Chapter 1:10–17a

The first main block of the letter (1:10–6:20) deals with the problems of the community: (1) divisions within the community (1:10–4:21); (2) the sin of fornication - a man lives together with his stepmother (chapter 5); (3) searching for justice in Gentile courts (6:1–11); (4) general discussion on fornication (6:12–20).

Christ is not divided (1:10–16)

“Say all the same thing” (v. 10). Paul in this letter with have a lot to say about the gift of tongues that was causing division in the community as well (chapter 14).

“Schismata” - divisions (noun). This Greek word is behind the English word schism - ripping apart the unity of community. The same word is used in 11:18 - in relation to the celebration of the Eucharist.

“Same mind, some opinion or judgement”.

“mind - noos (Gr.)”. Paul probably has in mind the faculty of perceiving divine things, of recognising goodness and of hating evil. In the case of Corinthians divided over sin of immorality (chapter 5) and over spiritual gifts (chapters 12–14), to be of same mind was vital to their unity (see also Phil 2:2.5 - having the same thinking like the one of Christ).

“Option or judgement -gnome (Gr.)” related to knowledge that leads to action. The Corinthians should know - as one community - what ought to be done in all those cases they are now divided.

“By the name of Jesus Christ”. This is the tenth reference to Jesus Christ in the first ten verses of the epistle. Clearly Paul was focusing the attention of his audience on Christ, who alone deserves the preeminence. The Corinthians did not grasp the full meaning of Christ yet. At the root of all Corinthians problem is bad theology that leads to bad morality (see Rom 1:20–21).

“Having been joined together” (the Greek word katartizo), has a beautiful touch. Using the same verb, Mark describes the first disciples being called be Christ, as “mending the nets” (Mark 1:19). Paul in this letter tries to “mend” the Corinthian community.

“Strife” (v. 11). This vice is mentioned in the catalog of sins and vices in Rom 1:29; 13:13, Gal 5:20. Its presence indicates that the Corinthians has not grasped yet the full meaning of the Gospel. They are still worldly and acting “according to the flesh” (Gal 5:20). Apparently, they are not aware that such sin excludes them from the kingdom of God (Gal 5:21).

Who were “them of Chloe”? Today we do not know. She evidently had a household or business that included servants, some of whom had traveled to Corinth and had returned to Ephesus carrying reports of conditions in the Corinthian church. They had eventually shared this news with Paul.

Verse 1:12–13. Four groups are mentioned associating themselves with four people. Regarding Apollos (see Acts 18:24–28).

“I of Christ”? What does it mean? Is “Christ” being put on the same level like the three apostles? After all, we are all of Christ. We have an indication, that the Corinthians misunderstood Christ.

It is not the messenger that is important but the one in whose name the messenger is coming (3:4–5; 4:6). The three ‘fantastic’ rhetorical questions speak for itself pointing to the absurdity of divisions:
1. Is Christ divided? - separated into pieces or divided into parties?
2. Was Paul crucified for you?
3. Were you baptized in the name of Paul? (See Acts 2:38). It seems that the apostolic times had two baptismal formulas preserved in the NT: In the name of Christ, and in the name of Holy Trinity (Matt 28:19). Now, only the formula in the name of Trinity is considered as valid. Another interpretation of this text point to the meaning of baptism as in Rom 6:3–4 that unites us to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

Verse 14–16. The Corinthians seemed to identify themselves not only with preachers, but also with those who baptized them. Again, such identification is pointless and only leads to divisions. It is the sacrament itself that matters, not the one who administered it.

“Crispus” (See Acts 18:8).
“Gaius” (see Acts 18:7 and Rom 16:23 - some say that it is the same person - Gaius Titius Justus);
“The household of Stephanas” (see 1 Cor 16:15.17).

The question that bothers many.

If baptism is so important (Rom 6:3–4), why did Paul baptized so few? Why in 1:17 he says: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel”? Paul seems to contradict here the great commission that we see at the end of the Gospel of Matt 28:19. John 3:5 states very clear about the importance of baptism for salvation. The end of the Gospel of Mark indicates that baptism is the consequence of proclaiming the Gospel (Mark 16:15–16, see Acts 8:35–38; 10:44–48; 1 Peter 3:21).

It is difficult to answer this question. Taken out of the context of this letter, Paul’s thanksgiving for not baptizing many in Corinth together with 1:17a can lead to wrong theology (see some Protestant commentaries on this passage).

Proclamation of the Gospel is the first step in the process of bringing the nations to the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5.15–16). But, the aim of the proclamation of the Gospel is faith and baptism. Faith in Christ is a public declaration of giving up our old life and beginning a new life. But, in baptism in the name of Christ, we actually experience this fact (Rom 6:3–4; 1 Peter 3:6) and we become united to the even of Christ’s death and resurrection.
In the Acts 8:26–38, this pattern is beautifully shown.

  1. Apostle Phillip proclaims the Gospel to a eunuch;
  2. The eunuch asks for baptism - why would someone ask for it if it was not necessary?;
  3. Philip agrees on the condition that the eunuch believes.

Thus, we have a threefold pattern: (1) proclamation leading (2) to faith and faith opens the ‘door’ towards (3) the sacrament of baptism.

In Corinth, Paul focused on evangelization not on baptizing. Perhaps, knowing their background and situation (see introduction about the city and the problem of fornication in chapter 5 and 6), it would be unwise to baptize them immediately. Let us not forget that Paul spent in Corinth 18 months. He knew the community well enough to notice that their understanding of faith was still far from being perfect. Their division into four different groups is a clear indication of this fact. “Baptizing” could always wait until further catechetical instructions that could be done by someone else. In this case, Paul exercised the gift of discernment - prudent action. It reminds me the phrase read in some of the Catholics magazines: “baptized pagans”. It seems that nowadays, we administer baptism without first proclaiming the Gospel that would lead to living faith in Jesus Christ. We also do not properly evangelize our children and youth. It seems that they do not hear the Gospel in their respective communities and thus face the crisis of faith. Perhaps, we should learn from Paul again. On the other hand, where Paul perceived sufficient level of faith he had no problem with baptizing such people (see Philemon 1:10).

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