We are looking at the opening of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In verse 7 he says that they had spiritual gifts. In the context of this book, that is really quite something to say. Here at the very beginning of his letter he begins to address himself to these Christians saying, “Yes, and among all those other gifts that are yours of God, there are certainly these gifts of the Spirit with which God has enriched you and does so to such a degree that you lack nothing that is essential for the health and well-being of your Christian fellowship.”
Then, in the second half of that same sentence, he says they are those who eagerly wait for the Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. They were not just content with where they were. They were looking for Christ’s second coming. Would it not be wonderful to be a part of a church like that–a church that is separated unto Christ, holy, mature in its knowledge of the doctrines of the faith and their application, a church in which the spiritual gifts are evident, a church that is eagerly waiting together collectively for the return of Christ? Isn’t a church like that a marvelous thing? Well, I dare I say I do belong to a church like that. That is a description of the Church of Jesus Christ.
But now, we pass from verse 9 to verse 10 where we begin to discover that things are not quite so good. First of all, Paul begins with the fact that there were divisions there that had grown and prospered in a pernicious way to such an extent that the entire church, which had been sanctified and holy and had been given spiritual gifts, was now actually divided into competing factions. Moreover, these factions had been so bold as even to take on the names of the great teachers that God had been pleased to send among them. So, you had people saying, “Well, I belong to Paul’s party.” And other people said, “I belong to Peter’s party.” And somebody else said, “I belong to Apollos’s party.” Then there were the sanctified ones who said, “A plague on both your houses. We belong to Jesus Christ.”
Paul says it was all very pernicious and divisive. Basically the split was between a Gentile-oriented kind of Christianity and a Jewish-oriented kind of Christianity. Peter was known as the apostle to the Jews, so, I suppose, those of a Jewish background or at least of Jewish sympathies said, “Well, we stand with Peter. We like the way he does things.” But it was not just Jew versus Gentile. There were also divisions within the Gentile camp. So you had Paul and you had Apollos. Apollos was known as a great orator. People probably liked him because of the way he talked. So some said, “Well, we are of Apollos.” Then there was the party that said, “I follow Christ.”
I wish, as we look at this, we could say that those were the only problems in Corinth. But, as we go through this letter, we discover that this church was riddled with serious additional problems as well. For example, in the fifth and sixth chapters, we find that there was a great deal of immorality in the church, and a particular problem of a man who was having sexual relations with his stepmother. That was not all of it. Paul writes later on about all of the debauchery that was found in the church. In 2 Corinthians in the next to last chapter, he is still talking about it. He tells of the immorality and the perversion of debauchery that was present there among those who called upon the name of Christ.