1 Corinthians 1:1-19
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind – just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you – so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been 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 can 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 proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness 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.”
Paul’s major concern for the Church and the Body of Christ was not sex or morality, but arbitrary divisions. Paul repeatedly stresses the importance sharing the same mind (purpose) for the world that was in Christ, being unified by the Holy Spirit. If we all bring our various gifts to work for Christ’s goal – healing and reconciliation with God and each other – then we might all be bound together in the mystery that is Christ’s Body as a present reality (1 Cor. 12-13).
The Corinthian church was suffering because those with supposed knowledge and wisdom “puffed themselves up” over those who supposedly lacked them. But Paul knew that Jesus chose to live and die among the sinful, weak and meek of society – because if the suffering and sinful are welcome in God’s realm, then all creation must be. So Paul put the message of God’s universal reach and unifying power into terms they can understand: Christ [sent me] to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power, (1 Cor. 1:17).
Despite our best efforts to divide ourselves along arbitrary lines, the true reality is that we are all equal before God. But whereas our sin divides us, God wants to bind us together in God’s holiness. Martin Luther once said that all of Christian hope can be summarized in Paul’s greeting for Grace and Peace – God’s loving-power and God’s healed-completeness-wholeness for the world.
Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth, with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen.