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1 Corinthians 1:12

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

Paul rebukes the church of Corinth for choosing to follow some leaders ahead of others.In his list of those leaders whom he dissuades to be followed he includes Christ

Why does Paul include Christ in his list?

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Great question that exposes a VERY serious problem. The problem here is actually two-fold:

  • that religion in Corinth had been reduced to personalities and that Christ was mere one of many personalities that one follows - a bit like modern followers of a sports team
  • it was thus that Christ was reduced to a mere human among many from whom one was free to select - any human personality os OK - just choose one!

Paul was vehemently opposed to this. He states this later in the same letter:

1 Cor 1:24, 25 - to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom,d and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

... and again in 1 Cor 2:16 -

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Finally, Paul concludes this extensive arguement in 1 Cor 3:4-7 -

4 For when one of you says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each his role. 6 I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

We also have Paul's conclusion in Col 3:11 -

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free, but Christ is all and is in all.

Thus, Paul believed that Christ was no mere human personality but infinitely greater -

Phil 3:8 - More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

To Paul, Christ was the sum, center and substance of all that mattered (not just another personality team to follow). Note the following:

  • Col 1:27 - To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
  • Titus 2:13 - while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
  • Phil 1:21 - For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
  • 2 Cor 5:14 - For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, therefore all died.
  • Phil 2:5 - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:

John reaches a similar conclusion in 1 John 5:11, 12 -

And this is that testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

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Why does Paul include Christ in 1 Corinthians 1:12?

1 Corinthians 1:11-13 NASB

11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brothers and sisters, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am [a]with Paul,” [b]or “I am [c]with Apollos,” [d]or “I am [e]with [f]Cephas,” [g]or “I am [h]with Christ.” 13 [i]Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized [j]in the name of Paul?

It is apparent from Paul's writing that dissensions and factions have developed in the congregation of Corinth, some said "I belong to Paul", others to Apollos, and others to Peter.

This is because they attached too much importance to personalities, some followed Paul others Apollos, still others to Christ. Paul set them straight, saying: It is God that causes to grow.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NASB

5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

The problem was that they attached themselves to members of the congregation, ministers of God through whom they became believers, and did not have a strong and intimate relationship with God the Father, and with Jesus as the head of the congregation

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  • +1 good job. :)
    – Tony Chan
    Nov 15 '21 at 15:02
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In his commentary on First Corinthians, Richard B. Hays writes:

The fundamental theme of the letter is sounded in 1:10: "Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of or Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no division among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose." Everything that follows, especially in 1 Corinthians 1:11-4:21, must be understood as an elaboration of this appeal. Paul, writing to a community torn by divisions (schismata), calls for unity.1

Therefore, all of the I follow... groups are doing something which is causing division or dissension, either in doctrine (same mind) or in practice (same purpose). As Hays says, The evidence of the letter as a whole suggests there are inchoate dissensions and arguments brewing.2

Since believers are called to follow Christ, there must be some in Corinth who are using this in a manner which is causing division or dissension. I see three possibilities:

  • There are some who are using the expression to show an exclusive doctrine. ("We are the ones who really belong to Christ, but we are not sure about you.")3Here the issue is similar to contemporary divisions between denominations.
  • There are some who use the expression to show exclusive practice. Here the issue is one in which some are denying the right of leadership. That is, I take no direction from any human leader, because "I follow Christ."
  • There are some who use the expression to show superiority because they were among those who had been original followers of Christ.

Paul never offers any further explanation, but obviously there are ways people can say I follow Christ to justify actions which cause division or dissension in a church.


  1. Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, John Knox Press, 1997, p. 21
  2. Ibid., p. 22
  3. Ibid., p. 23

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