For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.…
Jesus started his ministry with a band of misfits, mostly comprised of common fishermen. There was nothing incredibly special about these men that would be attention grabbing, nor was Jesus himself. “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him (Isa 53:2).”
Yet, it was these men that Jesus hand picked to set the world on fire with the message of the gospel. It wouldn’t be a glamorous gig by any stretch of the measure. Being chosen by Jesus to spread this message of “Christ for sinners” was a sure death sentence. Crucified, flayed with knives, sawn into pieces, killed with arrows, hung, speared through, etc. etc. etc. The church knew this, and still we have Paul (in the verse above) correcting people for wanting to stand under the banner of the names of mere messengers, aka made them celebrities. Why?!
We want a hero.
Sure, we can blame the “Celebrity Pastor” phenom on American culture crazy, but that’s really not the issue here. Our problem is our nature bent on having a hero. Throughout scripture it’s so clear — we don’t want God, we want a man. In 1 Samuel we see the prophet going to the Lord on behalf of the people because they were demanding a king. What God says to him is so striking:
“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”
We want someone to tell us what to do, we want a person to lead us. Give us the strongest, most glamorous, well spoken man and we will follow him, even when it is to our own detriment and his. Meanwhile, God always sees fit to use that which is small and insignificant. I’m not saying God can’t use a man like that — he used a man like that to bring Law/Gospel theology to mainstream evangelical Christianity with a flippin’ bang. I can’t deny that and I would never want to. I’m thankful for how God used that man to show me that the Sermon on the Mount was Jesus bringing the Law down to my heart level. That sermon showed me my deep unrighteousness and need for something outside of myself for salvation– works will never be enough. I’m forever grateful for that message and I’m grateful for the man willing to stand up and preach it, unapologetically. However, he’s not the only man who has preached the gospel to these ears, and if I’m being honest, the people who have taught me the most about grace and law/gospel distinctions have not been standing behind pulpits, writing books, or have ever had a cable TV slot time. My point here is that typically the way that God works is through the most unlikely people — this message fits into the hands of beggars who will immediately run and begin to share with other beggars — that’s how the first “grace movement” began, but it’s not what our hearts prefer.
“Grace is given to heal the spiritually sick, not to decorate spiritual heroes” – Luther
This is striking me so incredibly hard the past couple of weeks as one of the popular front-runners for the “grace movement” has been sidelined, again. People are losing their minds, again. A friend of mine removed this man’s sermons from his personal website (no one asked him to post them in the first place and no one asked him to take them down) and he’s received so much hate mail stating that this personal decision is a clear indicator that my friend doesn’t truly believe in grace. Meanwhile, my friend is shelling out gospel messages constantly through blogging and podcasting. Clearly, these people are awestruck by a particular messenger and not the message itself. Understand that every single messenger is expendable. The only thing that is not expendable is the gospel.
God uses men to preach the word, but make no mistake about it — it was not a man who saved you and set you free. It was Jesus through the Holy Spirit reaching into your cold heart bent on saving itself, and opened your eyes to the truth that you need a savior. Not a pastor. Not a charismatic speaker. A savior. You need one man — the God-Man who was crucified for you, who was resurrected on the third day, and has sat down at the right hand of the Father and is now advocating for you.
People want a hero.
People need Jesus.
And that is why the unstoppable gospel message will continue to be spread like a wildfire through the most unlikely people. Eyes on Jesus, friends. The grace party is just getting started.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”