It is easy for me as a 21st century Christian to point my finger and snicker at the dumb first century believers who professed to "follow" various teachers. Until I put myself in their sandals. Jew and Gentile alike had made a radical, unpopular departure from the faith, and even culture, of their birth and upbringing. Few if any of them had ever met Jesus in the flesh. And they had no New Testament from which to teach theological proof texts to lisping youngsters in Vacation Bible School. To this day I remember I John 1:9 just as a little girl recited it for me, her 18 year old VBS teacher: "if we confessth our thins, he isth gwacious and justh to forgive usth our thins, and to cweanth usth fwum all unrightusnesth."
What they had were great teachers: Peter, the learned Appollos, Paul. Like the Israelites who exalted the lifted-up snake of Moses, they made the common, understandable error of new believers: "my teacher knows it all, and if I just pay attention and agree with him, so will I." A Christian for 38 years, I can safely say I now follow no man......now. For me the watershed moment came at the Institute for Biblical Studies, a Campus Crusade for Christ summer school in Ft. Collins Colorado. Prof. Robert Singletary said something I have never forgotten: "Be a maverick. But be a maverick in the Word."
Since then I have honored many good teachers but never to the exclusion of others. First and foremost my earthly, tangible teacher has been Scripture, I hope.
Paul says that elevating man's wisdom weakens the gospel and robs Christ of His due glory:
"For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
I think of Jesus, who allowed himself to be abused in every way by the powerful of this world. James, John, Paul, Peter, and Stephen were merely the vanguard of a host of martyrs who renounced the power and glory of this world, looking ahead to a better kingdom. I look at my life's words and values and realize I am missing something. Something so fundamental that I am too worldly-wise to understand. Lord, am I too much of a grown-up in my learned cleverness? Too childish to thank the Giver as I rip open His gifts?
I will start with making verses 30 and 31 mine:
"Lord it is because of You that I am in You. You have become for me wisdom from God - my righteousness, holiness and redemption. I boast only in You."