1 Corinthians 3:1-4 – “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?” NKJV
I purposefully used the word Sectarianism rather than Denominationalism because most find it more distasteful. There is an extremely large percentage in Christendom who identify with one denomination or another and some are far more exclusive and separatist than others. My question is, “If we are IN CHRIST, believers and partakers of His divine grace are we not members of THE BODY OF CHRIST?” If we are members of Christ’s Body does not make us brothers and sisters in the faith?
Sectarianism or Denominationalism is a reference to a group, often incredibly large, who unite under a common faith or doctrine. Most organize and have a legal hierarchy of rules and regulations for participation and membership. The tendency for most denominations is to separate themselves from others and emphasize their differences and exclusiveness. I wonder how this squares with the prayer of Jesus in John 17, “that we all be one”.
Knowing that I am on thin ice with many let me proceed to the passage listed in our text. Paul addressed the Church at Corinth with a very strong rebuke. He said, “I could not speak to you as spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.” Wow! How would you like to have a recognized and respected leader of the Church come into your congregation and make that assertion? He went on to say, “I fed you with milk and not solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are not able…” Paul, you are about to be run out of town on a rail. He then said, “…for you are carnal.” What? I thought they came behind in no spiritual gift? How is this church with the gifts being identified as CARNAL?
His explanation was, “…where there is envy, strife, divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul’, and another “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?” Paul recognized that the separation and exclusivism the Corinthians were practicing, much like today’s Christian world, was an evidence of carnality, not spirituality. It was an evidence of man’s preference, not God’s grace and presence. It was a source of envy, strife, quarrels and divisions rather than a unifying in Him.
I do not mind you being a member of a denomination nor do I believe God does. However, I do have a problem and believe God does, with exclusivism to the point of relegating all other believers to second-class citizens of the faith if they do not ascribe to your particular doctrinal tenets. The apostle reminded the Corinthians that he and Apollos were simply the messengers through whom they had been introduced to Christ. In Christianity, there is planting, watering, and harvesting and we each have a work to do and should be diligent in the pursuit of that assignment. I am reminded of the disciples coming to Jesus in Mark 9 saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your Name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” They felt good about and maybe even a bit smug in their reporting to Jesus, after all, he was not of their particular brand. Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side…” Jesus’ clear message was not that there would not be false teachers, prophets, and preachers but that simply because someone was not of your particular brand does not exclude them from the Family of God and the Body of Christ.
If we, as believers spent less time being concerned with our brand, label or tag than we are the Gospel of Christ and rejoiced when others of faith were laboring in the field of life seeking to reach others with the message of the Cross we would see far more in the way of spiritual renewal than we now see.
God bless you as you go through this day in Him!