In 1st Corinthians 1:11-12 and 3:4, Paul mentions that people in the Corinthian Church were picking sides and calling for a guy named Apollos to be their leader. Now, Apollos had been well-trained by Aquila & Priscilla in Ephesus (see Acts 18). My take on Apollos is that he’s a dynamic speaker, has a very persuasive personality, and probably very charismatic. People listen to him. People want to follow him. Paul, on the other hand, is a great theologian and writes tremendously deep and spiritual letters to the churches. But I don’t get the sense that he’s as charismatic and dynamic as Apollos. Paul says this about himself in 1st Corinthians 2:1 & 4 “I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom… My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power…” (1st Cor 2:1,4) So Paul and Apollos had different approaches, different teaching styles, different personalities, and different leadership styles. There were people in Corinth talking about following the dynamic Apollos. Others wanted to stick with Paul. But notice that this choosing sides wasn’t being fed by Apollos or Paul. They weren’t causing it. It was being fostered by immature, worldly people who were babies in Christ.
So, Paul raises the question in v5: what is Apollos… and what is Paul? They are only servants. The Greek word is “diakonos” which can mean deacon or deaconess, but here it’s in the broader sense of just servant. Paul and Apollos are merely servants of Jesus Christ. They are men who preached the Gospel and led people to Jesus. They did their job of explaining scriptures and putting the Gospel into simple, understandable language so people could hear and believe. They didn’t put themselves on a pedestal or expect people to follow one over the other.
In contemporary American Christian culture, I believe there are pastors who want to gain a following. I personally believe a lot of tele-evangelists are that way. They want you to listen to them. They want you to watch them on tv. They want you to send in your money and support them and their ministry. We know from past experience that some of these people have been charlatans and swindlers. Be careful who you listen to. Be careful to not get hooked in by sweet talking, charismatic guys on TV – or men or women with large churches where the church and the ministry is built around them. Beware of a ministry that rises, or falls based on the person leading it. They’re out there. That’s why Paul goes on to write in vv10-15 about a church builder (or church planter) who lays a ministry foundation or a spiritual foundation. A wise builder builds the church, or grows the church, on Jesus Christ! And if that’s not happening, that church will fail. It will fall. It will split. It will die once that leader dies.
I’m thankful that the Alliance, of which our Church is a part, was not built on our founder, A.B. Simpson. It was not built on him. Yes, he started it way back in 1897, 121 years ago. Yes, he was a great man of God with a vision for lost people from every tribe, nation and ethnic group. But he didn’t build the Alliance on his charismatic personality, his giftedness, or his talent. If he had done that, it wouldn’t have lasted for 121 years. He built it on Jesus Christ and seeing the Kingdom expand! So… Paul writes in 3:21 “So then, no more boasting about human leaders!” (v21) The only boasting we should be doing is in Jesus Christ!