12 “Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”
Now I say this,
Paul says in effect, “This is what I mean by contentions in the previous verse.”
that each of you says,
The word “each” is emphatic in the Greek. Everyone in the church at Corinth was infected with the party-spirit. Each person championed a personality. They lined up behind a particular leader. Each fraction led to a fraction pitted against the other.
The Corinthian church fourfold party-spirit broke down into four watchwords or slogans: I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, I am of Christ.
Paul depicts the problem with four first person singulars: “I.” Ego was at the center of this problem. Everyone was taking sides with the idea, “My leader, right or wrong.” Their party allegiance was an emblem of honor. Their problem revolved around personalities, not doctrine.
“I am of Paul,”
The Paul party may have been Gentile believers. Paul founded the Gentile church at Corinth. There was a natural loyalty to Christ because he led them to Christ. It is interesting that Paul identifies his part first.
or “I am of Apollos,”
Apollos was a Jew from Alexandria Egypt (Ac 18:24-19:1). Alexandria was the intellectual center in the Roman Empire. Apollos was an orator. His party preferred polished rhetoric. Those with an academic background were drawn to him. These people would say that “Apollos could say it so much better than Paul. Paul was too dull. Apollos knew literary and philosophical culture of the Mediterranean.”
or “I am of Cephas,”
“Cephas” is Aramaic for Peter. His followers were Jewish and may have had a legalistic trend. This was the Peter party. Peter was an original apostle with the twelve. It is not known whether Peter ever visited Corinth.
or “I am of Christ
This party may have been a super-spiritual faction in the Corinthian church. They were the only group who supposedly understood the things of Christ. They had very little allegiance to human leaders which can be a problem in itself.
Divided loyalty detracts from the preeminence of Christ.
Pitting one group in the church against another pits people against Christ. Ultimate allegiance to human leaders produces a party-spirit. Divided loyalty to Christ minimizes His supremacy in the church. The importance lies in the Lord, not the leader.
Inevitably, contention and wrangling arise out of partisanship. Elitism produces pride. Personality cults are blights on ministry because they detract from the supremacy of Christ.
Col 1: 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
The super-spiritual saints use Jesus as a front. This is spiritual pride. These people are the worst offenders because it difficult to detect and they use Christ to magnify themselves.