While ministering in Ephesus, the apostle Paul received an urgent message from some prominent members of the church in Corinth: division caused by quarreling was threatening to tear apart the church in that city (1 Corinthians 1:10-11). Paul knew that he needed to address this matter, as well as other matters that had been brought to his attention, and so he wrote what we now know as 1 Corinthians, in order to restore unity to the Corinthian church. So, what were the members of the body of Christ in Corinth quarreling about? Teaching. Some preferred the teaching of Paul. Others preferred the teachings of Cephas (Peter), while still others preferred the teachings of Apollos (1 Corinthians 1:12). The divisions in the Corinthian church were based on personalities and personal preferences.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers to remind them that it was not the messenger that mattered, but rather the message. That message was the message of the cross, a message that was foolishness to those who were perishing but was life itself to those who had heard and believed that salvation came to those who followed Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18). And that message was the same no matter who was preaching it, Paul, Cephas, or Apollos! These messengers of Christ were merely men, servants of Christ to whom God gave the opportunity to share the Gospel and bring others to faith. The messengers planted the seeds and watered them, but it was God who caused the faith to grow (1 Corinthians 3:4-6).
After establishing that the message was more important than the messenger, Paul pointed out that those who planted the seed of the Gospel and those who watered it were all one: God’s workers. And those who heard and believed the message were God’s field. They were also God’s building, His temple (1 Corinthians 3:8-9). Paul reminded the Corinthian church that, because they are God’s temple, the Spirit of God dwells within them. For that reason, God’s temple, the body of Christ, was considered holy. Anyone who destroyed the temple would be subject to God’s wrath (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). So, Paul was telling the Corinthian believers that, if they allowed their personal preferences to cause divisions in the church, they were destroying the temple of God.
In the church today, there are things that threaten to tear the body apart, to destroy God’s temple. And just as in the Corinthian church, many times those things that threaten to cause division among us are personal preferences. We prefer the teaching of one teacher over another. We don’t like the style of music that is used in worship. We should look to the message that Paul delivered to the church in Corinth and remember that it’s not the messenger that matters. What matters is the message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we remind ourselves of that, we can look past our personal preferences and be united as the body of Christ, God’s temple, filled with His Holy Spirit.