Harmony in the Church

In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Paul describes four factions within the church at Corinth.  He sees that the church is fracturing over non-gospel issues. He urges them to agree, to be united in the same mind and the same judgment. David Prior points out that Paul was keen
...on harmony - not unison. He believed that it was not merely possible for Christians of many different kinds to live together in harmony, but that this was their calling from God. Such mutual recognition, giving each person the freedom to express his convictions and insights, would lead to a restoration of true unity... (source)
 This group of believers had come together in a largely immoral city. There was enough opposition to Christianity outside of the church; they certainly didn't need to be fighting against each other. Yet they found themselves divided into cliques.

The "Paul" Followers. Perhaps they were devoted to Paul because he planted the church and he was the first one to lead them in the gospel. It's easy to develop an allegiance to a particular preacher or teacher, but doing so can be harmful to the church. Leaders leave, as Paul had left Corinth. Instead of moving forward under the new leadership God had provided, some of the believers were staunchly loyal to Paul. He reminds them that he is not the one who was crucified for them, nor were they baptized in his name. Their allegiance belongs to Christ alone. Only loyalty to Christ will bring unity.

The "Apollos" Followers. Apollos was a gifted, eloquent speaker. He knew how to draw people in. Many in Corinth welcomed Apollos after Paul's departure, but some had become too enamored with him because of his personality. Paul tells the church that they should not compare him to Apollos. Although God did not enable him to preach with words of eloquent wisdom, God nevertheless called Paul to preach the gospel. Style is not greater than substance.

The "Cephas (Peter)" Followers. As a Jew, Peter was a strict rule follower. He and Paul argued over adherence to Jewish law (see Galatians 2). Those who followed Peter may have been more consumed with following the rules. As Prior states, we have a natural desire to have clear guide-lines for faith and behavior, rather than to walk the tightrope of obedience to the Spirit between the two extremes of licence and legalism...we need constantly to be vigilant against any reduction of what it is to be Christian to a series of rules or prohibitions.

The "Christ" Followers. We may be tempted to believe that these believers had it right, but did they? This group -  having seen that the others were close to worshiping Paul, Apollos, and Peter - had most likely turned their back on human leadership altogether. Instead, they vowed that they would follow Jesus alone, and do only what he told them. This approach fails to acknowledge that God puts leaders in place over us, and we cannot truly follow Him without submitting to them. Furthermore, we cannot isolate ourselves from the Body of Christ and trust that we are able to discern the Holy Spirit's work on our own.

Differences are going to occur in every church, but through Christ the parties in disagreement can be united in the same mind and the same judgment. My pastor offers wise counsel to follow in these situations:

1. Ask, Is this heresy? If so, seek out the church leadership.

2. If the issue isn't one of heresy, the parties need to clearly communicate with each other. This might require a third party to mediate and make sure that each party understands what the other is truly saying.

3. Mutually submit to one another in Christian love and respect.

These three steps will prevent fractures in the church and promote unity among its members.


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