An Arched Eyebrow Problem

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“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #24

“For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Cor. 3:4-7).

Spiritual growth is a mysterious thing, one that comes directly from the hand of God. Paul here distinguishes instruments or means of grace, and the grace itself. The ministers of the gospel proclaim it, the teachers of the Word nurture the newly planted seed, but only the direct and gracious intervention of God causes anything actually to happen. To latch onto the external instruments (which God does use) is to be carnal.

Paul has already defined this carnality as both sinful and as spiritually infantile. Jacob and Esau hear the same word, but they respond differently. Two men receive water from the same baptismal font, from the hands of the same minister, but one goes to Heaven and the other to Hell. Two men go in very different directions, and this is because God gave the increase in the one instance and not in the other. This is in conjunction with His appointed means, not independent of them, but they are not so conjoined as to make them work automatically apart from His blessing. His blessing is therefore a direct and immediate blessing.

We also cannot let this passage pass by noting that a wrong-headed attachment to strong personalities is nothing new in the church, and that Paul dismisses it as a phenomenon worthy of the ecclesiastical nursery. This is the Pauline doctrine. It is also the Apollonian. Note also that a man cannot escape from the spirit of infantile sectarianism by describing himself as merely a “Christian.” Those guys were the worst (1 Cor. 1:12). Sectarianism is a heart problem, and an arched eyebrow problem, not a label problem.



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