Today, 2000 years after Jesus’s resurrection, there are more than 40,000 Christian denominations of churches. I guess it is not too surprising when we consider 20 years have Jesus’s resurrection there were already 4 “denominations.”
My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; still another, “I follow Christ.” I Corinthians 1:11,12
Today follow Luther, Wesley, Calvin, Covenant Theology, Dispensational Theology, Word of Faith, Bill Bright, Dawson Trotman, etc. We’re facing the same problems Paul faced in Corinth, to which, through the Spirit, he would give the same command.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. I Corinthians 1:10
To help the Corinthian church be “perfectly united in in mind and thought” Paul reminds the Corinthians of a few simple truths.
Baptized Into Christ, Not Denominations
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I Corinthians 1:13
Quite simply, Paul reminds them of what they have in common: Christ. They were saved and baptized into His name, not the name of any one denomination or stream in the Body of Christ. We belong to Christ, not our various organizations and fellowships. Christ is the means of our salvation.
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. I Corinthians 1:17
Paul was not trying to baptize people into his name. Nor was he trying to win people to his theological side by his eloquent arguments and superb theological understanding. He simply preached the gospel of Christ “lest the cross be emptied of its power.”
Saved By Christ, Not Your Wisdom
In Paul’s day, those in the four denominations liked to think they were smarter than the others. They liked to think they had a corner on all truth, just like our denominations and theological camps do today. Paul attempts to humble them by reminding them that they were nothing when they were saved. They were not saved by their own wisdom, but by God’s sovereign grace.
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. I Corinthians 1:20-25
None of us were saved because we were smarter than the others. The gospel is foolishness until God opens our eyes to it. He is the only One we should boast about, and that’s the point Paul is making.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” I Corinthians 1:26-31
When we first get saved, we boast joyfully in the Lord. For some reason, after we start to grow and understand more we tend to think that we somehow played a part in our salvation. We start to think we have all the answers, that many other streams in the Body of Christ are wrong while we’re right.
Paul would later say in first Corinthians, “No more boasting about men (denominations).” Boast in Christ, not your theology, ministry philosophy, worship style, spiritual gifts, etc. Our 40,000 denominations need this same reminder.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.