DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Gracious Lord, how wonderful you are! How much you have so generously given to me and all your children.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:1–9
The Church and Its Leaders
3 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Cure your children’s warring madness; / bend our pride to your control; / shame our wanton selfish gladness, / rich in things and poor in soul.’1
Comprising one of the earliest Christian communities, the Corinthian Christians have the unfortunate reputation as the ‘mother church of all subsequent squabbling churches.’2 Their disunity prompted Paul’s letter. Divisiveness arises from unredeemed human nature, which Paul sometimes calls the ‘flesh’ and sometimes the ‘world.’3 This is the struggle for status and power which typifies human society.
We are to preach the gospel of Christ, but we are also to ‘make disciples of all nations.’4 The church’s mission is not just evangelism but establishing communities of believers. Local churches are communities of individual Christians, but are far too often loosely held together without demonstrating that unity which the world should see. As people saved by the unmerited grace of God, it is as basic as babies’ milk that we should display oneness in Christ. A tragedy in the life of the church is that God has so many children who argue and divide over matters of doctrine. Such differences, however, are often used to mask the desire for power or prestige. On the surface, the Corinthian factions were split over their allegiance to church leaders, but it ran far deeper. With imagery recalling Jesus’ parables, Paul points out that he, Apollos, and Peter are workers in the field. Their roles differ but the church’s allegiance must be to God alone. Through two millennia of church history, divided allegiances have given Christians excuses to differ, not only in what they believed but in how they then lived. In the world, the tendency to divide over such issues as class, race, gender, and politics seem to be in the DNA of the fallen human race. If the forces of evil want to weaken the church, division is the best weapon.
‘O God the Father … heal the dissensions which divide us … and bring us back to a unity of love, which may bear some likeness to thy divine nature.’5
Mighty God, I thank you that you are in charge of all things, including my life. Help me to trust in your loving care and your gracious will no matter what life brings.
1 HE Fosdick, 1878–1969, ‘God of grace’ 2 Sampley, 2002, p826 3 E.g. Rom 8:4; e.g. Eph 2:2 4 Matt 28:19 5 Telmaharensis, 818–45, Syrian Church
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