No Divisions Among You – Part 2
In the congregation at Corinth, there are numerous problems that threaten the unity of the group. Paul has been informed that there already exist “contentions” (quarrels/factions) among them, and he is clearly concerned that the simmering issues not result in full-blown division. Thus he begins the instructive part of the entire Corinthian letter with this exhortation. It includes a three-fold entreaty – he “pleads” (literally “to call near”, then to “appeal; implore; beseech”) with them; he reminds them that they are family (“brethren”); he notes the authority of God behind his words (“by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”). There can be no question as to the import of this issue.
His desire for them is “that you all speak the same thing.” Most of the newer translations take this phrase as idiomatic for general agreement, and the phrase is rendered such. I find the literal phrase telling, given first of all that they were divided in loyalty to different teachers (v.12f) and that this loyalty appears to have some connection to oration, rhetoric, or presentation. Paul will spend almost all of the first four chapters decrying things like “the wisdom of words”, “the wisdom of the world”, or “persuasive words”. It appears that the Corinthians were much given to favoritism and that their preference for one teacher over another was dividing them. Too many times disciples decry others over such matters as personality and presentation, rallying around this man or that. True agreement is not found in devotion to the messenger, but in adherence to the message. Thus Paul adds, “that there be no divisions among you.” A local church is not to be characterized by partisanship, favoritism, alienation, or internal strife. This group was as yet undivided in regard to worship and work. But the process of division was already infecting them, and Paul condemns such. A local church is to be united, and unity must be a continual goal for everyone in the group.