Priority, Preference, and Power | 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

1 Corinthians

In the age of “celebrity pastors”, how can we make sure that the gospel message is exalted rather than the gospel messenger? In the second week of 1 Corinthians, John Elmore shows us the priority of unity, the problem of preference, and where power is lost and found.

John ElmoreMar 6, 2022

In This Series (20)
Standing Firm In A Fallen World | 1 Corinthians 16
David MarvinJul 31, 2022
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts | 1 Corinthians 14
Oren MartinJul 24, 2022
A Church Marked by Love | 1 Corinthians 13
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 17, 2022
How To Build A Church | 1 Corinthians 12
John ElmoreJul 10, 2022
God's Design for Men and Women | 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 3, 2022
Repentance, Allegiance, and Deference for the Glory of God | 1 Corinthians 10
John ElmoreJun 26, 2022
Giving, Sharing, and Living for the Gospel | 1 Corinthians 9
John ElmoreJun 19, 2022
Christians and Controversial Topics | 1 Corinthians 8
Jermaine HarrisonJun 12, 2022
Being Single | 1 Corinthians 7:7-40
Timothy "TA" AteekJun 5, 2022
Fighting For Your Marriage | 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 22, 2022
Sex and Glorifying God | 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 15, 2022
Conflict: An Inevitable Opportunity | 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 1, 2022
Church Discipline: Sin, Grace, and Shepherding | 1 Corinthians 5
John ElmoreApr 24, 2022
The Resurrection Is the Remedy to Our Hypocrisy | 1 Corinthians 15
Timothy "TA" AteekApr 17, 2022
The Purpose, Plot Twists, and Power of Christ | 1 Corinthians 4
John ElmoreApr 10, 2022
Being a Healthy Church | 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 27, 2022
The Miracle of Spiritual Maturity | 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 20, 2022
The Miracle of Salvation | 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 13, 2022
Priority, Preference, and Power | 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
John ElmoreMar 6, 2022
Called, Gifted, and Kept by Jesus | 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John ElmoreFeb 27, 2022

In This Series (20)


In the age of “celebrity pastors”, how can we make sure that the gospel message is exalted rather than the gospel messenger? In the second week of 1 Corinthians, John Elmore shows us the priority of unity, the problem of preference, and where power is lost and found.

Key Takeaways

  • If we focus too much on the delivery method rather than the good news that is being delivered, the cross can be deprived of its force.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 can show us the priority of unity (v. 10), the problem of preference (v. 11-16), and where power is lost and found (v. 17).
  • Pressure reveals priority.
  • Division devours, but we must be unified in Christ despite our differences.
  • Preference divides and works against the priority of unity.
  • We sometimes elevate the servant, the delivery, and their status over Christ.
  • Preference puts a person on a pedestal in your heart where only Jesus should reign.
  • Putting a pastor on a pedestal in your heart is sin and sets you up for significant sorrow.
  • Preference creates disunity in the Church. People are not the solution; Jesus is the solution.
  • Church elitism/exceptionalism is sin.
  • Preference can put problems of spiritual ego into the preacher or pastor.
  • Preference is losing power by choosing a person.
  • The gospel proclaimed, heard, received, and shared is utmost, even against baptism.
  • Transformation has nothing to do with transmission; sanctification has nothing to do with the speaker; the power of the cross has nothing to do with the person proclaiming it.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • Are you listening to sermons to be entertained or to be sanctified?
  • Are there any communicators of God’s word that have been put on a pedestal of preference where only Christ should reign and receive the glory?
  • What are some measures you can take in your life to ensure that Christ is exalted above anything you might say or do on His behalf?

Resources for Further Discussion

  • Suggested Scripture study: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; John 17:11

Good morning, Watermark and family. My name is John Elmore. I'm one of the teaching pastors here. Happy Sunday. It's so good to be with you all as we continue our journey through 1 Corinthians. To start with that, I want to tell you a little story about a journey Laura and I were on. Laura was diagnosed with breast cancer. She's fine now, but when we were going through that, our plan of care became surgery, radiation, biopsies…the works.

In addition to that, we had many sources recommend to us that carrot juice is a holistic treatment. Some of you are rolling your eyes and some of you are like, "Amen." There are different opinions on that, but what's in carrot juice has been known to break down some of the cancer cells. So, like a job… My brother and sister-in-law gave us a juicer that would extract the juice from five pounds of carrots every day for three months. That's a lot. I don't know if you've looked at a five-pound bag of carrots recently.

This would take, like, two hours to juice the carrots. So much so that a Watermark girl was like, "Hey, I'll be there, and I will help juice," because I was like, "I've got to go to work. I can't keep stuffing these carrots." At first, it was like, "Oh my goodness. This is amazing." It's fresh. We'd refrigerate the carrots. It was cold. It was nice. Then about three weeks in… By the way, five pounds of carrots yields, like, 48 ounces of carrot juice. That's a lot…two big bottles.

Three weeks in, she would take the second one to her mouth and gag. I'd be like, "Baby, you've got to drink that, because I spent two hours on it." Carrots are so inexpensive, but I was like, "I'm invested in that personally. Drink it." She was like, "Okay." So, it was creating nausea. It was making her sick. Even her primary care physician, an awesome Watermark lady, was like, "Hey, maybe you need to dial back some of those." We were like, "No. We've got to power through."

In addition to that, she started to get this clown makeup orange tint around her lips. So, if you were like, "Oh, cool. Trying a new shade? Hard season. New shade of lipstick. That's great…" There was just this orange tint that was about her. The deal is it wasn't even the juice; it was the nutrients in the juice. I'm sure we could have gone to Whole Foods and just bought something, but we kept hearing "Carrot juice," so we stuck with the delivery mechanism rather than going for the nutrients.

I tell you that this morning because we are in the exact same spiritual danger, that if we focus too much on the delivery or the delivery mechanism or on the process rather than the nutrients, the spiritual food and nourishment within, we also, much like Laura, will become spiritually sick, and even in the overprocessing, the cross can lose its power. That's what we're going to learn today from 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.

The outline we're going to walk through is priority, preference, and power. So here it is more expanded: the priority of unity, the problem of preference, and where power is lost and found. Priority, preference, and power. Here is what we are to be about. We're to be unified in Christ alone, and to focus too much on a pastor or on preaching means diluting the power of the cross, which is what the Scripture will say.

So, verse 10 of 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, as we walk through this first portion, which is a unified community in the church. Here it is…the priority, the priority of unity. First Corinthians 1:10: "I appeal to you, brothers…" In the Greek it's "Brothers and sisters," when you see that word adelphoi. He's like, "You're family. You're not disparate friends or neighbors; you're family under Christ." "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, family…"

"…by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." Now, we're going to read later in 1 Corinthians, chapter 8, that there are differences over food sacrificed to idols. Some deem that it's fine. Some are like, "Hey, that is off limits," and others are like, "No, it's okay. An idol is nothing."

So, what this can't be is uniformity, that all of us, like a cult and a robotic system, all say and do the same thing, but on one matter… He says unity is the priority in this one matter. I'll say it this way. If you're quarrelling, you're already losing in this regard. Some are willing to win the argument and lose the relationship.

My kids quarrel like it's second nature, at 8, 6, and 4. Everything is a battle. Except it's not second nature; it's first nature. It's their sin nature. Whether it's choosing seats in my wife's car or what movie we're going to watch on family fun night or where we go out to eat or who gets to brush their teeth first… I'm like, "Why are you even rushing to line for that? I thought you would dread it." Everything is a battle. Then, sometimes, everything aligns.

Judd, our 4-year-old, literally, last weekend, on family fun night, where we'll go out to eat and then rent a movie and watch it together… He goes, "Dad, it's Penny's turn to choose the movie." I was like, "Who are you and what have you done with my 4-year-old son?" The fact that he would defer to his sister and be like, "It's Penny's turn…" It was shocking, but it was gold, as a parent. "Oh my goodness! You're unified. This is incredible. You're deferring to one another. You're going to agree on something." It was so, so beautiful.

This unity Paul is appealing for that is the priority is about Jesus. He says right there… He doesn't say just, "Hey, brothers and sisters, I appeal to you, be unified." There's a parenthetical. He says, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." He drops this theological trump card, different than elsewhere in the letter. He's like, "Hey, on some things there are going to be differences and you're going to defer to each other in love. In this one, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, agree. Be unified." He goes nuclear, that they would listen and they would act.

It's no surprise that he would say, "Be unified on Christ," that priority of unity is essential, because when you look back at John, chapter 17, Jesus is going to the cross, and the one thing he keeps praying for to the Father… Again, going to the cross. Pressure reveals priority. Just like, when a house is on fire, you're like, "I'm grabbing the Bible and our family photo album," or now these days your iPhone that has your photos.

Pressure reveals priority, and here, going to the cross, there's this refrain throughout John 17 in the great priestly prayer, and he says, "Father, I pray that they, the church, would be one as we are one. I pray that they would be one as we are one. I pray that they'd be one as we are one." He's saying the priority is unity.

Laura and I, when we were dating… We were at her grandfather's place in Colorado. In our dating, it wasn't just all love and whatever. There was a disagreement or some kind of disunity. I don't even know what it was about, but I was like, "I need some space," and she was like, "I need some space." By the way, little sidebar: if you're dating and you're like, "We never fight; everything is awesome," one of you is lying. You have sin. Conflict is okay.

Anyway, I was like, "I'm going to run an errand with your grandfather." As we're running the errand… We're buying some bread in the local bakery. All of a sudden, his phone starts blowing up. My phone starts blowing up. I'm like, "What is going on?" "Hello?" She doesn't even say, "Hello." "There's a bear in the house! There's a bear in the house!" All of a sudden, it's like, Boom! Bread is done. Back in the car, driving as fast as we can, honking the horn as we pull up to the house.

I send the grandfather in. I'm like, "You get it." No. We're dating. I'm like, "I've got this!" I'm going to get mauled by a bear to try to get her hand in marriage. The bear had already left. It had wandered off, but it was pounding on the door. In that moment, pressure revealed priority. All of a sudden, it was like, "I don't care what we're quarreling about. It doesn't even matter. I love you. I want to be with you. I want to protect you. We're together. Period."

Here, this bear of a problem was preference that was in the church. Instead of the priority of unity, this bear of a problem had waltzed in, and it was preference. Specifically, this really disgusting preference of people, preference of the people within the church. So, if that was the priority, what was standing in the way? It was a problem, and it was the problem of preference. In 1 Corinthians 1:11 and following, he's going to tell us what it is.

"For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers [and sisters] ." He says it again. "Hey, I'm reminding you…you're family. Come on." "What I mean is that each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas…'" Which is an Aramaic name for Peter. "…or 'I follow Christ.'" He's super spiritual guy, like, "No, no, no. I follow Jesus." They're like, "Okay. Great. We all do. We're just through Paul and whatever. You're still part of the problem."

He's now going to ask some questions. "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" This is crazy what he's about to say. Remember, this is Paul by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is inspiring these words. "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name." Then he's like, "Oh, I forgot." "(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)" The Spirit does remind you of things. He's like, "Don't lie, Paul. There was Stephanas."

The problem of preference. In this passage… Did you see the words? "Some of you say, 'I follow Paul.' 'I follow Apollos.' 'I follow Cephas.' 'Oh, I follow Jesus.'" I, I, I, I, I. No, it's we. I think if the one who was trying to be uber spiritual would have said, "We follow Jesus," everything would have been fine, but because they were like, "I follow Jesus," it's like, "Great. You're part of the problem too." The other thing was it was this problem against unity, as they were choosing people instead of the person Jesus.

This was a preference of pastor or preacher that was the problem, because it works against the priority of unity, which Paul is appealing for in the name of Jesus. So, you have Paul, the pastor. He's the one who planted the church. A lot of people are like, "Dude, the whole reason we're even here is because Paul came to Corinth, so he's our guy." Other people in this Greek culture they were living in in the town of Corinth were like, "We follow Apollos. He's a really exceptional orator. When he delivers the good news, I'm listening. I like it."

Others were like, "No, no. I'm following Peter, Cephas. He's the legend, dawg. He walked on water. Did you know that? He was the one who saw the transfiguration. The brother said, 'Jesus, should we build a tent so y'all can stay here?' That's crazy. He's the one who pulled out the sword and cut off Malchus' ear. Peter stands for something. I'm going to follow Peter." One is like, "Y'all are suckers. I follow Jesus." Every single one of them was in error because they were creating this quad partisan church where they were separated over who they followed. It was a huge problem.

So, Paul asks these rhetorical, shameful questions and says, "Was Jesus divided?" Answer: "No. He's unified." "Was Paul crucified for you? Why are you claiming allegiance to me? It's to be to Christ. Were you baptized in my name?" I think, by way of application, I've done this. I literally did it last week. I was talking to a guy, and we knew the same person. I said, "Oh, did you know he officiated our wedding?"

Some of that is probably innocent, like, we just have mutual ground. He's such a good friend that's what he did. Then some is like, "Well, do you know he did my wedding? Do you know who I was baptized by? Do you know who my son received his first Communion from? Do you know who…?" It's all this focus and preference on a pastor or preacher that is poison to the church. We do this when we elevate the servant over Christ; when we elevate delivery, in Apollos' sake, over Christ; when we elevate status, in Peter's sake, over Christ.

So, the preference of pastor and preacher was the problem, but it's still the problem. What it creates is spiritual tribalism, spiritual pride, spiritual ego on the part of the communicator, and it's all so dangerous. You think this was a problem 2,000 years ago? They had Paul, Apollos, and Peter. They had three. Y'all, we have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and every message that has ever been delivered that we can find online with a quick Google search.

So, whether it's Piper or Chandler or any pastor you want to follow, we become so ingrained, like, "Dude, they're the one," and we become fanboys or fangirls rather than giving all of our love and affection to Jesus. If you were to talk to those men individually… Or maybe it's Jennie Allen or Beth Moore. If you were to talk to them, they'd be like, "Don't follow me. Follow Jesus. I'm just proclaiming Christ." It was the problem, and it is the problem. We have this thing now that we even call celebrity pastor, which is such a travesty and a heresy against this specific verse. The only celebration should be of Jesus.

By way of story… We love a restaurant called Whistle Britches. (They're probably about to get slammed because I mentioned it in a message.) It's this amazing Southern chicken place. There's a waitress there named Brianna, and she's awesome, and we love her. But we go (no offense, Brianna) because of Whistle Britches. We go because of the food.

When Friday night rolls around, we're not like, "Let's go see Brianna. The way she sets down those plates, the way she kind of turns back whenever I say, 'Can I have another refill…'" It's not about that. We go for the food. We're going for the nourishment. She's just the way by which we get it. We have to be reminded of that, as we're prone to being drawn toward preference rather than unity.

Preference of pastor or preacher is toxic for these reasons. Let's just address something. It's weird for me to be a pastor and preaching while saying this message, but it's so, so good, and I believe it with all my heart. Here's one of the first reasons it's toxic: preference puts a person on a pedestal in your heart where only Jesus should reign.

I'll tell you that if you pedestal a pastor in your heart and they become something they shouldn't be…they go beyond what they should be as just a servant of God, as the Scriptures will make clear a little later in 1 Corinthians…then it's sin, and you're setting yourself up for some real sorrow, because they will disappoint you. They will sin against you. They won't deliver in the way you hoped they would have or, worse than that, they will take the place on the seat of your heart that only Jesus should have. They're simply servants.

On Friday, Laura called, and she was like, "Help! The toilet is overflowing. It's coming out of the bathtub." It's disgusting. Right? By the way, she would want me to say she wasn't using it. She was running laundry, and all the water was messed up. I'm cheap enough that I have an auger and a snake and all of these tools. You're like, "Last week you almost burned your house down with a circular saw and now you're…"

Anyway, I have this auger. It's a big stick with a wire. I put it down in there, and I'm cranking it, and it's stuck. I'm like, "What in the world is down there?" Again, we have small kids. Do you know what I pulled out? A green balloon. That's not what they're to be used for. They aren't for green balloons. (Don't worry. This isn't the actual one. You're like, "I have a preference of pastor, and it's not you.")

I was at a birthday party last night for a kid. I was like, "Is that balloon green?" I'm color blind. They were like, "No. It's aqua." I'm like, "Whatever. It's fine. I need a green balloon." I pull out this green balloon, and the reason I share that is because a green balloon is great. My kids love a green balloon. That's fun. Apparently, they love them so much sometimes they get tired of them and flush them, but a green balloon is a whole lot of fun. At the birthday party last night, they were all playing with them.

That green balloon that's so much fun… It's good. When it gets put in the wrong place, it jams the whole thing. So it is with a pastor. It doesn't matter if it's somebody you podcast or follow or if it's somebody here. If that good thing… I'm not saying that TA or Blake or I are good, but if a good thing is put in the wrong place, it will jam your heart, your spiritual vitality, because though it's fine and good, put in the wrong place it's really, really destructive.

When I was serving in re:generation, sometimes I'd have interactions with people, and they'd be writing out their testimony that they were going to share from the stage with over 1,000 people. They would be like, "And that one time when John Elmore talked to me in the coffee shop…" I'm like, "You can't do that. I'm not letting you use my name."

First, it's not good for me, and second, it's not good for the 1,000 people who are going to hear it, that somehow they're going to get tied to the fact that, "Man, it seems like his problems went away when he had a conversation with John, so I need to too." I'm not the solution. Jesus is the solution. So, I would not let people use my name in their testimony, because I'm like, "Testify to Christ."

He's going to use a waitress or an Uber driver or your grandfather or your pastor or your Community Group or your spouse or your children. He's going to use a great number of people. He might even use a talking donkey, but we testify to the one true God. He is the one who gets the praise. Preference puts a person on a pedestal in your heart.

Preference also puts problems into the body of Christ by creating dividing lines of disunity. This is really funny. The first time after TA (Timothy Ateek, our other teaching pastor) taught, I was walking on a Monday after he taught on that first Sunday, and somebody was like, "John! John! Hey, you got a second?" I'm like, "Yeah, what's up?" They're like, "Dude! TA was amazing." I was like, "I know. It was so good. Right? We're so glad he's here." The guy goes, "You've got some serious competition."

I'm like, "Hey, come here, man. I think I know what you mean. He is an amazing teacher of God's Word. I'm so glad he's here, but let me make super clear: there's no competition between us. We're partners in the gospel. There is no competition. I'm not threatened by him. I am fed by him. I love it when he teaches." The guy was like, "Yeah, but he's amazing. Right?" He didn't say that. It was a good conversation, and if you're the one who said it… Honestly, I have no idea who even said it. I truly don't. It was funny to me. But I think that's what happens.

So, about a month ago, probably with that running in my subconscious, I was like, "You know what? Take this, spiritual preference and spiritual pride." I jumped on Instagram, which I'm rarely on, and changed my title to "Pastor with Timothy Ateek" instead of just "Pastor," because I want people to be like, "Hey, we're in this together at Watermark." There is not one or the other. We're partners for the gospel.

Corinth… You have to think about this. Likely, they also had a few interconnected house churches. It was relatively small. Just like they had three pastors who had rolled through town, they had a small number of churches. Here in Dallas, we have 1,000 churches. Google would say 1,200. I don't know what the exact number is, but there are a lot, a whole lot for the population of Dallas, but that's a good thing. It's not a bad thing.

What can happen is we can start to have spiritual pride or spiritual elitism or spiritual exceptionalism, like, "Well, we're the ones who kind of have this on lock. We're a little closer than everybody else. Sometimes our pastor drops in a little Greek and yours doesn't," or whatever it is. We can start to think, because of our methodology, that we are better than, and it's sin. It is grotesque sin.

Just like having preference works against unity as far as a preacher or pastor, preference of a church works against disunity. As Jesus said, "I pray that they…" (meaning, all believers of all time, the church universal) "…would be one." If we start to step forward and be like, "Yeah, but first among equals," he's like, "No. No, actually, you're in sin, the sin of spiritual pride, and you need to be humbled."

So, we celebrate with our brothers and sisters in Christ in this city and throughout the nations. I think about Adam Griffin, another pastor at Eastside Community Church. Maybe some of you know him. It's an incredible church. Just now, as churches are dividing and splitting… That's what we hear about most in the news, and it's sad. It's a sad state.

Do you know what just happened with Eastside? Scofield Memorial Church that's over 100 years old and Eastside Community Church just joined. Instead of splitting, they joined, and they're going to be our neighbors right over here. Like TA, we're not threatened by that. We rejoice in that, as our brothers and sisters come together to reach the city with the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

Oh, I have to share this. So, also about spiritual elitism. In college (I'll never forget)… I don't remember a lot from pledgeship because of the intensity and also because of the years of drinking, but the chaplain of our fraternity would always beat into our heads "NBJD." I'm 46. I still hear it like I was 18 again: "NBJD." Do you know what it stood for? "No better, just different." Not better, just different.

Do you know who the chaplain of our fraternity was? It was Blake Holmes. While I was a drunk idiot, he was walking with the Lord, shepherding me then, and then again now. In the same way, our church is no better, just different, following the same Jesus. Preference also puts problems of spiritual ego into the preacher or pastor, which is the sin of Satan. Satan wanted to get glory instead of give glory. So it can be a trap.

Sometimes people will walk up, and they'll pull you aside and be like, "Hey, you're our favorite." It doesn't tell me something about me; it tells me something about them that this passage is speaking against. It's like, "No. No. Let Jesus be your favorite. I'm just like the waiter slinging plates, but the nourishment comes from Jesus." The pastor or preacher, as you pedestal them, will either fall prey to flattery or insecurity or worse. We're servants of Jesus.

But here, most importantly and devastatingly, preference is losing power by choosing a person. Preference, most devastatingly, is losing power by choosing a person. This is the next part of 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 17. Paul says, "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach [the good news] the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power."

So, backing up, the priority is unity. He wants unity in Christ. That's who we're following. Priority, then preference. Preference is the problem. To have preference in your heart is going to create problems. Then he's going to say, "And this is where power is found and where it can be lost." So, where power is lost and found.

The gospel proclaimed, heard, received, believed upon, and then shared is utmost. Baptism is secondary. It is the result of having received the gospel. When someone places their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, the step of obedience is to be baptized, but foremost is the gospel, and then a fruit of the gospel is the obedience of baptism. Paul says this crazy thing where he says, "I thank God that I didn't baptize any of you other than Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas," which is weird.

You have a pastor thanking God that he didn't baptize people? The reason is he was called to preach. Any believer can baptize, because in Matthew 28, as Jesus gives the Great Commission to the church, he says, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you." This is the Great Commission, the call upon the life of every believer.

He's like, "You don't need me to baptize, and if your heart is like, 'Yeah, but I want Paul to baptize me, or Cephas. That would be pretty legit if he was on my baptism certificate…'" He's like, "No! You've already lost unity because you're choosing preference. You have favoritism, and you're losing power when you do that. So, let anyone baptize. The baptism is in Christ, that he would get the glory. It's a public proclamation that you're united with Christ. It has nothing to do with the one dipping you in the water." He's going strong on that.

He then says, "Not with words of eloquent wisdom or the cross will be emptied," or deprived of force. In the Greek it's "deprived of force." To put all of these eloquent words of wisdom upon something will just devalue what is the most potent force in all of human history. You see, here in Corinth, being Greeks, they valued rhetoric and philosophy. There were paid entertainers who were professional orators who would come and deliver magnificent speeches in the amphitheaters.

Apollos, being a Greek, likely had some of that training, so he could deliver things with eloquence. Paul is saying, "Don't put your faith, don't put your preference, don't put anything in any value humanly but, rather, in the cross of Jesus Christ." In view there, when he talks about the cross, it's always with the Savior unto resurrection, altogether, but that it could somehow be emptied of its power if we do.

So, there's a truth and application here for TA and me, or anyone who ever teaches from this stage, and there's a truth and application for you, as the congregation and the body of Christ. The one for us is that illustrations and stories or moments when we can laugh together are good because they're helpful. Jesus taught with illustrations. Paul taught with illustrations. It makes it sticky. It makes it memorable.

So when you think about a sparrow, you're like, "Oh! If God cares for the sparrow and not one of them falls to the ground apart from the Father's will, then he cares for me too. Oh! The flowers of the field. If I'm worrying about what I'm going to wear, what I'm going to eat, where I'm going to live, look at the flowers of the field. God has clothed them in greater garments than even Solomon. He's going to care for me too."

Paul writes about the body in 1 Corinthians 12 and says it's all unified. The hand can't say to the body, "I don't need you." It's all unified under the headship of Christ. He's giving us these sticky stories, but if the stories ever become in a place of our hearts, "Well, I really want them to like me. I really am feeling insecure, and it feels like this passage really isn't enough, so I have to really draw them in for me. I feel like there's not enough punch here, so let me try to bring in some theatrics," or whatever it is, then that's a heart condition, and it's sin, and it empties the cross of its power, because it's so covered in icing and junk you don't even get the sustenance therein.

The truth and application are also for you. Are we listening to be entertained or are we listening to be sanctified? Are we listening and evaluating in our hearts and in our minds, "I really like this," or are we listening in our hearts and minds like, "I really need this"? Are we here to hear from God, who holds all things together, who loves you, who speaks by the power of the Holy Spirit through the inerrant, eternal Word, or are we here to hear something that might be a little entertaining on a Sunday morning, because we just come on Sundays because that's what we do?

The transmission I give has no ability to transform. My transmission can bring no transformation. It's only the Lord who can do this. When Paul was teaching… Just after this, he leaves Corinth and goes to Ephesus. It says he taught all through the night, and at midnight, as he's teaching, a dude named Eutychus is sitting in the window, just kind of chilling, falls out, and dies. It is the epitome of Paul bored him to death.

I think sometimes in a lot of churches in America, including ours (ours isn't immune to this)… I think if Paul came and taught, we'd be like, "Meh. Kind of boring. Wasn't really engaging. I feel like his points were a little too theological and not quite in our vernacular. I don't know. A lot of Old Testament. Kind of bounced back and forth," because we're thinking so much about the transmission rather than our transformation. We're placing preference over the person rather than over Jesus.

There was a man in the Ukraine just now in this conflict that they find themselves in with Russia. His name is Vitaly Skakun. Vitaly Skakun, as the Russian tank troops were coming across… They were approaching this bridge to one of the port cities in the south. Vitaly grabs ordinance. He grabs bombs, runs onto the bridge, and detonates, because there wasn't time to secure it, bring back a wire, or with remote. He lays down his life to blow up the bridge to stop the advance of the enemy.

That is the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, seeing the advance of our enemy…sin, death, Satan, the flesh, hell forever…runs onto the bridge separating us between all that and God and lays down his life, though he had done no evil, to stop the advance of the enemy, that we could be saved and rescued by God.

So, the power of the cross has nothing to do with any person other than Jesus. The power of the cross forgives sins. The power of the cross removes guilt. The power of the cross imputes and gives you Christ's righteousness. The power of the cross silences the Enemy. The power of the cross says the Enemy has been disabled. The power of the cross: God's wrath has passed over.

The power of the cross: our guilt has been atoned for by the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus. The power of the cross: Jesus goes to his death that we might go to life. The power of the cross is that we who were enemies and foes of God, he might become our Father and we would become friends of God. This is the power of the cross, lest it be emptied of any power. Make no mistake. The cross can't be emptied of its power. It simply can be covered by man's failed attempts, but it will remain.

So, with Laura and that carrot juice, after taking two hours to make this batch, I was at the grocery store once, and I saw this organic carrot juice. I was like, "Well, that would be easier." So I grabbed it and took it home. It was sweet. It was carrot juice, but it had been so processed with so many additives it wasn't good. It had lost its potency because of all the processing.

Even though my preference would have been to grab that… It's like, no, we need the potency of the gospel. That carrot juice is intense to drink, but the potency is there. So it is with the preaching of the gospel. It's offensive. We're saying to the world, "You are a sinner in need of a Savior. You have sin in your life that needs to be forgiven or when you die you will face judgment and spend eternity in hell."

That can be hard to drink. That's not quite as palatable as the world would have it, but we do harm to the gospel and to our unbelieving neighbors if we try to overly process, add a bunch of sugars and additives just to make it a little more palatable that it wouldn't be potent. So, church, let's be unified. Let's put away preference, and let's let the power be in Jesus Christ alone, crucified and raised again and coming again. Let's pray.

Father, thank you for the truths in 1 Corinthians 1 that you have passed to us, that we also would be unified under the headship of Jesus Christ our Lord, that we would have no preference of person, that we would have no preference even of a prideful spiritual elitism or exceptionalism, but rather we would see the church as one, because biblical authority is right, but to have church arrogance is wrong. It's sin.

So, Lord, we confess that before you. We repent of it. We want to follow you. Lord, I pray that from this stage or any podcast or message we would ever listen to, the power of Christ upon the cross raised again would have the potency to sanctify, to raise the dead, and to reach the nations. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, amen.

About '1 Corinthians'

Challenges believers to examine every area of life through the lens of the Gospel. Paul addresses divisions among believers, food, sexual integrity, worship gatherings, and the resurrection.