Summary: We can learn a lot from the Corinthian's mistakes. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul says the church should grow in three ways: spirituality, size, and service!
Church Matters: Correcting the Corinthians (2)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 11/16/2014
One Sunday morning a little girl sat on the bathroom counter watching her daddy shave in the mirror. After gazing intently at their reflections for some minutes, she said, “Daddy, did God make you?” Smiling, her dad said, “He sure did.” Inquisitively, she asked again, “And did He make me too?” Her dad replied, “Yes, He did.” The little girl contemplatively gazed into the mirror for a moment before concluding, “I think He’s doing better work lately, don’t you?”
Children are wonderful, aren’t they? They grow up so quickly though, don’t they? As a parent there are times when I just wish I could pause their lives—preventing from growing up. My son is turning 9 this year. One of the things we enjoy doing is playing video games. When he was a baby, Ashley and I would play together and he wanted to be included in the action, so I would put a controller in his hands that wasn’t plugged in and just let him think that he was playing. Around 4 years old, he started catching on to that! Since then we’ve played a lot of games together and I’ve always been better than him. I’d let him win every once in a while to build his self-esteem, but now he has to let me win every once in a while! He’s better than I am at some games, pretty soon he’ll be taller than me, and faster than me, and stronger than me!
Children start off so small and dependent upon their parents, but then they grow up. They grow bigger, stronger, wiser, and more capable. That’s God’s plan for children. And that’s also God’s plan for churches. Of course, not every church follows God’s plan.
Last Sunday, we began a new series exploring the book of 1 Corinthians and, as I said last week, the church in Corinth was pregnant with problems. In the first chapter, Paul addressed the issues of holiness (because they were living worldly lifestyles), harmony (because they had divided in competing groups), and humility (because they wrestled pride and arrogance).
But, believe it or not, those problems just represent the tip of the iceberg. As we reach chapter three, Paul gives a carefully reasoned discussion of yet another problem plaguing this young church—spiritual immaturity.
I read a birthday card that said: "You are only young once, but you can be immature forever." Sadly, the Christians in Corinth made that their mantra and, as a result, had a lot of growing up to do. There are three areas of growth that Paul touches on in this chapter—spirituality, size and service.
• GROW IN SPIRITUALITY
First, Paul talks about their spiritual growth.
Paul opens the third chapter in this letter with these words, “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2 NIV).
Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village who walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, "Were any great men born in this village?" The old man replied, "Nope, only babies."
A frothy question brought a profound answer. The reality is—physically or spiritually, we all start off as babies. Growth takes time. When Paul first planted the church in Corinth, it was only natural that these new believers would be spiritually immature. They were babes in Christ. They needed to learn the foundations of the faith. It’s natural for new believers to struggle with going back to their old way of life—bad habits, bad crowd, bat theology, etc.
But as we mature in our faith, we ought to grow up a little. We ought to develop a more Christ-like spirit. We ought to understand more and more of the Bible. Paul puts it this way later in this letter: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV).
It had been a few years since Paul first started the church in Corinth, yet they were still marked by immaturity.
I read this week about an undersea diver who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. He said one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium. Adult sharks can be as little as six inches long if they are confined. But if you turn them loose in the sea where they have freedom to stretch their fins and swim the ocean depths, they grow to their normal length of eight feet.