THE CULT OF PERSONALITY
Father God, may your Spirit cleanse my heart, use my gifts, and perfect the offering of myself to you.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10–17
A Church Divided Over Leaders
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
- 1 Corinthians 1:10 The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family; also in verses 11 and 26; and in 2:1; 3:1; 4:6; 6:8; 7:24, 29; 10:1; 11:33; 12:1; 14:6, 20, 26, 39; 15:1, 6, 50, 58; 16:15, 20.
- 1 Corinthians 1:12 That is, Peter
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Grant, O Lord, that my personal ambitions may never conflict with your gospel nor harm the faith of others around me.
Modern and ancient writers attest to religious diversity in Corinth. Corinthian Christians, accustomed to competing ideologies, brought this divisive tendency into the church, characterized by rival loyalties to the evangelists from whom they first heard the gospel. A difficult problem for Paul was that Christians converted under the ministry of other evangelists did not recognize his apostolic authority. While some Christians were absolutely committed to Christ, some used their allegiance to Apollos or Peter as excuses for ignoring Paul’s guidance.
Loyalty to celebrated church leaders has been a mixed blessing. Inspired figures like Wesley or Luther were immortalized by their followers, who founded faith communities in their memories. In other cases, the modern cult of personality has led to groups too dominated by an individual, often only too pleased to lead an organization bearing their own name. Paul wrote strong words about this. Preachers must never allow their personal ambition, charisma or skill to obscure the gospel. Too much dependence on contrived techniques can cause ‘the cross of Christ [to] be emptied of its power’ (v 17).
Paul did not preach uniformity, often going to great lengths to encourage the acceptance of differences in the church.1 But he did preach unity in Christ.2 At their best, Christian denominations are necessary, like the independent Tongan church which met in our Anglican building, with people worshipping in their own language and style. At their worst, denominations have been ugly and politically aggressive, even resorting to physical conflict. Had these institutions striven to maintain unity in Christ, such ungodly behavior would not have emerged in the church.
‘O God … we pray for the unity of your church. Pardon all our pride, our lack of faith, understanding and charity.’3
Lord, I pray for myself, my church, and the Church. May the servant- heart prevail, and may our love and unity show to the world the difference you make in relationships.
1 Rom 14,15 2 Eph 4:1–6; Gal 3:28 3 Liturgy of the French Reformed Church
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