Summary: Today’s Big Idea: A pastor is a man who is sent by God to save people from hell to make them Christ-exalting, spiritual aliens in this world
Adoniram Judson was a missionary to Burma (today it is Myanmar). His faithful wife Ann had followed her husband from prison to prison as he was arrested for sharing the Gospel. She had died from spotted fever and cerebral meningitis the year before (April 24, 1827). Her death had affected her husband in a deep way. When learning about his wife, he became a hermit in the jungle and stared at her grace. He struggled believing in God: “God is to me the Great Unknown. I believe in Him, but I find Him not.” Yet in 1828, missionary Adoniram Judson came into contact with the Karen people. The Karen people were a race of wild people living in a remote and almost inaccessible jungle. Judson had longed to win just one person from Karen to Christ. He had his opportunity when a Christian sold a Karen slave named Ko Tha Byu one day in a bazaar. The Christian brought Ko, the Karen slave, to Judson. Ko had taken part of approximately thirty murders. He was a hardened criminal with a vicious nature. Patiently, prayerfully, Judson taught Ko. In time, Ko yielded to the transforming power of Christ. He soon became a flaming evangelist among His people. A century later, the Christian Karens have more than 800 churches, splendid high school, hundreds of village schools, and more than 150,000 people who confess Christ.
“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
Today’s Big Idea: A pastor is a man who is sent by God to save people from hell to make them Christ-exalting, spiritual aliens in this world.
In a series of three paragraphs, Paul uses images from both agriculture (this week) and architecture (next week) to show us the nature of church and its leadership. The church is Corinth was designed to show people way to avoid hell and to make them Christ-exalting, spiritual aliens in Corinth. Instead, it was filled with strife. Paul aims to recalibrate the church he started. He writes the letter to Corinth, this upstart city no more than a century old, where he makes the following argument. In chapter one, he tells us that the cross is God’s wisdom and it precludes all boasting. Especially boasting in men. In chapter two, Paul tells us that since this wisdom is available to those who have the Spirit, the Corinthian believers should have known it. Instead, they are carrying on from the point of view of the “flesh,” as those who have missed the meaning of the cross (1 Corinthians 3:3).
Their strife and quarreling represents their old way of living – living as mere humans. At issue isn’t just their fighting. The issue is much bigger than this. At issue is their radically misguided perception of what the church is and what church leadership is. There are two dangers you and I must avoid when evaluating pastors/preachers: 1) We must guard against those who make too much of the “names” of big-time leaders (verse five); 2) We must guard against those who wish to make too little of the pastor/preacher (verse six).
1. Don’t Exaggerate the Work of the Pastors
Big names often draw us to some event or conference. Certainly big names within preaching, draw people to certain church. From the days of the New Testament until now, people like to hang on the coattails of rising stars. It’s as if we can somehow link ourselves to them and borrow their prestige. This was happening in Corinth. Look at the question posed verse four: “For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human” (1 Corinthians 3:4)? They were boasting in their individual teachers as if they could “belong” to them in some way. We are given several reasons why we shouldn’t exaggerate the work of church leaders by lining up behind one at the expense of another.
1.1 They are Servants of Jesus Christ
“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each” (1 Corinthians 3:5).
The word for “servants” is the word deacon. It’s used to describe a waiter. Yet, Paul uses agriculture as a metaphor to argue his point. He uses the metaphor of a farm. Church leaders are God’s servants and they serve to advance the Gospel – see the word “believed” in verse five? They didn’t come to believe in Paul or Apollos. They believed through Paul and Apollos. They believed in Christ. When you get a letter from your lover, you shouldn't fall in love with the mailman. God is the great one to be prized not Paul and Apollos.