1 Corinthians 3
We are in the book of Corinthians. This book is a letter to a church that met in the city of Corinth. Corinth was a happening place. By any measure it was one of the truly great cities of the Roman world. Not only the largest but the most prosperous cities in all of Greece. It was a center for trade. Had exports of bronze and marble. Known for lots of competition in the marketplace. It was one of the first cities to have gladiatorial contests. It held the biennial Isthmian Games which were second only to the Olympic Games.
It was an incredibly well-to-do place, but Paul is writing the church to address deficiencies in the church, and in chapter 3 we get a full dose of this. The problem in a nutshell is the Corinthians are immature.
This church was composed of highly successful and prosperous people, but they are spiritually immature. Worldly wealth is no sign of spiritual health.
The immaturity in Corinth is not unlike what we find in the church today. If you are a part of the church for any length of time, you are going to see spiritual immaturity. Are you going to react to it in a mature way or an equally immature way?
People quit being a part of the church because they encounter immaturity. That is not a spiritually mature decision. People get mad and fight back. That is not spiritually mature. If you run because of immaturity then you will always be running.
Paul never quit the church. He confronts immaturity in a mature way, and we need to as well.
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," 20 and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. (1 Corinthians 3:1-23 ESV)
Paul gives the Corinthians a strong rebuke. You are infants in Christ. Your boasting of who you have learned from. You want solid food (brwma) but I gave you milk (gala), emphatic on milk. You were not ready then, and you know what, after all this time, you still are not ready for solid food. “You ain’t learned nothin’.”
I want to look at three signs of spiritual immaturity.
- Lives in a merely human way.
To live in a merely human way is to live like God is not at work in the world or in your life.
The Corinthians were boasting about learning from Paul or Peter or Apollos. They are bragging about teachers like guys brag about sports. Essentially pitting Paul and Apollos against each other. It’s funny, you’ll learn in I Corinthians 6:12 Paul urged Apollos to visit the church but Apollos wouldn't go. Like he didn't even want to get in the middle of the argument with Paul.
They are boasting of what the different teachers have done. Paul shows some maturity and says, he planted a seed, another watered it, but God made it grow.
7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
A solely human perspective takes God’s glory out of the equation.
*Corinthians focused on the work of leaders rather than the work of God, and it was ruining the church.
If you are not living with an awareness of God you will take too much credit. Pride. You look at all the accomplishments like you did it all. Look at me. I want to talk about me.
Paul is adjusting them here so they see God is the one who has really done the work. Calls for a recognition that everything belongs to God:
9 For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
Pride can come into any situation. We can become proud of who we study with, what we have studied. If God is the one working then we boast of what he has done and not ourselves. Paul points to God as the one who has done the work. That is humility and the Corinthians need some.
V6 Paul says he planted. Apollos watered. Consider for a moment what happened in Corinth.
Paul came to Corinth after being ridiculed in the city of Athens. He probably visited Corinth in around AD 50-51. While in Corinth he joined Aquila and Priscilla in making tents, so he didn’t have to ask the church for support--two jobs! He reasoned every Sunday in the synagogue (Acts 18:4). For 1.5 years. The Jews in Corinth opposed him and became abusive (Acts 18:5) he went to the gentiles. Oppose is to line up in against battle, face to face opposition. He was threatened by them but had a vision from God saying, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you because I have many people in this city.” Shortly after that vision Acts 18:12 “The Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him to court.” The charges were dismissed, but the Jews turned on Sosthenes and beat him in front of the court. Sosthenes is who Paul is with in the beginning of this letter. He leaves Corinth but continues writing letters and visiting for years and continued addressing problems.
If anyone has a reason to boast it might be Paul. He defers to being a servant of God. You don't keep jumping through hoops like this unless you believe God is at work in the world. You don’t keep working like this if you don't believe God uses your work. Pride looks at things from a human perspective and not a Godward perspective. Pride creates barriers; humility creates unity.
- Lives like what you do will not be Disclosed
13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it,
There is a story of two young men from Duke University who were taking Organic Chemistry and who had done pretty well on all of the quizzes and the midterms and labs, going into the final they actually had an A average. They were so confident going into the final that the weekend before finals week, even though the Chem final was on Monday, they decided to go to another school and visit with their friends there before they headed home for the summer.
So they did this and were, how you say, overzealous in their partying and with their hangovers and everything they overslept all day on Sunday and did not make it back to Duke until early Monday morning. Rather than take the final then, they spoke with their professor after the final and explained to him why they missed the final. They told him that they went up to UVA for the weekend, and had planned to come back in time to study for the final, but that on the way back they had a flat tire and didn’t have a spare and couldn’t get help for a long time and so were late getting back to campus.
The professor thought this over and then agreed that they could make up the final on the next day. The two guys were elated and relieved. So they studied like crazy on Monday night and went in on Tuesday at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet and told them the test would consist of two questions and to begin.
They looked, and the first problem was something simple and was worth 5 points. “Cool” they thought, “this is going to be easy.” They did the problem and then turned the page. They were unprepared for what they saw. It read, please be specific for “(95 points) “Which tire?”
They were held accountable for what they had done.
Many people live thinking they won’t have to give an account. The Bible says we will have to give an account for every careless word (Matt 12:36). This is “the day” that Paul mentions. It will bring to light everything we do. Our pride makes us think we will/should be the exception.
Paul laid a foundation of their faith in Jesus Christ, and now others are trying to build another foundation, and thinking there will not be any reckoning.
Paul wanted them to see what Christ was: “But from Him you are in Christ Jesus, who for us became wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” (1Co 1:30 CSB)
There is a danger in straying from what Paul taught. They are acting like God will not bring them to account for what Paul taught them. Every person will have to give an account of their lives. Are you preparing for that day?
v13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it,
A lot of Christians says Jesus is their Lord, but the life they live says they don’t think Jesus is a very good judge or a very knowing judge. This life is a test. It is an expression of the faith and trust that we have in God. The Corinthians were failing in this, and I think that Paul might write many of these same things to the church today.
People don’t live distinctly from the world. They don't work with integrity. They don't live in awe of who Jesus is.
8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.
What you do on your computer when no one is around will be manifest. What you do in private will be disclosed to all. What you say to your spouse, what you say about other people, other races (temple of God) will be disclosed.
- Lives in Pride
Pride is one of the great sins. Pride cuts you off from others. It cuts you off from God.
The Corinthians were living and thinking they were wise. Smart. Had it all together. Easy to do when you have worldly success. Pride had deceived them and blinded them. They didn’t grow because they were proud and unteachable.
18 ... If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.
Probably heard Paul’s admonitions and thought, “Paul’s crazy. Doesn't know what he is talking about. I know better than Paul.” It may have been that, but sins in the church are baptized in subtlety and inconspicuousness. Paul, just didn’t understand the situation. I'm just following my heart. Paul is making too big a deal.
How many people don't grow because in their pride they see their sins as no big deal. Just a small lie.
Are you letting God’s word determine your path? Don't make excuses.
Who are you being sharpened by? Who is it in your life that you are learning from? Who is discipling you?
Do you let God’s word shape you? Do you respond to it? Let me ask you this, you are about 40 minutes through a church service, what are you going to do differently because of your time here? Has anything sunk in. Pride can be an ostentatious attitude, or it can be quiet disinterest. It takes different forms.
*Most godly people I have known were quick to learn from others.
*People in the messiest situations I have seen were also people adamant that they were right and others wrong. Won’t listen. Won’t learn. Blind to their own faults. Pride leads to destruction.
V18 stop deceiving yourselves. Cause someone to have misleading or erroneous views concerning the truth
Right here you see the importance of telling yourself truth. Wise, better than others because they are attaching themselves to a particular teacher. Worldly. People think they are wise, better than others because of what they have done.
Their pride kept them from learning from others. Pride cuts you off from other people. Perhaps you have a hard heart toward them.
Humility toward God and humility toward others. He calls them brothers. That is like he is coming up to put his arm around their shoulders as he, in love, tells them some very hard things. You are not spiritual but fleshly.
Live in a humble fear of God. Eager to learn. Don’t gloss over what you are not doing well in or are struggling with. I want our church to be a place where we fear God more than we fear other people. Where your desire to follow God is greater than your concern to be esteemed by others. When you can get with friends and pray for what is really on each others minds and hearts. When you can share relational challenges to get advice from others because you are more concerned being faithful to God than you are to. Small Group.
Here is my question for you: Are you going to grow in Christ or are you going to remain an infant? If you are going to mature it will require you living aware of God’s presence, living for the day you will give an account, and walking humbly before God and people.
Are you addressing this in your life? Does this affect the way you pray for people?
Are we praying for worldly/fleshly things or for spiritual maturity.
- How were the Corinthians displaying immaturity in their lives? What are some other names or phrases Paul uses to describe their immaturity?
- Which of the expressions of immaturity are you most prone to? What do you do to live in a more mature way?
- How does Paul respond to their immaturity in a mature way? Who is God calling you to help them mature in Christ?
- How does this teaching on maturity change the way you relate to and pray for other people?