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    May 28, 2019


    Popularity does not make a good leader. One of the characteristics that distinguish good leaders from celebrities is that the latter often believe what the press asserts. Celebrities tend to think of themselves more than they ought. Good leaders, however, know their limitations and understand that they are not all that others think they are nor are they necessarily what they want them to be.

    First Corinthians addresses a problem with celebrities. Christians were dividing themselves by pledging their loyalties to those who were popular. Each fraction claimed to be better than others, and thus a divisive spirit developed among God’s people. One of the individuals mentioned was the Apostle Paul, and some claimed to be his followers.

    Paul was a good leader, and thus he was wise enough not to believe those who wanted to make him a celebrity. He insisted that God’s people should be followers of only one person: Jesus Christ. Those who commend individuals unrealistically, deprive them of their true dignity. The reason is that the most profound distinction is not to gain followers to oneself; rather, to gain disciples to the Lord Jesus.

    Scripture already stated that no one should “boast before God” (1 Cor 1:29; cf. Eph 2:8-9). First Corinthians 3:5 expresses concern with regard to an attitude that elevates some individuals to the exclusion of others. Jesus insisted that the greatest in the coming kingdom must be the least (Luke 22:26). Unlike worldly leaders who seek positions of power so they can be served, those who serve as Christian leaders are to be servants of all. God’s servants accomplish their responsibilities “even as the Lord gave opportunity” (1 Cor 3:5).

    The agricultural metaphor in 3:6-8 encourages each person to fulfill his/her calling as a worker in God’s field — one planting, another watering — “but God was causing the growth” (3:6). Neither the sower nor the one watering is “anything” (3:7) because God uses them indiscriminately. The planter and the waterer have one purpose: be faithful to the Lord’s calling and trust God to cause the growth (3:8).

    Continuing the previous discussion, the use of the architectural illustration (“you are God’s field, God’s building,” 3:9) provides an important warning: “But each man must be careful how he builds” (3:10). While it is true that Paul, Apollos, and Peter worked together, there is the possibility that others may be working in an opposing manner (a matter that 2 Corinthians addresses). When you witness the possibility that someone is susceptible to influences that are destructive to God’s work, it is incumbent to identify the prospects, in addition to the consequences (verses 10-17 of chapter 3 accomplish this for you).

    Scripture develops the architectural metaphor more completely in 3:10-17. All those who build upon the foundation, “which is Jesus Christ,” will see God reward the work they accomplish (3:12-14). The one who builds poorly will be like someone fleeing from a burning building, narrowly escaping with only his/her life (3:15). One must be careful to stimulate the sanctity of God’s people (3:16-17).

    Anyone who thinks he/she is “wise in this age” is self-deceived (3:18). The manner in which one becomes “wise” before God is to “become foolish” in the estimation of the world, which is accomplished by living (action) and speaking (thought) according to God’s Word (3:18-23). The wisdom given to the believer in Christ Jesus includes “all things” (3:21). The believer has a vast resource in God’s Word (3:21-22) for within that reserve is the Lord Jesus Christ!

    First Corinthians 3 exhorts God's people to be loyal to Christ, not to human leaders. Furthermore, if any were “for Paul” and “against Apollos and Peter,”  his or her ability to learn from all God’s resource persons would be drastically reduced. What truly matters is being certain all are actions and thoughts prove loyalty to one Leader who alone is worthy: Christ Jesus.

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