Paul is referring to the opposing groups in the church at Corinth, which he mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:12. Each person was saying that he belonged either to Paul, or Apollos, or Peter (Cephas). They meant that they considered themselves loyal to that particular leader. And they refused to respect the authority of anyone else.
Paul had explained that God appointed those leaders as workers in his church (3:5-9). Those men were obeying Christís command to serve other people (Mark 10:43). So, although every Christian must belong to Christ, Christians do not belong to the leaders of their churches.
In fact, the opposite is true. It is the leaders of a church who belong to the members. God has given that church its leaders so that they can serve the members. For that reason, Christians should accept the leaders who teach them Godís word. They should be ready to learn from everyone whom God sends to teach them. And God wanted to teach the Christians in Corinth by means of Apollos and Peter, as well as Paul.
But God had not just provided a few men to benefit his people. He uses all things for the benefit of his people. He has given them life, so that they may serve him. He allows their deaths, so that they may be with him (Philippians 1:23). He gives them the present age as an opportunity to give honour to him. And he will give them the future age, when they shall rule with him (Matthew 5:5).
But that is no reason to be proud. Christians do not even belong to themselves; they belong to Christ (6:19-20). So they must be humble, even as Christ was humble. He obeyed God the Father completely (Mark 14:36; John 8:28).
Please use the links at the top of the page to find our other articles in this series. You can download all our articles if you go to the download page for our free 450 page course book.
© 2014, Keith Simons.