The First Part Of The Body Of The Letter, 1:10-6:20.
Although in his introduction the Apostle lauds the Corinthian Church for its spiritual progress and perfection, he is not unmindful that there are those in it who are guilty of serious disorders. In fact, the unity of the Church is not a little imperiled by the existence among the faithful of a number of disturbing factions; these, which have already led to serious moral disorders, he forthwith condemns and endeavours to correct. Beginning, therefore, with a general exhortation to unity, he introduces the subject he is about to treat (1:10-12); then comes a stern condemnation of the existing factions (1:13-3:17); following upon this he gives certain practical results and a concluding exhortation (3:18-4:21, before taking up the evil consequences among the Christians of the relaxed state of their discipline (5:1-62).
Please note that what follows is a fairly literal translation of the Greek text. This accounts for the clumsy wording of verse 11.
1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment.
1:11 For it hath been signified unto me, my brethren, of you, by them that are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith: I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
1:10-12. In view of the many and special graces which the faithful of Corinth have received, one would suppose that the greatest unity and concord should be reigning among them; they ought to have one mind and one voice. But St Paul has learned, on the contrary, that there are contentions and minor divisions among them which disturb their peace and hinder their progress.
10. The Apostle exhorts the Corinthians, by the name of Christ which they invoke in common, first to external unity, that they all speak the same thing, and that there be no schism among them. “Schism” means literally a fissure or rent; metaphorically, a division, a dissension. In theology it means a complete separation from the authority of the Church. Here is is taken in the sense of dissension.
But external unity is not sufficient; neither will it continue without internal unity. Hence the Apostle requires that they be perfect in mind, i.e., that they profess the same principles, and that they draw the same conclusions, whether theoretical or practical, from their common principles. In other words, St Paul wishes the faithful of Corinth to be one in thought and in word when there is a question of Christian doctrine,-a teaching somewhat opposed to the principles of Protestantism.
11. The reason for the preceding exhortation to unity is now indicated. The Apostle has learned through reliable witnesses that there are dissensions at Corinth.
Signified unto me, i.e., made clear (εδηλωΘη) by certain information.
My brethren, a conciliating term, so that they will accept in good part his reproof.
By them that are of the house of Chloe. This Chloe was probably a pious woman who had lived at Corinth and was well known to the Corinthians, but who now had either moved to Ephesus, or had sent to St Paul at Ephesus one of her children or domestics for the purpose of informing him of the conditions among the Corinthians Christians.
12. What the divisions at Corinth were this verse makes plain. Every one of you, etc. This must not be taken too literally; not every Christian at Corinth was involved in dissension (MacEvilly, Bisping), otherwise the preceding commendatory words in the Introduction to this Epistle would be false. Many of them, however, must have belonged to one or the other of the factions mentioned.
I am of Paul. The divisions among the Corinthians consisted in adhering to one rather than another of the preachers who had announced the Gospel to them. As St Paul was the founder of the Church (Acts 18:1 ff), all the faithful at first clung to him as their father. But when he had left Corinth and had gone to Asia, Apollo, sent by Aquila and Priscilla, came to take his place. Being remarkable for his eloquence, his allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures, and his physical bearing, Apollo soon so won the admiration of many of the Corinthians that they began to make unfavorable comparisons between him and St Paul, turning away from the latter and adhering to the former as their patron and leader. There was a group, however, that remained steadfast to the Apostle and proclaimed him as their head. Thus some were boasting that they were “of Paul,” and others that they were “of Apollo.”
Of Cephas. Those who claimed St Peter as their leader were doubtless Judaizers, as would appear from their use of the Apostle’s Aramaic name, Cephas. The organizers of this faction had likely come to Corinth from Palestine, where they had heard St Peter preach, and perhaps had been received into the Church by him. Cf. Introduction, 3.
Of Christ. It is more probable that this was not a dissenting group like the others, but that it either represented those Christians who refrained from all dissension and division, or that the phrase was added by St Paul himself in opposition to the three parties he was condemning (Cornely, h. 1). Cf. Introd., 3.
It is the common teaching that the parties here mentioned and condemned by St Paul were not guilty of any erroneous doctrines or formal differences in faith. Their disagreement regarded rather the personality of their respective patrons than any real differences in teaching; and yet these divisions were injurious to unity and could easily lead in a short time to very serious consequences.
First Argument Against The Divisions Among The Corinthians: Factions Are Detrimental To The Unity Of The Church 1:13-17a
As Christ is the head of the Church and of all Christians there should be no divisions among the faithful. It was Christ who died for all, and in His name all have been baptized. St Paul thanks God that he has not been the occasion of any of the Corinthian factions.
1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
1:14 I give God thanks, that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Caius;
1:15 lest any should say that you were baptized in my name.
1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanus; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
1:17a For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel….
13. The contending parties are rebuked.
Is Christ divided? Christ founded on Church, of which He is the sole head. As the head is one, so the body should be one. But if there are in the body of the Church, among its members, different groups, disagreeing one with another, it is clear that the body is divided, and consequently also the head. Christ would then be divided against Himself. Such a condition would be, not only absurd, but destructive of all unity in the Church.
Was Paul crucified for you? Since the faithful have been redeemed by Christ alone, who died for them on the cross, and since, through Baptism, they have been consecrated to Him (Rom 6:3), becoming members of a mystical body of which He is the head, it follows that they owe allegiance only to Him, and not to Paul or any other earthly leader.
Were you baptized in the name of Paul? Literally, “Were you baptized into the name of Paul,” so as to become his followers?
14. Some of the Christians who were less instructed might have thought that they were in a sense bound to and dependent upon the one who had baptized them. But the Apostle shows that is not so; and he thanks God that, while he was the founder of the Corinthian Church, he gave no occasion for any of their divisions arising from such a misunderstanding, for he did not baptize any of them, except two.
Crispus was a Jew who had been the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth at the time of St Paul’s first visit (Acts 18:8), and Caius, or Gaius, was the Apostle’s host during his third visit, when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans (Acts 20:2-3; Rom 16:23).
15. Baptized in my name, i.e., into (unto) my name (εις το εμον ονομα), so as to become my followers. A better reading has: “Lest any should say that I baptized into (unto) my name.”
16. The Apostle remembers a few whom he baptized, namely, the family and domestics of Stephanus. Later on (16:15-17) St Paul speaks of Stephanus as among the first converts of Achaia, and as one of the legates who came from Corinth to Ephesus before this letter was written.
I know not, etc. This shows what little importance St Paul attached to the fact of his having baptized anyone, so far as making followers was concerned.
17a. The reason why St Paul did not baptize many, or why he paid so little attention to the number on whom he conferred the Sacrament of Baptism, was that baptizing did not strictly pertain to his mission; he was sent principally to preach the gospel. This does not mean that the command given to the twelve (Matt 28:19) was not also for him, since he was a true Apostle, but only that his chief work, like that of the other Apostles, was to preach. Baptizing, for the most part, they all left to their assistants, after the example of Christ Himself (John 4:2) and that of St Peter after he had instructed Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:48).