10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1:10-13)
We discussed this problem in Sunday school and the importance of unity, and it seemed to me that it is hard to understand this problem in the context of today. We might get hints of the problem now and again if we hear people mentioned who their favorite apostles are. But somehow this contention was started by something that was very important to the Corinthian members. Why was it almost a point of pride to them who they were of?
I suspect that it had something to do with the slow communication in those days and the rarity of higher church leaders coming through. It may be that their isolation made it very important to them to remember the gospel message as preached from the ones who converted them. They would cling to that tenaciously.
We get to hear from general authorities at stake and general conferences, but how often did they in that day? And each leader might have had a slightly different emphasis, even though the message of Christ was the same.
I can imagine arguments erupting about the importance of some doctrine based on what was emphasized or not by different missionaries.
“Well, Paul told me I needed to do this.”
“What? Apollos didn’t say anything to me about it. He was very concerned about this other thing.”
“You’re kidding! That’s just not right! This doctrine is very important!”
“Then why didn’t Apollos say much about it?”
“Because he’s not as righteous, I guess.”
“What? He’s just as good as Paul! And he’s a better speaker!”
(erupts into argument and mutual recriminations and insults)
I think that in many respects our improved communications make this less of a problem, but I also think the rise of social media expands the scope of contentions if they arise, enabling arguments across the church, rather than in just one ward. We can’t say that we don’t get enough direction from leaders to know what’s true doctrine, but it is just as true as it was in Paul’s day that our contentions mean we are carnal and need to go back to basic doctrines.
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Cor. 3:3)
If we have to be told not to fight, the doctrine of unity has not been written on our hearts. If we have to be told to follow the brethren, the doctrine of revelation coming through proper channels has not been written on our souls. If we have to be reminded of our duty, our duties have not yet penetrated.