Christian Role Models and Factionalism? (pt 2)

Is it really Idolatrous to have Christian Heroes? (pt 2)

Our God is the creator of the universe. He’s made every single person in the universe different and unique. In other words, none of us are exactly like another human being. This diversity surely is an expression of the creative genius of God. God is glorified in Man’s creative differences.

God has given all of us different talents, gifts, and abilities. When these “spiritual gifts” are used in the local church God is glorified and the body is edified. God has given believers a diversity of gifts for the unity of the body (1 Peter 4:10-11, 1 Cor 12-14). Of course, God has also given each of us different personalities, genetic make-ups, etc. so when two godly pastors preach on the same passage of Scripture it should not sound exactly the same (even when they apply the same hermeneutical principles with great exegetical skill).

It’s important to start here because some people try and imitate Christian leaders (from the past or present) and find themselves frustrated because they can’t duplicate them (at least not very well). Because of this reality some people say it is silly to try and imitate any Christian heroes (past or present). Others say trying “to imitate” or “model” another person shows an underlined attitude of discontentment (i.e. I wish I were made just like so and so). In my judgment this is a both/and deal NOT an either/or situation. Like in so many areas of life this is all about biblical balance.

The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians against the dangers of factions (read 1 Cor 3). The early Corinthian church was apparently divided over a number of different issues. One of these dividing issues was Christian leadership. Some were saying, ‘I am of Apollos,’ while others declared, ‘Apollos is so ignorant of the Apostles writings, I am of Cephas;” while still others proclaimed, ‘You fools I was trained by our founding father, the great apostle Paul.”

D.A. Carson summarizes 1 Corinthians 3:5-17 very well. He writes, “Two truths can be simply set out:
1. Christian leaders are only servants of Christ and are not to be accorded allegiance reserved for God alone.
2. God cares about his church, and he hold its leaders accountable for how they build it

We can learn a lot from these two points. Every man, woman, and child is nothing apart from the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10). When God saves us we have the great privilege of being servants of the Master, fools for Christ, children of God. Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Sinclair Ferguson (to name just a few notable churchmen) are only “servants of Christ and are not accorded allegiance reserved for God alone.” We must be very careful not to worship our heroes (yes Calvinists are included in this discussion). One pastor puts it this way, ‘the best of men are still men at best.” Ultimately glory, praise, and honor is only due God (1 Tim 6:16).

Yet the Bible ALSO tells us to “honor” a variety of people and (God ordained) positions. Generally, we are told to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). We are commanded to honor our father and mother (Matt 19:9); Honor widows who are truly widows (1 Tim 5:3); Honor elders who labor hard in the Word (1 Tim 5:17); Honor our human masters (1 Tim 6:1); Honor the king and all men (1 Pet 2:17); and honor our wives (1 Peter 3:7). It would be entirely appropriate then to “honor” and “esteem” faithful Christian ministers (see 1 Thess 5:12-13).

Carson goes on to say in his book The Cross and Christian Ministry, “It is not that gratitude to Paul or Apollos or some other worker is inappropriate. Rather what Paul finds inexcusable is the kind of fawning and defensive attachment to one particular leader that results in one-upmanship, quarreling, and jealousy. Implicitly, such allegiance is making too much of one person. It verges on assigning that person godlike status…No Christian leader is to be venerated or listed to or adulated with the kind of allegiance and devotion properly reserved for God alone.”

Much more could be said about this passage but I will save those thoughts for my next post.


One response to this post.

  1. Fred wrote,

    I read you blog posting carefully. I personally believe it is excellent. It is only natural that throughout life we become acquainted with persons for which we have great respect, and persons who have had a great influence in our personal and spiritual development. Certainly in our training for ministry you uncover men that are greatly respected for their theological background and exposition of the Word. Do we worship these giants of the faith in place of Christ? No. But many times we can say that they are an encouragement and inspiration to work a little harder and more thoroughly. If you are secure in your faith, and you know the true head of the church, these pictures on the wall take nothing from Christ Himself. Look at Paul, who many times says follow in our stead, a role model, but not once did he ask us to worship him as a god or in place of God.

    My friend, Jason, a hyper-Calvinists would not agree. He feels it is blasphemous to have religious pictures on the wall, even the cross, or to wear any jewelry of a Christian nature.

    Good post, you keep it up.


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