I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
I Corinthians 1:10-13
“My dad can beat up your dad!”
“Nuh-uh! My dad could totally beat up your dad!!!”
It wasn’t uncommon to hear exchanges like this on the playground when I was a kid. In fact, I remember taking part in arguments just like this myself. It’s funny how we can take something as wonderful as respect and admiration for our dads and turn it into competition that leads us to division and conflict. But the Bible tells us that this can happen in our churches just as easily. Christians can associate so closely with different pastors or Christian personalities that they begin to identify themselves more by that icon of the faith than by Christ Himself. Many of you have heard people say, “I go to pastor So-and-So’s church.” We love to namedrop don’t we? Like it somehow makes us more important because our preacher published a book! Have you ever noticed how many people leave a church when the pastor changes?
In 1 Corinthians, Paul warns the church about this danger and reminds us that our worth as believers is founded on who Christ is, not on who our pastor is. In this way all believers are on equal footing. We are all in Christ and therefore all one in Him. There is no need for division or conflict over these other admirable men in the church. They are nothing more than Christ’s servants. Christ is what counts, and nothing else.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. (I Cor. 3:5-8)
Paul drives his point home in verses 21-23: "So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God." Quit boasting about men! I might add to quit boasting about numbers and buildings and programs and budgets. These things are not the end all of the kingdom! When we boast in these things we are like a farmer boasting that he has the most beautiful tiller in the county. The beauty of your tiller isn’t the point. The goal is a fruitful harvest. The implication is clear: we should be boasting in God and in Him alone. Not in our pastor and not in our accomplishments as a church. Boast in the Lord and what He is accomplishing in the lives of the people in your church and in your own heart! Christ is our joy. He is our all in all, and He is our greatest boast.
So be careful not to get caught up in conflict over Christian personalities. Be careful not to take pride in things that matter a lot in your church but none at all in the kingdom. Instead, stay close to Christ. Remind yourself daily that nothing compares to this precious truth: Christ loved you and died for you so that you might be adopted as God’s own child. May we be so dumbfounded by this truth that no other boast ever crosses our lips again.
For further reading...
- Read I Corinthians 1-4:7.