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Paul Corrects Contentions

(1 Corinthians 1:1-17)

Lesson 1 -- second quarter 2000
March 5, 2000

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2000, Christian Light Publications

Years ago, a missionary friend commented to me, "Corinth was the problem church of the New Testament." If that is indeed the case (and it seems quite accurate to me), then I am glad we get to study God's letters to them. We in the 21st century do not enjoy problem-free church relationships, so this ought to benefit us greatly. You see, I happen to opine that our modern-day congregations are no less "problem churches" than was Corinth.

Have you ever considered what Paul wrote about these Christians in his introduction? Considering this was a "problem church," the witness of Scripture about them strikes me as absolutely amazing...and heartening. Notice: "...The church of God...sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints" (verse 2). "...Ye come behind in no gift" (verse 7). "...Brethren" (verse 10). See what I mean!

Yet, despite their calling, their gifts and their position before God, they were divided. It would appear that they recognized their calling "to be saints" but missed their calling "unto the fellowship of...Jesus Christ our Lord" (verse 9). Could it possibly be that they thought they could fellowship with Jesus in the absence of fellowship with each other? Could it possibly be that we would think the same thing?

In 1 John 1:7 we discover that our fellowship with Jesus brings us into fellowship with each other: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another...."

Contentions and divisions in the church ought to concern us deeply. Not just because they produce stress and uncertainty; not just because they make us uncomfortable and insecure -- fractured fellowship with one another points to a perilous spiritual condition! Contentions and divisions may well indicate weak fellowship with Jesus. They may signal to warn us that we have indulged in walking in darkness. Do not lightly dismiss fellowship problems!

Can you imagine this kind of talk going on in your local church: "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ"? No wonder verse 10 records this passionate appeal: "I beseech you...that ye all speak the same thing." No, Paul didn't wish they'd all just parrot the same party line. He wanted them to "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

Well, back to the 21st century, back to your congregation, and back to you in particular. So you couldn't imagine yourself talking like the Corinthians did above. I don't recall talking that way myself. Or have we? Think about it a bit. Have you ever demeaned or criticized the ministry...with the exception of one? Is there anyone in the congregation that in your eyes can practically do no wrong?

Welcome to Corinth! Now read the lesson again.

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