My Notes on 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Posted by Dim Bulb on January 18, 2011
BACKGROUND: Paul begins the body of the letter with an exhortation (parakalo), a direct appeal to the Corinthians to hear and do what he asks of them. Such exhortatory rhetoric was common in ancient letters, especially those of a diplomatic nature. Such rhetoric was designed to be a subtle appeal to one’s authority, but at the same time was often familial in tone (note the use of the term ‘brothers’ in vss. 10-11; note too the father image in 4:14-17). The function of the exhortation had the same basic purpose as a command, namely, the fulfillment of some obligation or duty. Instead of relying primarily on one’s authority, appeal was made to the letter-recipients sense of duty and obligation, based upon relationship with the letter’s author. For example, a politician might appeal to people’s sense of patriotism (“my fellow Americans”). As already noted, St Paul appeals to familial images. He will also use other images seeking to express his relations with the Corinthians (see chapters 3-4), especially as they relate to his function as an Apostle.
Paul was in Ephesus at the time he wrote the letter. The letter was sent in direct response to a communique, certainly a letter which had been sent to him. Numerous troubles were afflicting the community in Corinth, the most pressing being that of disunity. The basic nature of the Church and our relationship with God and our fellow man was being done away with by the factions in Corinth. The sin of our first parents introduced disunity among men as well as disunity with God (Gen 3:5-12). Christ came to re-establish this intimate two-fold unity (Eph 2:1-22), and neither part can be enjoyed without the other (Matt 5:21-26). Christ cannot be divided (vs 13). Because the Church is the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:5-31), and Christ is the second Adam, head of the renewed humanity which makes up the Church (1 Cor 15:20-28), sin, which by its nature dis-unifies, must be avoided (1 Cor 15:33-34).
Peter (Cephas) may be the rock on which the church is built (Matt 16:13-20), and the apostles may be the foundation of the Church (Eph 2:19-20), but it is Christ who builds the Church, and it is Christ who is the capstone which holds the foundation together. A cult of personality built around this or that individual leader, possibly as a result of his abilities as a preacher (vs 17) is destructive and misunderstands both the nature of the Church and the nature of the mission enjoined upon the leaders. The Corinthians are showing an amazing lack of wisdom ( 1:18-3:3), and a fundamental understanding of what a ministers role is (3:4-4:13).
10 Now I beseech you brothers, 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.
By (in) the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, by his authority and power. Recall the last two verses of Matthew’s Gospel: “all power is given to me…go, therefore…” see also Acts 4:5-10. Paul’s appeal by (in) the name of the lord is a reminder that he is an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1:1).
Speak the same thing…no schisms among you. (Note: The theme of disunity is why this particular reading was chosen to be read with Isaiah 8:23-9:3 and Mat 4:12-23)This admonition of verse 10 states the basic purpose of the letter. “Speak the same thing” was a stock phrase in the ancient world, meaning “be in agreement; it stands in parallel to the admonition to be of the same mind and in the same judgment. The gift of speaking and prophesying in tongues was widespread among the Corinthians, their lack of understanding the importance and unifying function of these gifts contributed to the divisions in the Church. These gifts were meant for the common good of the Church, but had become a pretext for divisions. With this admonition to speak the same thing St Paul may have these gifts of speech and the disunity they were causing in mind (Note the references to various gifts of speech and the theme of unity in 12:1-13:2). In the more immediate context, he probably has in mind what people are saying in relation to various teachers (vs 12).
Schisms. Schisma means a rip, as in a cloth. The cognate verb schizein means to divide, to rend, to tear. In 11:18-22 Paul gives a subtle condemnation of the schismata plaguing the community at its Eucharist, going so far as to suggest that it is not the Lord’s Supper they are celebrating because of such a thing. God has ordered the Body of the Church, not the people, no matter how well endowed they are with spiritual gifts. God orders the body in such a way as to avoid schism (12:25), any appeal to spiritual gifts to justify such divisions are quite out of place.
11. For it has been told to me concerning you, by brothers, by those that belong to the house of Chloe, that their are contentions among you.
Those that are of the the house of Chloe. Chloe appears to have been a wealthy Christian woman, a patron of the Church. Such women lived in imitation of those who followed Christ and ministered to his needs (Luke 8:1-3). In the earliest days of the Church, people often met in the household of the more well-to-do Christians, for their houses were large enough for the purpose. A number of these houses belonged to such patronesses as Chloe (see Acts 12:12; Acts 16:15; Rom 16:10-11; Col 4:15). Apparently, some Christians who met in her house brought news, and possibly a letter which related the situation at Corinth.
12. What I mean to say is this: one of you says, “I belong to Paul’, another, ‘I belong to Apollo’, or “I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Paul’.
I belong to Paul…Apollo…Cephas…Christ. The contentions mentioned in verse 11 are here noted more specifically. The factions appear to be based upon the presumed abilities of a given preacher. Claims to some kind of an allegiance with a specific preacher may have been bolstered by the claim “he baptized me.”
13. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? It is possible in Greek to structure a question in such a fashion as to convey that a negative response is expected, and such is the case here, though communicating the point of the questions is not possible in English translation, anyone familiar with the NT can see the absurdity of anything other than a “no” answer. Any division is a division of Christ. A division based upon some preachers qualities or gifts is a mockery of the Passion of Jesus (Eph 2:14-16), with its unifying purpose, and of baptism, which incorporates one into that unity (Eph 4:1-6).
The word St Paul uses for “divided” is meris, which is a Greek term signifying a political party or faction.
14. I give God thanks, that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Caius,
15. lest anyone should say that you were baptized in my name.
16. I baptized also the house of Stephanus as well; I know not whether I baptized any other.
14-16. I give God thanks that I baptized none…Lest anyone should say that you were baptized in my name… Though St Paul did baptize people on occasion, such as Crispus, Caius, and Stehpanus’ household, he appears to have normally left it to others, his primary task being the proclamation of the Gospel.
17. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void
For Christ sent me…to preach…not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. The first part of the verse makes clear why an appeal to baptism cannot be used by people to establish a claim. The second part of the verse prepares for the subject St Paul will take up next, namely, the wisdom of the cross (1:18-3:4). The two parts together in turn prepare for what Paul says regarding the role of God’s ministers in in general, and his own role in particular, in 3:5-4:21