The First Denominations

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Paul, Apollos, and Peter preached Jesus rather than themselves.
Image credit: Sweet Publishing

Today we begin reading* through Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. Corinth is located in Southern Greece and was the city where Paul met Priscilla and her husband Aquilla. The three of them made tents together. (Acts 18:1–3)

Since he only knew of the baptism of John the Baptizer, Priscilla and Aquilla explained the gospel “more accurately” to Apollos in Acts 18:26. We know from Acts 18:24-25 that Apollos was an eloquent speaker and competent with the Scriptures. He also was fervent in the Spirit. He was the poster child for charismatic speakers everywhere. It seems natural that he would develop quite a following among Christians in his day.

But there was a problem in Corinth. Some of the believers attached themselves to Apollos and his teachings while others aligned themselves with Paul. Others thought Cephas (Peter) was the best preacher they ever heard. There’s nothing wrong with having your favorite Bible teachers. But Paul addresses a problem that went beyond having your favorite teacher. Divisions arose around these three men. We might say that the first denominations were begun in Corinth; the math term “denominator” is used in “division”.

Paul speaks very strongly against these divisions, even pointing out that he had only baptized a handful of people in the city. And he quickly points the church to Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross. I believe that Paul was thinking of Apollos and Peter when he said that “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. (1 Corinthians 1:23) In other words, he says that all three of these godly Bible teachers preach the same gospel. In contrast to the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, they’re all on the same page in the message they are preaching.

Paul says, rather than boast in who you’re following, boast in the fact that you’re following Jesus. (Jeremiah 9:23–24)


Whose books do you read? What Bible teachers do you watch on TV? Whose podcasts do you listen to? I’ve mentioned before that we need to be very careful who we align ourselves with. As I said above, it’s ok to have your favorite Bible teachers, but our favorites pale in comparison to Jesus. Or at least they should!

The most popular Bible teachers aren’t necessarily the most Christ-centered in their beliefs, their attitudes, and their behaviors. And not every Bible teacher is on the right side of Scripture all of the time. And if the truth were known — and it should be — some Bible teachers don’t even reference the Bible very often, if at all.

Make sure above all, that you boast in Jesus Christ. He is our focus.

* Today we are reading 1 Corinthians 1.

This devotional was originally published on July 31, 2019.

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