S45P1 – Notes on discipleship: God remains the focus

1 Cor. 1:11-15

For I have been informed about you, my brothers and sisters, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are quarrels and factions among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas (Peter),” or “I am of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say that you were baptized into my name.

It did not take long for him to lose his identity.  He came in as the youngest professor ever to hold that position.  A genius child prodigy in his early years, he was now making quite an impression in his field.  Teaching such a difficult discipline in such a prestigious institution, and being noted for his acumen in that area, he was no longer just a man in his own eyes.  In fact, he could not distinguish between who he was and what he did.  Professional success became his defining, if not his singular, characteristic.  He would continue to lose himself more and more in his work and his reputation that he was almost unrecognizable.  It was this way until a colleague knocked him down a few rungs on that latter with an injection of truth.  Lost in an illusion, he had to be reminded that although he taught the theories of Einstein, he was not Einstein himself, and it was not for him to carry himself as such.

Today’s scripture teaches us more than one lesson.  At face value it is an admonishment to those who cling to the messenger instead of the writer of the message.  We see this even today when people subscribe more to the teacher than to the teaching.  This is how we read today’s scripture from the perspective of the students, that they must remember that their teaching comes not from man but from God.  Yet, from the perspective of the teachers, the lesson may be even more valuable.  When we teach, we must understand that we are mere vessels.  These words and ideas are not ours, and these truths were not established by us.  The teacher can become lost in accolades and admiration and begin to think that he or she is the focus, the source.  It is a dangerous place to be.  We are not God but only tools He uses to share himself with others.  Not only must the students be careful not to make idols of their teachers, but also the teachers must be careful not to make idols of themselves.

As we disciple others, we are walking in the blessing and responsibility of teaching others God’s truths, his character and his commands, his promises and his blessings.  The focus and source of this teaching is God himself.  If we teachers attain incomparable knowledge and wisdom, it is not because of our efforts and abilities; it is because of God’s goodness and grace.  If we teachers gain a following and recognition among men, we must remember that it is God who is being followed and recognized.  Our submission to him in labor requires that we relinquish our pride and our desire for man’s acknowledgement as our concern is pleasing God himself with faithful labor.  That is the prize in our service to him.  Father, help your teachers remain humble and obedient, not causing their students to stumble or avert their eyes from You and You alone.