“ What then is Apollos? And What is Paul? Servants. . . For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ”–1 Corinthians 3:5, 11 (NASB).
My Beloved Ones in Christ Jesus our Lord,
A couple of weeks ago at the meeting of our Presbytery, I had the joy of giving the formal ‘candidate’s charge’ to one of our own young men, Gannon Miles, who had just taken the very first step toward licensure (and eventually ordination) in the PCA as a minister of the Gospel. I read to him the rather odd words that we find in 1 Corinthians 3:5 where the Apostle Paul makes his dramatic case that no minister of Christ should ever be seen as a ‘rock star’ or ‘celebrity’ by those to whom he ministers. And neither should the minister ever seek such worldly status, influence, notoriety, or power. Rather, those of us who have been called by Christ to proclaim His Word and care for His people are, in a word, nothing. . . nothing but “ servants,” or bond slaves, of Christ (3:7). We are nothing more, and nothing less. And we must never, ever forget that!
I bring this up on this new Monday in the aftermath of the recent and horrendous scandal involving one of the most well-known Christian preachers and apologists of our day, the late Ravi Zacharias. Without going into all of the heart-breaking details and sordid facts of this disgrace, I know that many of us have found ourselves dealing with feelings of betrayal, disgust, hurt, and perhaps even embarrassment. We have read his books, listened to his sermons, benefited from his critiques of contemporary culture, profited from his evangelist strategy, and discovered great personal encouragement for our own souls. And yet, in the end, what he was to us in public was only a façade. Behind the scenes (apparently going on for years), there were unimaginably evil and perverse things happening, even to the point of criminal behavior. We should fervently pray for his wife, children, and family as they are understandably devastated by these public revelations.
But there are some great lessons here for all of us, and even a word of encouragement, arising from the debris of yet another ministerial failure in an awfully long line of such disasters.
First, God’s truth never changes, and is in no way compromised or diminished by the moral or doctrinal failures of those who declare it. As Paul makes clear to the Corinthians, it is God “ who causes the growth” of the Church and the expansion of His eternal kingdom (3:7).Those who declare and teach His Word are just the bond slaves who speak for the King. And even if, in the end, they prove to be infidels, the Word will never return void!
Second, the Church, our personal faith in Christ, and the mission to which we have been called do not depend upon any man. Preachers, evangelists, apologists, and theologians, will come and go. Some will prove to be more faithful than others. Some, as in the present tragic case, will even be exposed as devils. But be that as it may, there is only one “ foundation” for the Church, for our salvation, and for our sacred mission of proclaiming the Gospel . . . the Lord Jesus Christ! This is the very point that Paul was so passionate about making in 1 Corinthians 2:3-5–
“ And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Third, let us never forget that our God and Father is the Sovereign One. Our Westminster Confession of Faith well-articulates the Biblical testimony to this reality when it declares, “ God, from all eternity, did—by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will—freely and unchangeably ordain whatever comes to pass.” In light of the present debacle, we are alarmed, shaken, surprised, and caught off guard by the unbelievable news. But there are no surprises to our Father! His is “ a kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28). Even this terrible event, like all such things, is part of His all-glorious plan to exalt His Son, save and bless His people, and demonstrate His holiness and grace to the whole world! He will use even this to expand the reach of His mercy!
Fourth, we are ‘brought back to earth’ by the realization (once again!) that all of those who serve us on behalf of our Lord are mere men. None are as holy as they should be, or appear to be on the outside. None are worthy objects of worship. All have their weaknesses and blind spots. All need rigorous and honest accountability. All will, to one degree or another, fail the Lord and us in some way. All are in desperate need of the grace of which they regularly speak. There is only One ‘hero’ of the Church! The rest of us, His messengers, are just His slaves. And our success will be measured only by the degree that we decrease and He ever increases!
Finally, be encouraged by the simple fact that we are still here in 2021! The Church of the Savior is alive! The Gospel has not been defeated! And this most basic reality is massively significant given that this is far from the first time (or the last) that a scandal has befallen the Bride of Christ. From the earliest days of the Church, false doctrine and false teachers have relentlessly dogged the steps of the Bride and dotted her history. And yet, just as Jesus said, not even the gates of hell itself shall prevail against her!
Your faith is well-founded! The Church stands upon the solid ground of God’s unfailing Word: The Word Incarnated and the Word Inscripturated! For, “ God’s truth abideth still,” and “ His kingdom is forever”! After all, our Savior is, indeed, a “ Mighty Fortress”!
I love you all so very much, and I am so thankful for your prayers that our Father always uses to bless, protect, and strengthen me!