“I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. . . For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” (1 Corinthians 1:14-17, AV)
In 1967 there was a British television series titled, “The Prisoner.” The show was kind of a Sci-fi action drama about a man who abruptly resigned from a high-level government position, apparently in the secret service. After resigning, he is abducted and placed on an island in a location called “The Village.” There he is given the Number Six, which is his new identity. In “The Village,” there are many others also living in what seems to be a sort of paradise. However, all Number Six wants to do is leave the island and find out the identity of Number One.
Every show began with an opening dialog between Number Six and Number Two. Number Six asks the question, “Who is Number One?” The answer always came back, “You are Number Six.” Now Number Six had no intentions of becoming Number One. He just wanted to understand what was going on and how to get off the island. Yet, this question, “Who is number one?” points us to a problem that often can plague the local church.
Paul was responding to a report from Chloe’s people that there were divisions in the church. There were factions that were divided by the teacher they followed. This alarmed Paul, because a divided church is weakened in ministry. Thus, Paul presented arguments to break up these factions and bring unity to the church.
The Apostle Paul understood who was number one. He understood the supremacy of the Triune God and that God the Son, Jesus, was the head of the church (Eph 1:22; 5:23; Col 1:18). Moreover, Paul wanted the church to understand that he was not number one, and was careful not to give the impression that he was. In this he first stated that he only baptized a few, which included Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas that he could remember(v16). Paul did not want anyone to think that he baptized in his own name, for the baptism is under the authority of Jesus.
Second, Paul stated that he did not come to them and preach with human wisdom. He did not come with lofty speech and crafty human persuasion. He came and spoke the word of truth trusting the power of the Holy Spirit to connect the message to the hearts of the hearers (see 1 Cor 2:4). This was so the people would focus on the work of Christ on the cross. He did not want to diminish its power through human expediency.
Paul did not want to be seen as Number One. He was not a prima donna and he did not seek to be one. In fact, Paul did whatever he could to avoid the appearance of being one for he knew this would hinder the gospel. One way to begin factions and cause division in a church is to allow prima donnas to flourish. This problem can start with just one and often it is the pastor. Then others will follow the lead of the one.
Unfortunately, in many churches today we see this appearance of the prima donna. It generally starts off unintentionally. However, our fleshly nature, as it is, seeks to be glorified and lifted up. The wrong person in a lead role can become or at least appear as a prima donna. This will create unrest and ultimately strife and division. Be on the watch for this deadly problem in the church and in your own life.