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.”
If you’ve been a Calvinist for long, you’ve had this passage pulled out and thrown against you. “You follow a man, I follow Christ.” “I don’t use labels, I’m just a Christian.”
We are often told that this passage means that we should not use labels like Calvinist, Arminian, Lutheran, Baptist, or Presbyterian to describe ourselves. We should simply claim Christ and the title Christian.
However, what people who abuse… yes I said abuse… this passage fail to note is that the people who claimed “I follow Christ” were chastised just as those who claim “I follow Paul.”
What is being rejected here is not the appropriation of labels, or association of a particular figure or school of thinking. Rather, what is being denounced is dividing over such labels. Those who claim to exclusively follow Christ in this passage were separating from those who claim to follow Paul, Apollos, or Peter.
Is Christ divided?
My experience is that those who accuse Calvinists, Arminians, Lutherans, etc. of being schismatic, and trot out “I just follow Jesus” as their trump card, are doing so to separate and elevate themselves over those of us who apply shorthand labels. Similar to how “No creed by the Bible” is used to create a one person creed… “I Just follow Jesus” is often used to make a one person denomination.
Next time someone accuses you of following Calvin because you call yourself a Calvinist, make sure they read to the end of the passage. “I follow Christ” in the context… wasn’t a good thing.