Titus 3:13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.
Last time, we were introduced to Apollos and caught a glimpse of his impact on the churches in the known world. However, there is another important lesson to learn with a continued look at his ministry.
Apollos later went to Corinth (Acts 19:1), where he again successfully ministered to the believers. His teaching was so well respected, that the believers in Corinth actually placed Apollos at the same teaching level as Peter, Paul, and even Jesus. The debate of which-teacher-to-follow became such a problem in the Corinthian church that a good portion of one letter Paul wrote was to correct them in how they should be viewing himself and Apollos.
1 Corinthians 1:11-13 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas (Peter)”; still another, “I follow Christ”. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
Nowadays, if a situation like this arose and one of the popular teachers wrote a letter concerning how the congregation should view the other teachers, I would expect the letter to be very territorial. Given today’s denominational climate in America, it’s easy to envision a letter being written that sounds theologically pretty, but the author’s core message is that the believers should listen to him only. His arguments would sound something like – “I am best suited to help you develop your relationship with Christ”, or that “Since I ministered to you first, you should stick with me”, or he could suggest that the other preacher’s teaching style or approach to spreading the gospel was inadequate. Unfortunately, concern for a congregation is also a potential mask for a preacher’s ego and pride.
However, Paul is not one to play these kinds of games. Direct and to the point, Paul’s main concern was that the believers were properly focusing on Christ…and not on who the message of Christ was coming from or what teaching style the person used.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
All teachers, preachers, and church leaders are susceptible to the trap of thinking that it is “my” church, or “my” class, or “my” ministry. The cure for this selfish pitfall is the same for the teacher as it is for those who follow the teacher…our focus must be on God, for he is the one who makes things grow.
A congregation does not grow because the preacher is preaching and an individual does not grow because of the particular teacher they are listening to. The work of preachers, teachers, and church leaders is to provide the best conditions for people to grow. Ultimately, it was God that built us with the capacity for growth in relationship to him, and the responsibility for the development of that relationship is between the individual and God.
1 Corinthians 3:21-23 So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
Our favorite teacher is simply a servant of the God we love. Don’t look for them to make you grow. Don’t put God’s responsibility on your teacher.
Since Paul was the one who started the church in Corinth, he could have been territorial about which teacher they should be follow; however, he chose not to be. The debate about which teacher to follow was already dividing the congregation, and could have easily led to a church split. Imagine the damage to the church’s reputation! A division of ‘Paul vs. Apollos’ could have also spread to the young churches in other regions if Paul had either ignored or participated in their debate.
Instead, Paul kept his pride in check and didn’t fuel the fire of their arguments. Instead, he promoted harmony within the church by turning their attention appropriately towards Christ.