For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men?1 Corinthians 3:4(NASB)
Paul was very concerned about the disorder, division and internal disputes that were erupting in the Corinthian Church. It seems that little groups or different sects were forming within the body of Christ, with each one stating their preference for a different Church leader.
Some were arguing that Apollos was a superior teacher to Paul and vice versa, while others trumpeted their preference for Peter’s style of teaching or some other favourite leader in the early Church. Certain members even boasted that they were the ones who belonged to Christ – which seemed to imply that others in the congregation were excluded from the ‘real’ Church, simply because they were siding with the wrong leader.
I am sure this sort of petty bickering and squabbling was deeply disturbing to Paul, knowing that the real truth of the gospel was being side-lined, while such unimportant arguments were dominating their minds. It was no wonder that Paul quickly pointed out that the folly of their conduct was no better than unsaved sinners, for when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” he pointed out, are you not merely behaving like unsaved men?
Because of their foolish arguments and mindless quarrelling, these Corinthian brethren were not growing in spiritual stature. They were not becoming spiritually mature men and women of God. They were not being conformed daily into the image and likeness of Christ, but were regressing into spiritual infancy, due to their fleshly carnality.
Paul knew that they had received sound teaching which should result in them growing in grace and in a knowledge of the Lord Jesus, but instead they were manifesting jealously and strife amongst themselves and displaying the ungodly behaviours of unsaved pagans rather than spirit-filled believers.
It was necessary for Paul to point out that Christ’s body is not a divided body but should be united in spirit and truth. Those that work as ministers of the gospel are not in competition with one another but are working together – some as evangelist, some as pastors and teachers – but ALL as servants of the Lord, each of whom have been gifted in different yet complementary ways.
Every born-again member of Christ’s body and their Christian leaders should be united in heart and manifesting the fruit of the spirit in their lives for the glory of God, and each one should be using their spiritual gifts for the benefit of the whole body of Christ.
Although leaders and elders in the Church should be respected by the rest of the members, they should not be revered or exalted as they were in Corinth. Perhaps it was John the Baptist, the great forerunner of Christ, who expressed it best when he said: HE must increase but I must decrease.
Heavenly Father, there is so much to learn from the corrective instructions in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Prevent me from falling into the trap of elevating myself or others in the body of Christ. Develop in me a teachable spirit and may we all learn the value of living in unity of sprit for the glory of God and the praise of our Saviour, Jesus Christ our Lord, in Whose name I pray, AMEN.