Saturday, February 5, 2011

No Other Name

Let us now lay another stone on the foundation of Christ’s headship and the unity of the body in the Spirit. It is closely tied to the principle of fellowship; it has to do with the names by which we call ourselves. This principle is laid out for us in 1 Corinthians 1-3. I will include some highlights from the passage, but I encourage all my readers to study the entire passage for themselves.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by those who are of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that each one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized into the name of Paul?” (1:10-13)
The attitude of the Corinthians that is represented to us here is directly opposed to both of the foundational principles that are mentioned above. First of all when we call ourselves by the name of anyone other than Christ we are elevating that person to a position that only Christ deserves. That is why Paul asks the rhetorical question in verse 13, “Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized into the name of Paul?” He is objecting to them putting him on the same level as Christ (whether they were doing that consciously or not). Secondly their attitude was an affront to the unity of the Spirit because they were dividing that which Christ unified (at great cost)! You might have noticed in my quotation of the passage that the word “I” is in bold four times. That is to reflect the emphasis on that word in the original language. These people were saying in essence, “I, in distinction from you, am of _____.” Thus even those who were claiming only the name of Christ were in error because they were by their attitude and actions dividing themselves from other believers. That is why Paul asks that other rhetorical question, “Is Christ divided?” Paul goes on to expound in the next two chapters these important principles of Christ’s headship and unity. In short the message is this: We are just fellow-laborers doing what God has given us to do. All power and wisdom and glory belong to Christ.
“For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (2:2-5).
“For when one says, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not men? What is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him. I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that plants anything, nor he that waters, but God that gives the increase” (3:4-7).

Now I suggest two direct applications to ourselves today. First, we must be careful not to elevate any man or woman above their proper, God-given place. We are all brothers and sisters and fellow-laborers. There may be some godly man or woman whether living or dead for whom we have great respect, or that person may have greatly influenced our thinking, or led us to the Lord, but we must be careful to jealously guard our Lord’s rightful place as Head. Secondly, we must not use any name for ourselves in a way that separates us from other believers. To provide an example, the word ‘assembly’ began to be used many years ago by a group of believers for the very reason that it could rightly be applied to any genuine group of believers, and thus did not separate them from anyone in the body of Christ. Today, however, the word is used rather more to differentiate believers from believers. This usage of the word is just as much a violation of the principles we have been studying as those who call themselves by some denominational name. It is not always convenient in this age of 1001 denominations to insist that we are just believers in Christ and take no other name, but we must each one take heed how we build on the foundation of the church which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).