We have seen so far in our series in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians the underlying problem in the church at Corinth. They were spiritually immature. That’s why Paul is very blunt with them in chapter 3 verse 1: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ” (NIV).
The symptom of their underlying spiritual immaturity was that they divided around Christian leaders: “My man is better than yours – he’s a better speaker, he’s more charismatic, he’s got the ‘It’ factor, he’s got the leadership, he’s got the brains.”
Paul insists in 1 Corinthians chapter 3 that these arguments over who had the best leader were worldly. The Corinthians were behaving like non-Christians, because that’s what non-Christians do. They fall out over who’s got the best leader. In verse 3, Paul says: “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” They were behaving like people who had not been converted to Christ.
So Paul puts them right by teaching them about Christian leadership, the right way of thinking about Christian leaders. He relates these lessons to his own leadership as the Apostle who under God planted the church in Corinth and to the leadership of Apollos who preached and taught the Word of God in Corinth after Paul.
Christian leaders, Paul teaches, are servants. They are servants of the Lord and they are servants of the Lord’s church. In verses 6 & 7, Paul says: “What after all is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants – through whom you came to believe – as the Lord assigned to each his task. I planted the seed (of the Word, of the gospel of the Lord Jesus), Apollos watered it (i.e. taught the Corinthians further about the Lord Jesus and what it means to follow him) but God made it grow.”
Christian leaders are servants of the Lord Jesus whom he calls to serve his church. It is the Lord Christ who assigns to each minister (servant) a particular task as he – the Lord of the church - supervises the growth of his church. The ministers’ calling is to teach the Lord’s Word of truth and as they do that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus brings about spiritual growth in his church.
Growing Christians realise that their ministers are servants of the Lord Jesus and servants of his church. Ministers have an important role to play in teaching God’s Word in God’s church but they are not in a special elevated spiritual class above the church. They serve the Lord primarily and as they do that faithfully they serve the church.