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Party Spirit and Disunity

1 Corinthians 1:10-13
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: one of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? (NIVUK)

There was disunity in the church in Corinth. Paul, Peter and Apollos had all taught in the church. They all presented the same message of salvation by faith in Christ, and they all spoke well of each other. But 'party spirit' is a malignant disease which seizes hold of perceived differences in order to try to control the church. They latched onto the different styles of these men and clubbed together to champion one teacher over another. The church was being torn apart from the inside.

Paul had heard about this schism from friends in Corinth who he trusted. It was a serious problem and had to be dealt with before the factions risked splitting the church. However, Paul's approach was not aggressive or dictatorial: he appealed to them as fellow members of God's family, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Using Christ's full Name, Paul declared that Jesus was the Master as well as the Saviour and God's anointed Messiah, before exposing the problem – because Christ is the Head of the church and He is the person to follow.

Paul asked questions to encourage the church to think of the implications of what they were doing. The key question was, "Is Christ divided?" Clearly the answer is "No!" but by their party spirit they had divided the body of Christ. Their salvation was dependent on Christ; He, and not Paul, was crucified for them. Their baptism was into Christ and not into Paul. They had got their priorities wrong because they were looking to the servants of Christ rather than to Christ Himself. They had stopped being disciples of Jesus Christ and become divisively religious (Paul deals with this in more detail in 1 Corinthians ch 3).

Echoes of this situation riddle the churches today, except in churches under serious persecution. Galatians 5:19-20 describes such factions as 'acts of the flesh'. They are not of God even though people often claim they are. They are often just a means of some people gaining power. Disunity based on personal preferences or style should always be strongly discouraged. It is not what we like that matters; the church is Christ's vehicle for getting His gospel to the world. When Christians squabble in any church the gospel goes silent. Romans 12:18 says, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." So focus on Christ and the gospel.

Lord of all. Thank You that the Lord Jesus Christ is Head of the church. Forgive me when I have failed to keep my focus on Him and His gospel, choosing to follow some human beings and despising others. Please help me to do all I can to encourage unity in the church where I worship. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams