During Paul’s two-year stay in Ephesus (Acts 19:10), a man named Apollos ministered to the Jews in Corinth. It says in Acts 19:27-28 that Apollos “helped them much which had believed through grace: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” Apparently, Apollos’ method of teaching was different than Paul’s. Paul was opposed by the Jews in Corinth and it was there that he “shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6). Apollos on the other hand was born at Alexandria and was described as “an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24), meaning Apollos was a great speaker that was probably able to captivate his audience with his relevant application of God’s word and understanding of Christian living.
The stark difference between Paul and Apollos’ styles of preaching caused the believers at Corinth to prefer one them over the other and to form subgroups or cliques that divided the congregation. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addressed this problem in a very direct manner. He stated:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-12, ESV)
Paul’s argument against the divisions that were occurring in Corinth was that no man could claim credit for the salvation of others. Paul stated, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness: but unto us which are saved it is the power of God…For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21).
Paul’s reference to the foolishness of preaching in 1 Corinthians 1:21 was meant to stress the absurdity of the idea that a person could be saved by someone explaining the scriptures to him. Paul pointed out that a person had to be “called” or invited into God’s kingdom and that it was the power of God that made it possible for people to accept Christ and be born again (1 Corinthians 1:24). Therefore, Paul concluded, “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). Paul went on to say that true wisdom was a gift from God and explained that the power of God was conveyed through his Holy Spirit. According to Paul, God can only reveal things to us through his Spirit and he stated, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).