Not Beyond What is Written (1 Corinthians 4:6)

1 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.


            For the first 3 chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul has been teaching the church in Corinth to stop bickering with each other about which teacher they follow. Some bragged about following Paul. Others claimed Peter or Apollos. Some claimed to be beyond such men and to simply be followers of Christ. Paul wanted to stop such divisive in-fighting, and he addressed it in a variety of ways over the first chapters.


            Now, in chapter 4, Paul pulls his argument together, and we see a bit of the conclusion in verse 6. Paul says that he has written about himself and Apollos in order to stop the people from being so prideful about the teachers they follow. But Paul does not merely admonish them to stop what they have been doing. He also gives them in verse 6, a key to true, biblical humility that will allow them to hear their teachers, but without the divisive pride of choosing sides based on personality or oratory. Paul calls the people not to go beyond what has been written. He calls them to Scripture.


            The point that God has for us here is simple: the word of God trumps any delight in human personality or teaching skill. There are many who follow one pastor or teacher over another because they are drawn to his communication style or appearance. Maybe they like the way that a guy throws humor into a message or how another weeps while telling touching tales. But God does not call us to follow people based on these things. Do not go beyond what is written. God’s word is the standard.


            Do you have a pastor who teaches the word of God, really teaches the word of God? Love such a leader. Even if his style or persona is not what you like best, it is a treasure to have someone who stands before you, opens the word of God, and clearly lets the people of God know what God has said. Such teaching is more valuable than any skill in management, any talent in preaching, or any gregarious personality.


            We should add, in our learning, that the Scripture is super valuable for us all. If the church is not to divide over personality, but is to not go beyond what is written, then we too ought not go beyond what is written as we figure out what we believe to be true about our Lord. Let our doctrine, our rules, our standards for living be from the word of God. Let our grasp of how to help people change and how to make churches grow come from the word of God and not the world of business or secular psychology. May we love the living word of God and trust that the God of that word will change lives and change the world for his glory as we hold high his perfect revelation of himself to humanity.