Voices from the Past

(Preachers and Preaching, Chapter XIII, 1969)

James P. Needham
Voices from the Past ~ Preacheritis ~ James P. Needham


One of the great problems of all time is what is generally known as preacheritis, or the excessive loyalty which many give preachers. It seems always to be a problem. Some people's religion seldom runs deeper than some preacher. He is the center and circumference of their religious devotion. This soul-damning disease deserves extensive treatment, hence an entire chapter is devoted to it.


(1) Excessive exaltation of the preacher: Preacheritis sets in when people take their eyes off Christ, and set them on men; when they "think of men above that which is written" (I Corinthians 4:6); when they exalt the preacher above the preaching: the messenger above the message and the proclaimer above the proclamation. It is a spiritual affliction which causes people to "prove" their religious practice by the words and deeds of a preacher rather than by the authority of Christ (Colossians 3: 17; 1 Corinthians 4: 6).

People in the early church had this sickness: (a) The Corinthians said, "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas..." (1 Corinthians 1: 12; 3: 4). (b) Pergamos had those who held "the doctrine of Balaam" (Revelation 2:14), and the "Nicolaitans" (Revelation 2: 15). (e) The Galatian churches had in them those who had followed the Judaizers in being circumcised that they might glory in the flesh (Galatians 6:12-13). (d) The Ephesians were warned about some who would "speak perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20: 30).

Should we think it strange that people still have this disease? There are some very severe cases of it. One sister said, "For all I care, they can shoot all the preachers except brother _______________." Others feel no obligation to attend the assemblies unless their favorite preacher is preaching. If the preacher is out preaching to people who need it worse than does his "home congregation," attendance and contributions often decrease until he returns. Then, there are congregations that can hardly conduct a service unless a "properly ordained minister" is present. A brother once said to the local preacher, "What do you mean by being gone in so many meetings? Do you not know that you are our preacher, and that you get paid for preaching to us?" Some church members seem to think they will be judged by the words of their favorite preacher rather than by their own deeds (Romans 2:6).

We have all known of situations where "firing" the preacher was like burning the building! Changing preachers is sometimes the next thing to disbanding. We hear expressions like: "I just cannot get over brother Blank's leaving," or "Brother Newcomer is a good preacher, but he will never take Brother Oldtimer's place" (As if he wanted to). It goes without saying that a religion that is built around a man is not built around Christ. If it is preacher-centered it is not Christ-centered, and therefore, is vain (Matthew 15:9).

(2) Spiritual immaturity: Paul said preacheritis is a sickness of spiritual babies: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto BABES in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able... For while one saith, I am of Paul..." etc. (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). These Corinthians were milk drinkers rather than meat eaters because their spiritual constitutions were so delicate, and diseased. Preacher centered religion is baby religion, because it cannot get weaned from a preacher. One version represents these people as saying: "I belong to Paul ..." etc.

(3) It is carnality: "For ye are yet CARNAL: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul ...", etc. Paul said, "to be carnally minded is death ..." (Romans 8: 6). Hence, preacheritis is a fatal spiritual disease; preacher religion is a death religion; it cannot bring eternal life. Carnality signifies that which is fleshly; that which is of the world. Paul said the Judaizers wanted to "glory in your flesh" (Galatians 6: 13). Preacher religion is a fleshly religion; it cannot bring spiritual rewards.

(4) Human: To the Corinthians, Paul said, "you walk as men, for while one saith, I am of Paul...", etc. (1 Corinthians 3:3-4). Preacheritis is walking "as men," not as Christians. It is a human religion, not a divine one. It is therefore, a "vain religion" (James 1: 26), and brings one no closer to heaven than any other human religion, though it may parade under the name of Christ.


The matter of responsibility for preacheritis is an important consideration. We see only the symptoms of the disease in the actions of people, and maybe never really think about its origin. Let us consider two possible sources of the malady:

(1) The preacher: Preachers are often the main cause of preacheritis. Some preachers are experts at building up congregations around themselves. This is accomplished in the following ways:

(2) The members: Preacheritis cannot be imposed upon any person against his will. This is one disease one must be willing to catch! It is self-inflicted. But, as in the case of physical disease, preacheritis is brought on by weak resistance. The spiritual constitution is unable to fight off its invasion. The preacher's personality, domineering spirit, or political prowess are more than some members can stand. They either knuckle under to power politics, or are overwhelmed by personal attachment. They "with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the preacher, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the preacher" (Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18, with apologies). Indeed, with some people it is hard to distinguish between the glory of God and the glory of the preacher!


Preacheritis is a very dangerous disease. This part of our study would not be complete without a discussion of some of the dangers of this affliction.

(1) Spiritual fatality: When one ties his faith to a man, he subjects himself to the danger of spiritual fatality. Sooner or later he will discover that his worshipped image has feet of clay. Regardless of how much a man is idolized, he is still a man, subject to all human weaknesses. It goes without saying that a preacher who will allow people to tie their faith to him, usually has more than his share of such frailties. The psychology of preacheritis from the preacher's standpoint may well be that he realizes that a personal following is his only chance of remaining employed as a preacher because if people are dedicated to the Lord, they will automatically repudiate the likes of him.

Most preachers are godly, dedicated men, but unfortunately, some few are otherwise. The dedicated ones must constantly carry the reputation of the bad ones as a millstone around their necks, due to the tendency of people to generalize on specifics and identify all groups with the misdeeds of a few members thereof.

Preacheritis has been spiritually fatal to many because the preacher they idolized turned out to be morally bad. We should just face reality and frankly admit that we have human preachers who, like some other church members, are first class hypocrites and who are or have been guilty of just about every sin in the catalog. We have known preachers who fornicated, beat their debts, used and peddled dope, forged checks, murdered, robbed, stole, broke up homes, lied, embezzled, mistreated their families, etc. The discovery of such in some preachers seldom causes their followers to become more godly, but rather more ungodly. Their attitude is that if preachers cannot live righteously, why should others even try to do so.

(2) Easy prey for false doctrine: One of the great dangers of preacheritis is that it makes the individual easy prey for false doctrine. If the preacher gets "led away with the error of the wicked" and falls from his own steadfastness (2 Peter 3:17), his followers usually go with him because their main concern is the messenger, rather than the message. Many new denominations have been started in just this way. Many congregations have been divided in this manner.


All should realize that all human religion is vain (Matthew 15:9). Following the modern preacher will not lead one to heaven any more than will following an ancient one like Luther, Calvin, or Wesley. Human religion never brings spiritual or eternal rewards. Such is limited to this life, and whatever benefits are derived from it are limited to this life. It may bring some measure of happiness and satisfaction here, but it will bring only misery and dissatisfaction in the world to come.

Preachers today, like Paul, must strongly desire and insist that the brethren's "faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2: 5). They should neither desire nor accept the devotion of people; their admiration, and encouragement, yes, but their devotion-NEVER!

Editor's Comments

The above is a sobering reminder to us all that both Christians who preach and the ones who do not, are subject to fleshly, carnal temptations. We are not immune to the sins which plague mankind in general, including the urge to place friendships and feelings above objective truth and righteousness.

We often castigate the denominations for elevating certain men (Calvin, Wesley, Luther, etc.). We upbraid the Catholics for exalting the Pope (whoever it may be at the time). Yet, there are times and instances when some of our beloved brethren are guilty of the same thing. As brother Needham pointed out, some fellow-Christians love a preaching brother so much, they cannot imagine life without him. Some congregations are almost wholly dependent upon their preacher for their faith. And, some preachers love to have it so!

It is unfortunate, but true, all of us have not learned from mistakes of the past. We can look back and see where the love for man exceeded the love for God and brethren were thereby led into apostasy. We can study our Bibles and see where it condemns the lifting up of men (1 Cor. 3:1-4). However, when it comes to modern times and events, we ignore such strong examples and warnings. There are people even now who would rather "stand by their man" than "stand...in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths..." (Jer. 6:16). There are those who believe that grace and truth came by brother so-and-so. There are preachers who join the chorus and sing "How Great Thou Art" to their number one man (or themselves).

While preacheritis cannot always be controlled by the preacher, that is, some brethren will just be that way, let us be determined not to lend a hand in our own exaltation, nor that of another. Let us all look to the one Head of the church, the one Author and Finisher of our faith, the one Apostle and High Priest of our profession, the one Lamb of God, the one Alpha and Omega--the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Heb. 12:2; 3:1; Jn. 1:29; Rev. 1:8)!

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:34-37).

e-mail this feature editor at SFDeaton@compuserve.com

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Christian living: preacheritis

By Jerry Moffitt

Perhaps I can write about this because no brother ever was dumb enough to glory in me. Preacheritis is a fatal disease some brethren get afflicted with when they disobey God and tend to glory in men. Their preacher, whom they idolize, is built up in their mind to a point where he can do no wrong. From that point on every other preacher is compared with him, but is always destined to fail. Some go so far as to dislike any preacher who follows their idol and they can only, over a long period of time, get to the point where they can accept a replacement. Too, if the preacher is disgruntled when he leaves a church, brethren so afflicted by this malady leave too, even if they can't follow their object of devotion, that is, the preacher they worship.

Preachers don't like this situation. When it seems brethren exalt them, a sound servant of Christ is so struck with terror he sincerely begins to hope he can creep into heaven on all fours and unnoticed. No one deserves glory but God Almighty. Herod gave not God glory and died and was eaten of worms (Acts 12:23). Undue praise heaped on any man or woman is dangerous. They may begin to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think (Rom. 12:3). Brethren and sisters in Christ ought to pray and then practice the virtue of encouraging a poor preacher rather than in praising him. There's a difference, but we probably need help from God to learn that difference and practice it to the glory of God Almighty.

Paul condemned the Corinthians for saying, "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ" (I Cor. 1:12). Yet, we do the same thing, even though the Bible calls it carnal (I Cor. 3:1-3).

I believe that true servants of Jesus cringe a little, wince, and even shrink when well-meaning, loving, kind, and generous brethren thank God for them and their work. God knows our faults, weaknesses, and deficiencies. Good Christians know that about the best they have ever done was arise to a point where they could be called "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10). They have only done what it was their duty to do. Paul said, "For who maketh thee to differ? And what has thou that thou didst not receive? But if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?" (I Cor. 4:7). Why would one want to think he lifted himself up by the bootstraps? In Christ there is no unaided effort! We have no righteousness of our own (Phil. 3:9). In all things, by prayer, the Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5). So as in the book of Revelation, it is our sincere joy to cast our victory crowns before the throne of God and say, "Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God" (Rev. 4:10-11).

Now here is a scripture, rather, a flat, firm urgent command from God through the Holy Spirit. It is as much a command as "be baptized." It says, "Wherefore let no one glory in men" (I Cor. 3:21). Not to glory in men is a big difference in Christianity and the world. In him, let us rub that difference till it shines brightly.

1 Corinthians 1 - A Study Guide by Mark A. Copeland

                              Chapter One


1) To understand how division is unacceptable is the Body of Christ

2) To see why our boasting should be only in the Lord


In his opening remarks Paul expresses gratitude that the Corinthians 
had been enriched by God, came behind in no gift, and were eagerly 
waiting for the revelation of the Lord (1-9).  He immediately begins 
dealing with the first problem, that of division which manifested 
itself in what we might call "preacheritis" (10-17).  Discerning that 
the underlying cause concerns the exaltation of human wisdom, Paul 
demonstrates the folly of boasting in such (18-31).



      1. To the church at Corinth, and those who in every place call on
         the name of Jesus (2)
      2. Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus (3)

      1. Enriching them in all knowledge, even as Christ's testimony 
         was confirmed in them (5-6)
      2. Coming short in no gift as they eagerly await the revelation 
         of the Lord Jesus Christ (7)
      3. Who will confirm them so they may be blameless (8)
      4. For God is faithful, who called them into the fellowship of
         His Son (9)


      1. His plea for unity (10)
      2. For those of Chloe's household have reported contentions among
         them (11)
      3. Evidently involving "preacheritis" (12)

      1. Rhetorical questions to illustrate the absurdity of what we
         would call "preacheritis" (13)
      2. Gratitude that he personally baptized few of them (14-17)
         a. Lest any should accuse him of baptizing in his own name
         b. Administering baptism was not his chief calling anyway


      1. Granted, the message of the cross is foolish to some, but not
         to the saved (18)
      2. But God will the destroy the wisdom of the world (19-20)
      3. God chose to use His foolishness and His weakness to save
         those who believe (21-25)
         a. Because the world through its wisdom knew not God (21a)
         b. So God chose to save mankind through a "foolish" message
            about Christ crucified (21b-24)
         c. But even God's "foolishness" and "weakness" is wiser and
            stronger than men (25)

      1. Not many of them were "wise, mighty, or noble" (26)
      2. But God has chosen those things that are "foolish, weak, base,
         despised, and which are not", so that no flesh should glory in
         His presence (27-29)

      1. He provides for us the true wisdom, plus righteousness and
         sanctification and redemption (30)
      2. We should glory only in Him (31)


1) List the main points of this chapter
   - Introduction (1-9)
   - The Nature Of The Division At Corinth (10-17)
   - The Folly Of Boasting In Human Wisdom (18-31)

2) Who joined with Paul in addressing this letter to the Corinthians?
   - Sosthenes

3) What was one thing the church did not lack in Corinth? (7)
   - Spiritual gifts

4) What is the first problem Paul deals with in this epistle? (10)
   - Division

5) Who reported this problem to him? (11)
   - The household of Chloe

6) How was their divisiveness expressed? (12)
   - Calling themselves after men

7) Who had Paul personally baptized at Corinth? (14,16)
   - Crispus, Gaius, the household of Stephanus

8) Why was Paul thankful that he had not baptized any other? (15)
   - Lest they should say he baptized in his own name

9) In what two ways do men view the preaching of the cross? (18)
   - Foolishness to those who are perishing
   - The power of God to those being saved

10) How did the preaching of Christ crucified appear to the Jews and 
    the Greeks? (23)
   - A stumbling block to the Jews
   - Foolishness to the Greeks

11) How has God chosen to confound the wise of this world? (27-28)
   - By using that which in their sight is foolish, weak, base, 

12) Upon what grounds may we boast? (31)
   - Only in the Lord

<< Previous

In Which Group Do You Belong


Last, but by no means least is the preacher blinder. Those who wear this blinder put the preacher on a spiritual pedestal, believing every word he utters as if he continually receives direct revelation from God. Again, the Bereans were free from preacheritis in as much as they were interested in the message, not the man.

Unfortunately, preacheritis is often encouraged by some preachers because they delight in the recognition. Others, perhaps, find this a way to hold on to their "jobs". In the last few decades in the church we have seen preachers encouraging preacheritis by the constant praising of each other. Time is spent at the beginning and the ending of gospel meetings in praising the local preacher and the local preacher, in turn, praising the visiting preacher.

Lectureships, either at a church building or at a college are also breeding places for preacher-praise. Usually, preachers (at least the important ones) are named one by one, along with the name of the group where they do local work. Prayers are usually led by the best-known ones. Such practices carried on year in and year out serve to foster in the minds of the body of believers a "preacher-hierarchy", CONDONED NOWHERE IN GOD'S WORD.

In the preacheritis situation the preacher who allows or encourages it, and his followers who practice it are alienated from God. Our God desires that we give our praise and loyalty to Him, not to mere man, who is only the vehicle used to present the message. Woe unto the man who allows, yea, encourages others to follow him, becoming a blinder to God's children.

The true follower of God is one who has cast aside all blinders as he searches and finds the "narrow way that leads to life". The true believer continually "works out his own salvation with fear and trembling", going directly to God's word for direction in how to live in all his areas of life through Christ. The true believer as he fights in the spiritual war realizes that God expects him to bring others to Christ, and also that he aid them in being successful fighters in their waging spiritual war against the devil and his followers.

Let us seek to be true believers.


Curso Opening page

How is it possible for us to fall in the trap of "preaching ourselves?"

Is it possible to emphasize an alliance we call "the church" more than Christ?

Corinthian Christians were obsessed with prominent preachers (including Paul) and concerned that their group was not impressive in a worldly way (I Cor. 1:12; 20,21). These distractions took their eyes off of Christ and provoked some strong language from the apostle Paul:
* "Was Paul crucified for you? Or, were you baptized into the name of Paul?" (1:13)
* "But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness." (1:23)
* "For you see your calling brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called". (1:26)
* "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified". (2:2)

Though there was some improvement by the time Paul wrote his second letter, there was still a tendency among the Corinthians to question Paul's apostleship because he didn't promote himself but was instead meek, gentle and lowly (10:1). They did not comprehend that the mission of any true apostle was not self aggrandizement but rather to exalt Christ. To underscore that truth, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:6, "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus sake".

Though as Christ's ambassadors, Paul and the other apostles were an essential part God's plan, they were not the treasure itself, but merely earthen vessels in which the treasure was deposited (2 Cor. 4:6). They were not the focal point of the gospel! The gospel was centered around "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Any other emphasis would have been divisive, distracting and damning.


(1) Emphasizing the preacher: Sometimes preachers fall into the trap that Paul so carefully avoided, allowing themselves to become the focal point of a group of brethren.
A respected older preacher told me that in the 40's and 50's he felt that brethren tended to identify themselves with certain famous preachers in the brotherhood, looking to them before taking positions on difficult issues. Such "preacheritis" was unhealthy, stifled independent thinking and must have distracted many from Christ.

However, rallying around a preacher instead of Christ is still a danger now just as in the first century or in the 40's and 50's. I have heard statements to the effect that a certain respected preacher "saved the church" from premillenialism, another "saved the church" from institutionalism, etc. Some seem to feel, therefore, that they have as a mission to personally "save the church" from some other danger, whether real or imagined. Such erroneous thinking is sectarian (regarding the universal church as an alliance of local churches) and promotes self importance.

No mere man is the Savior of the church! Those who look upon any man as such, are probably sectarian in their concept about the Lord's body and are not looking to its one true Savior, Jesus Christ. As in the days of Esther, If we do His will, He will use us as "vessels" to save those who are truly His. If we don't, He will accomplish His purpose through others. But HE is the Savior! We are but clay.

(2) Emphasizing the group: Modern sects promote themselves by proudly proclaiming to be the "true church" because of their special qualities: i.e. the one that worships on the Sabbath, evangelizes door to door, has a revelation to the American Indians, etc. Often they say very little about Jesus in their group centered proselytizing.

Some brethren have fallen in the same trap by seeming to stress allegiance to a movement, "the one true church," "the one that worships right," "the one that teaches the truth on baptism," etc. instead of emphasizing the need to submit to Jesus Christ. Such an emphasis involves preaching ourselves. It's sectarianism! Salvation comes through submission to Jesus Christ, and not acknowledgment of a religious movement as "the right one."

While it is absolutely true that those who obey the gospel must be taught how to work and worship with faithful local congregations, it is essential that efforts to evangelize focus on the complete submission to Christ. If we are successful in using the word to instill the latter, the former will take care of itself!
Let us preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus.

And Who Is Paul?

Look to the Cross (3)
(1 Corinthians 4:1-7)

I.      Introduction

A.   I once had lunch with a man I can’t remember how I met; I do remember he paid for lunch

1.     He was a Mennonite businessman with a dream, and he wanted to share his dream

a.      He wanted to build a wax museum honoring Christian leaders like Luther & Calvin.

b.     He especially wanted to honor Menno Simons, the founder of the Mennonites.

c.     He threw me a bone, “We’ll even have your guy (Alexander Campbell) in there.

2.     I told that I didn’t think people would pay money see wax figures of Christian leaders

a.      I could have said that Menno Simons would not have liked the idea very much

b.     He was former priest and Reformation leader who rescued Anabaptist movement.

c.     He had a profound influence on many later reformers, including “our guy

d.     He wanted no honor; his books were imprinted, “no other foundation can any lay

B.    This story illustrates something of the tension that can exist with our respected teachers

1.     We all owe a debt to our teachers; we all stand on the shoulders of those gone before.

a.      I owe a debt to my parents, Bruce Jackson (preacher), and Rubel Shelly (teacher).

b.     It is proper for me to respect and honor them… and be thankful for their influence.

2.     But our respect for our teachers can come to compete with that for Christ Himself.

a.      Respecting our teachers can lead us to put them on pedestal... or in a wax museum.

b.     We can name churches after them, dogmatize doctrine & refuse to go beyond them.

3.     The text that Menno Simons imprinted his books is from 1 Corinthians 3:10-11.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

a.      In this context, Paul is dealing with a church struggling with “preacheritis

1)     Corinth put too much emphasis on Christian leaders like Paul and Apollos
2)     And this was leading to division and disharmony in the church.

b.     Listen to some of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3 (3:5-9, 18-23)

c.     And then we’ll spend most of our time this morning in chapter 4.

II.   Who Is Paul: A Survey of the Problem

A.   Paul here reminds us of the prevailing preacher problem at Corinth—that of disunity.

1.     Corinthians disagreed on which preacher they would honor— Paul, Apollos, Peter.

a.      There was in fact, no problem or disagreement among the three Christian leaders.

b.     The point of Corinth’s fascination was the difference gifts of these preachers.

1)     Paul planted the church at Corinth; that was his unique gift (2 Cor 10:16)

so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man’s territory.

2)     Apollos’ gift made him better suited to teaching in an established work.

2.     Each minister (and each member) has unique God-given gifts that enable their work.

a.      These gifts mean that each of us will have different strengths and weaknesses

b.     The problem at Corinth is that they saw Christian service as a competition!

B.    Why?  What was it that caused this problem in the church at Corinth?  Two problems:

1.     First, the Corinthians suffered from a basic spiritual immaturity.  (1 Cor 3:1-2)

I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

a.      Their division was caused by their basic unspiritual immaturity.

b.     Of course, they would have been the last to have ever admitted that fact

1)     We generally don’t begin arguments, “Well, I’m an immature dolt, but I say…”
2)     That was precisely what was causing the arguments in Corinth

2.     Second, more sinisterly, division was caused by a unspiritual pride (1 Cor 4:18-19)

Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you.  But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have.

a.      Paul seems to think here that their pride in Paul, Apollos and Peter wasn’t really about Paul, Apollos or Peter it was really about pride in themselves.

b.     Don’t we sometimes argue about over issues and ideas as a way to uplift us?

1)     Aren’t many of our heated political debates about proving ourselves right?
2)     I may argue with you that my car is faster or my neighborhood is better or my wife is prettier (and she is), but what I’m doing is build myself up!

c.     The division at Corinth was really about their own pride... most divisions are!

III.Who Is Paul: Paul Makes Three Points (1 Cor 4:1-7)

A.   First, Paul was simply a servant of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 4:1)

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.

1.     Paul uses several different Greek words when he refers to himself as a servant of

a.      Sometimes it is diakonos, which means “one who follows orders” (deacon)

b.     Sometimes it is doulos, which was the basic word used for slave in first century

c.     Here it is huperetes, which is “underrower,” one in bottom of ship pulling on oars.

2.     In choosing that word, Paul emphasizes not his status, but his service before God.

a.      He is telling them that they need to see these leaders as “galley slaves of Jesus.”

b.     All preachers, elders, deacons and all members are all in same boat (pun intended)

3.     Ray Steadman told of a young preacher who came to him for advice on how his elders

a.      These elders had given the young man this speech shortly after he was hired:

There are some things you need to know. This is our church, not your church. We were here before you came, and we’ll be here when you leave.  So we expect you to do what we tell you to do!

b.      Steadman told him to tell his elders that they had made several theological errors:

1)     First, it was not their church, it was rather God’s church
2)     Second, he didn’t work under them, he worked with them
3)     Third, he didn’t work for them; they all worked for God

c.     Of course they fired him!  Those elders refused to see themselves as underrowers!

4.     So Paul begins by saying, “Who is Paul? He is just one of many servants of Jesus.”

B.    Second, as an underrower, Paul was responsible to be faithful as a servant (1 Cor 4:2)

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

1.     Remember, some at Corinth were putting Paul, Apollos and Peter up on a pedestal

a.      They saw them unrealistic light; that is what we do with our heroes, isn’t it?

b.     Some at Corinth thought that Paul and Apollos and Peter could do no wrong!
(It’s hard to believe that some people think that way about preachers, isn’t it)

2.     But Paul insists that he and Apollos are simply the under-rowers of Jesus

a.      They are not the masters; they are rather accountable to the Master.

b.     Paul must be faithful, and he wants them to see him as accountable.

C.   Third, Paul was accountable, but he was accountable to God and not to them (4:3-4)

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

1.     Paul will latter tell them that he becomes all things to all men (1 Cor 9:22)

a.      He will do whatever it takes to lead people closer to Jesus Christ

b.     But he wants them also to know that he is in no popularity contest there!

2.     He lists here three different courts in which he refuses to be judged (1 Cor 4:3)

a.      First, he will not be judged by them (the church)… either for good or for bad.

1)     He won’t listen when people flatter him and give him too much credit
2)     He also won’t listen when people oppose what he is doing and discredit him.

b.     Second, Paul also says that he will not be judged “by any human court

1)     He won’t follow the prevailing views of culture-- the way of wisdom or signs.
2)     He is an underrower of Christ; he’ll keep following the drumbeat of his Master.

c.     Third, He won’t judge himself; he had clear conscience but that’s not the standard
(2 Cor 13:5,
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves)


A.   The key in how they should see Paul and Apollos is given in 1 Corinthians 4:6:

I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.

1.      The secret of a right view of messenger is to focus squarely on the message itself.

2.     This emphasis needs to be heard by two different groups of people in the church

a.      First, church leaders who take themselves too seriously need to hear Paul here

1)     A brother at preacher’s meeting would say, “I preached a powerful sermon!
2)     How many powerful preachers are there?  Likely one less than he thought!

b.     Second, a church who exalts or puts too much pressure on leaders need to hear Paul

1)     Preacher and elders are just broken vessels who contain a perfect message!
2)     Lift us up too high or expect too much of us and you might miss the message!

B.    Most church fights, conflict and squabbles come down to personality conflicts

1.     Paul removes the personality from the conflict, “Do not go beyond what is written

2.     And so one again Paul brings us back to our theme-- we are to look to the cross.

Trends Among Conservative Brethren
Trends Among Conservative Brethren Weakness


In our last installment, we addressed the problem of liberalism from an historical perspective with particular emphasis on the institutional movement during the 40’s and 50’s era. In this issue, we want to address the problem of weakness which characterizes many churches today. God being my helper, I will try to be objective in arriving at the conclusions, and this by applying the law of rationality; which says, “all conclusions must be based upon adequate evidence.”

Lets begin by seeking to establish the reason or reasons for said weaknesses. Brethren, doesn’t it begin at the top; especially with the kind of preaching which is being done today? Preaching today may be true in what is declared, but much of it is weak and many times “watered down.” The kind of preaching declared from many pulpits among “us” could be favorably received in many denominational churches. Preaching today doesn’t have the old familiar ring that it once had, and many times the focus is on what the preacher believes, and not on New Testament objectivity. A real danger, too, is preacheritis, and the preacher “scratching the itching ears” of those “who love to have it so.” Our Lord said, “...preach the word...” and this doesn’t mean preach what I believe about it. Something else which comes into play here is “it is not what we know, but how we feel about it.” We need to remember what the apostle said in 2 Tim. 4:1-8. (Please read these passages) He said that preaching the word involved reproving, rebuking and exhorting, and this with all longsuffering and teaching.

Preaching today is not producing the same results that were produced in New Testament days. Those in sin are not made to feel any remorse about their condition. This is quite a contrast to the results of New Testament preaching. In that experience, men could feel the force of the message, and many were moved to obedience to God’s word. On Pentecost (Acts 2) the apostle Peter “pulled no punches” in pointing out to the Jews on that occasion that they were guilty of crucifying the Son of God, and that with wicked hands. They were pricked (to stab, pierce thoroughly-Young) in their hearts. (Acts 2:37) How can men repent and change their lives if the word preached does not touch their hearts in this way?

We are told that Felix, the governor, trembled (was terrified-ASV) at the preaching of Paul. (Acts 24:25) But the tendency today is to soften the message, and make it acceptable to everyone, and to fit Christ into the mold of man’s thinking, rather than fitting man into the mold of Christ’s thinking. This philosophy has led to the emergence of the Community Church. It is the result of soft and weak preaching which produces soft and weak churches. God admonishes, and we need to get this, “be ye steadfast, unmovable always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Cor. 15:58)

Another problem among conservative churches in many places is the lack of discipline. Sin is prevalent in the body of Christ, and nothing is done about it. This is sin! I have observed relatives and family members oppose the scriptural efforts to rescue a lost soul through God’s disciplinary plan. When men are undisciplined, they walk in their own way, and thus live in sin. We all know that sin will destroy the church of our Lord, and when brethren decide not to deal with it in a scriptural way, they are just as guilty as those who first engaged. Sin is destructive. Sin is a sovereign, and will control the lives of those who live in it. This is why the apostle admonished, “let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof:...” (Romans 6:12) And he said in verse 14, “for sin shall not have dominion over you.” Brethren, in light of all this, do you not see the need of strong, reproving, rebuking and exhorting kind of preaching? Yes, indeed, we must get back to this kind if the church is to be saved.

Thinking Of Men Above What Is Written
Thinking Of Men Above What Is Written


  The Corinthian church was deeply troubled when Paul wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians. Members of the church harbored sin, sued each other, abused gifts of the Spirit and doubted the resurrection (1 Corinthians 5, 6, 14, 15). Too, Paul addressed their excessive esteem for men, that is, they were lining up behind certain men (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4).

  In addressing this carnal attitude, Paul said, "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other" (1 Corinthians 4:6).

  The Corinthians were not the last Christians to be stricken with "preacheritis." There are still those who tenaciously adhere to their favorite man. It may be because of his personality, past help, preaching style or prominence. Sometimes this disease goes undetected. At others, it is pronounced. Such is the case with a recent meeting announcement we received. In discussing the "guest preacher," the church's letter of invitation said, "Brother _______'s passion for truth and respect for our Lord coupled with his unique style of preaching will make, we believe, your time even more well spent in the worship of God" (emphasis mine, sfd).

  Statements like these bring up questions.

  Does this mean other guest preachers there or elsewhere have not been so beneficial to the worship of God?

  Is time not so well spent when the non-guest (local) preacher is teaching?

  What is it about this brother's preaching that is so great? Is it his unique style or does he have a greater "passion for truth and respect for our Lord" than other men?

  In June 1960, Bill Cavender wrote an article titled Trends Toward Apostasy (The Gospel Guardian, Vol. 12, No. 8). In it he noted three basic elements needed for apostasy to develop: "(1) A lack of knowledge of the will of God and a disrespect for the same; (2) The exaltation of human leaders and human pronouncements; (3) Time." The first two of these has come to pass. The last is in progress.

  Here is our point: More and more, brethren are exalting preachers above what is written. Paul said such people are "carnal" and "babes in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1). "To be carnally minded is death" (Romans 8:6).

  Ask yourself if you are a follower of a man and his teaching or the Man and His Word?

- Steven F. Deaton