Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17

United by the Power of the Cross

What causes disagreements among people? Is there wisdom in the phrase: “Never discuss religion or politics?” Why or why not?

Popular Translation

10 Brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I urge you to profess the same faith. Do not divide the community into little cliques. Instead, you should work together with one mind and one purpose.

11 Friends of Chloe made it clear that you were fighting among yourselves, brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is this: Some of you claim “I follow Paul and his teaching.” Others claim, “I follow Apollos.” Still others claim, “I follow Peter.” Then, there are those who boast, “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been carved into pieces, just like your community lives now? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

17 Christ did not send me to baptize personal followers. And I do not pump up my preaching with words of wisdom so the power of Christ’s cross should be drained away. No! Christ sent me to spread the Good News!

Literal Translation

10 I call to you, brothers, in the name of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, so that all of you might speak the same (language of faith) and (there) might not be schisms among you, but you might be complete in the same mind and in the same purpose. 11 I was made clear to me, my brothers, by (those) of Chloe, that (there) is strife among you. 12 I am (really) saying this, that each of you claims: “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Kephas” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided (into pieces)? Was Paul crucified on your behalf, or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

17 CHRIST did not send me to baptize but to evangelize, not in words of wisdom so the cross of CHRIST could be emptied (of its power).

1:12 “Kephas” is the Aramaic word for “Peter,” leader of the Apostles.

After his greeting to the community in Corinth, Paul cut to the heart of the matter. He expressed his concern about the spiritual health of the local Church. Instead of a strong community with a single vision and a common energy, the faithful in Corinth had fragmented into small cliques. These groups were formed around the teachings of a particular evangelist or missionary (Paul, Apollos, or Peter) and fought turf battles from their leaders’ “doctrinal positions.” There was even a group that claimed to be of Christ; this group must have given themselves a place that was immune from the details of the fight and some stature of superiority. Implicitly, the community focused upon these battles and lost the greater picture. Paul must have feared the community would implode.

In 1:13, Paul used a set of rhetorical questions to point out the absurdity of their fights. Was Christ to be divided up, like the community had been broken into pieces? Did Paul (or Apollos or Peter) give up his life for the salvation of believers? Was a baptism in the name of an evangelist or missionary efficacious? Of course, the answer to these questions was a resounding “NO!”

In 1:17, Paul simplified his ministry, in order to sharpen his critique of the community. Christ sent him to preach the Good News. This was the definition of an “Apostle.” He was not a baptizer. And Paul did not boast about the quality of his preaching. In fact, he did not promote wisdom, the highest value in the common Greek culture at the time. He was proud of the fact he did not promote wisdom. Instead, he claimed to promote the cross of Christ which had its own, intrinsic power to persuade. Paul was proud, but he knew his limits. And he knew the power of that which he preached.

What brings people together each Sunday? Some come out of habit. Others come for a personal agenda. But most come out of faith. We join together as one in worship around the cross of Christ. We celebrate his death and resurrection around that sign. That is the power of the cross. Paul promoted that power over his own agenda, because he knew it would unite believers in a way that fancy preaching and flashy teaching could never achieve.

Reflect on the cross of Christ. How does the image of the cross inspire you? How does the image deepen your worship and your fellowship?