Ad Extra–April 7th 2013, 1 Corinthians 3:18-23

Posted: April 13, 2013 in Ad Extra
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During the course of study and preparation for last Sunday’s sermon, I read this quote from D.A. Carson regarding the last few verses of the passage,

Paul’s point in the closing lines of this paragraph: ‘All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the World or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.’ (3:21b-23). Part of the meaning of this sentence is clear enough. Paul, Apollos, Cephas (and, in principle, any other bona fide leader in the church) all contribute to the church. They belong to the church, in exactly the same way that the farm workers all belong to the field and its harvest, and the contractors and builders all belong to the building project. To focus on one part of the project as if it were everything is to cut oneself off from the project as a whole. To fasten undue and exclusive affection and loyalty on one leader is to depreciate how much there is to receive from all the others. In other words, factionalists overlook the wealth of the heritage we as Christians properly enjoy.” (D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, pg 86)

While there are many things to be gleaned from this quote, and the passage, my aim is to reflect upon the concept of ownership within the congregation and leadership of the church.

The leaders of the church belong to the church on the whole. “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas…” The leaders mentioned belong to the church. Then in principle so do all bona fide church leaders there after. However, this is not personal ownership, rather it is corporate ownership. The division in Corinth, led by a misunderstanding of the gospel and a sense of personal ownership regarding teachers, is being exposed as mere fleshly and shallow factionalism.

On the other hand, the leaders do not have a right to personal ownership either. I don’t recall from the New Testament any teacher, other than Jesus Christ, ascribe personal ownership of the Church, the body of Christ. The pastor, the leader, the preacher belongs to the church, and the church to Christ, and Christ to God. In light of how many pastors seem to take personal ownership of a congregation, as if it were their own, we need to give the idea of ownership some consideration. Personal ownership conveys responsibility, which is necessary, but it also leads to entitlement; a sense that the owner can do as he pleases rather than working as a steward on behalf of others. Personal ownership from a pastoral position can be particularly damaging, I will highlight two of many ways.

First, if the pastor takes ownership of the church as though it were his flock, and not God’s, then he may take ownership of any success. Acting as an owner rather than a steward leads one to all manner of prideful deeds. This seems to be the general attitude the apostle is seeking to undo in the first chapter of this letter.

Second, if the pastor takes ownership then any failure may lead to inappropriate despair, which can lead to compromise of gospel stewardship. The results of each problem are multifaceted and numerous.


Even though the leader belongs to the community, this does not make that leader an employee; here is the flip-side of the coin. The congregation cannot stand pointing a finger and reminding the preacher that, “we hired you & we can fire you”. While the leaders of a congregation belong to the community they are not the personal property to be handled carelessly. Quite the contrary, the leaders of God’s flock belong to God, as servants of God, given by God. This manner of viewing shepherds and leaders of God’s church will be examined more closely, as we move though 1 Corinthians 4.

  1. Alissa says:

    Superb blog you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any community forums
    that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get advice from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Bless you!

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