1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)


1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Note the gap in the Greek Nestle text between verses 9 and 10 because of the utter change in subject. In verses 1-9 Paul thanks God for everything which He has done, is doing, and will still do for the Corinthian Christians. But in verse 10-17 Paul speaks of a work of the flesh which was getting a grip on the congregation.

Corinth was a city-state in which there were political parties. Furthermore, as in Athens, the Corinthians admired the philosophers and their schools of thought. In themselves there is nothing wrong with these things. But the Corinthian congregation was beginning to treat Christianity as if it were politics or philosophy.

That just won't do, says Paul. Verse 10 is an appeal. Verses 11-12 give the reason for the appeal. Paul is using tactful language. Despite their sins, he calls them "brothers," in verses 10 and 11.

Lenski: 'The name,' no saving or no cleansing power exists apart from this 'name.'
Kretzmann: He bases his pleading upon the soundest foundation: Through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In ancient times "name" meant everything that the person was. Therefore, by this phrase Paul was reminding them that Jesus is the only source of their justification and sanctification.

The expression "Jesus Christ" was used in every verse up to this point, except verse 5. Its repetition here is no accident.

"To say the same thing" means that they should have united hearts and voices in matters of doctrine and practice.

Paul says "all" because a congregation is one body and includes every part. He is surely not accusing the whole congregation of disunity.

Six out of ten English versions translate "divisions." It denotes parties, little political groups. Paul is appealing to them to put things in order, to restore, to restore the congregation to its former condition.

Morris: This is the rendering of a Greek verb which has to do with restoring anything to its rightful condition.

"In the same mind and the same judgment," or "united in mind and thought," "united again in your belief and practice," "in the same mind and in the same judgment." Note the repetition of the article with each noun and the repetition of "same" with each noun.

"Mind" refers to the intellect. "Thought" means opinion, judgment. It indicates the conviction. The former denotes the general principles, the latter the special application of the opinions. All this is displayed in daily life. Lenski explains this verse as a unity of right understanding and judgment.

Kretzmann: If a creed is purposely so worded as to include or admit both true and false interpretations, it will not aid the cause of Christian harmony . . . They should form their opinion from the right disposition, Acts 4:32.

The divisions were endangering what was theirs in verses 1-9. Paul is quietly warning them that they might lose everything because of their divisions.

1 Corinthians 1:11 My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.

The work of the flesh, look at Galatians 5:19f, which was endangering them was "quarreling."

Bengel: He calls the thing by its name.
Morris: There was a spirit of factiousness. Feelings were aroused.

Who was Chloe? We don't know. Where did she live? We don't know. Who are meant by "some"? We don't know. Here are some opinions:

  1. Rienecker thinks it means "by slaves who belonged to Chloe's household."

  2. Bengel says: "These men seem to have been Corinthians sent with letter to Paul, 7:1."

  3. Morris: "As the name is mentioned it is perhaps more likely that she was an Ephesian than a Corinthian. But we do not know. Nor do we know whether she was a Christian, though this may be judge probable. . . Paul was not left in any doubt."

  4. Lenski: "Observe that 'some' is plural. A number of witnesses attested the facts to the apostle."

What was reported was made very plain. It was not hearsay. Paul had plenty of witnesses. By the way, Paul is here not sinning against the eighth commandment, nor is he violating Matthew 18. It is a principle of Scripture that open sins need open rebuke. Look at Galatians 2:11-16. Obviously everybody in the Corinthian congregation knew that the sin was going on. It was not secret. And therefore Paul speaks forthrightly for their own good.

1 Corinthians 1:12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas "; still another, "I follow Christ."

Kretzmann: As the Corinthians saw it in the schools of their heathen philosophers, so they applied it in their pride and self-conceit after the name of their favorite teacher. Paul had been the first teacher of the Gospel at Corinth. Next had come Apollos, whose brilliant gifts of oratory, Acts 18, had naturally impressed a great many of the members. Both of these teachers undoubtedly emphasized the universality of the grace of God in Christ. . . . But soon came the Judaizing teachers, who wanted the Jewish ceremonial law introduced in all congregations, probably arguing with a great show of plausibility for their position.

Kretzmann means that the party of Peter was misrepresenting Peter's teaching. The final faction ("I am of Christ") does not denote a good and correct group but evidently means that some of them formed a division which claimed that no apostle had to be heeded. Somewhat like mistaken people today who say that they will listen only to the Bible, not to preachers. In any case, what was going on was eroding their faith and unity.

1 Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

Paul liked the rhetorical question as a teaching device. Look at Galatians 3:1-5 where he asks a series of five rhetorical questions which were intended to jolt the Galatians out of their stupidity. Likewise here. Note that all three questions are positively absurd. But, when people get hooked on false doctrine or practice, which amounts to absurdity, it takes just the proper observations and questions to jolt them loose. Look at Luke 11:14-20. Jesus' enemies claimed He was a devil. Jesus shows, by a number of observations, how ridiculous their claim was. But, on with the text.

Rienecker: The perfect tense pictures the completed action or state. The tense means he has already been divided up and distributed.
Bengel: The glory of Christ is not to be shared with his servants, nor the unity of his body to be divided, as if Christ were ceasing to be one.
Morris: Paul is envisaging an utter impossibility. Christ is one, and the Church, which is His body, must be one.

By the way, the thought of Christ being "divided" is even more abhorrent than being crucified.

The second question requires "no" as answer. "For you" is used in the vicarious sense here, as it is in other places, of the vicarious atonement of Christ in our place.

Bengel on "crucified" and "baptized": The cross and baptism claimed us for Christ. The correlatives are redemption and self-dedication.
Morris: This question directs attention to the centrality of the cross . . . None other than Christ could accomplish the crucial work of redemption.
Kretzmann: The very idea as though Paul had been crucified for them is monstrous in his eyes. And the thought as though any of them had been baptized into his name and thus become consecrated to his person, is perfectly abhorrent to his humility.

Now comes the third question which also must be answered in the negative. To be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus means that the particular baptism saves the person. Paul is asking: "Did you become Christians by being baptized in my name?"

Morris: The third question reminds them that they had not realized or not attained the significance of their baptism.

We can't agree with that. We would rather say that they had  forgotten the significance of their baptism, as we do too sometimes.

Note that four names occur in verse 12, but in verse 13 only two. In each case, both in verse 12 and 13, the name is wrongly used. Paul does not repeat Apollos and Peter which indicates two things:

  1. One example is sufficient;

  2. He shows his deep humility by not holding himself above Apollos and Peter.

1 Corinthians 1:14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,

In verse 4 Paul thanked God for everything God had done for them. Here he thanks God for His providence in not letting Paul baptize the Corinthians. God had guided Paul in such a way that what Paul had done would not stand in the way of their faith. However, Paul notes two exceptions: Crispus and Gaius. Them he did baptize, the exception, not the rule.

Bengel: The providence of God reigns often in events, the reason for which is not seen until afterwards . . . Paul baptized the most important people with his own hand; not many others; not from ambition, but because they were among the first who believed . . . The administration of baptism was not so much the duty of apostles, as of deacons, Acts 10:48; nor did that diminish the dignity of baptism.
Morris: It is of interest that Christ Himself delegated baptism to His followers, John 4:1ff. It may well be that Peter followed the same practice, Acts 10:48.

But we do know that Peter baptized people on Pentecost.

Lenski: These baptized people were so few in number that they could never constitute a party on the ground of their baptism through the agency of Paul. Crispus is the later ruler of the Jewish synagogue, one of the very first converts to be gained in Corinth, Acts 18:8, who was baptized by Paul. Gaius we know as Paul's host on his later visit to Corinth when Paul then wrote the letter to the Romans, Romans 16:23.

1 Corinthians 1:15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.

This sentence begins with a negative purpose clause, modifying "were baptized", which negative purpose clause really shows you why God did not permit Paul to baptize more.

"Into my name" as if I were collecting a company for myself.

Lenski: Baptism in Paul's name would mean to place the mediatorial saving power in Paul's person. The outrageous idea which Paul combats throughout is that men, or any man, should in any way be substituted for Christ in the Church, whether by loving attachment, or by vituperative hostility.

Look at John 3:25-30. The Baptist's disciples became jealous when Jesus' disciples baptized more than John's disciples. They were virtually placing John above Christ. But John, like Paul in spirit, says: "He must increase but I must decrease." That must be every pastor's constant motto.

1 Corinthians 1:16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.)

Here Paul as an after-thought. He remembers one other occasion on which he baptized. This does in no way alter the inspired nature of this passage. We have no error here. It is an example of the common phenomenon of people forgetting for the moment but then recalling. It in no way militates against the inspired nature of the passage.

"The household of Stephanas" of course involves a number of people.

And then Paul adds: "As for the rest, I can't remember whether or not I baptized anyone else," the point of which is that he baptized very rarely.

Morris: The mention of Stephanas after a little interval is a natural touch in dictating a letter. . . . Paul is ruling out any attempt to bind converts to himself personally.
Lenski: The question is asked: How could the baptism of so important a family come to Paul's mind as a kind of after-thought? The answer lies in 16:15. Stephanas was 'the first fruits of Achaia,' and while he was now a member of the congregation in Corinth he had been baptized in Athens where he was the first person of all Achaia (Greece) to be converted. . . . Here, as elsewhere, we see that in inspiration God does not proceed in a mechanical fashion, but that he uses the minds of the chosen writers with such powers as they have . . . The point to be noted is this, and that alone is stressed, Paul never baptized a sufficient number to constitute a party of any kind in the Corinthian congregation, and he is glad of that fact.
Kretzmann: Note the deep humility of the great apostle, as well as his carefulness of expression, lest he be under suspicion.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Note that in this sentence we have "Christ" two more times. He is mentioned in verses 10, 12, 13, and 17. Note that we have "not" twice, the first time applied to the purpose for which Paul was sent with a commission and the second time as to the substance of his preaching. Both infinitives denote purpose. Paul is not saying that God prohibited him from baptizing. He did baptize as is clear from verses 14 and 17 and from Acts 16:33 and other references.

Bengel: The labor of baptism, often undertaken, would have hindered the preaching of the Gospel.
Lenski: The duty of the apostles was to go from place to place and to spread the Gospel as far as possible. Thus the work assigned to them is really preaching and teaching. The work of administering Baptism when the preaching and the teaching had produced conversion was a matter that any assistant of an apostle could easily attend to, for it certainly required no immediate apostolic call . . . Nothing derogatory is thus implied in regard to the Sacrament itself or to its vital importance.
Kretzmann: The performance of the acts of baptism, which belongs to the office of the Church, Matthew 28:19, the apostles could have carried out through others, Acts 10:48 and John 4:1,2, who were their hands and Christ's in this service. But the preaching of the Gospel, through which alone the practice of baptizing is made possible, they could indeed carry on in fellowship with others, but they could not personally omit this function or have it done only through a delegation of preachers, for they were trumpets in the world of nations and lights in the darkness.

It is remarkable that the Christ who Himself did not baptize, John 4:2, was Himself baptized, Matthew 3:16 and absolutely required it for entrance into the Kingdom of God, John 3:5.

Furthermore, it is remarkable that the Baptist's disciples assisted him in baptizing, John 4:1, but there is no record of their preaching, but plenty of evidence that the Baptist was THE VOICE of one crying in the wilderness.

Paul says that "mere human wisdom" makes the preaching of the cross of Christ empty and worthless. We quote a few English translations:

Read verses 18-25 and then verse 17 becomes clear.

"Void" means dwindle to nothing, vanish under the weight of rhetorical ornament and dialectic subtlety.

Bengel: The nouns 'wisdom' and 'power' are frequently used here. To the world a discourse is wisdom which treats of every topic rather than the cross; but a discourse on the cross admits nothing heterogeneous. Ignorance of the mystery of the cross is the foundation, for example, of the whole Koran. . . He who rejects the cross continues in ignorance of the rest.
Morris: The faithful preaching of the cross results in people ceasing to put their trust in any human device, and relying rather on God's work in Christ. A reliance on rhetoric would cause people to trust in human beings, the very antithesis of what the preaching of the cross is meant to effect.
Lenski: The combination of human wisdom with the Gospel makes the Gospel itself of none effect, empty, without inner reality or substance . . . It would evaporate entirely, leaving only a hollow show of Gospel terms and phrases . . . Paul writes 'the cross of Christ' because this is the very heart of the Gospel. If the cross is canceled or lost the entire Gospel is gone.
Kretzmann: The true Gospel preacher is not to stand before his congregation primarily as an orator trained in the art of rhetoric, but as a witness of Christ, bearing testimony to the great facts in and through which God has chosen to reveal Himself to the world.

Next Sunday's text is 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. Before preaching on the current text, 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, read the intervening verses, 18-25. And before preaching on next Sunday's text, reread verses 18-25.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1983, pp. 42-45. Used with permission.

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