Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.1 Corinthians 16:12
That is a most remarkable verse, especially in view of the attitude many today have that the apostles were, in a sense,
generals in the army of the Lord, sending out people, ordering them here or there, and commanding these younger Christians to go at their beck and call. But you do not find that here. This verse indicates that Paul does not command Apollos at all; he has no authority over him. He urges him, rather. In several places in the New Testament we are reminded by the apostle that he was not
lord over anybody else.
Lording it over the brethren is one of the great curses of the church today. Some men assume, for instance, that the office of pastor gives them an authority over other people. But notice that Paul respects the personal freedom of Apollos to be directed of the Lord, even as he himself is. He does not tell Apollos what he has to do, but he says it was not his will to come, and Paul accepts that. Apollos, too, was operating under the direct control of God. This is not only true of leaders, such as Paul and Apollos, it is true of all Christians. Perhaps the clearest word on this was spoken by the Lord himself when he said,
For you have one teacher and you are all brothers, (Matthew 23:8). The church must return to that restoration of the sense of being brothers with one another, not in position over one another, but working together. I find Christians everywhere under the authority of men who seem to be dictators — much like Diotrephes, whom John mentions in one of his letters, who loved to have the pre-eminence among them (3 John 1:9). Believers must understand that no pastor has the right to tell them what they can do with their spiritual gifts and no pastor has the right to tell them that you cannot have a meeting in their home and teach the Word of God to whoever will come and listen.
Now they should listen to him as a wise brother who understands the nature of truth, perhaps, and can give them helpful suggestions. But no pastor ever, anywhere, has the right to tell another that they cannot follow the leading of the Lord as to the ministry that they have. Paul makes that clear in this passage.
Observe how he supports Apollos in this. Apollos will come, he says,
when he has opportunity. Paul and Apollos and Peter were three men around whom factions were gathering in this church. Perhaps Paul wanted Apollos to go because he thought it might improve that situation. But that may be the very reason Apollos did not want to go. As he might have seen it, and evaluated it, and understood it, his visiting Corinth might even have aggravated the tendency of the Corinthians to cluster around an individual. So he did not choose to go, and the apostle supports him. This is a very helpful glance into New Testament life.
Lord, thank you for your Word. Teach me to listen to you and pray for those around me who are called to shepherd the flock of God.
Does command-control leadership have biblical authorization? Are we honoring the Holy Spirit's prerogative in our fellow believers with prayerful support?