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Don't Worship Spiritual Leaders

1 Corinthians 3:21-23
So then, no more boasting about human leaders! 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. (NIVUK)

In our human weakness we often feel stronger when we associate with others. And in one sense we are stronger together. However the strength and sense of identity gained by supporters of sports teams (or champions of any kind) does not really make their followers greater in any way: it is the athletes who are the strong ones. In the same way, believers can boast that they follow a particular preacher or church leader … as though that makes them as spiritual as their hero. But it is an illusion.
Yes, we need wise and godly leaders who are faithful in teaching God's Word. But Paul had to remind the church that he was not a spiritual hero and certainly should not be revered as a celebrity. As he said in 1 Corinthians 3:5, "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe." Worldly wisdom erects significant figures as idols to worship, but godly people worship God alone (Isaiah 42:8).
It is God who gives us evangelists and teachers, pastors and leaders (Ephesians 4:11) so that the church can be equipped to do its job. Those people are not the origin of truth, merely the messengers. They are God's gifts to the church and the Giver is always greater than the gift. Of course it is right to value God's gifts but wrong to worship them – or somehow think that if we associate ourselves with a good preacher that the spirit of that person comes into us! That would be blasphemous: God gives us His Spirit so that we can learn to worship and please Him.
We belong to God because He made us and purchased us with the blood of Christ. So we have an obligation to glorify Him and give thanks for His gifts. Yet the residue of worldly wisdom in our hearts propels us to turn His servants into celebrities; making ourselves feel spiritually superior because we support and agree with them. That leads to party spirit and rivalry, dividing churches, establishing power-bases and deterring seekers. Repentance is the only right response; it is urgently needed before the gospel is robbed of its focus – Jesus Christ, God's greatest gift to save sinners.

Gracious and loving God. Thank You for giving so much to me in Jesus Christ; and for Your messengers who have taught me from Your Word. I repent of worldly wisdom and the temptation to attach myself to a spiritual celebrity, and any party-spirit in me which has spoiled Your church. Please help me to worship You alone, the Giver of every good gift, and grant me a thankful heart to praise You for the spiritual leaders who are helping me to mature in Christ. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams