As one of the most celebrated orchestral conductors of the twentieth century, Arturo Toscanini is remembered for his desire to give credit to whom credit is due. In David Ewen’s Dictators of the Baton, the author describes how members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra rose to their feet and cheered Toscanini at the end of a rehearsal of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. When there was a lull in the ovation, and with tears in his eyes, Arturo’s broken voice could be heard exclaiming as he spoke: “It isn’t me . . . it’s Beethoven! . . . Toscanini is nothing.”
In the apostle Paul’s New Testament letters, he also refused to take credit for his spiritual insight and influence. He knew he was like a spiritual father and mother to many who had put their faith in Christ. He admitted he had worked hard and suffered much to encourage the faith, hope, and love of so many (1 Cor. 15:10). But he could not, in good conscience, accept the applause of those who were inspired by his faith, love, and insight.
So for his readers’ sake, and for ours, Paul said, in effect, “It isn’t me, brothers and sisters. It’s Christ . . . Paul is nothing.” We are only messengers of the One who deserves our cheers.
Father in heaven, without You we would have nothing. Without Your grace we would be hopeless. Without the Spirit of Your Son we would be helpless. Please show us how to give You the honor You deserve.
Wise is the person who would rather give honor than receive it.
Paul warned the Corinthian church not to be enamored by the charisma or eloquence of human teachers. He reproved the believers for exalting him and reminded them that he did not come to glorify himself (1 Cor. 2:1–5); it is the message of the cross that is important, not the messenger (v. 2). The Holy Spirit is the real Teacher who reveals, teaches, and illumines us to understand God’s Word (vv. 10–16).
Are you sometimes tempted with spiritual pride? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you point others to the One who deserves the glory.