Focus on the Messiah, Not the Messenger :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household that there are some contentions among you. Now I say this that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’

“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of us except Crispus and Gaius lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the house of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect” (1 Corinthians 1:10-17, NKJV).

Everyone has a favorite teacher, or coach, or employer that made a difference in their lives and put them on the right road in terms of their outlook on life, or development of character, or was an admired and respected role model. My own life is full of people like this. I have had teachers who set me straight and demonstrated to me what a Christian was to be and do, and this was used by the LORD to draw me to Him when I was a teenager. I had a godly role model in the Anglican minister who mentored me while I lived in the United Arab Emirates decades ago and helped me to focus on living a life that would honor the LORD.

My professors in the Baptist college and seminary were not just instructors but confidantes, advisors, and were the ones who guided me into a career in education and gave me the wisdom and confidence to accomplish the task. I have in my circle of friends a retired pastor who was my family’s pastor while we lived in the New Orleans region and whom I consider a treasure and a father figure as far as what it means to be a man of God under both good and trying circumstances.

The LORD has been more than gracious, kind, and benevolent with me through the years and has blessed me with people who have either come and gone yet made a difference, as well as those who are a permanent part of my development and character as well as friendship. Some have gone on to glory, others have gone to other fields of service, and I will probably not see them again until we all meet with the Lord when He returns to get us one of these days. There have been individuals whom I have never met yet influenced me to serve the LORD all those years ago.

It was a sermon given by none other than Oral Roberts on one of his TV specials where he gave a simple Gospel presentation that led me to give my life to Christ in 1975. I have never condoned or supported his later escapades and situations, but considering that he lost both a daughter and son to violent ends, I am sure that it messed with his mind no matter how much faith he said he had. Speaking as someone who has endured the same heartache, I can cut him some slack.

While I admired and revered these people, I never saw them as anything but messengers of the Gospel, called by the Lord Jesus to bring the message of salvation to all who called on Him. I have come across dear folks who treasured the man of God they had as a pastor so much that all who came after them never really seemed to measure up to what they had in the past. I knew of two examples while we lived in the New Orleans area.

While I was serving as a chaplain with a local hospital, I came across a patient who was a member of the largest Baptist church in New Orleans and had sat under the preaching of a noted man of God who had been there for nearly forty years. He had retired years before and had already gone home to glory. One of the accomplishments of his tenure was the building of a new sanctuary in one of the more exquisite neighborhoods of the city years before but had since outgrown its usefulness and space. The new pastor, with the approval of the congregation, voted to build a new sanctuary near the interstate on better, more accessible grounds to accommodate the population that had moved near that area.

This dear lady was upset, to say the least, and was planning to buy the old sanctuary for some purpose, if only to keep the name of the previous pastor in the light. I do not know if her quest was successful, but she had her eye on the past minister, not the Present Savior.

The same went for another large church in the area whose pastor had died in 1971, yet they were still selling cassettes and audio DVDs of his sermons as if he were still there. They never let the memory of this saint go and move on to what the newer shepherds may have wanted to accomplish. The last time I had heard of them is that the church finally moved out of the old neighborhood and set up a new area of operations.

When I read the first chapter of the book of 1 Corinthians, I see that kind of pattern operating with the church that Paul had established and pastored for over a year in a city not known for its moral character and piety. The city of Corinth had a bad reputation, and Paul had heard of problems within this church that, if not addressed and dealt with immediately, would suffer the same type of reputation and be an embarrassment to not just him but to the body of Christ as a whole and shut down any influence for the Gospel. In reading verses 10-17 of Chapter 1, Paul is dealing with the issue of favoritism towards varied men of God who had been instrumental in bringing many of the Corinthians to faith in Christ.

These dear but misguided saints had started to boast among one another that their faith began under the preaching of men like Paul, Peter, Apollos, or they wanted to boast that they followed only Christ. They were no different than the people today who place the man of God they cherish and credit with leading them to Christ on a pedestal of gratitude and admiration. It is the same with those favorites of ours who teach prophecy, end-times events, or who speak at varied Bible conferences on subjects like the occult, UFOs, conspiracies, and false teachers. We eat it up like a well-cooked favorite dinner.

Now, a lot of us are genuinely hungry for real solid teaching from the Word of God, and we grow in our faith because of it, but too many folks, as well-intentioned as they might be, are guilty of “hero worship” like the Corinthians and fail to see that if it were not for the saving grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, none of these men and women would have a message or testimony, for they would all be doomed to hell along with us.

The common ground on which Paul, Peter, the Apostles, Apollos, Timothy, Mark, Luke, and every pastor, teacher, professor, missionary, or believer throughout history has is not their individual talents and gifts, but that they have all at one time in their lives bowed the knee and given their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. And if they had anything about which to boast, it would not be anything of their own merit, but they would boast on the One who loved them and us enough to take our wretchedness and sins upon Himself on the cross to redeem us and allow us into the presence of the Holy Sovereign Lord God and Father forever.

We boast on Christ for no other reason than we have nothing to boast about in terms of getting right with God in our own strength. It is by His wondrous mercy and grace that we are saved and do not in any way, shape or form deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Paul will go on to admonish yet encourage the Corinthian church to set their eyes not on the dedicated men of God who aided in their salvation journey, but upon the Author and Finisher of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Corinth had a lot of other problems, but the first one to address was to turn their eyes to Jesus, as we should all do when we are tempted to give a favorite teacher or preacher a little more attention than he deserves or wants.

No man of God, no matter how righteous he may be, died for your sins or redeemed you from the burdens of evil and malevolence. That honor and privilege belongs to none other than our Lord Jesus, and we must show our misguided brethren and the wandering world that it is Jesus and Jesus alone who provides the way out of our sins (John 14:6) and peace with God the Father.

I pray that this message will be of use, comfort, and service to every saint who needs to redirect their focus on our gracious, loving, and returning King. Look up, be watchful, for He is on the way.