The text in question reads as follows:

1 Corinthians 1:12-15: "Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas,' and 'I of Christ.' Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you... so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.'"

What is Paul describing to his first-century audience in these passages, and does this teaching apply solely to the Corinthian church or can it be extended to other contexts?

  • (+1) Great edit - much better. Hope you get some good answers! Feel free to follow up any answers in the comment section if you're not getting quite the type of detail you're looking for.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 26, 2021 at 8:15
  • @SteveTaylor Thanks, I appreciate the guidance by you and Nigel with this.
    – Xeno
    May 26, 2021 at 8:32

5 Answers 5


This passage introduces what Paul was dealing with in Corinth. Of course all Christians can apply it. The division was so bad that some were even cursing others. See How should we contextualize Paul's "Jesus is accursed" in I Co 12:3?

Before Paul explained the Lord's Supper, he wrote:

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. (1 Cor. 11:17–22, ESV)

Here is the application with the Ephesians:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Eph. 4:1–7)


At the time of Paul's writing, the Corinthian church was divided among four parties: Paul's, Cephas', Apollos', and Christ's.

The Corinthians had met Apollos in person. Acts 19:1a

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the interior and came to Ephesus.

They also were familiar with Cephas. 1 Corinthians 9:5

Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?

Paul explains the different functions in 1 Corinthians 3:6

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

It didn't help the situation that at that time, there were differences in beliefs among the apostles.

Galatians 2:

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 1:12-15 to warn them against party-spirit and factionalism. The passage is often extended to modern-day denominationalism.

Jesus wanted unity in Matthew 23:8

But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.

John 17:22

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one--

  • I think you've touched on several good points: +1.
    – Xeno
    May 26, 2021 at 17:13

In contemporary Judaism it was common for people to be of the school of one rabbi or another--for example, the notable disagreements between the house of Hillel vs. the house of Shammai (see here).

This was also a feature of Greek philosophy, such as the stoics vs. the epicureans (see here).

Unsurprisingly, these characteristics started to appear in the wake of the teachings of the apostles. Some may well have seen a "House of Peter" and a "House of Paul" as natural and expected. Paul is very straightforward in rejecting the practice, and teaches that there are to be no such divisions among Christians. He provides similar counsel to the Ephesians:

3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (Ephesians 4:3-5)

(therefore no, this counsel is not only to the Corinthian church)

This does not mean the apostles never had disagreements--they certainly did. What I do find remarkable though is that, under apostolic guidance, major points of disagreement (such as Acts 15) could be discussed, evaluated, and resolved with unanimity (among the leaders).

Paul taught that there is one Gospel of Jesus Christ, not many.

I suspect he would be very disappointed (though not surprised--see 2 Thess. 2:3) to see that his counsel was not heeded--neither in the generation after his death (see 1 Clement 44) nor in the schisms & factions that have developed since.


What is Paul relating to his first-century audience (1 Cor. 1:12-15)?

Answer: Paul is condemning any and all divisions among the early saints.

Some of these early faithful were ascribing to themselves what we might term: "Pauline", or "Apollonian", or "Cephite" Christians. He further admonishes his audience that it was Christ who was crucified, that in Christ we are baptized, that it is through Christ we are saved, and He alone.

While all of these men (Paul, Apollos, Cephas [Peter], and so on) were pillars in the first-century church, even they were not to be elevated above the status of Christ as simply Christians. It seems very likely these divisions could be extended to our day as well since there are many who adopt appellations that seem to fall into the same trap contrary to New Testament teaching.

We might also consider the same Letter of First Corinthians only two chapters later:

1 Corinthians 3:2b-4: "Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?" (emphasis added).

Adopting the names of mere men (or anything else other than Christ) was especially problematic because we are informed of near-identical circumstances in two consecutive chapters.

Paul's message of unity must surely be one that extends to all generations, where we are simply to embrace the name of Christ, and never mortal men, irrespective of their "godly" status, just as those described in 1 Corinthians 1:12-15, and 1 Corinthians 3:2b-4.


Since different Apostles founded different church communities in different places, those communities came to identify with their community's founder in a way that is not fitting, namely, with an excessive attachment comparable to the excessive sense of pride some people have in their nation versus others.

St. Paul points out that the Church belongs to Christ, and that they are baptized into Christ with "one baptism," sharing "one faith," and having "one Lord" and Master (cf. Ephesians 4:5) — the Apostles and administrators of the sacraments are not their Saviour, and they weren't baptized into them, but into Christ.

"Were you baptized in the name of Paul? Was Paul crucified for you?" Neither of these were serious questions, but rather mocking the excessive sectarianism, and misplaced attachement of the communities to their respective founders. In saying, 'I'm thankful it wasn't me who baptized you!' he is adding insult to injury, and mocking them further, saying that if he baptized them, they would perhaps think they've been baptized into Paul, instead of Jesus, which he obviously doesn't want associated with himself. Again, this is not a strawman, nor a serious accusation, but a mockery of their error, in the form of drawing a conclusion that would necessarily follow the logic which brings one to engage in this kind of behavior.

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