OceanSide church of Christ
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IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MESSENGER
Victor M. Eskew
God chose to communicate His saving message by means of preaching. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1:21). Preaching requires the use of men who are willing to devote their lives to making known the good news. “…and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14).
The use of men in presenting the gospel can pose a problem. Individuals can get too caught up in the man. Or, the hearers begin to pit one man against another man. This was part of the problem in the church at Corinth. In I Corinthians 1:11-12, Paul writes: “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” Paul points out the division in the church that centered upon various preachers of the gospel of Christ. It was not something that pleased the apostle. In fact, it was the first of many problems that he confronted in the First Corinthian epistle.
In I Corinthians 3, Paul confronts this issue again. He puts the elevation of men into the category of carnality. “And I brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it; neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (I Cor. 3:1-4). Four times Paul used the word “carnal” in these verses. The word means “having the nature of flesh” and “human: with the included idea of depravity.” The elevation of one man over another starts the process of strife and division. Individuals rally around “their man.” They fuss and fight and argue about why “their man” surpasses the others.
In the remainder of this study, let’s note three things. First, it is not wrong to commend a faithful preacher. Jesus was highly complimentary of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:9-11. “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I will send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…” Paul was extremely appreciative of his young son in the faith, Timothy. He would often say kind words about this good man. “But I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know of your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with a father, he hath served me in the gospel” (Phil. 2:19-22). The compliments these two men gave those faithful ministers were not flattery. They were not given as show. They reflected sincere, honest feelings for great men of God.
Second, all need to remember that the messenger is not really the important thing. Paul tried to get the Corinthians Christians to understand this in his writing to them. Listen to what he said: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord Jesus gave to every man. I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (I Cor. 3:5-9). The phrase that is so power in this text states: “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth…” All preachers of the gospel are just ministers, servants of the most high God. They are all one in their labors together. There is nothing special about one over another. The reality is that the increase comes from God, and God alone. Man is mistaken when he exalts any minister. He is right when he gives God the glory for all successes.
Third, what is truly important is the message that is proclaimed. Minsters come and go, but the gospel lasts forever. Ministers rise and fall, but the gospel is steadfast. Ministers can make glad and can disappoint, but the gospel will always be true. Ministers only have the power to sow and water, but the gospel is what saves the souls of them that are lost. It’s not about personality, wisdom, oratory skills, statesmanship, education, or powerful vocabulary. It is not about voice tone or inflection. It is about Christ and Him crucified. Paul was right when he said: “And I brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:1-2).
Human beings do not always do well in their assessments of others. They use feelings, subjective standards, and illogical comparisons to make their judgments. Instead of judging and comparing ministers of the gospel, we should all be lovers of good men (Tit. 1:8). We should all have God’s opinion of faithful ministers of the gospel of Christ. “…as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:15b).