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2. (11-13) Paul exposes the foolishness of their divisions.

For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 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.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

a. Those of Chloe’s household: Chloe was a woman (probably a Christian) whose business interests caused her representatives (those of her household) to travel between Ephesus and Corinth. Paul writes this letter from Ephesus, where these people from Chloe’s household visited and told him about the condition of the the Corinthian church.

i. Clarke on Chloe: “This was doubtless some very religious matron at Corinth, whose family were converted to the Lord; some of whom were probably sent to the apostle to inform him of the dissensions which then prevailed in the Church at that place.”

b. Contentions among you: The Corinthian church suffered under quarreling and conflict. This conflict had made them divide up into “parties” or “cliques,” each party having its own “leader.”

i. “I am of Paul”: There was the “Paul Party,” who declared “We are following in the footsteps of the man who founded our church, the apostle Paul. We’re the ones really right with God!”

ii. “I am of Apollos”: There was the “Apollos Party,” who declared “We are following in the footsteps of a man who is great in power and spiritual gifts, and an impressive man. We’re the ones really right with God!” (Acts 18:24-25)

iii. “I am of Cephas”: There was the “Peter Party,” who declared “We are following in the footsteps of the man who is first among all the apostles. Jesus gave him the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and he’s our man. We’re the ones really right with God!”

iv. “I am of Christ”: There was the “Jesus Party,” who declared “You all are so carnal, following after mere men. We are following in the footsteps of no one less than Jesus Himself. We’re the ones really right with God!”

v. It is possible there was not an actual “Paul Party” or “Apollos Party” or “Peter Party” or “Jesus Party” at Corinth. Later in this letter, Paul writes that he transferred to himself and Apollos what applied to others (1 Corinthians 4:6). The actual Corinthian factions may have centered around people in the congregation, not the different apostles who ministered to them. Even if this is the case, the picture fits. Paul may be “changing the names to protect the innocent,” or to show mercy to the guilty.

vi. The Corinthians’ boasting about their “party leaders” was really boasting about themselves. It wasn’t so much that they thought Apollos was great, but that they were great for following him.

c. There are contentions among you: Though division is ungodly, it is not wrong to make distinctions between churches and ministers. God has made different churches and different ministries with different callings and characters, because the job of preaching the gospel is too big for any one group.

i. “I bless God that there are so many denominations. If there were not men who differed a little in their creeds, we should never get as much gospel as we do… God has sent different men to defend different kinds of truth; but Christ defended and preached all… Christ’s testimony was perfect.” (Spurgeon)

ii. It is one thing to prefer one minister to another, but we cannot divide into cliques behind one minister or another. “One minister of Christ may be justly preferred to another. We ought to honour those most whom God most honoureth, either by a more plentiful giving out of his Spirit, or by a more plentiful success upon their labours; but we ought not so far to appropriate any ministers to ourselves, as for them to despise others. We are not bound to make every minister our pastor, but we are bound to have a just respect for every minister, who by his doctrine and holy life answereth his profession and holy calling.” (Poole)

d. Is Christ divided? Jesus does not belong to any one “party.” These cliques ignore the truth of unity over all diversity in the church, even if they were all in the name of spirituality.

i. Spiritual elitism is terrible, no matter whose name it is practiced in.

ii. There was an old, contentious Quaker who went from one meeting to another, never finding the “true” church. Someone once said to him, “Well, what church are you in now?” He said, “I am in the true church at last.” “How many belong to it?” “Just my wife and myself, and I am not sure about her sometimes.”

e. Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul: Even more foolish than “dividing Jesus” is to center parties in the church around men. When Paul explained it like this, it shows how foolish it is to focus on anyone but Jesus.