A year or two after Paul helps to establish the church in Corinth (Acts 18:1-17) he writes this letter to them. He’s heard some reports about issues in the church that he wants to address. He starts by reminding them of his authority (he is called to be an apostle by the will of God), and reminds them that they are called to be saints because they have been made to be holy (sanctified) in Christ Jesus! Paul wishes them “grace and peace,” a modified Greek greeting combined with a typical Hebrew greeting, which perhaps is a reminder that the church is something completely new that includes both Jew and Gentile.
Paul normally follows up his introduction with a thanksgiving for the church he’s writing to, and we see that here. He is thankful for the great blessings that they have received as a result of knowing Christ. They don’t lack for any speech, knowledge, or spiritual gift. God has also promised that he will strengthen them, keep them, and find them blameless at the return of Jesus Christ. They aren’t blameless because of anything they have done, but because of the fellowship that they have through Jesus Christ their Lord.
However, even though they’ve been given every advantage, they aren’t living the way they are supposed to. There are divisions and factions in the church. People are apparently elevating those who ministries they were baptized under. Even those who said “I am with Christ” seem to be using that as a way to puff themselves up and claim to be better than anyone else. Paul says that he’s thankful that he baptized so few so that they couldn’t claim him as their ministry hero! In fact, he didn’t use Greek rhetoric (“clever speech”) that would encourage some to elevate his name. He felt that it would render his preaching useless because they would be following him rather than Christ. He is first, foremost, and always concerned about the gospel!
Divisions and factions continue to be a problem today, and some of those divisions can happen because people elevate one teacher above every other teacher. Early on in my ministry I had someone who compared everything that I said to John MacArthur and wanted to argue with me about church government! But even when people try to put Christ and His Word first they can become swelled up with pride and unbearable to be around, causing further harm and division. It’s not just “who” we follow but “how” we follow. Paul also reminds us that method of sharing the gospel isn’t the most important thing, contrary to so many that have gimmicks and programs today. It’s actually all about the message!