Paul says it is divisive. “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesu…s Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Cor 1:10ff.
And at the root of it is jealousy and strife.
“For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?” 1 Cor 3:3.
It was carnal for them to be doing this, so much so that Paul could not give them spiritual meat to eat.
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.” 1 Cor 3:1ff.
They risked doing great harm to the church by aligning under men instead of under Christ alone.
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.” 1Cor 3:10ff.
This unspiritual focus on men was the vain boasting in men. Paul wisely tells them to stop this nonsense and to boast only in Christ.
“The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” 1 Cor 3:20ff.
Those who deny the necessity of baptism turn to Paul’s words as evidence. By their jealousy and strife, they do harm to the gospel. Paul said,
“I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” 1 Cor 1:14ff.
Paul isn’t saying not to baptize. He is showing he wants no dividing over him, as if they would boast over him baptizing them. This is also why he showed in chapter 3 that he and Apollos were mere servants of God. The message is to trust in God’s wisdom and stop the divisive ways.
This problem is easily remedied and the boasting stopped if they will only speak what is in the Scriptures. Paul again says,
“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior?” 1 Cor 4:6.
Paul finished on a gentler note with an appeal for the church to adopt the humility and focus he has in the cause of Jesus Christ.
“I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” 1 Cor. 4:14.
Paul genuinely cares for the church enough to make himself almost nothing so they will see the error they committed. But maybe they won’t repent and maybe they will insist on dividing. He says,
“19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. 21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” 1 Cor. 4:19-21.
Do we see how serious is the matter of denominating? Do we not see that something as simple as a name can be terribly destructive to the cohesion of the church? People don’t wear men’s names for no reason except to give glory to those other than Christ. They don’t call themselves Presbyterian or Methodist without the intention of marking themselves as separate from other groups. It’s all wrong and can never be defended.
Is the name you wear important? Clearly we are only to wear the name of the one we were baptized into, 1 Cor 12:13; Romans 6:3-7; Gal. 3:26-27; Col. 2:12-13. Following the Bible keeps the church mature and away from boasting that’s rooted in jealousy and strife.
Said with love, Dan Mayfield