I love what Charles Spurgeon said about John Calvin. He very sincerely agreed with his theology but he wouldn't follow the man himself. He believed Calvin pointed people to the gospel of Jesus Christ, so he grew from his teaching and preached the doctrines of grace to his church, but he didn't desire to be known as a Calvinist more than a follower of Christ. In his work, A Defense of Calvinism, he explained it this way, "If any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer’I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it." He must have clarified that for a reason’perhaps even then, people were tempted to idolize leaders in ministry. Spurgeon himself was probably idolized in his day, and I'm sure even now. I use Spurgeon as an example because I have to be careful that I don't elevate him above the Lord’that I'm not reading his words more than I'm reading God's Word’because I love reading Spurgeon, and quoting him, and all of that.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about this very thing. He said to them in 1 Corinthians 3:4’6,
When one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
Here Paul rebuked the church for elevating men above God. Apollos was a mere man. Paul, himself, was a mere man. And the same goes for every Bible teacher or ministry leader’past, present, and future. Those God calls into ministry are simply people to whom he has given an opportunity. So today's celebrity culture within evangelicalism existed all the way back in biblical times. It seems to be a common thing that has been around probably forever.
Today, it's apparent among people relating to popular, nationally known leaders. You know who yours are. But what about lesser-known leaders in ministry? From a woman's perspective, how about the lady in ministry who is so highly esteemed that everyone in the church wants to be her? Maybe she wants this kind of attention, maybe she doesn't. Again, we don't know her heart. But we can search our hearts and ask the Lord to reveal any grievous way in us.
It can be easy to elevate people to a higher importance than Christ himself, probably for many reasons. If there are people in our lives who help us live to glorify God in all that we do, we praise the Lord; but we will do well to remember that we are all merely human and that everything we have has been given to us from the Lord. As Paul reminded the Corinthians: "Who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"
So while we can be ever grateful for the ministry of faithful servants of the Word who love God, we should never elevate them’or ourselves’to a place of higher importance than him. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever" (Rom. 11:36).