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1 CORINTHIANS – SERIES : NR 7
Theme: God brings the growth
Scripture : 1 Corinthians 3: 1 – 9

READ VERSES 1-3 AGAIN
After the Apostle has now explained –
A. The sharp contrast between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man/the world, and
B. the contrast between the spiritual person (born-again) and worldly/natural person (unsaved),
he now returns to his earlier discussion regarding the factions in the church at Corinth.

Yes, he corrects them and rebukes them sharply, but he does it with love because the Corinthians are – notwithstanding their shortcomings – still true believers in Christ and is, together with Paul included in Christ. That is why he addresses them as BROTHERS – therefore fellow believers, members of the household of God. They are, therefore, spiritual people. The Holy Spirit came to dwell in them. They are the temple of God. And therefore they have the wisdom of God – they understand the message of the cross and embrace it wholeheartedly.

But it is as if they have not yet reached maturity in the spiritual matters, the wisdom of God – it is as if they are like infants in Christ. That is, judged by their behaviour.

Judged by their outward behaviour, they appear to be more like worldly people (unsaved people who do not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) than spiritual people.

Actually, the Apostle is speaking here using the past tense. He is referring to the time when he first ministered to them by preaching the Word of God. THEN it was evident that they were still spiritual infants. It was logical that AT THAT TIME he had to give them milk. Not solid food. It is normal for the newly born to be babies – who feed on milk.

What is NOT normal though, is when babies REMAIN babies! After 15 years, there is one youngster still drinking a bottle and cutting teeth!

That is what was happening at Corinth.
Take note of the end of verse 2. Even NOW you are not ready for solid food.

And that could be observed from their outward behaviour, such as factions in the church and jealousy and quarrelling. People who do NOT know the indwelling of the Holy Spirit behave in that way!

Well, they DID receive the Holy Spirit and YET they behave in a worldly/human way. Shocking!

Paul is therefore NOT saying that there are two kinds of Christians: spiritual and worldly. No, all true Christians ARE spiritual. In principle.

But, while they should already have grown in the wisdom of God and become mature, they were still like babies. It is intolerable.

Imagine how gross it would be to meet someone who is 15 years old, but is still suckling on his mother.

That is the motivation behind the Apostle’s rebuke. And yet it is just as relevant in 2022. Spiritual people should be recognised by the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their behaviour!

READ VERSE 4 AGAIN

Did Paul have a good reason to say what he just did? That the Corinthians behaved like spiritual babies?

Yes, indeed he had a reason because their behaviour confirmed it. Again and again, the believers stimulated and tolerated factions and divisions within the church. And that is exactly how worldly/ human wisdom behaves, and not God’s wisdom.

Therefore: Here are people who are included in the wisdom of God, but their works/deeds/behaviour reflects the world’s wisdom. They behave CONTRARY to their new identity in Christ Jesus.

It is almost like someone whose identity is that of the mayor, but that person’s behaviour is the same of a street beggar. Altogether contrary to what he/she truly is. If someone from the outside looks at the behaviour of such a mayor, there certainly would be questions asked. That is exactly what Paul is saying to the Corinthians.

Does the example of the street-beggar-mayor sound extreme?

Well, it is just as extreme to be included in the wisdom of God, and then behave according to the wisdom of the world/man.

The church at Corinth defended and justified their mutual discord based upon reasoning according to human wisdom. Keep in mind how the Apostle earlier explained how worldly wisdom looks down on Christ-believers and regards God’s wisdom as foolishness.

But the methods according to worldly/human wisdom do NOT produce the fruit that the wisdom of God brings forth, namely God’s power and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the glorious unity which the Spirit establishes among believers – who are bound together in the infallible Truth of the revelation of God’s Word.

Worldly wisdom focuses on King Man and MAN’S whims and ideas. Human wisdom will always put MAN in the foreground. And focusing on man will always bring discord/division. Inevitably. It is the fruit of the flesh – the fruit of man’s fallen nature.

In other words: Yes, even though the Corinthians COULD justify their behaviour by using the arguments of the world, it was completely foreign from the spirit of the Gospel message.

Their factions of WE are Paul’s people and WE are Apollos’s people testified of their worldly mentality. Tragic, but true.

Humanly motives and arguments sometimes feel/sound so correct – but everything should always be measured by the principles of the Scriptures because ONLY THERE we will see and know what is from the Holy Spirit and what is not. What is God’s wisdom and what is it not.

SPIRITfilled is SCRIPTUREfilled. That is a non-negotiable principle.

READ VERSE 5 AGAIN

Paul and Apollos indeed had a significant share in the establishment and initial edification of the church in Corinth – which arose out of complete paganism. But, seen from a heavenly perspective, they were only SERVANTS through whom God had His Word preached. The active Person therefore in reality was the Triune God, and not human servants.

And that while the Corinthians overestimated the function of the ministers of the Word completely. Exactly the way the human heart would argue and do according to human wisdom, different parts of the church were supporters of the different ministers. Paul and Apollos were even elevated to leaders of separate groups/factions within the church.

Everything is about the question of which lens one looks through. Either the lens of human insight and wisdom or the lens of God’s wisdom.

The meaning was that the church must learn to focus upon Christ Jesus and be Gospel-filled and Word-controlled, but because they were looking through the wrong lens, they became attached to the servants of God who ministered to the Word.

All the glory belongs to God and NOT the servants whom Christ has assigned the task of preaching.

The Lord gave Paul and Apollos (and others) certain gifts with which they had to minister. But the purpose was to focus the church in unity on Christ and the infallible Truth. Because that is exactly what the wisdom of God does.

The Greek word DIAKONIA is translated here with SERVANTS has originally referred to the work of a steward. That is someone with an apron serving the guests. The word emphasises the insignificance of this service and it indicates how wrong it is to make something great of the servants of the Word. WHO would ever place a steward on a pedestal? The real person upon the pedestal is the living God because He gives salvation to everyone who comes to faith and repentance through the work of the servants. He also gives the servants. He gives them the gifts. HE sends them. HE ordains that some will come to salvation through their ministry. Only to HIM are all glory and honour.

READ VERSES 6-9 AGAIN

What a brilliant couple of verses! And fantastic truth! One can just HEAR the Holy Spirit speaking, not so?

ONLY God who brings growth is something. He who plants is nothing! SOMETHING opposite NOTHING!

The Corinthians with their human wisdom, also made the planters SOMETHING.

A fatal mistake, says the Apostle.

No, look how it works in agriculture! Someone plants and someone waters. And someone makes it grow. No farmer would ever suggest that it was HE who made the wheat grow! Never! He tills the soil and sows and fertilizes and sprays poison…, but at the end of the day it is the way Mark 4:28 puts it: the farmer does not know how the seeds sprout and grow. All BY ITSELF, the soil produces grain, it says.

That is also exactly hoe the kingdom of God is growing in this dark world. Nobody knows how it works. Only God knows and only God does. Those who plant and water certainly have nothing to do with it. What farmer will complacently pat himself on the shoulder for a good harvest? It is absurd.

How could the Corinthians then imagine that Paul and Apollos were SOMETHING and divide the church into factions among the ministers of the Word? No, they are fellow workers. The church is the field. The church is God’s building. It is as simple as that.

Of course, the Christ-believers and workers have different tasks and duties. Some plant and others water while EVERYONE is called on to evangelise daily. No one can do more than that. The miracle of growth comes from Above. And His work goes on and on. It is never done or complete. The workers shall indeed receive their wages as God determines it. Not reward, but WAGES. Because the Lord is just.

But, it is a matter between the Lord and His workers. It is not for the CHURCH to elevate some ministers of the Word ABOVE others. A church who have the Lord in focus, shall and must not revere PEOPLE. The Lord is the owner of everyone. They are His workers, His field, His building. Everything is from HIM and everything is HIS.

But just think how delightful it is to know that I am taken into HIS process by which He allows His kingdom to come. It triumphs above the everyday worldly challenges!

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Category 1 Corinthians

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