Preachers Are Servants

“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

The Corinthian saints had a tendency to exalt their favorite preachers. People were saying, “I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos,” etc., as if their loyalty were to this or that evangelist instead of Christ. The problem was serious enough that it was the first thing Paul addressed in this letter (see 1:10-17). Now he mentions it once more in chapter 3, reminding these brethren that the power is not in the messenger, but the message—or, more properly, the Author of the message. Paul, Apollos, Peter, whoever—the preacher is just a servant. God is the master.

Perhaps we need to be reminded of this, too. It is easy to focus on the man who delivers the message more than the God who gave it. We can get wrapped up in a fellow’s personality, eloquence, and skill, and forget that he is merely a servant. Let’s be careful that our appreciation for a man’s ability and dedication does not turn into the kind of carnal favoritism that showed up at Corinth.

Preachers need to be careful as well. It is easy, knowingly or not, to take advantage of this tendency among folks, using it to boost one’s own status, influence, and ego. Preaching is a labor of love and service, not a popularity contest.

All of us need to remember that it is Christ, not some preacher, who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). It is the Holy Spirit, not some preacher, who has revealed God’s will in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). It is the gospel, not some preacher, that is God’s power for salvation (Romans 1:16).

Esteem those who preach the gospel, yes. But esteem them as what they truly are: “servants through whom you believed.”