As we progress through our study of 1 Corinthians, we begin to wade into the waters of division and disunity, fractures and factions that have arisen in this church, and are one of the principal reasons for Paul to pen this letter. The church has become divided, and is in jeopardy of splintering if something is not done quickly.
And, as we will also see, this was not a new temptation, nor has the temptation abated. This temptation toward division and disunity among the people of God started back with Satan in the garden, and it certainly persists today. It is a perennial problem and temptation for the church of God. No human relationship is immune to it, and thus we must be on guard against it, especially in the church.
Let’s begin by reading 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, and we’ll focus on the first three verses tonight:
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Let’s begin by noticing in verse 10 Paul’s peaceable approach. Paul’s peaceable approach to the problem. Verse 10 says, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. I appeal to you, I exhort you, I beseech you, we could even say, I beg you brothers and sisters. He’s really pleading for unity, rather than disunity. To be of the same mind, rather than each of his own mind.
Notice particularly, that he grounds the argument in Christ’s authority and clear theological reasoning, not in personal, apostolic authority (which would have been permissible). He had apostolic authority, but he didn’t want to stir the pot in that specific area. The congregation was already splitting between factions that preferred allegiances to some men above others, and Paul knew that certain Corinthian believers would have been tempted to follow Paul or not follow Paul based on human authority and preference. So, he takes the wise path of gently asserting the authority of Christ, not his own name. He sought to be peaceable, rather than inflammatory.
And notice his method of persuasion: gentle, probing questioning, rather than using truth and authority like mallets to squash the opposition. In verse 13 alone he poses 3 different questions meant to rhetorically guide the listener to the truth. He’s applying great wisdom, knowing from Proverbs that a gentle answer turns away wrath and a soft word breaks bone.
He could have used his authority to declare directly where they are wrong and blast them out of the water. And as we will see later in this book, he’s not afraid to do that when necessary. But here he shows wisdom, tactfulness, and gentle peaceableness, rather than brash rhetoric or condescending lecturing, to get the Corinthians to arrive at the truth.
He’s very much acting like Christ, if you think about it. Christ would get people to arrive at the truth by simply asking questions. “Jesus, should we pay taxes to Caesar? Well, whose image is on the money? Caesar? Then give to Caesar what is his, but give to God what is his?”
Or he was challenged by the chief priests about John the Baptist’s authority, Jesus responded with a question “From where did John’s baptism come, heaven or earth?” He guided to the truth often using questions.
Many more probing questions from Jesus could be listed. The point is that gentle, penetrating questions can be a very wise way for people to engage in a disagreement in a way that diffuses tension and aids peacemaking, rather than stirring the pot.
The question for us to consider is: Do I engage in disagreements in such a way? Am I a gentle peacemaker? Do you bring resolution and restoration, or does your method of disagreeing with others ratchet up the resentment and hostility?
Some believers, often the most mature of believers I think, are actually a blessing to disagree with because they are so peaceable and gentle, even in the middle of a debate. Have you met someone like that? They actually are pleasant to discuss and differ with because of their gentle and peaceable spirit. Are you like that? Are people blessed by you, even when you disagree?
Or do people avoid discussing anything controversial around you because they are weary of hearing you correct them, weary of hearing you jump on your soapbox, weary of hearing you give your opinion? Are you quarrelsome and argumentative, or are you peaceable?
Let me give you 5 quick indicators that you might be quarrelsome, rather than gentle and peaceable:
- A quarrelsome person is quick to speak and slow to listen. They have no need to listen because they already know it all, and therefore are prepared to speak without even hearing the other person out. A quarrelsome person is quick to speak and slow to listen.
- A quarrelsome person sees everything in black and white, rather than seeing things with nuance and carefulness. There is no gray in their world, no complicating circumstances, no room for liberty and charity when dealing with others, no possibility of seeing things from another perspective. All matters are simple to them. A quarrelsome person sees everything in black and white.
- A quarrelsome person thinks everything is a big deal. Every disagreement is a hill to die on. Every theological discussion seems to become a Martin Luther 95 theses moment. Every mistake by someone else is a clear example of apostasy and the downgrade of the church. There are no such things as small errors worthy of gentle correction. A quarrelsome person thinks everything is a big deal.
- A quarrelsome person assumes the worse about other people. He never gives the benefit of the doubt, and he always interprets motives, context, and intentions in the worstpossible way. They spin every situation and every word in a way that makes their opponents out as the malicious fool. In any disagreement, they treat others in a way that they would never want to be treated. A quarrelsome person assumes the worstabout other people.
- A quarrelsome person has one lens through which he sees the world. Kevin DeYoung describes such a person this way: “You have a small grid, and everything fits in it. You view life through a tiny prism such that you already know what everything is about. Everything is a social justice issue. Everything relates to the regulative principle. Everything is Obama’s fault. Everything is about Trump. It’s all about the feminists. Or the patriarchy. Or how my parents messed up my life. When all you have is a hammer, the rest of the world looks like a nail.” A quarrelsome person has one lens through which he sees the world.
Brothers and sisters, if we are honest with ourselves, we are all tempted to be quarrelsome. To be pugnacious, rather than peaceable. To be combative, rather than cooperative. To be contentious, rather than connecting.
But what does God say about such behavior?
Proverbs 6 tells us that one of the things that God HATES is one who sows discord, or disunity, among the brothers. In Titus 3, Paul tells Titus to warn a divisive person twice, and then after that have nothing to do with him. Send him out. Jude verse 19 speaks of those who cause divisions as “worldly ones, devoid of the Spirit.” Worldly and devoid of God’s own spirit.
That’s because to unnecessarily divide is to act NOT of the Spirit, but of the flesh. It is to act as if the Devil is our father, the original divider, rather than God being our heavenly Father.
But praise be to God that Christ was a gentle peacemaker. He wasn’t divisive and combative toward others. He didn’t sow seeds of division or bear the fruit of prideful quarrelsomeness. James says in chapter 3 of his letter that heavenly wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason and full of mercy. That describes Christ. Pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason and full of mercy.
Christ was and is full of heavenly wisdom. He’s peaceable and gentle, not quick-tempered, not irritable, not blinded by rage. Jesus describes himself in Matthew 11 as meek and lowly of heart, or gentle and lowly of heart. He’s not combative, not critical and corrective of spirit. He’s not demanding and domineering.
He doesn’t bash you with a blind rage when you sin again. He doesn’t condescendingly call you out and crush you with the weight of your own inadequacy. He gently shows you your mistake, skillfully uses his Law to cut to the heart, and reminds you again of his love for you. His showing you your sin is an evidence of his love for you. He points it out so that you can be re-directed back to him. He cuts in order to heal. He disciplines out of compassion, rather than chastises out of shame.
As one author puts it, “Christ is our gentle guide who enables us to see just enough of our sin to awaken us but not too much to sink us into despair. He brings our hidden motives to light but answers them with his precious promises. He enlightens then encourages, convicts them comforts, exposes then heals.”
In sum, Christ is our perfect peacemaker. He’s the one who has made us to be at peace with God, as Romans 5 reminds us, and he continues to work in and through his Holy Spirit to conform us to His very own Holy Image, and unify His people through his own Spirit of peace.
That’s our gentle and peaceable Christ. He doesn’t inflame and irritate, he restores and reconciles. Come to him tonight and see that he is the epitome peaceable-ness; He’s the very Prince of Peace, scripture calls him. He’s ready and willing to restore you with all gentleness and meekness, not with shame and a raised voice, but with a kind touch and a warm heart.
But also be aware also that this offer does expire. Christ will not offer his peace to you forever. He will return one day, not with a message of peace on his lips, but with a declaration of war. He will return, scripture says, wielding the sword of judgment for all those divisive and quarrelsome souls, those who fractured and split, those who promoted tribalism and factions, those who divided, rather than united. Don’t wait until that day when it will be too late. Come to Christ tonight, and know this Prince of Peace, know our lamb of a savior, lest you know him in that final day merely as the lion of judgement.
Next, we’ve seen Paul’s peaceable approach, now let’s look at the problem itself: divisionsand disunity. The problem itself: divisions and disunity. Verse 10 again: “10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
There should be no divisions, but rather unity. But, sadly, we often have experienced in the church, and in our other relationships, the opposite of unity. We experience ruptured relationships, cracked communion, fractured fellowship, all because of some sin in the situation.
Because of our sinful hearts, we can be tempted to take things that should not conflict and make them at odds.
Matthew Henry, commenting on this passage, says, “So liable are the best things in the world to be corrupted, and the gospel and its institutions [like the church], which are at perfect harmony with themselves and one another, to be made the engines of variance, discord, and contention. This is no reproach to our religion, but a very melancholy evidence of the corruption and depravity of human nature. Note, How far will pride carry Christians in opposition to one another! Even so far as to set Christ and his own apostles at variance, and make them rivals and competitors.”
No true Christian wants to be that kind of person, a person that takes peace and unity and sacrifices them on the altar of pride and preference. So, you may ask, how can we practically promote disunity? If division and disunity is something we want to avoid, what are some ways that we can practically battle against them? Let me give you three practical ways that division is fostered. Three ways that disunity is promoted.
- First, Gossip. Gossip destroys gospel community. It shuts down communication and retards transparency and vulnerability. People won’t want to open up and be real with you if they are afraid that they will be gossiped about. Gossip is a thrice-harming offence. Gossip harms the speaker, the hearer, and the one being gossiped about. Gossip destroys unity.
- A Second way we promote disunity is by acting like we can see it all. Assuming we understand all the dynamics of a situation. This kind of presumed omniscience destroys relationships.
- Related to what I said before about the quarrelsome person, situations in life are rarely ever simple. Rarely black and white. There are layers of dynamics, people have different backgrounds, different experiences, different strengths and giftings, people operate in different contexts, and people operate with varying motives and intentions.
- We can be tempted to assume that we understand all of these dynamics. We have a couple of bits of information, fill in the holes and the missing data, assume we can intuit all the facts, and then jump to conclusions based upon incomplete data.
- But that kind of behavior is unloving. It’s usually uncharitable. We can easily assume the worst in people. We think we know what they are thinking and what they are trying to do. We act as if we see everything clearly, as if we can perceive a person’s heart. In short, we act as if we are God. Don’t promote disunity by acting like you can see it all.
- A third way to promote disunity and divisions, and related to the previous point: Thinking we have all the right answers. Thinking we have all the answers, we know the solution to whatever the problem is.
- This person always has an opinion, and always seems to be offering it, even when nobody has asked for it. They have the experience, the knowledge, and the wisdom to engage in every area of life with an opinion that should be regarded with the highest weight. They’ve never known a field of knowledge or an area of life in which they were not an expert.
- Further, this kind of person is always thinking and often saying, “I told you so.” If they’d had just listened to me, they wouldn’t be in this mess. They’re frustrated when people don’t ask their opinion, or don’t follow their suggestions and take a different course of action, or don’t do things the way that they would have.
Gossip, acting like we can see it all, and acting like we know it all, are three fool-proof ways to blow up a church. It was true in the days of Corinth, and it is true today.
And if you’ve been paying attention, there has been a common thread throughout the sermon so far. The thread that ties together divisive, quarrelsome people, gossips, and those that seem to always have all the right answers: the answer is Pride. Pride is the root that ties all this together, and pride is the root of divisions and divisiveness in the church, and in all of life.
Pride is the root of the problem. Proverbs 13:10 says that, “Only by pride comes contention” or we could say, “Where there is strife/division/conflict, there is pride.” Pride blows up churches, pride ruptures family relationships, pride divides the best of friends.
Let’s think about it in terms of the sins listed above. A gossiper is a proud person: he or she thinks that they can talk about others in ways that they would never want to be talked about.
A proud person thinks he can see the whole situation, that he can comprehend it all. He has the intuition, he has the wisdom and discernment to know the end from the beginning.
And a proud person thinks and acts like he knows it all. He has the solution to everyone’s problems. He knows how the church should be run, how the government should be ordered, and how his family members ought to behave.
It is all pride.
But the wonderful news of the gospel is that Christ was not proud. In fact, he was perfectly humble. Even though he COULD see right to the heart, he could see all the aspects of a situation, he did know the end from the beginning, he didn’t lord it over people and unlovingly demand that they act according to HIS desires and preferences.
No, scripture says that he came not be served but to serve. He came and didn’t act proud, but in fact DIED for the proud. He died for boastful and arrogant people like me and you. He hung on the cross for those that would never choose on their own bow the knee to him. He sought out the high-handed rebels and the insolent egos.
If you find yourself convicted of our pride again, if you’re starting to see that you often thrust your opinion upon others without hearing all the facts, that you act like you know all the situation and you have all the answers, then I want encourage you to linger here on Christ’s humility. Hear again of Christ’s lowliness of heart. Read the gospels and take note of how he responded to those people who should have known better, to those people who tried to trap him, to those people who would eventually would call for His crucifixion. See how gentle he was toward them, how patient, how kind, and how long-suffering.
That same humble heart is waiting for you. He’s still long-suffering and gentle toward those that approach him with repentance. A humble and contrite heart he will not despise, scripture says, regardless of what sins we’ve done, or how long we’ve run from him, or how ugly we’ve behaved. Come back to Christ, our humble High Priest, and have your sins washed again, have your relationships restored, have your heart made right.
Only then can you seek to bring about lasting unity and peace among the people of God. Peacemakers in the church aren’t born that way, and their not that way because they’ve mastered certain techniques. Peacemakers are born of the Spirit, and remade in the image of Christ himself, which means that God through his Holy Spirit can make you into a peacemaker, instead of a proud divider, which means that the promise that Christ makes in the Sermon on the Mount can be for you: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Sons of God.
Come to Christ tonight, and be restored, and you too can be made a peacemaker and a son of God himself.
Next, moving on to my third and final point. We’ve seen Paul’s peaceable approach, and the problem itself: divisions and disunity. Now let’s look and see specifically Paul’s solution to the problem. Paul’s solution to the problem of divisions.
Put succinctly, Paul’s solution to the problem of disunity and divisions is to think. To think specifically about Christ. Paul’s solution to the problem of divisions is this: to consider Christ.
Paul is here highlighting a practical problem, disunity, addresses it with a theological solution. This is consistent with what he does multiple times in this letter. See a problem in the church, and show how their thinking is wrong in that area.
We often think our practical, on-the-ground fussing is purely in the realm of indifference, of preference, of Christian liberty. But our theology should and must connect to how we behave, especially in the church.
So what theological correction does he make to their practical problems. Notice what he says in verse 13: Christ is undivided, therefore his body must be undivided. His response to their tribalism is to ask, “Is Christ divided?” A rhetorical question with a clearly implied NO as the answer.
Christ is not divided, therefore neither should you be.
Christ is not internally conflicted. He fully God and fully man, the God-Man, but had no conflict of wills within him. His will was perfectly aligned with the Fathers’, and therefore there was no hint of division or conflict within him.
Further, Christ has no division in his actions. Christ does not teach one thing in his word, and lead another. He doesn’t promise one thing, but bring about another thing. His lips and his hands are always in sync.
Indeed, we’d be wise to press the theological truth a little further, and say specifically that Christ is not leading one way, and His Spirit leading another. Christ and his Spirit share in the same divine essence, including the same divine will. Thus, it would be inconceivable for Christ to be leading his church in a way that was not consistent with the leading of his Holy Spirit.
So what does that mean for us? It means that Christ is unified, un-divided, and is perfectly in SYNC with his Spirit, which he then sends to build up his Church in a unified, and undivided way.
But Paul doesn’t stop with observing Christ’s undivided nature. He goes on in verse 13 to ask a few more questions: “Was Paul Crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
Two more rhetorical questions with implied answers of NO.
He’s tying together not merely Christ’s undivided essence, but also Christ’s role as Head of the church. Christ purchased the church through his death, Christ is proclaimed as head over all of his people, and if Christ is the head, that means that no other person can be, not even the Apostle Paul himself.
We can consider Christ as head of the church in two ways: head as source, and head as authority. Let’s briefly look at each.
When we speak of Christ as head of the church, we can highlight the fact that he is the Source, the fountain head, the original spring of life for all of his people. That means that Christ is the reason the Corinthians were there, and Christ is the reason why we are here.
That means that no man is your source of life. Shawn is not the source of your spiritual life. Jon English is not your head. Neither is Greg Belser, nor Phillip Wyse, nor Hayden Center, nor Louis Armstrong, who are Morningview’s past pastors if you haven’t heard of them. But neither is John Calvin or Martin Luther, or Augustine, or even Paul our source. Christ is our source, he is our head, he is the fountain of our spiritual life, and we ought to act accordingly.
We can’t divide allegiances among different men in the church. Indeed, we can and should have spiritual mentors, and Paul even speaks of his own spiritual children in the faith. But Paul is the first to point out that whatever spiritual blessing he’s given to others is entirely derivative from Christ. Christ is the fountain of all grace, not Paul. Any spiritual blessing you’ve received from another man is first and foremost from the hand of Christ himself, and therefore our allegiances need to be grounded in Christ’s spiritual priority.
Whenever the church starts to splinter and follow personalities, Christ’s priority as head and source is obscured and forgotten. May we never fall prey to that temptation.
But I think that Paul is highlighting another theological truth being these questions. Christ is not merely head in terms of our spiritual source of life, he is also head in terms of authority.
You’re not baptized in the name of Paul. You’re not given a new name in baptism based upon the person that baptizes you. No. You’re baptized in the triune name of God himself. That’s the crucial part of your baptism, not the person that does the dunking.
God in Christ is your spiritual king. Christ is your spiritual leader. He is to be your ultimate authority and final loyalty. No other man should take that role, in fact, no other allegiance should come close to your allegiance to Christ.
Because of our sinful hearts, we’re tempted to put our faith in men. We’re tempted to put our hopes on this guy or that guy. Even godly men, can become idols for us. We hang on their every word. We consider everything they do as THE right way to do things. We consider their every word as the gospel truth. We have, de facto, made them our new messiah. We don’t know what we’d do without them; not sure the church could stand losing them; not sure we could survive without their spiritual nurture.
And take note that this can arise with a man among you, or a man somewhere else: a pastor, a teacher, a man or woman we listen to on TV; or maybe a preacher we hear on podcasts, or watch on YouTube. We listen to them with greater eagerness and respect than even listening to Christ himself. We spend more time listening to them than we spend listening to Christ speaking to us in his Word.
We forget that Christ is our head, our authority, our King, and when we do that, we don’t merely exist without a king. We don’t have the capacity to live without some kind of king, some kind of controlling authority. Instead, we make for ourselves a new king.
That’s what Adam did in the garden. Adam disregarded God’s role as creator and king, he ignored his Spiritual head, and replaced God as his head with Satan as his head.
So too has every man since. We take for granted God’s work as creative source, and thus king over his creation. He ignore to our own detriment our spiritual head, and instead replace him with other idols of our own making. Our head can be the world with its ideas and opinions; our head can be giving undue influence to any man, even godly men; our head can become the talking heads we hear on TV, or a political leader, or somebody cool in Hollywood, or anyone else.
But brothers and sisters, know this: that Christ died for sinners who disregard his role both as spiritual source and as king. Christ bore the penalty for usurpers like ourselves. He suffered in the place for idol worshippers and deserters like us.
In closing, remember that Christ was perfectly faithful in our place; he was undivided in heart and actions. He was the faithful one, he fulfilled the law, he fulfilled all righteousness, he was peaceable of heart and uniting in all of his speech. In short, Christ was the true blessed peacemaker, who is blessed above all as the true Son of God, and because of his blessedness, we too can be called Sons of God, if we come to him by faith.
 Adapted and expanded from Kevin DeYoung: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/distinguishing-marks-quarrelsome-person/
 Craig Troxel, With All Your Heart (Crossway, 2020), 54.