THE CASES IN 1 CORINTHIANS
The Problem of Divisions
With these three main principles in view, we can now consider each of the cases. The first case is the problem of division and sects (1:10—4:21). Some in Corinth said that they were of Paul, others were of Apollos, others were of Cephas, and others even claimed that they were of Christ (1:12). These were divisions or sects which arose from the flesh, because their flesh had not been dealt with. Their flesh lacked the real working of the cross. To say, “I am of Paul” proves that a person is fleshly, that there is no mark of the cross on this person. If the cross is applied to our flesh, we will never say that we are of Paul or of anyone else.
On the negative side, the flesh has to be dealt with, while on the positive side, we must know that Christ is not divided. Verse 13 asks, “Is Christ divided?” If we know Christ, apply Christ, and experience Christ, we will realize that He is one. Not only so, but because the Head is one, the Body is also one. Christ is one, and the church is one. To be sure, if we know Christ, we will know the oneness of the Body. Why are there many divisions today? It is simply due to the fact that people do not know Christ on the positive side and do not experience the cross on the negative side. If we know Christ and apply the cross to our flesh, there will be no divisions. Spontaneously we will realize the reality of the oneness of the Body of Christ. Therefore, the principle that governs the first case is Christ and the cross.
The Problem of a Fleshy Brother
The second case is that of a person who was not only fleshly but fleshy (5:1-13). According to the record of chapters five and six, the fleshy cases were of several shameful kinds. Although they are mentioned in the Word of God, they are not pleasant to read. No doubt, people can be so fleshy because they neglect the experience of Christ, and they forfeit the experience of applying the cross to their flesh. We cannot be fleshy if we are truly under the work of the cross and experiencing Christ.
The Problem of Lawsuits among Believers
The next case recorded in this book concerns a lawsuit, in which brothers took one another to the law (6:1-11). It is a shame for brothers to go to court to sue one another. Verse 7 says, “Already then it is altogether a defeat to you that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” This is the teaching of the cross. Even if a brother defrauds us, we should be willing to suffer loss and take the experience of the cross. We should not lose the experience of the cross by filing a lawsuit. We may win the case and gain some material things, but we will lose the precious experience of the cross. We should choose to suffer and experience the cross rather than to gain from a lawsuit. This is the practical experience of the cross.
We may talk about the cross, but one day a brother may defraud us. Should we go to court and sue him? This is not the proper way. The proper way is to suffer the loss by being defrauded. Although we may suffer the loss of material things, we experience the cross and gain Christ. This is more precious, and in this way we give glory to God. However, if we go to court, that is a real shame to the Lord’s name. Those Corinthian brothers went to the law because they neglected the experience of Christ and His cross. If they had applied the first principle, the principle of Christ and the cross, there would have been no lawsuit.
(General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)