Yesterday we were introduced to the term clericalism, which has to do with ministers who assert too much control. There have been reactions against clericalism which John Stott calls “anticlericalism” – that is, if the clergy messes things up, as they do when they try to take over in a way they should not take over, then the proper thing to do is get rid of the clergy. So, there have been movements in the church that have done that. They have said, “We don’t want to have ministers – it’s not biblical. We are all ministers.” But that is not good either because the Bible has established the clergy for certain roles.
Then there are people who have said, “If we have to have both clergy and laity, let’s at least divide it up. Let’s say, you’ve got your job here. This is your defined role. And you’ve got your job here, and this is your defined role. You stay off my turf, and I’ll stay off yours, and that is how we’ll have harmony.” That is dualism, and it is not the biblical pattern either.
What is the biblical pattern? Paul says in verse 5: “What, after all, is Apollos, and what is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe.” That is his emphasis. The role that we sustain is that of servant, even as Jesus Christ himself, who came not to be ministered unto but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. The second point he makes is that in the ministry there is unity. We are servants, yes, but servants for the same end.
Here he brings in two interesting images. One is an image of farming. He is saying that it is true that there are different functions in the ministry. Some are called to do one thing, and some another. He writes, “Who is it that makes it grow? Is it Paul who makes the seed grow? No. Is it Apollos who makes the seed grow? No. Apollos can’t make it grow any more than I can. Who makes the seed grow? God makes it grow.” So, not only are we servants of the church, we are servants of God, and we serve the same purpose, namely, to see a harvest. We all bring whatever gifts and assignments God has given us in order that that might happen. The second image he uses is the image of building. He says, “You know, when you put up a building, there are architects. There are people who lay foundations, and there are those who build upon that. That is what happens in the church. Those whom God gives as servants in the ministry of the church simply take those different roles.”
As Paul progresses in his letter to the Corinthians, he deals with an issue over which many people have divided. Here Paul talks about people being saved. The King James Bible reads, “Saved through as by fire.” The real question is, can anybody be saved that way – that is, without any good works whatsoever? This is how that passage has normally been taken. I want to suggest that that is a wrong interpretation of it. I was in a discussion with the president of a major seminary out on the West Coast. We talked about regeneration and what it ought to mean, as a part of a discussion about the lordship of Christ. I said, “You can’t have Christ as Savior unless he is also Lord. If you believe in a Christ who is not Lord, you are believing in a false Christ. You can’t have salvation without discipleship.” He opposed that by arguing: “You’re saying that you’re saved by what you do.”
In support of his position, namely, that you can be saved without showing any smidgen whatsoever of the evidence of the grace of Christ in your life by merely believing that Jesus is the Savior, he quoted this passage in 1 Corinthians. He said, “Look, here Paul is talking about the Christian. He says so in emphatic language. But it is possible to spend a whole life building a worldly building and have it all perish in the final judgment. You don’t have a single thing to show for a lifetime of what you pretended was Christian service. You’re saved, but so as by fire. You get into heaven by even less than the skin of your teeth. You get in there leaving absolutely everything behind.” Tomorrow, we’ll learn why that statement is just not the best way to understand Paul’s teaching.