A divided congregation
He begins with a plea for unity: “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” (v. 10). Perfect agreement is pointless if it means that everyone believes the same heresy. So in this letter Paul will try to set them on the right track.
Paul had heard that the congregation was divided into different groups, some claiming to follow one leader, and some another (vv. 11-12). But Paul didn’t want even his own name to be an excuse for division: “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” (vv. 13-15).
But then Paul stops to correct himself: “(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else)” (v. 16). Paul could have edited his original mistake out, but he left it in as an illustration of how unimportant it was to keep track of who did the actual baptism.
“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” (v. 17). Paul baptized people — and he assumed that all the readers had been baptized — but the gospel was his priority. The message centered on Christ, not on a ritual. Paul wanted to persuade people with the facts, not with the flowery oratory that some Greek philosophers used to attract a following.
The message about a crucified Messiah might seem preposterous to some people, but God uses that message to bring salvation to those who believe. “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” (v. 18).
Author: Michael Morrison