1 Corinthians 1: 10-18
We just heard these words in today’s Apostol,
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been revealed to me concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.
In this morning’s epistle, the Holy Apostle Paul is attempting to counter divisions, “schisms” it says in Greek, which are plaguing the Church in Corinth. How does he know about it? Chloe’s people. So, who is Chloe and who are her people? Chloe is a Christian woman of Corinth in whose house Christians met to pray, worship and receive the Eucharist. Christians at this time were prevented from building temples, so they built chapels within the homes of some of their wealthier members. St. Luke confirms this practice when he states that the Christians in Jerusalem gathered “with one accord in the temple, and broke bread from house to house” (Acts 2:46.) So, some of the Christians who met in Chloe's house-church. either told Paul, or they wrote him a letter, saying that there were divisions in the Corinthian Church instead of unity.
The next verse, verse 12, says:
“Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”
This is the heart of the issue, and the Apostle goes right after it. He accuses the Corinthians of allowing themselves to be split up into factions, religious parties if you will, hostile to each other, and threatening to destroy the community.
There was the “Paulist” party, the “Apollo” party, the “Cephas” or “Peter” party, and even the “Christ” party. We know who Paul is, we know who Peter is, we know who Christ is, but who is Apollo, or “Apollos?” The holy, glorious, all-laudable, Apostle Apollo, is numbered among the Seventy Apostles. He became an important co-laborer with Paul, and later, Bishop of Corinth. So, what does it all mean? It means that folks were creating mini cults of personality, rallying around the names of those who they perceived (incorrectly!) were champions of their own opinions and ideas concerning the faith. They even utilized the name of Christ Himself! Of course we know that there are literally hundreds of so-called “churches” in the world today claiming to be “Christ’s,” don’t we? St. John Chrysostom said that these “dividers” were in error who “addicted themselves to men.” Creating division in the church and divisions among people was the exact opposite of what Christ called for, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21.)
Even in our own day, we see divisions and partisanship created by people who follow this elder or that priest; this Bishop or that hermit. Of course there are holy people; Bishops, priests, monks, nuns, theologians, pious lay people, who provide great spiritual benefit to the faithful, just like Peter, Paul, and Apollos did. But none of these created disunity. None of these were fishing for their own cult-worshippers.
So, factionalism was tearing the Corinthian church apart. Paul asks them, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” This is no gentle inquiry. St John Chrysostom says,
“What he says comes to this: ‘You have cut Christ into pieces, and you have scattered His body!’ Here is anger! Here is scolding! Here are words full of indignation! For whenever he interrogates instead of disputing, his doing so implies a confessed absurdity.”
Sirach 28:9 says, “a sinner sows trouble between friends, introducing discord among the peaceful.”
The problems of the Corinthian church were not unlike the problems in many parishes, diocese, and even whole autocephalous churches today. Therefore, St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians is as relevant to Christians in our day as it was in the first century AD. We are made one in Christ, but we are divided by the devil. So beware, be watchful over your souls, seek unity, pray for humility, and trust in the Lord. Amen.