The Expository Files.


Factions Exalting Men Are Wrong Because ...

1 Corinthians 1-4


The first problem Paul addressed in First Corinthians was - Factions Exalting Men. In the first four chapters of the letter, Paul hauls out this ugly mess and  demonstrates how wrong it is. There were rival factions, of human origin, exalting their favorite men. And from this we ought to learn that whenever people profess the name of Christ over their religious practices, but follow men, and honor the names of men (openly or by stealth), there is sin. Legitimate militancy in sincerely upholding the truth is one thing, but factions exalting men must be defeated.

Factions are wrong - because Christ isn't divided (1:13). The body of Christ is not something that has been or can be cut in pieces and parceled out to human leaders! This is why it isn't appropriate to speak of "Paul's body of Christ," or "Simon Peter's body of Christ." Christ is one; His body is one (Eph. 4:4), and this is an argument against the fragmentation and promotion of parties by men. All such division and rivalry is wrong. {Note - scripturally administered discipline is right (1 Cor. 5); marking to avoid is right (Rom. 16:17,18*); but the kind of fragmentation rebuked in 1 Corinthians 1 cannot be justified.}

Factions are wrong - because we are not saved by the name of Paul or any other man (1:13b-16). When you are baptized, it is not the authority of some man that you are submitting to. And, when you are baptized, it is not allegiance to man that is called for, but allegiance to Christ. Well, if you were baptized into the name of Christ (not any man), and your baptism reflected your agreement to recognize allegiance to Him (not any man), this is another reason why human factions should not exists.

Factions are wrong - because they detract from the gospel (1:17). The primary thrust and priority of Paul's work was to preach the gospel. His job was not to go out and baptize people into allegiance to some man. And, his job wasn't just to go out and immerse people. His primary work was to preach the gospel of Christ; and he was to do this "not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ be made of no effect." In the preaching of the gospel, the emphasis or attention should never be on the man doing the speaking (or writing); attention must be paid to the Christ and His message. Human factions detract from the pure and holy gospel, and direct attention to men.

Factions are wrong - because human wisdom is not compatible with the cross (1:18-31). The preaching of the cross, with a mixture of human wisdom, is a  perversion (see Gal. 1:6-12). Yet, when men create human factions through human personality, charm or false doctrine, that blending in of human wisdom is not compatible with the divine message.

Factions are wrong - because revelation from God has come, through the Spirit-inspired apostles (1 Cor. 2). The apostles - in their preaching and writing - were imparting truth from the mind of God. We are privileged to have that message on the pages of the New Testament. Why, therefore, would anyone desire to promote human factions, when we have access to divine truth, that saves, instructs and unites us?

Factions are wrong - because their origin is carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-4). One problem in Corinth was, the dangerous esteem they had toward men; the misplaced loyalty they had toward certain individuals, and the resulting factions. I would maintain, this was a symptom of an underlying problem - they were carnal! "For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not carnal?" To be carnal is to be dominated by something other than the spiritual reign of Christ in your heart; it is to be ruled by the flesh, by immature desires. In our efforts to militantly uphold the truth of the gospel, we must constantly watch out for the creeping carnal spirit. We must pray for wisdom, check our motives and strive for objectivity, justice and balance.

Factions are wrong - because men only function as servants, who must build with care (1 Cor. 3:5-8; 4:1,2). In Corinth, there was a wrong concept of man, and the role of men in God's plan. One thing we need to get back to and stress is: Who are these men (who preach, teach and write)? What is their legitimate function? How should we regard them? Certainly, from our perspective, we must distinguish between the inspired men of the first century, through whom the gospel was given; and the uninspired teachers and preachers today. But there's more to be said: Whether we are talking about the inspired men, like Paul, Apollos and Cephas, or the uninspired teachers, preachers and writers of today, still - they function as servants, who are accountable for their conduct. Those of us who preach, teach and write - are ministers and servants, not masters or lords. We need to hear what Paul is saying (if I may paraphrase): "We are not Saviors; we are not gods ... we are only ministers by whom you have believed, as the Lord gave to each one; our function is to serve; to deliver a message from God, to impart truth that all of us are accountable to. Do not attach yourselves to us ... attach yourself to the Lord!"

Brethren & Friends! There is a place for legitimate, properly motivated militancy in upholding the truth of the gospel. But there is no place for the promotion of
factions of carnal origin which exalt men and human wisdom. "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord."

* [See article elsewhere in this issue by W.R. Jones, on Rom. 16:17,18.]

 By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 1.2; February, 1994

 

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