What does Paul …

Last week I was asked to teach a Sunday School lesson for one of our brothers. They just started going through the letter we call 1 Corinthians and he asked me to teach on chapter 1:10-17.

10 But I exhort you brothers through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So that you all say the same thing and there be no division among you but that you be restored in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by those of Chloe that strife exists among you. 12 But I say to you that each one of you is saying that one the one hand I am of Paul, on the other hand I am of Apollos, on the other hand I am of Cephas, on the other hand I am of Christ. 13 Has the Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I give thanks to God that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius. 15 So that no one might say that in my name they were baptized. 16 But also I baptized the Stephanas house, beyond that, I do not know if I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not in wisdom of words, so that the cross of Christ might not be rendered void.

Paul uses these verses to setup everything he is about to talk about in the next few chapters of this letter. The reader should pay careful attention here and keep these verses in mind as they continue to read. I knew no other way to teach these verse but to go through each verse and point out the significance of different words. So in this post, I am going to give a brief summation of what I taught and ask you all to consider what Paul is saying.

10 – Paul is exhorting the Corinthian Christians for four reasons:

  1. So they would all say the same thing.
  2. So there would be no division among them.
  3. So they would be restored in the same mind.
  4. So they would be restored in the same purpose.
  • Exhorting – to urge strongly, to make a strong request for something. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)
  • Division – the condition of being divided because of conflicting aims or objectives. (1 Corinthians 12:22-26)
  • Mind – An attitude or way of thinking. (Luke 24:25, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:17-24)
  • Purpose – purpose, intention, mind, mind-set. (1 Corinthians 7:25, 1 Corinthians 7:40)
  • Same – has to context of agreeing with one another. He is talking about having unity. (Romans 15:5-6)

11 –

  • Strife – Engagement in rivalry, esp. w. ref. to positions taken in a matter. (Galatians 5:19-21)

12 – Paul is referring back to 1 Corinthians 1:12. “So that you all say the same thing” – “each one of you is saying that one the one hand I am of Paul, on the other hand I am of Apollos, on the other hand I am of Cephas, on the other hand I am of Christ.”

  • I noticed that some people believed Paul put him first in the list and Christ last because he was trying to show that he is the least (thus furthest) from the most important figure (Christ).
  • Paul obviously believes that Christ is superior: “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” – 1 Corinthians 3:22-23
  • Why then does he make it seem bad that some were saying “I am of Christ”? In my opinion it was because people were doing it to take part in a faction. They were not doing it because they truly thought of themselves as “of Christ” but because they were competing against the other people and their factions.

  • What is Paul telling us about leaders in this verse?
    • Some answers given in class:
      • We should not idolize them
      • Our relationship with Christ should drive us, not our desire to follow an earthly leader

  • Can this verse be applied today in any other way?
    • Some answers given in class:
      • Church unity
      • Congregationalism (the idea that I am a member of XXX Baptist Church)
      • Denominationalism (the idea that I am a Southern Baptist/Pentecostal/Catholic/etc.)

13 – These questions are rhetorical and expect a negative answer.

  • Is the Christ divided?
    1. Divided – to separate into parts. (Matthew 12:25)
  • Paul was not crucified for you, was he? “we preach Christ crucified” – 1 Corinthians 1:23
  • Were you baptized in the name of Paul? (Acts 2:38, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:48a, Acts 19:5a)

14-16 – Paul makes it clear that he is glad that he baptized few of them.

  • Don’t we see a high number of baptisms as a mark of a successful ministry?
  • It seems that being focused on numbers goes against what Paul sees as his focus.
  • What does this tell us about our view on baptisms (and numbers)?

17 – Christ did not send Paul to baptize? What then?

  • “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” – Matthew 28:18-20
    1. There is only one command in the great commission, make disciples.
    2. While you are making disciples, you should be going, baptizing, and teaching.

So this pretty much what I taught. There was a lot of great conversation in the class – so I ask you all, what do you think Paul is doing here?

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  1. Lew,

    Good translation and notes. Also, I think the class had some good suggestions about how to apply this passage. I’ve been told before that denominations fall outside of Paul’s intention. I don’t think Paul was thinking about denominations, but I don’t see how they fall outside of the application of this passage. It will be interesting to see if/how the teachers bring the next few chapters back to this point about divisions.


  2. Alan,

    Yeah, I remember bringing the denomination thing up once in an Early Pauline Epistles class and was shot down. I too did not really see why.

    Thanks for the comment,

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