Give this video a watch:
This is me playing the old hymn ‘Come Thou Fount’ (ahh three chord hymns). During the first run the guitar is in tune, but one string is out of tune on the second. Man, does it sound terrible! Every musician knows the importance of tuning their instrument. And even if you are not a musician, you can hear the problem of an out of tune guitar.
The Church in Corinth was out of tune. They were arguing with each other about various issues and claiming to follow different leaders (Paul, Apollos, and Peter). They were believers, they had turned from their sins and placed their faith in Christ, but they were allowing secondary issues to divide them. And people were noticing. Paul says that Chloe’s people (probably folks from Ephesus who had visited the Church in Corinth) had noticed the divisions. He will spend the first four chapters of the letter addressing the issue.
And what is his solution? Simple: look to Christ. After identifying the problem in 1:10-12, Paul asks them: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” The obvious answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ Instead of being divided around particular leaders, they should be unified through their faith in the Savior. Some may be Jews, others may be Gentile, but all have been saved through the power of the gospel. Their faith in Christ should unite them.
Unfortunately some believe that Paul is teaching unity at all costs. In other words, truth does not matter only unity and love. But this is not what Paul says. Our unity is based on our faith in Christ, and for Paul belief in Jesus invovles specific content and results in faithful obedience (which is what he argues throughout the rest of the letter). It is not unity for unity’s sake, but unity in the gospel.
Every local Church is representing Christ to the world. Every community of faith is a display of the gospel, a song if you will. It is easy to let pride divide us, but the resulting sound is painfully shrill. Yet, by staying humble at the cross, by always remembering that none of us deserve to be a part of His Bride, we can avoid division over secondary issues and sing together: “Come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace…”