Many people today ask why the church seems so lacking in unity or why there are so many divisions in the church? Sadly, many who ask this question never look in the Bible to see if it has anything to say about the matter. If they were to look at what the Bible says, they would find that God has much to say about divisions in the church, what causes them, and what can heal them.
In chapter 3 of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he has to deal with this very issue of divisions that have arisen in the church. Apparently, some of the Corinthians were trying to pick certain Christian leaders whom they could follow and then dividing over which leadership group a person chose. Paul has a few choice words for them in this chapter because he says that such nonsense has nothing to do with mature Christianity (I Cor 3:1-6). Paul explains that Christianity is not a popularity contest and that one’s standing before God is not based on celebrity culture. How interesting that in the world today, so many people who call themselves Christians still wish to make Christianity a celebrity culture. Every time a celebrity or Hollywood star claims to have become a Christian, many people in churches will begin jumping on the band-wagon of that celebrity. Sometimes, it happens more subtly in the church where a particular preacher or Christian author begins to hold more influence and authority over a group of Christians than anyone else.
But Paul makes it very clear that such ideas and actions derive from the world and not from Jesus. He claims that such Christians are immature in their faith and as still acting like children when they should be growing up into maturity (I Cor 3:3). Rather than a popularity contest, Paul says that Christianity is something completely different. Instead of thinking in those immature categories, Paul suggests Christians think of themselves as fellow workers in God’s field/farm. Each of us has a job and responsibility and we are not to follow one of the other workers (I Cor 3:9-11). Our ultimate foundation, according to Paul, is what Christ has done for us, not which preacher or author we really like. Christianity is not about certain human charismatic personality types and people who look good on stage. It is about God’s son, Jesus, coming down to die for us and help us when we were in the worse mess of our lives. It is about a Holy and Just God who reaches out in love to undeserving and rebellious human beings he created. So the next time you see divisions in the church because of celebrity culture or Christians dividing over certain charismatic preachers and leaders, just remember, God had a few choice words for that kind of nonsense in I Corinthians 3.