True Widsom. 3:18-23
In chapter 3 of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he continues to work on the problem of the Church's failure to recognise his Apostolic authority. They had allowed themselves to be influenced by powerful oratory and worldly wisdom and had come to belittle Paul's ministry style. The inevitable result of their behaviour is quarreling in the church. Paul now concludes his argument with a clear exhortation to deal with the strife. No more boasting about what seems to be wisdom. Out with party spirit, all belong to Christ.
v18. Don't cause disturbances in the church just to promote a party formed around a leader espousing some particular expression of human wisdom. The Corinthians obviously think they are wise, as well as spiritual, and so Paul uses their words to pull them away from worldly wisdom toward the foolishness of the cross. This age is destined for destruction, so they need to become a "fool" for Christ.
v19-20. Your leaders should teach the foolishness of the cross. The foolishness of God will always outshine the wisdom of man. From the human perspective the cross of Christ seems a foolish business, 1:18-25. Now Paul gives us God's perspective, and it is that human reasoning and activity is foolish. Only God's gracious providence holds the whole thing together. Paul quotes Jb.5:13 and Ps.94:11 to make his point. The wise think they can outsmart God, but that only leads to their damnation. God knows well the thoughts of the wise, those who think they outwit God.
v21a. This verse begins the conclusion of his argument. On the basis of his preceding argument (wisdom of the cross, leaders are servants, worldly wisdom is folly) the Corinthians should abandon their self-sufficient boasting in worldly-wise leaders.
v21b-22. Your possession is not a single party but the universe - eternity. The Corinthians say "I am of Apollos", ie. they rely on mere men affected by human wisdom. Not only is this stupid, but it is opposed to the substantial truth that we are all one in Christ. God's intention is "to bring all things in heaven and earth under one head, even Christ", Eph.1:10. So in reality, Paul, Apollos, Peter, etc., "all are yours". All Christian teachers belong to the congregation, rather than different segments of the congregation belong to different teachers (ministers).
v23. If you belong to anything it is not some party or individual, but rather it is to Christ. By belonging to Christ we possess everything. Paul adds that Christ "is God's". Although this statement expresses subordination, it is really only a functional one. God is one, undivided. Jesus stands equally with the Father and the Spirit.
4:1. Regard, therefore, your teachers as those who dispense the truths of God rather than using them as a cause to divide the church.
The sin of bigotry
On one occasion when Jesus was with his disciples, he came upon a person casting out demons in "Christ's name". He was not one of Jesus' team and so the disciples asked Jesus if they should forbid him. Jesus' answer was simple, "whoever is not against us is for us", Mk.9:38-41.
The tendency to be exclusive and narrow was certainly a problem facing the Corinthians, but it is also one which faces us. For some reason we think that we are wise enough to tell God whom he may use to speak to us. The Corinthians had determined their godly spokesmen - Peter, Paul or Apollos. We similarly like to think we have the ability and right to select God's mediator of truth.
Our selection may be personal. The human condition seems to promote typecasting, conspiracy theories and assumptions, when it comes to which clergyman is God's man. Phrases like, "he's a man of the word", or "I think he's a bit liberal" does the job very well. In the end we close ourselves off to God's word, and this because of personal bigotry.
Our selection may be denominational. Our denomination has the truth and everyone else is wrong. Sadly today we still get denominational bigotry entering into the Christian family, as if God is limited to working through only one particular Christian group.
Our selection may be ideological. Terms such as liberals, ritualists, evanelicals, fundamentalists..... are used to categorize believers. Those with a "kosher" ideology may be listened to, while the rest may be ignored.
The truth is "all things are ours". If we belong to Christ and they belong to Christ, then we belong to each other. Once this truth sinks in we may find ourselves free to learn from those with whom we disagree.
In Christ everything belongs to us. Why then do we fear different ideologies within the Christian faith? Discuss.