Do I need a masters to minister? Thursday,22nd week in ordinary time – 1 Corinthians 3:18-23
Repetition can be annoying but reiteration means that something important is being stressed even though it may be the same thought or principle being enunciated. Paul reiterates the importance of the person of Christ over those who were fascinated by the personalities who worked for Christ.
Chapter 2 and 3 of 1 Corinthians slavishly takes up two concerns that were plaguing the Corinthian community. The first of these concerns dealt with the Corinthians who were enamoured by the wisdom of the Greeks and their ability to present the ‘mysteries of their faith’ in clever and learned ways. Even though Corinth was a Roman colony inhabited by people of several nationalities, it still celebrated the Greek culture and Greek religious practices. The Greeks subscribed to cults, known as ‘mystery religions.’ The reason why these cults were called ‘mystery religions’ is because these cults incorporated secret ceremonies known only to those initiated into the cult and through which salvation was obtained.
The Christian doctrine of a crucified messiah seemed a pale shadow compared to the layers of mysteries by which these Greek cults dazzled their followers. Christianity’s ‘mystery of faith’ was simple and un-complex; Christ had died, he had risen and he will come again’. But this same message was blasphemous to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. There was a desire among some in the Corinthian community, to inject what seemed to the Greeks as a rather ‘drab ‘Christian faith, with the razzle and dazzle that these Greek cults had. Why, it seemed, could the Christian faith not be infused with the ‘smoke and mirror’ that made the Greek cults appear so wise and popular?
Paul’s response is crystal clear; “Do not deceive yourself” either on this issue, or any other ‘flavour of the season’ leader you may have cultivated. While it might seem hip and trendy to pep up what may seem a dull and dreary Christian faith with the wisdom of this age, in the eyes of God it was just foolishness. There is godly wisdom and there is worldly wisdom. But here’s where we run into trouble; when worldly wisdom baptizes itself in the name of Jesus, and masquerades as the wisdom of God.
When Paul tells the Corinthian Christians not to deceive themselves, he is trying to help them to avoid basing their lives on human wisdom, which will, at some point, fail them and fail them badly. He is counseling them to become fools; to become conscious of their own lack of understanding so that they can become open to receiving the wisdom that God has to offer them.
It often fashionable to think that we need to amass ‘masters’ degrees to become ministers of the master. Learning should not be confused with the wisdom of God. God’s great wisdom flows from the mouth of babes who have never seen or heard of our worldly centres of learning. In God’s eyes, all we need is to understand the reason why his son was crucified and meditating on the suffering on the cross with bring us clarity of understanding.
That being said Paul also addresses the second issue that plagued the Corinthians; their fixation for certain leaders; leaders who led them to the faith. To boast about the glory of men, no matter who they are; religious or secular; is foolishness. God has not given us Paul or Cephas or Apollos to choose from like as if it were an a la carte menu of preachers. God has given us Paul AND Apollos AND Cephas; he has given us all so that we do not belong to them but let them bring us to HIM. For we belong to Christ.
The focus can never be on the preacher but only on the one who ought to preached about; Our Lord Jesus Christ.