The work of the Apostle Paul was much hindered by divisions in the Church. There are many passages in his Epistles which refer to this, but the subject cannot be better studied than in 1 Corinthians 1:10 ff. The Corinthian Church, though outwardly united, was divided in its allegiance to different teachers-‘I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.’ Much ingenuity has been expended in sketching the characteristics of these four parties, but it is not easy to be certain of them. Apollos was a Jew of Alexandria ( Acts 18:24-28), a disciple of the Baptist, who, being more fully instructed by Aquila and Priscilla, was baptized into the Christian Church. At Corinth his learning and eloquence made a great impression, and there might be many who would regard him as a leader in the faith; but there need not have been any serious division in the Church on this account. Far greater difficulty would be experienced between those who are generally known as the Judaizing party and those who accepted the teaching of the Apostle.
The question of Gentile converts being free from the yoke of the Law of Moses had been settled by the Council held at Jerusalem ( Acts 15:1-29), but the Judaizing party had not acquiesced ex animo in that decision. The Epistle to the Galatians gives us an insight into their tactics then, and it is highly probable that in the ‘Christ’ party of 1 Corinthians 1:10 ff. we meet with the same line of action. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians the Apostle defends his authority and apostolicity in much the same way as he does in the Epistle to the Galatians ( 2 Corinthians 10:11-12, Galatians 1:11; Galatians 2:21).
This party would perhaps point to the obedience of Christ to the Law during His life, and would strongly advocate the position that Christianity was an outcome of Judaism, and that the Gentile in accepting Christ must bow his head to the yoke of the Law as well. In 1 Cor. we see this party in its infancy; but in 2 Cor. it has grown to much more dangerous proportions. From the internal evidence of the latter Epistle we may gather something of their claims. They were Hebrews; they claimed to be apostles; they preached another gospel and another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11). Their insistence upon obedience to the ceremonial Law brought them into direct conflict with St. Paul’s teaching on justification. They made many grievous and unjust charges against him, and sought in every way to discredit him and to belittle his authority. The Epistle makes it clear that they met with considerable success. The Corinthians were infatuated with their new teachers, and turned against the Apostle. In some way the news of the defection reached St. Paul, and led to his paying a visit to Corinth. This visit is not recorded in the Acts but is alluded to in this Epistle (2 Corinthians 13). This was followed by a stern letter which some think is preserved in 2 Corinthians 10-13; and finally, on receipt of the good news of their repentance, St. Paul wrote with thankfulness the Epistle which we have in 2 Corinthians 1-9.