1 Corinthians 3: Paul returns to unity

1 Corinthians 3: Paul returns to unity

After a brief detour from his opening salvos on unity (1:10-17), Paul returns to this all-important subject. Revisiting the division revealed in “I am of Paul” and “I am of Apollos,” Paul accused the brethren of being carnal and immature (vv 1-4).

Any division for any reason is a tragedy. But division that involves the personality of preachers is especially egregious. This is why Paul said he was happy that he had only baptized a handful of the Christians at Corinth, “lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name” (1 Cor 1:15).

As an aside, this is another reason why the Lord never placed ANY significance on the one who administers baptism. Baptism is all about the one receiving it and nothing about the one doing the baptizing. Certainly, this is the reason why Jesus never baptized during His personal ministry, leaving that task to His disciples (John 4:2). Can one imagine the potential for division among those who thought their baptism was better than others’ because it was administered by the Lord?

No work of the kingdom should or can be built around an individual other than Christ. If it is built on humans or powered by human personality, then it isn’t a work of the Lord or the kingdom. The only foundation that can be laid is Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11).

When congregations suffer attendance loss or noticeable decreases in giving when a local preacher leaves, it may be a symptom of what is commonly termed “preacher-itis.” This is a dangerous and lamentable situation. There is no place in the church for a cult of personality. (I am certainly willing to allow for loss due to lack of confidence in leadership when a change in the pulpit comes, but elders should be trusted unless there is manifested a reason otherwise.)

A second aspect of Paul’s return to unity is the need to guard the purity of the local body. Paul affirms that the Spirit of God dwells in the church, but He does so by indwelling each individual Christian (1 Cor 6:19-20). Through the obedience of holy living, each member makes the temple of God holy. In this case, the temple of God is the church.

Finally, Paul admonishes the brethren to be wise in the Lord by forsaking the foolishness of human wisdom (cf 1:18-25). If you want to be wise, be wise as one who belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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