Graeme Goldsworthy aptly writes: “Our Christian growth comes from becoming more like Christ, not more like Abraham or David or Daniel. These heroes of the Old Testament are examples for us only insofar as they foreshadow and point to Christ.”
Given Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:10-4:1, I haven’t the slightest doubt he would completely concur. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.” (1 Corinthians 3:5) What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:12–13)
Yet often, this is the very thing we may see or hear in preaching – and especially in Sunday School lessons for children. The promoting of some laudable character trait in an individual – and the failure to connect that trait to a looking toward Christ results in mere moralism. And good morals and character traits – no matter how wonderful, cannot save. Only Christ can save.
It is good for us to look back at the great heroes of the faith in every generation and marvel. But marvel more than just at the personalities themselves. Carry it to full length – and marvel at the Christ they preached, lived, and who gave them to us to see His glory in.
When a man or woman has no greater desire than that the One who has saved them from their sins be seen for who and what He is – it is no slight to them to focus on the same object of their affections. It is their heartfelt desire. You honor them more by honoring their Savior – than by honoring them themselves.
Recently, I stumbled upon the following quotes – and found them germane to this very topic.
1. From Martin Luther: “I ask that men make no reference to my name, and call themselves not Lutherans, but Christians. What is Luther? My doctrine, I am sure, is not mine, nor have I been crucified for any one. St. Paul, in 1 Cor. 3, would not allow Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christian. How then should I, poor, foul carcass that I am, come to have men give to the children of Christ a name derived from my worthless name? No, no, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names, and call ourselves Christians after Him Whose doctrine we have.”
2. From John Wesley: “Would to God that all party names, and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world, were forgot and that the very name [Methodist] might never be mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion.”
3. From Charles Spurgeon, “I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living! I hope that the Baptist name will soon perish, but let Christ’s name last forever.”