First, here is the context for the Epistle: Some people in the Corinthian congregation were dividing into groups. Some said, "I am of Paul;" others said, "I am of Cephas," that is, Peter; others said, "I am of Apollos," who was another man known for his preaching. These kinds of divisions are not pleasing to God. The church is to be united as one, not divided into groups.
These divisions in Corinth came from external practices, personality differences, and personal preferences. But people should never prefer one pastor over the other for these reasons, so long as the pure doctrine is being preached.
In our Epistle, Paul tells us why we should not do this. He says that you are the Temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you. The Church is not a human institution, based on human love or human achievement or righteousness. Instead, you are created by God as His holy Temple in His righteous Son and His Blood; not that you deserve it, but that God has cleansed you from your sins by the holy waters of Baptism, and given His Spirit to live inside you. You are holy with the exact holiness of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We must not defile this Temple of God. To bring human, carnal attitudes of divisiveness into God's holy Temple profanes the Temple. It treats that which is holy as if it were unholy. In other words, to take this Temple and chop it up into pieces is to attack God's property.
Paul goes on to say, "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." The "wisdom of this world" means the very best that mankind has to offer - all the creativity, intellect, resourcefulness, eloquence, and anything else in man. All this, says God, is foolishness. Even the best of mankind is futile, empty nothingness before God.
This is why it is divisiveness to prefer certain human gifts in a preacher. As far as that goes, each minister is different. Each has his own particular talents, such as compassion, friendliness, gentleness, persuasiveness, and so on. If you prefer specific gifts, you may desire that kind of pastor, and despise one who does not have such gifts.
But God says that the wisdom of man is futility. The gifts of a preacher may be important in their own way. But as far as the ministry goes, such human gifts are not the wisdom of God that creates and sustains the body of Christ. The wisdom of God is Christ crucified, whom we preach. Human gifts do not create the Temple of God. He alone builds it, not any human hand.
So Paul says, "Do not boast in men." In other words, do not love a preacher only for his human qualities. Love him because he is a faithful minister who preaches the pure Gospel. Love him because he is a steward of the great mysteries of God.
Any wise preacher will not want you to love him for his virtues, because sooner or later he will fail you. As a sinner, even his strengths are bound to become weaknesses. So love preachers for the sake of Christ, who works through them. He never fails.
I suppose it is not a sin to also love a preacher for his human qualities. But it is certainly a sin to reject a preacher because he does not have a particular quality you wish he had. That is fleshly divisiveness.
"All things are yours," says Paul, "whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas." People are not to shop around for a preacher they like, but listen to the man whom God has called to speak His Word in purity.
Yet we all have a divisive flesh. We all sometimes show favoritism based on personal preference. Instead of considering each faithful pastor a steward of God's grace, we too easily think of them as men to be rejected if they do not tickle our ears.
But the Holy Spirit turns you in repentance so that in faith you do not boast in men, but only look to God's grace, and cast away your own wisdom as foolishness.
In this way, God gives you all things. He has given you the precious riches of Baptism, the new birth of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism, He has forgiven you all your sins, not one at a time, or bit by bit, but all sins were graciously forgiven you in the cleansing flood. He has given you victory over death as He made you a co-heir with Christ Jesus in His Resurrection. He has given you eternal life in the New Heaven and the New Earth. He has rescued you from the clutches of satan and all his host of demons. All this He does for you in Baptism, as Christ's Blood turns away God's wrath and instead declares you righteous and holy. Jesus has clothed you in His own image, and brought you out of darkness into His Kingdom of Light.
The Word of God is also yours. Through this Mighty Word, you have life in abundance. Through this Word, your faith is strengthened and preserved to life everlasting, by the working of the Spirit of God. This Word is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It is a hammer to shatter your heart of stone, by leading you to repentance over your sins. Then the Word declares your forgiveness by the divine voice of the Holy Absolution, which is the Gospel itself. God tells you, "I forgive you all your sins." This blessed, holy Word is yours.
The Lord's Supper is also a wonderful gift of God to His Church. The Body and Blood of Christ are given and shed for the remission of sins. The communion in these holy things is here. We proclaim Christ's death as we eat and drink in remembrance of Him. The fellowship of the Body of Christ unites us in one doctrine and one Meal at one Altar.
How can I praise these gifts enough? Because of these holy gifts, you are kings upon the earth, although in a hidden way. As the children of God, you are His heirs, fellow sons with Christ. Because all things work for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose, all things in creation, even sorrow, pain, and sickness, serve you through the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Seeing all these overwhelming gifts, how shall we bicker over petty things? How shall we divide ourselves into groups, when we are all one in Christ? How shall we reject the Word of Christ, when such infinite blessings come through it?
Instead, God gives us peace through His Son. He makes us be of one mind to live in love with one another. He puts forgiveness on our lips to speak to one another, as we have first been forgiven.
And the Spirit of Peace sanctify you in His Truth. Amen.
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