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Words of Faith 5-4-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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1 Corinthians 3

[5] 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. [6] I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. [7] So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. [8] The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. [9] For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

Paul's concern was that many in the church at Corinth were immature in their faith. While they had the appearance of being "spiritual", they had not surrendered to the Mind of Christ. They had failed to allow the Spirit to work in them the humility of Christ. As a result, the Corinthian believers had focused on the wrong things.

In particular, they had focused on the men bringing the message, when in fact God alone was the source of blessing. The various ministers who had brought the message of God were only servants accountable to Him.

There is no indication that the various ministers-- Paul, Apollos, Cephas and others-- had intentionally cultivated the praise that was being directed toward them. But there is surely a caution here. It is easy to get caught up in the praise and compliments of people and being to think that you are God's gift to preaching. But the primary caution here was to those who were listening.

Apollos and Paul were given their ministries by Christ (Eph. 4:11). They were the means, not the cause, whereby the Corinthians believed. God alone produces results. God made the seed grow. Therefore God alone should get the credit. Paul wanted the believers to clearly see this bigger picture!

The wonder of God is that different ministers labor differently for the Kingdom. As servants, Paul and Apollos were not competing against each other, but were complementing each other's ministries. Their purpose was to bring the church to maturity, to Christlikeness (Eph. 4:12-13). In accord with their faithfulness to that task their reward would come. Though a minister served the church, he was ultimately responsible to God. Paul and Apollos were fellow workers who belonged to God and worked for Him in His field, the church.

The same concerns exist very much today on various levels.

There is the level of the mass market. In our culture today, people are often enamored with celebrities-- pop stars, movie stars, sports heroes and personalities. The Christian culture has in many ways conformed itself to this worldly pattern and created "Christian celebrities.” The phrase “Christian celebrity” is really an oxymoron or "self contradictory phrase.” In Christian culture, there is only one celebrity worthy of praise. Period.

There also is the city level where many times churches are seen competing rather than cooperating. Some churches subtly target the members of other churches and draw people to a focus on leaders, personalities, trends, and styles. It is easy for immature Christians to focus on the messenger more than the message.

If we do not have the mind of Christ, we can easily start defining ourselves as identified with a human Christian personality. No matter how sincere or honorable that human messenger is, we have slipped into the same trap as Corinthian church.

And there is the level of the local church. Division like that of Corinth is not uncommon as churches grow and age over years. There often will be one group that remembers the "glory days" of "Pastor Smith" when the church was being founded, while others favor the "new ways" brought by "Reverend Jones" and still others promote "Brother Fred" who was so personable and took the church through the big building program or mission expansion.

In some instances, the division between groups can be intense and destructive. All this fails to see the basic message of Paul that one messenger plants, another waters and another harvests and God is at work toward His purpose through each servant.

The same is true in worship. Worship is a connection in which we surrender before the Lord and worship Him, not the leader, the music, the choir, the style, or the band. Worship is not dependent upon the personalities of those in front. Worship depends upon the Spirit of God at work in us and our decision to surrender to Him.

So what is the practical application here? Do we stop going to Christian concerts and conferences? Throw away the books of well known authors? That is not the point. The point is to realize that God is at work in your old pastor and in your new one. You can learn from Billy Graham and Chuck Swindoll but also from the lady who stayed up late preparing the Sunday School lesson for this week. You can benefit from Joel O'steen and Rick Warren but also from the kid stammering out his first ever sermon on Youth Sunday. Focus on Jesus, not on the people who seek to bring Jesus. Paul calls us to focus on the power of the Gospel to transform lives. This power is not dependent upon the messenger and the praise and glory always goes to the author.

There is a wonderful old well-used illustration of this. The image is the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The donkey really did not know what was going on but he could not help but notice that the people cheered when he rounded the corner. The donkey might have thought that the cheers were for him. He might have even reared back to receive the applause, but of course, in doing so, he would have dumped his valuable cargo.

Sometimes we just have to remember that as messengers of the Lord-- pastors, teachers and worship leaders-- we are the donkey, and the praise rightly belongs to the One on our backs. Jesus.

Father God, help me to grow up in You. Give me the Mind of Christ. Help me to benefit from all the people that you put in my path but not to worship any of them. Help me to see the value in every effort that your servants make for Your Kingdom. Keep me focused on You. In Jesus' name.