The Apostle Paul was convinced that it was not because of any particular “problems” that the growth of the Corinthian church was arrested but that which lay behind them and much more. They were occupied with the externals of the faith both as to personal, domestic and church affairs. The Apostle goes to the heart of things and makes it perfectly clear that their trouble was arrested spiritual development. Thus he mentions some of the symptoms which prove this. The first one was partisanship. They had men in their eye. Human selection, favor, preference issuing from temperamental reactions caused them to “hive off,” form circles; parties around the mannerism, ‘line of things,’ or make-up of this man and that. Some would prefer the mystical and poetical to the practical; others the opposite. Some would take up with the subjective line of things and decline the objective and vice versa; and so on and on. Then there would be the men themselves with what was liked and what was disliked. Concerning all this, the Apostle says “I could not speak as unto spiritual but as unto babes, I fed you with milk” (3:1, 2). The fundamental fault with all this was that with them the Lord Jesus had not become pre-eminent; it was not Him always in view, to whom they gathered, whom they were seeking.
It was not a matter of what of the Lord Jesus had this one and that one to impart. It was the vessel not the treasure; the channel not the stream. In effect the Apostle says that it is a mark of real spiritual growth and maturity when the Lord’s people are not influenced by the instrument as such, but have their hearts directed toward Himself, and are asking all the time, ‘What has this one and that one of the Lord?’ So in this matter as in all others the remedy presented is a putting of the Lord Jesus in His place, which is the supreme place, and the place which excludes all human obtrusions, for or against.
The heads of these Corinthians were projected toward the servants of the Lord instead of their hearts being set on the Master. Divisions are so often childish, and when looked at from a point of greater spiritual advancement, are seen to be so. Then it is perfectly clear that human elements played all too great a part, and if only the Lord Himself had been the dominating reality and object of concern, things would have been different.