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Introduction - Divisions in the Church 

 

INTRODUCTION

In the days of the early Church, Corinth was the "King's Cross of the East", the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. The name of the city became a by-word for immorality.To 'Corinthianize' was a naughty three letter word (in Greek) meaning 'to go to the devil' or 'to fornicate'. The Temple of Aphrodite at Corinth employed 1,000 priestesses who were nothing more than sacred prostitutes.   Corinth was a major sea-port and commercial centre and, because of this, the city teemed with sailors and merchants from all nations presenting a typical waterfront scene.Corinth was, above all else, a sex-saturated society.  

 

Yet such a city was ripe for the gospel for 3 main reasons:-  

1. It was a young city, having been destroyed by the Romans in 146BC and rebuilt in 46BC.When Paul arrived in 51AD the city was just 100 years old and thus had no deep-rooted traditions, social structures or cultural values.This was in striking contrast to Athens (Acts 17:16-34) where there was no flexibility in thought or pattern.  

2.Sex-saturation was another reason that opened the city to the gospel.There was a developing dissatisfaction with the emptiness of immorality.  

3.The Jewish Synagogue at Corinth provided a ready-made audience for the gospel.The congregation would be made up of Jews (by birth), proselytes (by circumcision) and God-fearers (adherents).This was prepared soil.  Paul seemed to concentrate on those cities where there were synagogues.  

 

SITUATION:  

The details of Paul's arrival can be found in Acts 18:1-18  

1. Paul went on to Ephesus after 18 months ministry in Corinth.

2. Apollos came to Corinth to assist in the work (Acts 18:27-19:1).

3. People began exhibiting 'party spirit' and division set in.

4. Members of the household of Chloe came to Ephesus and advised Paul of some of the things that were happening.

5. A letter from Corinth advised Paul of further problems (7:1).

6. Paul did two things:- (a) He sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Cor. 16:10) (b) He wrote the letter we call 1st Corinthians.  

 

PROCEDURE:   A number of major problems had invaded the Corinthian Church. Our procedure over the next few weeks will be to examine each of these problems and seek the application from God's Word for our situation.   Each week we shall look at the difficulty itself, the doctrine that emerges from that situation and the decision that is recommended to correct the problem.  

 

The areas or issues we will look at are.....  

1. Division in the Church (chapters 1-4)

2. Church Discipline (chapters 5, 6)

3. Marriage (chapter 7)

4. Christian Liberty (chapters 8-10)

5. Christian Worship (a) (chapter 11:1-16)

6. Christian Worship (b)(chapter 11:17-34)

7. Spiritual Gifts (chapters 12-14)

8.The Resurrection (chapter 15)  

 

Without doubt, the central or primary chapter in this letter is chapter 13. During this course of studies we will soon discover that the many problems addressed in this New Testament letter find their resolution in chapter 13 the love chapter.    

 

STUDIES IN FIRST CORINTHIANS 

SUBJECT:   Division in the Church     STUDY NO. 1 

 BIBLICAL FOCUS:    1 Corinthians 1- 4  

 

The great longing of the Lord Jesus for His church is that it should be one, i.e. united.This does not refer to organisational uniformity but to heart unity. Of the many issues Paul needed to address at Corinth, it is noteworthy which one is first on his list. The first problem Paul tackles is that of division and bitterness. It was not a matter of doctrine so much as one of relationships.  

 

1.THE DIFFICULTY   (Read 1:10-17;3:1-9)   There seems to have been 4 distinct groups in the church at Corinth:-   The following analysis is an imaginative suggestion of what they might have been!  

a)The Traditionalists (the Paul party)....."Brother Paul was the first one through the gates of Corinth and we foundation members support the founder of our church.....we remember the good old days".This group may have included the first converts and their favourite phrase may well have been, "We've always done it this way"!Note Paul's reaction to this kind of misguided loyalty in 1:13-17.  

b)The Bible Training Association (the Apollos party) "Bible training is the most important part in life. Forget about the past. Apollos is a great preacher/teacher and much more impressive and acceptable than Paul".  Because of his Alexandrian background, Apollos may have been more flexible/liberal than Paul and this may have appealed to the more broad-minded people.  

c)  The Church Restoration Movement (the Peter Party) "If we expect the church to last we had best get back to following the man on whom it is built - Peter".This may have been an extreme legalistic group who found some measure of status in using the name of Peter.    

d)  Corinth for Christ (the Jesus party)"It's just following Jesus that counts. People like Paul and Apollos don't mean a thing". There may have been a exclusivism in this group that betrays a spiritual pride.This group may have felt they had a monopoly on the truth.  

 

2.THE DOCTRINE   Paul contrasts the wisdom that comes from God and the wisdom of this world.The Corinthians were making the mistake of measuring things by this world's values and standards. 'Wisdom' was a big deal among the Greeks who usually measured status by academic achievement. It was pride based upon worldly achievement that was causing much of the division.  Contract the major differences between the wisdom of the world (1:20-25) and the wisdom of God (2:10-16).  God gives the growth and people are channels that He uses.  

 

3.THE DECISION  

1. Strive for wider co-operation among Christians (3:5-9). Paul and Apollos worked together as a team; follow their example and strive to distinguish between primary and secondary issues.  Don't set the leaders in contrast/competition; each has his/her own contribution to make and each is necessary to the total work. Don't give to man what belongs only to Jesus; e.g. veneration, infallibility.  

2.Have full confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit (3:16,17). No Christian has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit; nor has any one group.  

3. Stop judging your brother in Christ (3:10-15) because God will finally bring all things to the light. See 4:1-5 and compare with Romans 14:10-13.  

 

THINK TANK  

a)"There is nothing wrong with people disagreeing, but this must never lead to division. Differences are OK. Divisions are not OK"  Agree/Disagree?  

b)"Schism comes when people begin following a man with whose convictions they agree; in other words, men follow men instead of God".  Agree/Disagree?  

c) List some of the potential areas of disagreement in any local church and how can these lead to division?  

d)Try to recall details of any church 'split' of which you are aware. Analyse the details and share with your group if you believe it to be because of a doctrinal or relational problem.  

e)"Divisions are created when men assert their personalities in an endeavour to gain a personal following".  Agree/Disagree?              

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