Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 1-4
Today’s Reflection:1 Corinthians 3:1-4
1) But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2) I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3) for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4) For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
The purpose of Paul writing to the various churches was to reaffirm the Gospel message and coming of the Kingdom of God, to provide encouragement and to give correction where the church was going wrong. One of the issues the church at Corinth was facing at this time was one of divisions, or factions, within the church, based on preferred teachers. As verse 4 tells us, some followed Paul’s teaching, others followed the teachings of another apostle, a contemporary and colleague of Paul’s named Apollos. Paul emphatically states that this is a sign of spiritual immaturity.
It is not at all surprising that this happened during Paul’s day and age. It still happens now where we put human tastes and preferences before God. This may cause us to divide over speakers, teachers, styles of music and other aspects of worship, largely because we declare our preferences to be the right, righteous or holy, and the preferences of others who disagree with us inferior.
I remember in my teen years, my church friends and I would arrive at church, then leave to hear a ‘better’ pastor somewhere else. This was epidemic in the summer, when rallies and special programs for young Christians were common, usually bringing up speakers from the United States, with their theatrical and exciting presentation styles. It wasn’t until I got into my twenties that I realized my motivation—my definition of ‘better’—had been a matter of entertainment, not about experiencing God.
In years since, I’ve heard people insist their church ‘changed’ when their pastor did (whether for good or for ill), heard people insist that they hadn’t actually ‘worshipped’ unless the songs sung were hymns (as opposed to other spiritual songs), been told that country & western and gospel were the only styles of music that honoured God (not rock, and don’t even mention hip hop), and seen arguments break out about whether a solo song leader or a praise team was more holy. In each of these cases division within the church existed over these issues, usually leading to members leaving and sometimes to churches completely falling apart. This despite the fact that in all of these cases, the issue isn’t one of theology or correct understanding of the Gospel, but of simple human preference.
These are matters of taste, and differences in taste over how the Gospel is delivered should never be more important than the Gospel message itself. Which is why Paul goes on to say:
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 – 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.
I could go on to say, what is an American pastor? Or a new pastor? Or hymns? Or Christian C&W? Or Gospel music? Or Christian Rock? Or Christian Hip Hop? Or solo song leaders? Or praise teams? What are each of these things but tools and messengers for the glory of God and the work of the Gospel? No matter what is used, it is not the pastor, or the style of music, or the way worship and praise is led that creates the increase. It is God Himself.
When we understand this we will not focus on asking our churches to meet our tastes, but rather focus on seeking to meet our God, and on hearing Him through whatever instruments He chooses to use.