Please allow me to repeat this. Paul said that he, Peter and Apollos were nothing. Paul wanted to make sure the Corinthian believers understood this so “…that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:29).

Paul didn’t want a company of people saying they were Paul’s followers, a group who were in “his” fellowship, so they could boast about being in the church of the amazing apostle Paul. He was thankful that he hadn’t baptized many people for that very reason. He simply wanted a church of believers who met together for their mutual strengthening and found their identity only in Jesus Christ.

He wanted to make sure that their “…faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5).

This is stunning.

Think about this for a moment. We don’t know much about Apollos, but he must have been a strong worker for the kingdom at this time, an educated man and an excellent preacher. We do know about Paul, though. He was a mighty apostle who had received amazing theological revelations from God, planted churches, led people to Jesus, was involved with the miraculous works of God, suffered much for Jesus and was eventually martyred. He wrote a substantial portion of the New Testament and is the primary expounder of the Christian doctrine found therein.

Question: Should we apply Paul’s standards to the leaders of today? If Paul, Apollos and Peter were nothing, then what are Christian leaders today? Does that mean that we are nothing, too?

Yes. We are nothing.

I say “Yes,” because of what Paul said here about Apollos, Peter and himself.

I say “Yes,” even though this knowledge is only minimally existent in my belief system.

Let me be blunt. The Bible tells us that leaders in the Church are nothing, as startling as that seems.

It is not my purpose to offend you. I’m a leader, too. So, if you’re offended, check your pride meter—and I’ll check mine—especially in light of the passage that follows. Look for the word “nothing” in these verses.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5–11).

Paul, Peter and Apollos were nothing.

Jesus made Himself nothing.

Scripture encourages us to lower ourselves so that the Father will exalt us, as He did Jesus. This is what Peter tells us: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…” He then finishes this exhortation with, “…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). Why, if we were to humble ourselves, would we need to cast our anxieties on the Lord? Because when we lower and selflessly deny ourselves, there is a fear that someone else, who is not humbling himself, may rush in and take the place or the leadership of the group that we think we should have and experience recognition and success. Will I now lose that position? Will I lose the opportunity to advance? Will I lose respect among my peers and other believers?

Those things should not matter. God exalts those who humble themselves, not those who desire advancement, position and respect among peers. Jesus put our very faith on the line when He asked, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44). If we do not deny ourselves our own ambitions, what is indicated about our trust and belief in God’s ability to raise us up to the place He intends? Perhaps it is His will that we take a lower place so He can perform His purposes. “For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (Psalm 75:6–7).

If we humble ourselves, we will need to know that, even though the result may truly be a loss of position or respect from a worldly perspective, the Lord Himself will exalt us. And that is the honor that we should be striving for. So, in light of this truth, should we stand before men and God and promote our ministries so people will attend our churches, so we’ll have even more people attached to a gifted speaker or leader, namely, us?