Monday, April 02, 2007

It's About Him: Part 2

The apostle Paul recognized that of all the troubles experienced at Corinth, the man-centeredness of the church was the core problem. In chapter 1 and v.10, he pleads with the believers to "speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you." He had been informed that factions within the church had elevated particular men to a position that was to be occupied only by the Lord Jesus Christ (vv.10-16) and this was the cause of the "divisions."

The church has always tended to make "celebrities" of men who are simply vessels of the gospel. When man is exalted by the church to such an elevated position, then it stands to reason that Christ is lowered in its thinking to a degree of equal standing with man. The result is celebrity pastors who perform weekly before a "live" audience, bathing gladly in the light of its adulation, receiving the praise of men and not of God. The result is that the pastor's performance becomes what the church believes to be its "drawing card" for filling up the pews. Paul knew the dangers of being the focus of attention and having all the answers sinful man craves. Paul knew the dangers of orators who knew not Christ but spoke great swelling words of pseudo-orthodoxy. And Paul knew the dangers of orators who spoke the truth but in demonstration of the flesh and not the Spirit.

The God-called pastor can fall into the same temptation as the false teacher, with different results, of course. But this is the pitfall the God-called pastor wants to avoid and avoid it he must. Paul gives us an example of how the God-called pastor is to approach the preaching of the gospel.

First, Paul was "determined" to preach only the gospel (1Cor. 2:1-2). He calls this "the testimony of God" in our verse 1. The gospel is the testimony that God has borne to the sinfulness of man and his utter sinfulness and hopelessness, inextricably joined with the good news that Christ has delivered the sinner from that darkness. The testimony of God is "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." That is what Paul determined to preach and that only at this time in Corinth. Paul dismissed his own celebrity as so much worthless dung (1:13-17). Paul would not have had a "tv ministry."

Second, Paul's determination was a "conscious decision." It was always in the mind and heart of the apostle to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He was aware of the judgment of God and the fear of God (2Cor.5:11) and the fact that all that he did was in the presence of God (2:17). This could be the missing ingredient in our church today, the fear of God. Paul was ever aware of the presence of the God whom he served, knowing that He loved him and called him to this ministry (4:1-3). Pastors do not seem to have made a conscious decision against celebrity, but instead relish it.

Third, the fear of God humbled the apostle to a state where he could be freely used by his Lord. In v.3 of 1 Cor. 2, Paul reminds the church that "I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling." There is no reason to believe that Paul meant something other than "weakness," "fear," and "trembing." But there is sufficient reason to believe that these were not the result of "stage fright" or the fear of man. These resulted from Paul's reverential fear of God and the monumental task at hand. And remember, Paul was determined to preach to these people in the power of the Spirit that their trust might not be in his eloquence and wisdom but in the power of God; his weakness, fear, and trembling were in demonstration of the power of the Spirit. In our weakness, what? God is strong in us!

Fourth, Paul was determined, filled with the Spirit, that he might point lost souls to the source of faith and justification. In v.5 he writes, "that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." This is Paul's purpose, "that your faith should not be in..." If one's faith is in the "wisdom of men" who preach eloquent and flowery sermons, or funny entertaining "talks," or "bubba centered" sermons that make the simple say "amen," that faith has only brought one to have his "entertainment fix" met and his filthy ears scratched. That kind of preaching and that kind of faith will be followed by eternal separation from the One who has given the message of eternal life. If that is the pastor's purpose, he can easily achieve it for himself and his listeners. If he wants to entertain and scratch ears, then he will be successful.

The message of the Word of God is clear; we are involved in the gospel, but it is not about us. We are essential in the preaching of the gospel, but we can be replaced. We are important to our Father and greatly loved by Him; but it is not about us; it is about Him.

Men of God, "Preach the Word!"