Summary: A short homily given at a mid week communion service, encouraging us to fix our eyes on Jesus and not upon leaders, forms of worship or types of evangelism. It’s all about Jesus!
1 Corinthians 3: 1-9
St. Paul had some words of rebuke for the Christians at Corinth; and when I hear St. Paul rebuking a church I always have to ask myself some questions. The questions are: How does this apply to me? How does this apply to my local church? How does this apply to the national church?
Wonderful things had happened in and through the church at Corinth. A group of people had heard and responded to the Good News of Jesus! Paul fed them with spiritual milk (3:2) just as we feed children with milk. However, the church had not progressed beyond milk and Paul rebukes the church for it. Paul says that they are still worldly (3:3). In other words, the Corinthian Christians are more concerned about the things of this world than they are the full plans and purposes of God. The arguments, quarrels and jealousies are the same as those found outside of the church, and Paul challenges the situation head on.
The local church had become partisan, sectarian, followers of individual men. “I follow Paul”, says one. Another says, “I follow Apollos” (3:5). Others say, “I follow Peter”, or how about this one: “I follow Christ” (1:12)!
Is there an equivalent in my life? Is there an equivalent in your life? Is there an equivalent in our churches? Is there an equivalent in our national Church of England which I love? I hear myself answer, “Yes.”
Personalities had been elevated too high. Sometimes we do that with Vicars, comparing one with another. Too often churches have looked down upon other denominations and vice versa. Too often we cling to a form of worship as if it were the only and the best way to worship, and too often we reject and write-off anything which is beyond our experience or our preference.
Now of course if I spend the whole of this sermon only talking about church politics, forms of worship, and denominationalism, then I suspect that I will have missed the point of St. Paul’s thrust!
Paul writes this: “I planted the seed; Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (3:6). Paul turns his attention to the things of God and that is where our attention must be, because “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow” (3:7). It is all God’s work. We join in with what he is doing and we each have a part to play in planting, tending and pruning, but the sunshine, the rain and the growth all belong exclusively to God.
Denominations, types of church service, different types of music, different styles of evangelism and teaching the faith all have their place; but they all exist only so that we fix our eyes upon Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
So what might Paul say to me? What might Paul says to us? Put an end to factions and quarrels. Focus upon Jesus. Focus upon the work of God and do your part, whatever that may be! Hold lightly to personalities and man made traditions because it is all about Jesus. Just as God sends the rain to our gardens, so he sends the spiritual rain to our lives and to his Church. It’s his Church. He brings the growth.
And as we now turn to prayer, is there something which God is saying personally to you? Let’s be still in his presence as we listen for his direction.