The Corinthian church is ripping itself apart. The believers disagree on various issues and have sorted themselves into four schools of thought—each rallying around a different Christian leader. The four camps’ squabbling has grown so loud that Paul can hear it from Ephesus. 

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians addresses this issue right away:

It has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you ... each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:11–13)

So what was it about these figures that made the Corinthians rally around them? Let’s take a closer look at who these men were and why someone might have said, “I follow that leader.”  

Paul

Paul is a Pharisee—highly educated in the Jewish law. He was a fierce persecutor of Christians until the risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Then Paul began planting churches across Asia Minor and Europe as an apostle of Jesus. Paul is the face of the church to the Gentile world.

Role: Apostle, missionary
From: Tarsus, Cilicia

Claims to fame:

  • He was the first to preach the gospel at Corinth (2 Cor 10:14).
  • He had lived in Corinth for more than 18 months (Acts 18:11, 18). 
  • His message is simple and powerful (1 Cor 2:2).
  • Jesus specifically appeared to him after the resurrection (Acts 9:3–5).

Cephas (Peter)

Peter had been with Jesus from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and he remains the first among the apostles. He leads the Jewish church, and he is the apostle who shows the church at Jerusalem that salvation is for both Jews and Gentiles.

Role: Apostle
From: Bethsaida, Galilee 

Claims to fame:

  • He is first among the apostles and a pillar in the church (Matt 10:2; Gal 2:9).
  • He spent three years with Jesus before the crucifixion.
  • He is the public face of the early church. 

Apollos

Apollos has style. He is an eloquent man, forging arguments that are both logical and compelling (Acts 18:24). He was mentored in the doctrine of the gospel by Paul’s friends Priscilla and Aquila, and went on to evangelize and debate in the Corinthian region. Apollos is the “apologetics guy” of the church
in that region.

Role: Missionary, teacher
From: Alexandria, Egypt

Claims to fame:

  • He is elegant, persuasive, and great with apologetics (Acts 18:24, 28).
  • He is an Old Testament expert (Acts 18:24).
  • He strengthens the church in Corinth  (Acts 18:27–19:1; 1 Cor 3:6).
  • He is a more impressive figure than Paul (1 Cor 2:1; 2 Cor 10:10).

Christ

He is the Son of God. He is God made flesh. He came to earth, died for the sins of the people, and then rose again—just like the Scriptures said he would. Now he is Lord of all and the King who is coming back soon. 

Role: Lord of all, head of the church

Claims to fame:

  • He is the center of Paul’s gospel (1 Cor 2:2; 15:1–8).
  • He is the very foundation of the church (1 Cor 3:11).
  • He is the King the Corinthians should be loyal to.

Jeffrey Kranz writes, designs, and consults at OverviewBible.com. He’s bent on showing off the whole Bible for how interesting and applicable it is—and getting more people to study it themselves.

Jeffrey Kranz writes, designs, and consults at OverviewBible.com. He’s bent on showing off the whole Bible for how interesting and applicable it is—and getting more people to study it themselves.