Pride Invents Reasons to Boast Divisively
The church was dividing into factions. Groups had formed, supporting different apostles and visiting teachers, and they fought against each other claiming that 'their teacher' had the truth. But really they were fomenting a power struggle (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). Paul had just described how he and Apollos (and Peter) were united in the gospel and in fellowship. Although they had been given different roles in God's kingdom, they were only God's servants (1 Corinthians 3:5-9) and certainly not in competition with each other.
So, Paul wrote, why was the church divided? The reason was human pride. The opposing groups may have started with an emotional preference for the style of one apostle, but that soon grew into believing that one was superior. Different church leaders then fuelled the disharmony and changed the gospel of grace, allowing people to think they were better than they were. Their pride had gone beyond the Scriptures, which places God over all His people who are equally brothers and sisters.
Any difference is because God has designed it: gender, spiritual gifting, roles in His church. They are intended to be complementary and not competitive. Everything we are is a consequence of what God has done for us and given to us (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). There should be no reason for boasting. But pride invents its own 'reasons' as it struggles for supremacy, although none of them are authorised by God. They defy His principle that all His family are equal; apart from His grace we have nothing, and by His grace we have all that we need.
Pride seeks opportunities to make us feel bigger or better than we are. When that happens in the church, divisions between people are inevitable. That may start with one or two but soon gossip, which is another expression of pride, will spread dissention: we feel safer in a group and if others agree with us we think we are right. But ultimately it is only God who is always right. We need humility to accept and celebrate the differences God allows and not to exploit them to make ourselves more praise-worthy. All praise should go to the Lord.
© Dr Paul Adams