Once upon a time there was a body. It had enjoyed a healthy birth and a normal growth. Although there had been times of brief sickness and discomfort, these went through the usual healing processes and the body continued to grow and to function.

Then one day, the toes began to discuss among themselves the importance of wearing comfortable shoes. In the course of the conversation, it was observed that no other part of the body was in the habit of wearing shoes.

"But shoes are necessary for the protection of the body!" exclaimed one of the big toes. "We need to convince the other members of the body that they should also take to wearing shoes. But alas, the other members of the body could not see the need and would not comply with such demands. The toes decided that, for the good of the body, they would separate themselves from the other members of the body.

This had raised the question of what the various members of the body ought to wear. The legs stated that trousers were the only proper apparel. The torso claimed that a shirt ought to be worn. The hands disagreed, claiming that nothing was necessary, but that gloves were acceptable upon occasion.

The members of the body began to quarrel with one another with the result that each member decided to withdraw from those other members with whom there was disagreement.

In the end, the body died.

Sounds a little silly, doesnít it? Yet this simple story serves to illustrate why there are so many dying churches in the world today.

Corinth was a church divided. There were divisions within the church. These divisions were threatening to tear the church apart. In far off Ephesus, Paul had heard the news of these divisions that plagued the church. He moved to deal with this problem.



Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you.

Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:10-12).

The church at Corinth had some serious problems. They had polarized themselves into a series of "clicks." If you were not a part of their particular group, then you did not count in their eyes.

Notice also that the case of this disunity was not of a doctrinal nature. There may have been some doctrinal problems in Corinth, but this disunity was not a part of that.

There are times when there ought to be division in the church. When someone holds to a false teaching or when someone rejects a Biblical teaching, then it is time for some disunity. A person who rejects the teaching that Jesus is the Son of God does not belong in the church. A person who does not believe that salvation is a gift from God has no place within the community of believers.

But this was not a doctrinal division at Corinth. These groups had not been formed on the basis of their doctrinal beliefs. We know this because we know something of the leaders that were used as the centers for each of these groups.

Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:12).

These Corinthians had held a popularity contest and there had been four nominees. They had separated themselves four groups and they each claimed to be following after a man.

1. The Paul Group.

This first group wanted to be loyal to Paul. After all, he was the one who had begun the church at Corinth and he deserved their undivided loyalty.

2. The Apollos Group.

Apollos was a young preacher who had visited Corinth and who had preached there for a time. Acts 18:11 says that he was "an eloquent man" (anhr logios). Apparently he was known for his impressive speaking ability. The people who followed him may have been impressed by the big words that he used.

3. The Peter Group.

This group may have been the working class. They could identify with the tough, gruff fisherman from Galilee who had been given the keys to the kingdom.

4. The Jesus Group.

It could be that this group had a false piety that said, "You other people can listen to all of those other Bible teachers, but we wonít listen to anyone but Jesus." They had a party in which they burned all of their commentaries and now they walked around with their nose in the air and dismissed all that did not belong to their party.

Paul does not advocate any of these groups. He does not even advocate the Jesus Group. He says that they are all wrong because they are all dividing the church. People were arguing over which group you ought to belong and they were disassociating themselves rom anyone who did not belong to their exclusive group.

There is a lesson here. It is that the church of God ought to be UNIFIED. When we speak of the church, we often think of a building where you go on Sunday to hear the teaching of the Bible. But this is not the church at all. The church is not the building, but the people inside the building. The church is a living thing. It is a body.

Notice that Paulís exhortation comes by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:10). When we read this, we ought to remember that Paul could speak ex cathedra. He was an apostle. He could say, "You guys straighten up or Iím going to come and bust some heads!" But that was not his approach. Instead he gives an exhortation by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He says, "In light of the fact that you are now saved and in fellowship with Jesus Christ, I am giving you a message in the name of that One with whom you have been identified."

Paul calls these Corinthians "brethren." They were believers in Jesus Christ. They were already Christians. That means this is a family letter. If you are not a member of the family of God, then this is not written to you. You are an outsider who is looking in. But you donít have to stay on the outside. You can come and join Godís family. You can trust in the work that Jesus accomplished on the cross and you can receive the free gift of eternal life. If you do so, you will find that this exhortation is also written to you.

Notice the specifics of Paulís exhortation. It is an exhortation...

These three points can be summed up in a single word. UNITY. There is to be unity among the members of the body of Christ. Paul says, "Because you are in fellowship with Jesus Christ (1:9), you ought to be in fellowship with one another."



Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:13).

Paul asks a series of question. These are rhetorical questions. The answers to these questions are obvious. They point to the supremacy of Christ.

Paul was not crucified for you, was he? You can take out Paulís name and replace it with Peterís or with that of Apollos. You could replace it with the name of any popular religious leader of today.

John Calvin was not crucified for you, was he?

Or were you baptized in the name of Martin Luther?

The problem hasnít been limited to the church in the first century. The church in every age has faced the temptation to exalt certain men higher than they ought. Martin Luther, the famous Protestant Reformer, made this plea against the growing trend toward denominationalism in his day:

I pray you, leave my name alone, and do not call yourself Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for any one. Saint Paul would not that any one should call themselves of Paul, nor of Peter, but of Christ. How then does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and aches to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to those party names and distinctions -- away with them all and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes. It is quite proper that the Papists should bear the name of their party; because they are not content with the name and doctrine of Jesus Christ, they will be Papists besides. Well, let them own the Pope, as he is their master. For me, I neither am, nor wish to be, the master of anyone. I and mine will contend for the sole and whole doctrine of Christ who is our sole master. (Martin Luther).

I have no intention of picking on the group that has taken the name of Martin Luther. Other groups have been just as guilty of taking a single man and elevating him to a position that only belongs to our Lord.

The point is that Jesus Christ is to be seen as preeminent. If we are in Christ, then we are welded together by a common bond of unity that supersedes and denominational boundaries.

There are many people with whom you will disagree over minor matters. But on the major issue of Jesus Christ, we are called to be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment (1:10).

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, tells of a dream that he once had in which he was transported to the gates of hell. He stood there and called out:

"Are there any Roman Catholics here?"

"Yes," came the reply.

"Are there any Presbyterians?"

"Yes," was the answer.

"Any Congregationalists?"


"Are there any Methodists here?"

"Yes," came the reply.

As Wesley thought on this last answer, he was suddenly transported to the gates of heaven. Once again, he called out:

"Are there any Roman Catholics here?"

"No," came the reply.

"Are there any Presbyterians?"

"No," was the answer.

"Any Congregationalists?"


"Are there any Methodists here?"

"No," came the reply.

Puzzled, he asked, "Well then, who is here?"

The answer came back, "Christians."

There is coming a day when all of the party denominations and separations will be done away. One of these days we will see Jesus and then everything else will come to be unimportant by comparison.



I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 that no man should say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. (1 Corinthians 1:14-17).

Paul goes on the record to show that he only baptized a handful of people at Corinth. Why does he want to make this point?

Evidently there was quite a large group at Corinth who were claiming to be disciples of Paul. Some might have been bragging, "Paul himself led me to the Lord," or, "I was baptized personally by Paul." He goes on record to tell exactly who were the people that he did baptize at Corinth. He does this in order to knock the props out from under those who would place their status upon their identification with Paul. He says, "I didnít baptize you, so you canít possibly be identified with me."

Then he says by way of explanation, Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel (1:17). He was not sent to start a cult of people who could be baptized by him. Neither are we sent forth to call people into membership of our own particular denomination. We are sent in the same way Paul was sent. We are sent to preach the gospel.

This brings us to a question. What is the gospel?

The word "gospel" (euaggelion) literally means "good news." The gospel is the good news that God is in the salvation business. God loves you a lot more than you ever dreamed. He loved you enough to send His Son to die on your behalf. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who became flesh so that He could die on the cross for your sins. When He died, it was in your place. He died so that you do not have to die. He was judged for your sins. Then He rose again from the dead to prove that your sins were eternally forgiven. As a result, you can have Godís free gift of eternal life.

How do you get it? Not by working for it. Not by being good. Not by being baptized. Not by joining a particular denomination.

It is a gift. Like any gift, it does not depend upon the person receiving the gift, but only upon the giver. God has given you this great gift that you can receive by faith.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).


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