Apollos, Paul, or Christ?

No Adventist pastor can afford to allow another human being to do his thinking for him or to command his ultimate allegiance.

J.R. Spangler is editor of Ministry.

 

The command of the Lord through David, "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help" (Ps. 146:3, R.S.V.), needs to be heeded vigorously in today's church. Frail human nature, like the tender vine, desperately tries to entwine itself about some strong stalk. We seem incapable of making decisions individually, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is an inordinate reaching out to other human instrumentalities for emotional, intellectual, or spiritual support. Certainly there is nothing wrong with receiving encouragement and help from fellow believers, but I am talking about excessive dependence.

In my lifetime, I have been appalled not only at how often those of high intelligence have followed the particular teachings of a certain individual but also at the way these poor souls, like lackeys, kept in step, even when their leader radically changed his position, and the direction they were formerly being led was entirely reversed! To my mind, this is nothing short of mental slavery, similar to that of those who followed Jim Jones of Jonestown fame to their suicidal deaths.

As I write these words, I have before me a letter that illustrates the point. The writer, in defending his position on a particular point, seemed to build his case not on Scripture, but on a man of whom he declared, "I consider                               the consummate theologian in the Adventist Church today."

The facts are that we have no single "consummate theologian" in the church! We have many qualified, dedicated Bible scholars and theologians who have expertise in many areas. But the enormous amount of knowledge available is still only barely tapped, even by the most brilliant minds. To put one person at the top of the list, in my thinking, is simply another way of saying, "I am of Paul" or "I am of Apollos" or "I am of Peter."

In a certain sense, such an attitude is related to idolatry. Perhaps all of us have been, or are, guilty of it. In my own case, I remember my attitude toward Semi nary professors during school days. It was not difficult to place them on a high mental pedestal. These men were knowledgeable, experienced, sharp. I admired them. But for years following my Seminary training, I found myself rejecting any concepts, important or unimportant, that were contrary to what my teachers taught me. It isn't easy to overcome this type of mind-set. Let it be clearly understood, I still have deep appreciation for our Bible scholars and depend on their expertise in all areas. But in the final analysis, God holds me responsible for my own beliefs and decisions. In view of this bit of idolatrous attitude in all of us, our only safety is in placing our confidence in the good Lord and His revealed will, as found in the Bible. Let the Spirit speak through the Word! Let the Spirit direct our minds! Let the Spirit enable us to be individuals! Let the Spirit command our respect for the Godhead! Let no man do our thinking for us.

I may be unique, but as things stand today, I know of no one with whom I entirely agree on every single facet of theology. There are those with whom I agree more than others, but certain understandings of various doctrines I have and hold as my own unique possession. No two minds are exactly alike! My own particular package of beliefs does not contradict the major pillars of our faith. Not at all! But there are shades of understanding that, when all put together, make me uniquely different from any other human being on earth.

Thus I appeal to my fellow ministers and leaders of the church: Pin your faith on the Lord Jesus Christ alone, and not on any man. To do anything less is bound to be divisive. There was division in the Corinthian church over the idolizing of a particular spiritual leader. We are told, "The success that attended Apollos in preaching the gospel led some of the believers to exalt his labors above those of Paul. This comparison of man with man brought into the church a party spirit that tended to hinder greatly the progress of the gospel." The Acts of the Apostles, p. 270. Time has not changed the divisive effects of making man an object of praise, adoration, and undue loyalty.

Recently, as one of our leaders was speaking to a group of workers, a listener stood and declared, "If                          leaves the church, then I will leave too." Would that this individual had listened to Paul's appeal in 1 Corinthians 1:13: "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (R.S.V.). Our salvation is not dependent upon any human leader; Christ alone is the one to whom we should look.

Perhaps the most significant sign of the nearness of Christ's coming should be the love and the unity among the followers of Jesus, who have as their magnetic center of attraction not some earthly being, but our Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus. If He is the hub of the church wheel, we will be drawn together tightly and present to the enemy a united front. There will be no disputing as to who will be accounted greatest. No true believer will say, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas." The testimony of one and all alike will be "Christ is my life, Christ is my joy, Christ is my Saviour, Christ is my pat tern." —J.R.S.

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J.R. Spangler is editor of Ministry.

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