Sunday, June 24, 2012

First Corinthians 1: Christ Is Divided

Psalm 133
1  A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2  It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
3  As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. 

I was reading Ivan Panin's numeric translation of First Corinthians when the Holy Spirit highlighted a verse for me. The verse was 1 Corinthians 1:13, which in the King James Version says this: "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" Panin, however, made the first phrase a declaration instead of a question: "Christ is divided: was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized into the name of Paul?" (My emphasis)

Full stop. This is different. What does it mean?

Christ is divided. Not good. Not good at all.

The context bears this out: Paul is chastising the Corinthians for contention and factionalism:
1Co 1:10  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
1Co 1:11  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
1Co 1:12  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
1Co 1:13  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 
Specifically, he is telling them that following a man, even a well-known one such as Paul, Cephas (Peter), or Apollos, is not right. Each of them had been baptized into the name of Jesus, therefore they all were to follow Jesus. To follow anyone else is contentious, and carnal (1 Cor 3:3). It is sin.

So, what does that mean today? Do we, who claim Jesus, divide him? Are we contentious?

We follow, for example, Luther, the Pope, Calvin, Wesley, or one of a host of others. We follow this or that radio, television, or internet preacher. We follow "our" pastor or priest or minister. We divide the body of Christ over men. 

It is idolatry. 
We need shepherds, because we are sheep. But if we follow a man who is not Jesus, and do not compare what he says and does with what is taught in the Bible; if we accept what a man teaches, and do not reject the lies and misinterpretations which creep in; we are in sin. We are making that man, whoever he is, into our god.

It is death.
We who claim Jesus as our savior and lord are one body, Christ's body, on earth, and he is our head (Rom 12:5, 1 Cor 10:17, Eph 1:22-23, Col 1:18). If a man is beheaded, he dies. Similarly, if one part of the body is cut off from the rest, that part dies. So if we remove Christ as our head and put a man there, or if we separate from one another because of a man, something dies. Not Christ: he overcame death in resurrection. But we die, our witness dies, our usefulness to God dies. Fellowships die. Churches die.

This need not be.
The solution is simple, although it isn't easy. It is as simple as turning away from putting man ahead of God, learning scripture, and asking God to reveal the lies we have believed. He answers that prayer, if we mean it.

Examine yourself to see if you are guilty of this. Ask God to search you and reveal any idolatry and all lies, then turn from those he reveals. It will not be easy, but it is right.

It will allow us to experience the blessing of Psalm 133.