“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest,” says Luke.
No wonder one old sage said: “The path to hell is paved with priests’ skulls.”
Years ago, on some pastors’ shelves, you might see a book entitled, Kann auch ein Pastor selig werden? – Can A Pastor Also Be Saved? Strange question? Not to pastors who know how easy it is to become a cold professional, to stop taking the very medicine they prescribe for their patients, to become a castaway after preaching to others.
There are peculiar, spiritual dangers for those called to handle the holy things of God. Familiarity may breed contempt. Something as miraculous as the very body and blood of Christ may lose its wonder. Preaching the everlasting gospel to guilt-ridden souls, teaching the lambs of Christ, rebuking the wayward and comforting the dying can become just a “job.”
Worse still is the temptation to pride, arrogance, presumption. When the preacher forgets that he is a poor, miserable sinner himself, a dying man preaching to other dying men, then something ugly happens.
The pages of church history are filled with clergy whose ambition was to be “the greatest.” The whole history of the Roman papacy is a glaring example of pointing poor souls to someone or something other than Christ crucified.
Christ has raised up many great heroes of faith who pointed His people not to themselves but to their Savior and to the Scriptures – Paul, Athanasius, Luther, Walther, etc. But it is a mark of the unchristian cults to build beliefs around some “personality.” Charles Taze Russell founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Joseph Smith founded the Mormons. Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science movement. All of these are anti-Trinitarian cults which point people to their own devilish doctrines. It is frightening to witness how a “magnetic” personality with a Bible in hand can twist the truth of God and lead souls to destruction. Think of Jim Jones in the late 70’s with that mass suicide of his followers in Guyana. Think of David Koresh and his Branch Davidians at Waco, TX. He called himself “the Lamb of God” while bedding down the women of his “church.” Then there was the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his “moonies” of the Unification Church. The list is endless.
But the arrogance of the “personality” cult can be found in mainline churches too. Paul warned the congregation at Corinth about forming cliques around their favorite preacher and saying: “I am of Paul…I am of Apollos…I am of Cephas.” “Is Christ divided?” asked Paul. “Was Paul crucified for you?” Paul knew that the devil can use holy water to run his mills, and the church to cloak carnal ambition. Whenever servants of Christ create fan clubs for themselves instead of followers of Christ, an infection sets in. John the Baptist said it best regarding Christ: “He must increase; I must decrease.”