1 Corinthians 1:12-14 “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’; 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.”
If we are agreed on God’s Word, if we are united and share the same beliefs, then we can see the foolishness of elevating one leader over another. Did Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (which is the 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 that 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 they shouldn’t be sleeping together before they were married. So they made an appointment with the other pastor at our church because they wanted a different judgment on their lifestyle. Did they get it? There are over 1000 pastors in the church body I serve. I am confident they would get the same response from all of them. We have all agreed to agree with what God says in his law, and what God says in his gospel. That’s a defense against the rise of 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 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 who have been 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 special 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.
If we agree with his word, we won’t try to create special parties and classes within God’s church. We will all confess that we are helpless sinners saved by the grace of a loving God. We will follow our Lord and any leader who faithfully teaches his word.