There was serious division within the Corinthian church. Some were saying they were of Paul, and others saying they were of Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or Christ.
Paul, Apollos, and Peter were not three different teachers teaching three different doctrines; this was not a theological division. The three men all taught the same message, they knew each other well, and they worked together.
The division in the Corinthian church was one of pride:
“I was baptized and discipled by Apollos!”
“Well that’s great, but I was baptized and discipled by Paul!”
The whole book of 1 Corinthians deals with various points of division, due to pride, within the Corinthian church.
So how does Paul deal with this situation?
The issue of pride in us has to do with our self-esteem. When one of us is constantly bragging about himself, or when one of us is constantly putting herself down—both of these examples are rooted in the same problem: low self-esteem.
When we (especially us westerners) are criticized we tend to either get very depressed and discouraged, or we tend to take on a defiant attitude and say something like, “The world may be against me, but I don’t care! I’m going to fulfill my dreams anyways!”
But Paul doesn’t fall into either of these self-esteem traps.
He says in chapter 4:3-4…
“I don’t care what any of you think.”
“I don’t care what I think about myself either.”
He’s saying: Don’t allow your self-worth to be determined by what others say about you. But also, don’t allow your self-worth be determined by what you think about yourself. Even if your conscience is clear you shouldn’t trust your own judgment about yourself (Adolf Hitler probably had a healthy self-esteem and a clear conscience).
Take yourself out of the “Court of Self-esteem”. Submit yourself to God’s judgment. God will decide your worth according to the Gospel.
Now you are free to forget about yourself.
Free to serve God out of a love for Him and for others.
Free from having to try to make yourself look good or important.
Free to rest in the joy of your Master.
I wrote this up after listening to a message by Tim Keller called “Blessed Self-Forgetfulness”.
Click here to listen to that message yourself.