No Place for Parties

1 Corinthians 1:11-14 “My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.”

Wherever you have a popular pastor or preacher, you have the danger of developing a “cult of the personality.” People attach themselves more to a man than they do to their Savior. You may remember the “Crystal Cathedral” and its pastor in California. It had its own television show. Thousands of people attended. Since that pastor retired, that ministry has died. The building has been sold to the Catholic church. It appears to have been a “cult of the personality.”

The church in Corinth was in danger of this. People were choosing their favorite pastors and attaching themselves to a mere man. They were developing competing parties. Paul didn’t want this, and neither did the others. “Is Christ divided?” he asks. “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.”

One of the reasons that Paul urges us to unite around the same beliefs, is so that we can see the foolishness of elevating one pastor over another. Did Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (Hebrew for Peter) teach something different? Peter has two letters in the New Testament. You can read them for yourself and see that Peter taught the same morals Paul did. He taught the same way of salvation–Christ crucified in payment for all our sins, received by faith and faith alone. What sense could it possibly make to say that you followed one man or the other when they believed and preached exactly the same thing?

A number of years ago a couple with whom I was counseling got upset when I told them that they shouldn’t be sleeping together before they were married. So they made an appointment with my associate because they wanted a different judgment on their lifestyle. Did they get it? There are over 1000 pastors in the church body to which I belong, and I am confident they would get the same response from all of them. We have all agreed on what God says in his law. We are united on the content and meaning of the gospel. That’s a defense against competing parties in our churches.

I skipped over one statement about “following” made by these people in Corinth. “I follow Christ.” On the surface, that would seem to be the right answer. We should all follow Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian.

But funny that Paul doesn’t complement them for getting their allegiance right. He just goes on to expose the divisions. It seems that these people, too, were forming their own party in the church. Theirs was not based on following a person but on personal pride. They didn’t come to encourage everyone else, “We follow Christ. We all do. Let’s not separate ourselves this way.” No, they said, “I follow Christ,” as if to say, “I’m just a few degrees holier than the rest of you.”

Let’s agree that we are all equally sinners, equally rescued and freed from our sin by our Savior. Then we won’t fall into some of the more recent ways Christians are tempted to put themselves into a class above the rest. “I’m not just a believer,” they say. “I’m going to be a disciple of Jesus.” But you can’t be one without the other. It’s always a package deal. The Bible never distinguishes believers from disciples.

“I’m a born-again Christian,” some people say. But there is no other kind. It’s like saying, “I’m a Christian Christian.” If you are a Christian, you have been born again. If you haven’t been born-again, you aren’t a Christian.

“Jesus is not just my Savior. I have also made him the Lord of my life.” Of course, we don’t make Jesus anything. Every heart he enters as Savior, he also enters as Lord.

We are all helpless sinners saved by the grace of a loving God. If we agree with his word, we won’t be trying to create special parties and classes within God’s church.

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