Summary: If we do not grow, then we will not be able to build the things that God has willed for us to build.
GROWING AND BUILDING
Text: I Corinthians 3:1 – 9
In this passage of scripture Paul talks about both growing and building. Paul is telling the people of Corinth that if they do not grow, they will not make progress. Obviously, God did not intend for infants to be stuck in their infancy. As someone (Elisabeth Elliot) put it, “God wants no Dwarfs”. She explains that God let us encounter things to challenge our growth. She goes on to explain what Paul meant: God “… could have eliminated the loopholes, prevented all the schisms over morality and false teaching that have plagued His Church for two thousand years. Think of the squabbling and perplexity we would have been spared. And think of the crop of dwarfs He would have reared! He did not spare us. He wants us to reach maturity. He has so arranged things that if we are to go on beyond the “milk diet” we shall be forced to think.” (Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 2005, QuickVerse. All rights reserved.: Source of Origin: TODAY’S BEST ILLUSTRATIONS, VOLUMES 1-4. Compiled by Elesha Hodge). Paul was clear. If Christians do not move beyond the things or infancy, then they cannot go forward. Or, as Paul would say in relating Ephesians 2:10: “they would not be able to go on to do the things that God had prepared in advance for them to do.” It is easy to think of what Paul is saying as it was addressed to the people of Corinth. But, the question we must ask ourselves is how do all these things relate to us? Are there areas in our spiritual lives where we have not been weaned off our milk diet? What Paul is saying if that if we do not grow, then we will not be able to build the things that God has willed for us to build.
Paul addresses the source of the problems. 1) Problems: What are the problems? Are the problems personnel matters or personal matters? According to Paul the problem is both personnel and personal. 2) Flesh vs. the Spirit: Jealousy and quarrelling are matters of the flesh that can and will hinder the spiritual growth and potential of the Body of Christ!
Paul was telling the people of Corinth that it is God who gets the glory. 1) Misplaced Glory: Another problem that Paul points out in this passage of scripture is “misplaced glory”. Someone (Edith M. Humphrey) illustrated how the misplaced glory could be seen in a “mascot mentality”: “It is especially the lack of unity, and the cleaving to a particular human being as a “mascot” rather than to the Lord, that demonstrates how fallen humanity is still riddling the church (“I belong to Paul,… to Apollos”, v.4)”. (David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. eds. Feasting On The Word. Year A, Volume 4. Edith M. Humphrey. “Exegetical Perspective”. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010, p. 353). 2) Glory in its proper place: It is beyond obvious that the glory belongs to God.
Paul tells us we cannot operate spiritually, apart from the Holy Spirit.
1) The Holy Spirit’s role: Paul mentions the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Consider I Corinthians 2:14 – 15: Whoever does not have the Spirit cannot receive the gifts that come from God's Spirit. Such a person really does not understand them, and they seem to be nonsense, because their value can be judged only on a spiritual basis. 15 Whoever has the Spirit, however, is able to judge the value of everything, but no one is able to judge him. 16 As the scripture says, "Who knows the mind of the Lord? Who is able to give him advice?" We, however, have the mind of Christ” (GNB). 2) Powerless apart from the Spirit: Apart from the Holy Spirit we are powerless. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (I Corinthians 4:20 NIV). Our flesh is spiritually powerless. Those who rely on their own flesh cannot have the mind of Christ! (I Corinthians 2:16b NIV).
We need the Spirit to grow spiritually! 1) Freedom and fruits: Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (II Corinthians 3:17). We can see the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) when the Spirit is active. Without the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we would be nothing more than babies having babies. When we operate from the fruits of the Spirit----love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22,23) will not provoke one another or be envious of one another (Galatians 5:26). 2) Staying in step: Unless we live by the Spirit, we cannot stay in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
How does our growth or its lack look to other people? We might not like the way the answer to this question looks according to surveys. The truth is sure to sting. 1) Our outward appearance: Consider the results of this one survey. “In December 1990, George Gallup delivered a talk at Princeton Theological Seminary in which he shared six basic spiritual needs of Americans as revealed through surveys and research: