Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 3 - 4 …
After reading these two chapters in Paul's letter to the believers in Corinth, I am more convinced than ever that there needs to be more honest communication in the church. Having served seven different congregations during my ministry, and being familiar with many more, I have witnessed first hand the destructive power of sin in the form of arrogance. Pride is displayed in a number of ways, but it all amounts to thinking you are more important than you really are and using your assumed influence to dictate what should be done, how it should be done, when it should be done, who should be involved, who shouldn't be involved, etc. The result is a body divided!
Such was the case in Corinth. Paul had preached there for a substantial length of time, and so had Apollos. Now the Corinthians were arguing over who knew more and who should have more influence in the congregation based on who they learned from. There was much jealousy and quarreling. This is the case in many congregations today. Certain people liked one preacher, while others liked another one. Factions are established, a new pastor comes, and there are "sides," rather than one unified body. People don't pull together for a common purpose or goal because they are too busy defending their own "turf." Eyes are taken off of Christ and placed on mere men. All such divisions amount to is foolishness, because the Church (capital “C”) is the Body of Christ, bought with His blood. The Church is not a manmade institution to be used for manmade purpose. Jesus said, “I will build MY Church!”
Paul makes this point clearly when he writes, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but GOD made it grow!" (3:6). "For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building" (3:9). The Church belongs to God. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. And everyone else … EVERYONE else is a servant of Christ and a servant of the body. When people forget this simple truth, dissension erupts within the church and the focus is taken off the Gospel and put on minor things. Most congregations suffer from this "ME-ism" and people who act this way need to be confronted.
Paul was not shy in doing so … in fact, you could say that God used him to say to the Corinthians, "You need to GROW UP!!" Paul explains, "the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God's sight" (3:19) ... "So then, no more boasting about men!" (3:21). What could there possibly be to boast about? Anyone who preaches and teaches God’s Word has been called by God, equipped by God and sent by God. As a pastor I want people to give glory to GOD, not to me! With Paul and every other teacher God has ever called I can and must say, “I am a sinner, saved by grace!!” The Church is made up of servants with different gifts from the Lord to be used for one purpose: to build up the Body of Christ in order to bring glory to God.
In order to make his point, Paul speaks very personally of his own responsibility before God. He says, "Men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God ... I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court. ... It is the Lord who judges me" (4:1,3-4). It was important that the Corinthians realized that Paul didn't think he was anything great - just a servant of Christ, as the believers in Corinth were. Pastors - or anyone else in a congregation - who think they are MORE than that are deceived. People who want attention and who think they are "God's gift to the church" cause all kinds of problems within the Body of Christ.
It is almost as if Paul is glad that he is facing persecution and troubles. He wants to be known and treated as a member of the Body of Christ. When Paul urges them to imitate him (4:16), it was not because he thought he was so great, but just the opposite! He confessed his weakness and trusted God to provide what he needed, and it was that attitude of humility and thanksgiving to God that he wanted them to imitate. As he says in 4:2: "it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Faithfulness is the key to being a servant of Christ. Serving Christ and His Church is a serious responsibility and a heavy burden. All who are part of the Body have a calling from the Lord that should not be taken lightly.
Each of us is responsible to use whatever gifts, talents, abilities or resources God has entrusted to us, personally, for the welfare of the whole Body of Christ. To do that, we need to GROW UP! Children and those who are immature think only about what THEY want and expect others to serve them. Too often it is like that in the church. People think first about what THEY want, rather than seeking first what GOD wants, based on what He has revealed in His Word, and then putting others in the Body of Christ before themselves. This one principle lies at the heart of a body of people laboring together for Christ and His kingdom. Spiritual maturity shows itself in putting God first and others before yourself. Such an attitude builds up the Body of Christ and brings glory to God.
So if you examine yourself and realize that you are tempted to want the congregation you are part of to be all about you ... if you find yourself wanting attention and wanting to be noticed ... you need to grow up! You are going to end up hurting the Body, and yourself, and the result will be dissension and division. Paul uses strong words to get the Corinthians' attention: "Shall I come to you with a whip or in love and with a gentle spirit" (4:21). It's much easier to hear God's rebuke and to repent, than it is to face the consequences of sinful foolish arrogance. Living together in the oneness produced by the Spirit of God is a powerful testimony, both to those inside the church and outside of it, that God is at work among us!
May God help us to examine our own hearts and to do everything we can to speak honestly with our brothers and sisters in Christ, so that foolish controversies, jealousy and pride do not tear down what Jesus came to build up!! Pray for wisdom from the Spirit of Christ and grow up!
"Heavenly Father, in Your wisdom You established the Church to carry the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. Empower us by Your Spirit to turn away from foolish attitudes that divide the Church and help us to be faithful to use all that You have entrusted to us to point people to YOU! In Jesus' name, Amen"