I 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. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ."Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For 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. -- 1Corinthians 1: 10-17 (ESV)
Now Paul gets into the first major theme -- disunity. It seems unity is a buzzword in false teaching circles because they do not want to be questioned. Unity however is not singing Kumbaya with anyone who happens to be standing in a church. That is false unity. It seems much of Churchianity today has blanketly accepted that if someone speaks from a pulpit they must be part of the body of Christ. This ignores vast swaths of Scriptures that deal with false teachers, false prophets and the wolves in our midst. The reason why people tend to feel this way is the purpose driven church has created a cult of personality with their gifted speakers. The model calls for skilled public speakers who can capture the imaginations of people. The congregants end up worshiping their pastors instead of Jesus however. That is the cult of personality. Isn't it interesting that Corinth was essentially going through the exact same thing? Just compare the two periods of time. Some followed Peter, some followed Osteen. Some followed Paul and others followed Prince. Some followed Apollos and others followed Warren. Is Christ divided? Yes in the church today He most certainly is. He should not be but just try leaving a church and see what happens. There is far too much pastor worship and church worship in the church today.
What is interesting are the two things Paul says here we ought to be unified in and neither of them is "love." The modern church is infatuated with the carnal sense of love that they try and apply to the church as a unifying principle. False teachers and their followers wield this carnal love like cudgel against any legitimate criticism. Yet look at the two things listed here that we are supposed to be unified in -- mind and judgment. First, we are to have the mind of Christ. This speaks directly to His Word. God has already provided us with a glimpse into how He thinks and how He wants us to think. Our core unity must be in doctrine or there is no unity. Romans 16:17 teaches us that disunity comes from false teaching, or the corrupting of doctrine within the body of Christ. Do we understand this today? False teaching corrupts the mind of Christ. It corrupts the unity of our doctrine. Were we baptized in the name of Joel Osteen? Did Andy Stanley die for our sins? The second unifying principle is judgment, which refers to how we then apply this knowledge. It does not matter if we know something and refuse to implement it. For example, we know what the bible teaches about adultery yet churches will often turn a blind eye when members are openly flaunting their adultery. That is not unity but rather disunity with the judgment of Christ. This also refutes the "judge not" crowd who use unity as a means to avoid being corrected. Paul now brings it all home with the most powerful verse of the chapter:
For 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. -- 1Corinthians 1: 17 (ESV)
The job of a preacher is to preach the Gospel, period. Paul does not stop there however but instead gets into style as well. In these days in Corinth there was a high value placed upon speech-craft. Eloquent and articulate speakers were revered in Greek culture. God is saying here that it will only get in the way of the message. You see the message counts -- not the messenger. John the Baptist said he must decrease so Christ could increase. So many pastors today are entertainers with their speech and the Gospel gets lost because of it. Have you ever had someone rave about how great a sermon was but they could not tell you lucidly what it was about? That is someone who was entertained carnally by the speaker but the Gospel was lost. Not only that but the cross was emptied of its power! What is the power of the cross? The salvation of man! When a preacher makes it a show about himself then he removes salvation from his listeners. Paul warns Timothy of this when he says that very salvation of his listeners is on the line when he goes to preach. Say no the strobe lights and live animal illustrations. Preach the Gospel. Chapter One now wraps up:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." -- 1Corinthians 1: 18-31 (ESV)
Paul expounds on this point about not having cult of personality preachers by expanding on the fact that God uses the simple to confound the wise and that He will not share His glory. Four points stand out for us and the first is that the cross is foolishness to those perishing. So often we hear about people seeking within the seeker friendly models of church growth and that we must cater things in the church to the goats. That is biblically absurd because the things of God are still foolishness to them. Trying to explain Leviticus to someone unsaved is like speaking Chinese to someone who does not know the language. Without the indwelt Holy Spirit, they cannot discern what God is saying. The model seen in Acts 2, when the church was established, is really quite simple. Preach the Gospel to the saved, because it is spiritual food for them. Of course we want the unsaved to come but only so they can hear the Gospel, which according to Romans Chapter One is the only thing that has the power to save them! Not the fancy speech of the pastor. Not the intricate sermon illustrations. Not about making the unsaved feel better or somehow relevant to a God they still think is foolish!
Secondly, where is the debater of this age? The ways of God are so much higher than ours beloved. The most learned man is just a man. The wisdom of man would never have considered the cross. That is why it is folly. That is why you constantly see the world challenging the "logic" behind Biblical accounts. Along these same lines is the third point which is the foolishness of God is wiser than man and the weakness of God is stronger than man. The friend of God theologies are raising up generations of Christians who do not revere who the Lord is. God is not your buddy or your wingman. People talk too much about religion versus relationship but that misses the mark. Everyone is already in relationship with Christ. He is either your Lord and Master or He will be your judge and jury. There is no third choice. If your faith hinges on an emotionalism that you believe is a relationship be warned that the only relationship you have is with your deceitful heart.