Summary: Seeing the Church through grace and peace
This sermon (1 Corinthians 3: 1 - 23) was preached at West Ewell Evangelical Church, Surrey, on Sunday 13 September 2015.
The context is that the ancient city of Corinth was so much like modern society – with its religious maelstrom and the evidence of the so-called postmodernism (if it is right for you, it’s alright).
Before we start, please discuss: what do you see as your role in the church (local) or the Church (wider)?
We will be looking your responses during the course of this time together.
Paul had started his ministry in Corinth in 50 AD and he wrote to the church there from Ephesus in 56 AD – after six years, he had expected growth in their walk with God.
There are three types of people in this epistle [reference to John Piper in sermon ‘The Danger of Being Merely Human,’ 21 February 1988]:
a. The ‘natural’ person (2: 14) – no spiritual life and cannot see what is compelling about the Gospel.
b. The ‘spiritual’ person (2: 15) – so deeply controlled by the Holy Spirit that can receive and value any level of biblical truth – which is where we would be aiming.
c. The ‘fleshy’ person or ‘babes in Christ’ neither spiritual or natural – will be looking at this morning.
We will be looking at
· Seeking maturity
· Concrete foundation
· Centred on God
1. Seek maturity
In verses 1 – 3, it is evident that the readers of this epistle were showing immaturity, with reference on divisions as referenced in 1: 10 – 17.
Paul states that they should have moved on in the faith – they had settled for remaining where they were, content on having the same experience over and over again.
Hebrews 5: 12 – 14 states: ‘In fact, though by this time, you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.’
In verse 3, the words are literally ‘envy and strife’ – the word ‘envy’ could positive in meaning ‘zeal, ardour;’ but here it is used in the negative sense (cf. 1: 11; Galatians 5: 20). There were divisions, and a bitter mess were evident as both these negative attributes lead to self-assertion and unhealthy rivalries.
Christians can refuse to move on in God because of anger, fear, envy, etc. – God wants to reach out and help move them on in what experiences He has for them.
Paul reminds us of the role of leaders: ‘to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’ (Ephesians 4: 12 – 13)
We need to be encouraging and pulling for one another.
At end of his last professional game, Andre Agassi (3 September 2006, US Open, Arthur Ashe Stadium, Queens, New York) addressed the crowd: ‘The scoreboard said I lost today. But what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and in life.
‘I found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I’ve found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams, dreams I could never have reached without you. Over the last 21 years, I have found you, and I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life.’
It would be amazing if the Church was like that!
We are all disciples until we reach heaven and all have a role – if you are not sure what your role is, speak to a leader as to how you can be helped.
We will look at the subject of our roles in relation to other people in further detail when we get to chapter 12; however, we are reminded in 12: 27 ‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.’
There is no passivity as, in analogy of the body, there is to activity - we are not called to be robots on stand-by! Each part needs to be working in order for the whole to be effective: you could be the missing limb that the church requires in order that it might function properly.