Sharing in Service
The body of Christ is no place for one-man bands, at least when it comes to the work of ministry. The Christian life is a team game, not a competition. The apostle Paul reminds us of this time and time again in his letters to the early church.
Even in the infancy of the Corinthian church, Paul knew turf wars were a threat and that some people favored Apollos’s care over his own (1 Corinthians 3:3-7). If Paul himself had been looking out for his own interests and to bolster his own reputation and this church’s reliance on him, he could have made certain that Apollos never returned to Corinth. But we read that he didn’t do that. Quite the opposite, in fact. All he wanted was for God’s people to be ministered to. He knew that ministry was designed to be a shared effort.
God chose to put the early-church ministry team together in wonderful ways. Take Timothy, for example. Paul told the Corinthians, “When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers” (1 Corinthians 16:10-11) To many, Timothy would have appeared inadequate for service: he was naturally timid (which is likely why Paul reminded the church to treat him kindly), physically frail (he was known to take a little wine for the sake of his stomach), and younger than most (1 Timothy 4:12; 5:23). But Paul knew that God had assigned a task to Timothy, and he meant to help him fulfill it.
A host of others—men and women such as Phoebe, Prisca, Aquila, Fortunatus, and Achaicus—rallied round in ministry with Paul too. None of them looked or acted the same. They weren’t gifted in the same ways. But they were still all vital in the work of ministry. The same is true of the church body today: we are all entrusted with different tasks by the Lord. It is therefore crucial that we resist the urge to serve only with those to whom we are most similar or with whom we are most impressed. We shouldn’t say, “Well, I only like the way he preaches,” “I can listen only to her voice,” or “I just don’t get on with him.” Instead, we should be grateful for all of God’s servants.
Most of us will live our lives without anybody knowing about us beyond our immediate circle of influence. But it can be enough for our epitaphs to read, “Here lies So-and-So: a great help to those she knew.” Do you believe that “there’s a work for Jesus none but you can do”? When God puts His hand on you and assigns you a task, do you take it seriously, even if it seems inconsequential? We are meant to serve Him together in community, as a unified team on behalf of His kingdom. There will be joy and satisfaction in playing your part, and in encouraging others as they play theirs, today.
Divisions in the Church
1But I, brothers,1 could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
10According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
16Do you not know that you2 are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
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