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1 Corinthians: The Church the World Needs | The Perils of Popularity

September 19, 2021
1 Corinthians 1:10-17

10I 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. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so 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.) 17For 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.

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In v.10-17, Paul addresses two pressing issues in this young church: division and quarreling. Paul has received word that Corinthians had become sectarian, aligning themselves with various teachers, some with Paul, others with Cephas and some with Apollos and some with Christ. The Corinthians had formed parties around some of the charismatic figures in a way that led to division and fighting. Paul will later argue in chapter 12 that there are many gifts that serve the church and we should seek unity within a diversity of gifts. The different ministers in the church should not be competitors but collaborators in the task of serving the church. In order to unite the Corinthians, he begins teaching about baptism and the cross of Christ. It’s these two realities that serve as the foundation for our identity—not simply as individual Christians but as the body of Christ. This is how Paul, the pastor, will seek to bring unity in the midst of division. We now should pay careful attention to the divisions that tend to creep into our life together, as well as the beautiful unifying remedy of baptism and the cross—both gifts we receive from Jesus.


To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst

To cultivate mutually encouraging-relationships

To participate in God’s mission to the world 

Opening Prayer

God of radiant light, shine into our lives, and disperse the darkness that dims our vision; shine into our world, and cast out the fears that long have chained us; shine into our wor- ship, that we may be a people of your hope and promise. Amen. 

Responsive Prayer—Psalm 50

1O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might.

2O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. 

3For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. 

4Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.

5He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them.

6With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good. 

7For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies. 

Discussion Questions

1. Looking at the Bible: What does the text say?

    • Look with curiosity at this text. What jumps out at you?

    • Pay attention to the change in Paul’s tone from the first nine verses to this passage. 

      • Do you sense the urgency and perhaps frustration over the division? Where do you see it? 

    • We are familiar with Christ and Paul, but what do we know about Apollos or Cephas (Peter)? 

    • Does that help us understand something about this text?

2. Looking at Jesus: Everything in the Scripture says something about Jesus. What does this passage teach you to believe about him?

    • Paul’s primary and rhetorical question in this passage is in v.13: Is Christ divided? The answer is no, but what point is Paul trying to get across by asking that question in that way?

    • In v.17, Paul mentions the cross of Christ being “emptied of its power.” 

      • What does he mean by that? 

      • Why does the eloquence of his speech, or lack thereof, relate to the power of the cross?

      • How might the divisions in Corinth be emptying the cross of its power?

3. Looking at our Hearts: How does this passage shape our life as a community? 

    • How do you see Paul breaking down the walls of division in this passage? 

    • What are the enemies of community in this passage and what are some modern day equivalents?

    • Why is it that we so often want to hold up other people or ideas instead of Christ for our hope?

4. Looking at our World: What are we to hope for? 

    • How do v. 10 and v. 17 call the Corinthians and us to have hope in the work of Christ?

  • View Study Guide Notes

    Question 1: This “looking at the Bible” section is an opportunity for your group to look with curiosity at the text. Some will be familiar with this passage others may not, so it allows everyone to spend a few moments carefully reading the passage. Curiosity is the beginning of being a good student of the Bible! This also means many questions or insights will be raised for which no one will have a good answer. That’s OK too! Don’t know who Crispus or Gaius are off the top of your head, the right response is “Great question, I’m not sure.”

    Question 2: Spending time on v.13 and v.17 might lead your group to see the ways we make other people, and power, our ultimate hope rather than Jesus. The application question is trying to get at this: We elevate other people, our desires, politicians, political parties, etc to a place that we hope will ultimately give us life.

    Question 3: For Paul to say that he is glad that he did not baptize anyone else except Crispus and Gaius is a bold statement which gives us a hint how much Paul is angered and broken by the divisions in Corinth. Division in the church is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus. Our divisions empty the cross of its power. As you lead through this section, getting the group to recognize how often we are prone to division and how it undercuts the work of the church will be helpful. Perhaps reflecting on John 17 will be helpful, if there is time. (Although if you are going through all these questions there most assuredly will not be!)

    Question 4: If you made it this far, you must be tired! Thank you for leading! This last section is perhaps the most difficult. You have to look carefully for signs of hope in this passage, but they are there. Paul invoking the name of Christ in v.10 and returning to the power of the cross in v.17 are clues that Paul’s hope in the unity and therefore power of the church lie not in the people who so easily divide but in the promise of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus will unite his church and in any way we can participate and celebrate our unity within our church family and also with other churches we ought to because it is in our unity that we proclaim the power of our baptism and the hope of the cross.