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In the divisive spirit expressed in 1 Corinthians 1.12, who are the "party of Christ" and can such be identified today?

In 1 Corinthians 1.11-16 Paul is rebuking the party spirit of the Corinthians. The four way division of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ was really a tell-tale sign of their carnality. Human nature tends to follow men and to exalt the messenger above the message instead of keeping the eye on the Lord. When this is the case it can only lead to competition. These different parties had not split up to gather in four different companies, for this would be contrary to 14.23 where Paul speaks of the whole church being gathered in one place. It must be clear also that those "of Christ" are not a grouping of which Paul approves, for they are equally as guilty of wrong as the other three parties. In fact they were the worst of all, manifesting a superior spirituality that could do without men like Paul! Paul gives no hint anywhere in 1 Corinthians as to who the "Christ party" were. Some see a reference to this party in 2 Corinthians 10.7 and 11.13. All we may assume is that they were a group of believers who considered they were true devotees of Christ. By saying they were "of Christ" they probably claimed they had a special attachment to Christ.

I do not know if we can say that we have an exact equivalent of such a party today. True, there are some groups in the sects of Christendom who make Scripturally unfounded high claims to be the only true church following Christ. The passage however, refers to professed believers within the assembly and therefore assemblies should be warned from this not to set up men as leaders who create and maintain a sectarian faction. How easily a party spirit can lead to division within the assembly and the loss of the realised presence of the Lord. "Is Christ divided?", asks Paul in v.13. He is the one unique Christ. Therefore, as it is impossible to divide Christ, the assembly as "a body" in God’s sight cannot be divided. This is a truth which should ever be remembered by all believers in each assembly.

John J Stubbs

What is the "age" spoken of by the Lord Jesus in the gospel commission, "…even unto the end of the world (age) (Mt 28.20)?

In this Gospel of Matthew, which presents a portrait of a King and is the story of the King and his Kingdom, the authority of Christ is stressed. Now, at the close of his Gospel, Matthew makes it clear that Christ has "all power (authority)…in heaven and in earth" (28.18). In heaven His absolute authority is never questioned, and although at present this is not so on earth, nevertheless in the future His authority will be universally acknowledged.

Matthew does not give an account of His ascension. It is fitting therefore that he should leave us with the King on earth among his people in regal majesty proclaiming His authority and expressing that authority to commission His disciples. A commission had been given in the upper room in Jerusalem that "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk 24.47) – this would appear to be the proper Christian mission and is repeated on Mt. Olivet prior to Christ’s ascension (Acts 1.8).

However, in Matthew’s Gospel the King will now commission His servants for the proclamation of the Kingdom. These men were but a remnant, but they would go forth with a mandate from the King Himself. In essence the commission is, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations" (or "disciple all nations") i.e. to preach the Kingdom worldwide. The commission thus goes beyond "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 10.6).

At the end of the commission He says, "…lo, I am with you alway (lit. all the days)" (28.20). When the Lord sent forth His disciples during the course of His earthly ministry, "These twelve Jesus sent forth" (Mt 10.5), His personal presence was not with them. Now this would be changed; He would be with them everywhere and at all times, "even unto the end of the world (age)" (28.20) i.e. the consummation or completion of the age.

The present writer would not like to be considered as an "ultra-dispensationalist", but he does believe that a time is coming when this great commission will be carried out by a remnant of Jewish disciples who are represented by the eleven. Thus, as to its interpretation, the commission here in Matthew has been interrupted. What encouragement these words will bring to that remnant of a later day as they fulfil the commission in the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom. This "age" will be consummated when the Lord Jesus returns in glory.

Nevertheless the passage at the close of Matthew’s Gospel may be applied to the present day.

David E West

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