By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. – 1Cor. 15:2 NIV
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The eighteenth Chapter of the biblical book that documented the Acts of the Apostles reveals the arrival of the Apostle Paul in Corinth from Athens as part of his Missionary journey. He had, like he always did in all the locations he had the opportunity to step on, heralded the good news informing them about the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ. Corinth was a wealthy trading centre but unfortunately its people were noted, all over the Roman empire, for being wicked. The activity of Paul was however, as always, focused on making disciples of the people of the city by announcing to them the message of the cross and the reason for them to live this new life of being a followers of Jesus Christ. With people like Aquila who was a returnee from Italy but a Jew and a native of Pontus, together with his wife Priscilla hosting and working with him, he worked very hard spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ – Acts 18:1-3. He was able to dedicate more time to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was Christ when he was joined by Silas and Timothy – Acts 18:5. His effort was successful as he was able to convert many of the people and their synagogue rulers including Titius Justus who although was a worshipper of God, was ignorant of the message of the cross – Acts 18:7-8. He successfully laid the foundation of the Church in Corinth and eventually left Corinth for Ephesus, in the company of Priscilla and Aquila, but not before shaving his hair in fulfilment of a vow he had taken – Acts 18:18.
Although he laid the foundation of the Church in Corinth, he could not wait to nurture its growth and like similar situations where people are converted from one religious belief into another, the new converts did not completely drop their old attitudes and religious practices that they had gotten use to and all these they brought with them into the young church in Corinth thus practicing what can be best described as a hybrid of Christianity and their former religious beliefs.
The fact that many of them were still deeply involved in practices that had no bearing on true Christian lifestyle created several conflicts amongst the brethren. Some of those divisions were also due to incomplete understanding of the principles of the Christian lifestyle as most of them peddled ignorance for facts and attempted to impose such half-truths on fellow brethren.
An example can be cited with Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria who the bible described as a learned man with thorough knowledge of the scriptures, who had been instructed in the way of the Lord, spoke with great fervor and thought about Jesus accurately but he unfortunately knew only about the baptism of John. This incomplete knowledge of His just as with others like him and in addition to introduction of strange doctrines contributed in no small measure to the confusion that characterised the Church in Corinth, like it is found amongst modern day Christians and Churches – Acts 18:24-26; 1Cor. 1:10-17; 3:1-15.
It was in the attempt of the Apostle Paul to resolve some of the disputes and disagreements and close the schisms that such mis-information or half-truths created amongst the brethren in Corinth that he wrote his first letter to them. They had not even allowed him to be gone for too long, as he had just practically moved to his next stop on the Missionary journey, which was Ephesus when he had to write them his first letter, in an attempt to resolve several areas of doctrinal disagreements.
In a sixteen chapter letter, he went to great length in his attempt to address several areas of dispute starting from the need to avoid focusing on individuals rather than Jesus Christ (1Cor. 1:10-17; 3:1-22), the need to recognise and accept all who herald the Good News as Apostles of Christ without discrimination (1Cor. 4:1-21; 9:1-27), the need to dissociate from both immoral brethren and immoral sexual activities (1Cor. 5:1-13; 6:12-20) and need to avoid disagreements degenerating to the point where unbelievers will be called in to arbitrate – 1Cor. 6:1-11). Areas of conflict on issues of marriages were also addressed (1Cor. 7:1-40) just as a he gave strong advise on how to handle matters relating to eating food sacrificed to idols – 1Cor. 8:1-13. He emphasised on the need to avoid importing practices and doctrines from other religions into Christianity to avoid polluting their new religious belief with knowledge acquired from such sources – 1Cor. 10:1-33. The worship of the Almighty God in this new teaching was different and its doctrines and principles had to be followed, undiluted, for such worship to be acceptable – 1Cor. 11:1-34. The issue of spiritual gifts which had evoked so much contention as it is still doing today was also addressed (1Cor. 12:1-31; 14:1-40) with emphasis being placed on the need to dispense those gifts in love, an attribute that remains the over-riding act expected to guide all the activities of a true Christian – 1Cor. 13:1-13.
These and other similar issues are still creating divisions in the body of Christ today. Very wide and clearly unnecessary schisms have been created in Christendom with no sign of the gaps ever closing up because of arguments over what is appropriate or not. Several denominations exist in Christendom today whose foundation is mainly on what seem like irreconcilable differences over what is proper and what is not, thus creating enemies amongst the brethren. It is so bad that even the book that should be the symbol of unity amongst Christians has been so defaced by different versions, written based on what the individual writers or groups deem as the right interpretation of the gospel. It is therefore not unusual to find Christians quoting the same reference scripture but with different contents, meanings and interpretation thus making it impossible to decide on which of the Bibles can be described as “Holy”.
God definitely is not the author of confusion (1Cor. 14:33) and that remains a fact but with all these versions of the same scripture being peddled in the name of the Holy Scriptures, there is so much confusion all of which can be traced to little disagreements, like the one that existed in Corinth.
Just as some people questioned the credibility of the Apostle Paul to proffer solution, even when he it was that introduced the new religion to them, similar situation exist in modern times where new converts argue doctrinal issues with people who actually introduced them to Christianity, with their defense being that they are operating under the unction of the Holy Spirit. The result is what is obvious today – a very divided body of Christ.
Christians today, just as it was amongst the Corinthians, must realize that all those doctrines, as important as they may be, are not as essential as constantly remembering the gospel that was preached when they were introduced to Christianity, as stated in the foundation scripture for today’s Devotional. He reminded them of what they heard, received and took a decision to believe, letting them know that anything else would render all their claims to being believers vanity – 1Cor. 15:1-2.
This same gospel that Paul preached to the Corinthians was what was preached to the Christian today because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever – Heb. 13:8. This is where the emphasis should be for every Christian and not all the divisive doctrines that give the impression that there is division in the Almighty God and Jesus Christ.
There is only one gospel and if this is what is focused on, there will be no reason for the wide gulf that is existing amongst the brethren then and today. Those points that are being argued are no doubt important, especially for reasons of maintaining orderly conduct amongst the brethren, but they are not essential to salvation. We can afford to differ on those important but non-essential points whilst we firmly hold on to the essential point which remains the only key to our redemption.
Salvation remains the main objective of the Christian life and it is available only through the indivisible Jesus Christ. It is in focusing on him, who is the author and finisher of our faith, that we will see less of all those important but not essential areas that divide Christendom. May the Almighty God help us to focus on the essential of our Salvation so that the schism in Christendom will disappear soonest in Jesus name. Amen.