a number of problems within the church.
Then, beginning in ch.7. Paul begins addressing some other important matters in the church in response to a letter that was written to him and delivered by some of the leaders in the church at Corinth. Apparently that letter was delivered to him by three men mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:17 named Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus. So, from chapter seven onward, Paul begins to teach the church about a number of issues including marriage, worship, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of Christ and the giving of offerings.
And because this epistle deals mainly with problems and questions about the life of the church, it gives us quite a bit of guidance for how we ought to conduct ourselves in the church today. Also, now that our country is turning backward toward ancient pagan practices, we also have to deal with similar issues of sexual identity and sexual immorality that Paul addresses in this letter. So there is quite a bit of carry over and lessons for us to learn today from this letter.
When Paul first hears about the strife and division that is taking place in Corinth, he immediately pens this letter to plead with them, to urge them and to pray for them that they would not allow this division to continue in their midst for the sake of Christ. Notice he pleads to them “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” by the very name of the one who brought us all together into the church in the first place. For the sake of Christ’s name, stop acting like this. Then the substance of Paul’s first appeal is three-fold. He tells them in v.10 to agree with one another, to have no divisions among themselves, and to be united in the same mind and judgment.
That first command to “agree,” sounds plain enough at first, but needs to be clarified based upon the verses that follow as well as what Paul says in a number of other places in his epistles. The appeal to agree does not mean that Paul doesn’t ever want us to disagree about doctrine or practice in the church. Clearly there are times in which Paul adamantly disagrees with what others who are teaching in the church. In fact, in Galatians ch.5, Paul actually opposes Peter to his face for how he was not including the Gentiles in table fellowship. And at times, he explains that it is through great doctrinal disagreements that the Lord distinguishes between the true and false believers. So, here, Paul is not advocating in any way for a one-world ecumenical church where everyone disregards the truth of God’s word in order to agree. Even, in Jesus’ high-priestly prayer in John 17, he asks God to sanctify the believers in the truth of God’s word.” Also, in Romans 14, Paul allows quite a bit of leeway in disagreeing over secondary or tertiary issues and not being so quick to pass judgment upon your brothers, as long as each one is fully convinced in his own mind.”
So, then, if we don’t have to agree on secondary issues, and we don’t have to agree on false doctrine, what is it that Paul want us to agree on? Well, in 1 Timothy 6, he elaborates on this agreement. He says to Timothy, “if anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth.”
I think it’s clear from that passage that Paul is seeking an agreement certainly upon the content of the gospel itself, but also the fruit of the gospel that should be borne in the life of each person who holds the word of God in his hands and in his heart. Even when we disagree over Christian doctrine or practice, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit we are seeking to find some agreement with one another, to listen and to love one another and not to fight or to win an argument, for that accomplishes nothing good.
And that would make sense in light of Paul’s second command that there “be no divisions among them.” We get our English word “schismatic” directly from the Greek word that Paul uses here that signified division. Here, Paul means that no one ought to have a party spirit or seek to cause a tear or division in the church. Again, Paul is not speaking of those who are earnestly seeking for the truth, but for those who arrogantly are seeking to raise themselves up over others in arguments.
And then the third command complements the first two. Paul tells them to “be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” The Greek word for “unite” signifies restoring something to its proper condition. The same word was used of the disciples mending their nets. Here, Paul is commending the church to knit itself together in love rather than tear itself apart in pride, having the same mindset as Christ, having the same judgment as Christ, one that is full of humility, love and grace rather than selfish ambition and conceit. He who is enjoying fellowship with Christ, will also seek to enjoy that fellowship with his brothers in the same way.
Of course, this type of fellowship is only possible if God’s people are fellowshipping regularly with the Lord. Our natural sinfulness promotes pride, arguments and division in the church, thus we need a heavenly mindset and heavenly power to overcome our natural tendencies. May the Lord grant us love for our fellow saints this morning as we look into the loving eyes of our savior and find new grace for today.