TEXT: 1 CORINTHIANS 3: 1-11
READING: PSALM 104: 1-24
SUBJ: The matter of divisions in the church addressed by Paul's reminder of the divine order of how things occur and the foundation upon which all true churches are built.
AIM: That we may see that the salvation and development of the Lord's people is fully of grace and that the various ministrations and ministers are but instruments in God's hands.
INTR: Having pointed strongly to the necessity of true spirituality and the matter of spiritual discernment, Paul here addresses things in the life of believers that may run counter to the operations of the Spirit and the grace of God.
1. The manner of Paul here, while revealing, is not intended to be offensive. His intent is to set them on a corrected force.
2. While we may not see this as an immediate problem these things are shown to us that we may be warned of potential.
a. And that we might be the more conscious of a sure foundation in Christ
b. And that we might look to where we are and how we got here.
3. We would then follow the Apostle as he leads from a human issue to its resolution as we look to the foundation on which we are built.
THESIS: Human conflict and misunderstandings disappear as the center of our attention becomes Christ and the works of grace manifested toward us and created in us.
I. The problem defined (vv. 1-4)
1. Again, we note the tender address of Paul to these as brethren and are reminded of his salutation in the first chapter.
2. The seeming conflict (referring to them as carnal) is resolved in that he addresses a behavior rather than a state of existence.
3. The further reference to them as "babes in Christ" - See Heb 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
4. Of milk and meat as metaphors - seeing milk as the simpler substance and meat as strong doctrine.
1) Peter exhorts that we should "desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby."
2) The idea of meat as requiring a more vigorous chewing and preparation to swallow.
3) This is here applied to taking issues to a deeper scriptural understanding.
5. The issue with them had erupted in envying, strife, and divisions, and behavior that is akin to carnality. (v. 4)
II. The problem resolved (vv. 5-8)
1. In verse 5 Paul puts things into perspective with a question intended to remove the cause of division.
1) They are mere instruments, used by the Lord to facilitate the operations of the Spirit in bringing them to belief - We compare: Rom 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
2) It is even as the Lord had given to each man a different function.
2. The divine method in regeneration and faith set forth: v. 6
1) Paul had planted - he had brought the Gospel ministry to Corinth, and many were saved under his ministry.
2) Apollos had watered - again the metaphor points to the nurturing, encouraging, and teaching the Lord people that they may grow in His grace and knowledge.
3) God gave the increase - He had quickened the seed Paul had sown and created growth in those whom Apollos watered.
3. The conclusion of the whole matter (v. 7) is that the human figures are not the ones to whom they (or we) should look - it was all of God and so it is all of Him from the beginning and it is He who will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ.
4. While there were divisions over who they were following, there was no division among the ministers of God - their functions had differed, but they were of one accord.
1) His own reward - seeing the work of grace upon where he was used of God.
2) His own labor - Even as Paul saw the Thessalonians in the presence of the Lord as his crown.
III. The problem done away with (vv. 9-11)
1. What a precious prospect is given us in the claim of Paul here - "Laborers together with God" as participants in the accomplishing of His will and purpose: See the next two metaphors.
1) God's husbandry or His farm. - Joh 15:1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman." And see also: Jas 5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
2) God's building. Eph 4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
2. Paul the wise master-builder or architect had laid the foundation and it is exclusively that we are built on that foundation.
3. Which is Jesus Christ incorporating all that we know of His being and existence and all that He has done with the realization we are in Him -- Rom 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.