Summary: In today's lesson we are warned against a wrong view of the ministry, particularly of church leadership. We are reminded of the true nture of the church and church leadership.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is a wrong view about the ministry, particularly with respect to church leadership. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “The Ministry: Watering, Working, Warning.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 3:5-17:
5 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.
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:5-17)
When I served as the pastor in a previous church, several women attended one of the bi-annual Women’s Conferences in Atlanta. One of the ladies returned from the conference very excited about what she had learned. In particular, one of the speakers—who happened to be one of our denominational leaders—especially impressed her. She was so excited about one of the messages he delivered that she wanted our entire congregation to hear it. Now, she did not want us to play the DVD of the message in the Sunday school hour. No. She wanted his message to be played during the Sunday morning Worship service in the place of my sermon!
Now, let me say that this denominational leader is an extraordinary preacher. Frankly, I have personally benefited from his preaching, and so have many of you. I realize that we live in a day when it is so easy for us to listen to our favorite preacher. We can listen to virtually any preacher we want to on the radio, TV, internet, or podcast. And so it is easy for us to develop loyalties to our favorite preacher.
But there was something about the request of this lady that reminded me of the situation in Corinth. The Christians in Corinth had developed strong loyalties to different leaders in the church. They had lost sight of the fact that the church has only one Head and Shepherd—Jesus Christ. They had forgotten that the leaders to whom they claimed allegiance were merely Jesus Christ’s servants and undershepherds. As a result, they developed loyalties to certain leaders and partisan attitudes toward one another. These attitudes were damaging the church in Corinth.
We can fall into the same thinking that trapped the Corinthians. When we discover a preacher, teacher, or leader whom we respect, we develop loyalties to him, to his thinking, and to his way of doing things. While it is true that we can and do benefit from the preaching of God’s gifted preachers, we need to be very careful not to develop unhealthy loyalties to our leaders and partisan attitudes against one another. Many problems in our modern church develop over egos and personalities in the church.
The Corinthians displayed their immaturity by forming loyalties to human leaders in the church. Paul rejected this practice by reminding them of the true nature of the church and church leadership.
And so, in today’s lesson we are warned against a wrong view of the ministry, particularly of church leadership. We are reminded of the true nature of the church and church leadership.
Let’s use the following outline for today’s lesson:
1. Leaders Are Merely Servants (3:5-9)
2. The Church Must Be Built with Care (3:10-15)
3. The Church Is God’s Temple (3:16-17)
I. Leaders Are Merely Servants (3:5-9)
First, leaders are merely servants.
Paul said in verse 5: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.”