Warning Against Division

I Corinthians 1:1-17

A mother and her son go to church and the son says “Mom, I
have to go pee!”
The mom says “You shouldn’t say that in church. From now on
just say you have to whisper.”
The next week when the boy’s father takes him to church the boy
says “Dad, I have to whisper.”
The dad replies “Okay… Just whisper into my ear.”

Today we are going to start a new sermon series in Paul’s first letter to
the church at Corinth.
Let’s start with a little background information
The church at Corinth was founded by Paul during his 2nd missionary
He likely wrote this letter during his 3rd missionary journey.
He stayed in Corinth for 18 months, so the people were very familiar
with him.

Corinth was a city with many problems.
There was a stigma associated with the city and those who lived there
Corinthian was used to describe someone who was recklessly
extravagant or wasteful with resources.
To Corinthianize meant to engage in prostitution or to be drunk.

Paul writes this letter for 3 reasons.

Deal with problems of morality and divisions within the church.
Deal with questions asked of him by the Corinthian church (ch 7ff).
Defending his apostolic authority.

The problems in the first century church at Corinth is not unlike some
of the problems in the church today.
1. Desire for intellectualism
2. Decline in moral standards
3. Drive towards materialism

I Corinthians 1:1-3

The first three words in the Greek read this way, Paul, called apostle.
Remember, Paul didn’t choose to be an apostle, God called him on
the Damascus road.
He is an apostle, because God called him to it.
The book of Acts we read of Saul breathing threats of murder going
around trying to capture and kill Christians. But God called him out of
that life into a life of evangelism and missions.
Only God can create such a drastic change in a person’s life!

Sosthenes – name means safe in strength.
Was a leader of a Jewish synagogue, converted to Christianity, likely
born in Corinth, so the recipients of the letter would be familiar with his
name. He wasn’t an apostle, but he was a brother in Christ.

Sanctified Saints

This letter is to the believers at Corinth, notice how Paul writes to the
church of God that is in Corinth. He didn’t write to the church of
Apollos or the church formerly pastored by Paul.

Paul describes them as Members of the church of God.

Then he calls them Sanctified – set apart from the world – is the
church making a difference in the world or is the world making a
change in the church?
Called to be Saints – together with other believers, living holy for
God’s glory

A saint is like a boat — the boat’s purpose is fulfilled when it is in
the water, but it’s function and usefulness deteriorates when
water gets in the boat. So too for saints when too much of the
world gets into them. Saints must keep their “vessels” in the
water of this world but not let the water of the world get into their

After his greeting, Paul mentions his prayers for the church.
His focus is on God’s Grace

I Corinthians 1:4-8

The Gift of Grace

Grace of God – our salvation is the gift of God. Romans 6:23 “For
the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Salvation is not by our works, but the completed work of Christ on
the cross.
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through
faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a
result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Paul also talks about being enriched in Christ in every way.

Believers are equipped by God with everything we need to speak and
act in a way that honors Him. He has also given believers spiritual
gifts not to mention the fruit of the spirit.
Paul then mentions the testimony about Christ being confirmed among
them. He is speaking about the change that Christ has brought about
in the lives of the Corinthians.
He closes his thanksgiving section by mentioning them waiting for the
revealing of the Lord Jesus.

I Corinthians 1:9

Key verse for this letter is v.9 “God is faithful, by whom you were
called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Our relationship with Christ should guide every decision we make.
We are in fellowship with Christ not because of our doing but because
He loved us and called us into a relationship with Him. We must never
forget this truth.
God is faithful even when we are not.
Also, God will sustain us to the end.
Those He calls He sustains until He calls them home or comes back
to earth.

I Corinthians 1:10

Divisions in the church

3 ways to overcome Division

  1. Agree with one another
  2. Remove Divisions
  3. Unite in Mind and Thought

The church ought to have the same mind in the way Paul described it
in Philippians 2:2-5 “complete my joy by being of the same mind,
having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do
nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count
others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not
only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have
this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
Problems arise in the church today as well as in the first century
because people want their own way. They refuse to put the interests
of others before their own. Some are even willing to leave the church
when they don’t get their way.
When we put our focus on Christ we put our desires aside and join
together to the desires of Christ. Then we join together in unity.

Paul goes on to describe Factions within the church

I Corinthians 1:11-17

Paul – founder of the church, this isn’t the church of Paul, it is the
church of God in Corinth
Apollos – teacher who came after Paul
Cephas (Peter) – a well respected teacher and leader
Christ – these refused to be associated with any human leader. That
by itself should be a red flag because God calls human leaders to lead
His church. The ones who claimed to follow Christ were boasting
about following Christ rather than boasting about Christ.

Paul asks 3 rhetorical questions.

Was Christ divided? – no! He was raised from the dead and came
back with His human body intact.

Was Paul crucified for you? – of course not! Paul was still there.
Only Christ was crucified. It was the will of God for Jesus to die on the
cross for the forgiveness of sin and to reconcile sinners to the Father.

Were you baptized in the name of Paul? – again, no. baptism was in
the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Paul goes on to
list the names of the very few people he baptized. His job was to
preach the gospel and others would help with the baptism.

Paul understood his calling was to preach the gospel. He wasn’t
worried about trying to impress his audience. He knew that God would
give him the words to say and make sure the word accomplished what
it was supposed to.

When men try to do things on their own, they are relying on their own
strength rather than the power of the cross. Those who teach and
preach must never forget that God is the source of their wisdom and
strength and that God will equip them for every good work.


Be Uniters Not Dividers – the church needs believers to have the
mind of Christ. When we put the needs of others above our own God
gets the glory. Jesus modeled this behavior by coming to die on a
cross and suffering in our place. He also washed the feet of the
He embodied servant leadership.

Be In, Not of the World – we can be in the world without letting the
world corrupt us.
We have to stand firm in our faith and not allow the world to change
our view. God’s standard is holiness, we can only achieve this when
we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.