George Booker
Biblical Fellowship

18. Is Christ Divided? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

Many times we read Paul’s question here as we do other Scriptures, without considering that it may have application to ourselves. Mankind always has a tendency to worship itself, a tendency that often manifests itself in the slavish adherence to the dictates of some other man. Even Paul acknowledged and used to good purpose this human tendency — as all good preachers must — when he encouraged these same Corinthian brethren to be imitators of him (11:1, RSV). He was in their presence, he was visible, his words and examples were forceful; and it is true that most men are like sheep looking for a shepherd. But the difference between Paul and some leaders was this: that he always kept Christ in the forefront: ‘Follow me, but only insofar as I follow Christ.’

The apostle must have realized that the tendency to believe and follow that which is visible, to follow other men more readily than an unseen Christ, would lead to serious and far-reaching consequences, and result in believers becoming estranged and the Brotherhood divided. The condition of the Corinthian ecclesia presented an opportunity for the suppression of this tendency in its beginning, and to point a warning for all time. The Corinthians were in a dangerous position: While all professed the name of Christ, a sectarian spirit had definitely risen in their midst, threatening to destroy their unity as a part of the Body of Christ:

“Some boasted in Paul, others in Apollos, others in Cephas, and others in Christ. Hence the question: ‘Is Christ divided?’ The anticipated answer is, of course, ‘NO.’ Yet there must be division. It is Christ who says so: ‘Henceforth there shall be division’ (Luke 12:51-53). ‘But did he mean among the elect of God? No. Is it right among them then? It will not happen among them, brother. The saints are of one mind. But who are they? Leave that. The judgment will decide.’ This last quotation is from the late editor Robert Roberts. The present editor endorses his words absolutely, because, on the most careful study of the New Testament, he believes they breathe the spirit of Christ and Paul” (C.C. Walker, “Is Christ Divided?”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 59, No. 693 — March 1922 — p. 122).

The exhortations of the apostles require us to face the facts, to recognize them, and to act with wisdom. We do not hesitate to invite our unbaptized friends to face the facts of our message to them; should we not follow the same principle of guidance for ourselves? Our answer must be in the affirmative. This matter should be brought home to us in the further question: “Of what body am I a member?” Would not all unhesitatingly answer: “We belong to the Body of Christ”? This is as it should be; but are we prepared to face the fact that in so answering we commit ourselves to a condemnation of the present disrupted state of Christadelphia? Certainly we cannot in reason justify it. Christ is not divided. “Doth not even nature itself teach us” that it is not possible that members of the same physical body can be separated from one another, and the body structure still retain its form and function? As the Creator has designed both the natural body and the spiritual body (His ecclesia), their adaptation to His purpose in their respective unities must necessarily follow His design. Thus should the Brotherhood, notwithstanding the varied character of its membership — young and old, rich and poor, “liberal” and “conservative” — be one body in Christ, in which there should be no schism.

All who are agreed upon the simple first principles of the Faith, and have been truly baptized into the name of Christ, have acknowledged Christ as their “Head”. To be consistent, we should therefore confess that the present condition of Christadelphia proves false our profession. What is the matter? Who is in the wrong? Should not the whole body of believers be unitedly holding to the “head”? The “head”, “from which the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16)? The apostle Paul in yet another place calls attention to “Christ our life” (Col. 3:4). Can Christ be the “Life” of a mutilated body, whose members are not only severed but also in active opposition to one another?

“ ‘Is Christ divided?’ Paul asked in amazement; that is, did they not realize what their party loyalties in effect signified? — namely, that the unique and glorified Christ could be parcelled out among rival groups as though he were a mere thing and not the sublime being who alone had made them what they were by his sacrificial death on their account! Then, to drive the point home, come two equally decisive questions, ‘Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?’ “ (W.F. Barling, The Letters to Corinth, p. 68).

What then is our position as the Body of Christ? Most surely, brethren, we should come together, and in all humility and brotherly love have these matters set right, before the day of opportunity passes forever, so that all who truly belong to Christ may be a united, living band, awaiting his return.

Just think how it would be — speaking of his return — if the Lord were to appear incognito in our midst at this very moment! Would he be received by all portions of the Brotherhood without question, or would there be “righteous” concern that he who is “in fellowship” with one faction cannot be “in fellowship” with another, for fear of “contamination”? Would such “contamination” be feared by the One who while yet in the flesh touched sightless lepers and naked demoniacs and foul corpses?

Let us think of two brethren working side by side, both having been baptized into Christ, and yet they act as if they were strangers to one another. Circumstances have placed them in separate “fellowships”, and they find between them a great gulf not of their own making. The situation is painfully embarrassing and unpleasant. How would it be if the Lord, their Head, were to stand with them one day, his true identity hidden? He converses with them; he finds (for he knew he would find) the knowledge of the Truth, much zeal, and love, on both sides. The Master is pleased, and graciously reveals himself to them. With both joy and regret, and confusion, these two brethren stand in the presence of their Lord. ‘O fools, and slow of heart to truly believe in me... why have you been satisfied with my body divided? Did you really think I would be pleased with such a condition? Now I beseech you, before it is too late, that there be no divisions among you.’

The time to retrace our steps in now! Let us make a special effort, not just lip-service, to this ideal of unity. Let us not be ashamed when Christ does come, that he will say, “I have somewhat against thee.” Rather let us reasonably, prayerfully, conscientiously, and in humility of spirit set ourselves and our house in order, as best we can, before it is too late. Christ must not be divided among us.

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