A church that is divided is like a poison. Such divisions are indicative of the “carnal” human nature, instead of the Spirit of God (vs.1-4). The Apostle Paul recognizes that all church members are growing. And a church that is divided needs to be fed with “milk and not with solid food” (v. 2). All narrow-mindedness is the fruit of the carnal human nature. Ellen White warned about such a situation during her lifetime. A spirit of criticism, she admonishes, causes great injury within the church. What is worse is that such extremist thinking prevents the truth from reaching other people. Above all else Adventists must not be a conscience for another (Historical Sketches, 211-212).
“He who is guilty of wrong,” she also warned, “is the first to suspect wrong. By condemning another he is trying to conceal or excuse the evil of his own heart. It was through sin that men gained the knowledge of evil; no sooner had the first pair sinned than they began to accuse each other; and this is what human nature will inevitably do when uncontrolled by the grace of Christ” (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, 126).
Ultimately the church belongs to God. This is the point the Apostle Paul makes by reminding us that “God gave the increase” (vs. 6). All glory belongs to God, but when things are not working, we must take personal responsibility for ourselves, and not try to correct everyone else! In the end “each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (vs. 8).
In conclusion, Paul uses the metaphor of a “building” (vs. 9-10). What matters most is that “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (vs. 11). All church divisions are made of one thing: they lack Jesus. This is the bottom line. It is the foundation. And this is how each person will be tested (vs. 12-15). In conclusion, Pastor Paul counsels “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (vs. 16). While most people probably associate this text with the need for healthful living, the real context is the centrality of Christ in the life of the believer. When we truly see Christ, everything else is just “foolishness” to God (vs. 19). We have nothing to boast about (vs. 21). We can’t claim any spiritual advantage, we all belong to Jesus Christ.
Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies