Summary: A sermon on 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 with reference to Real-Life Discipleship by Jim Putnam. Putnam has developed a spiritual growth wheel diagram that he explains in his book and which is used in this sermon to explain growth to spiritual maturity.
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
St. Andrew’s Church
February 13, 2011
New faces are popping up weekly at children’s play groups and on neighborhood park benches, although not in the weather we’re having today! These new faces carefully watch the activity on the swing sets and climbing gyms. Quite often these faces need a shave or sport a mustache or beard. It looks like stay-at-home dads (SAHD) are here to stay.
Gone are the days when a child’s birth meant that a mother would quit her job or drastically reduce her hours at work. Although stay-at-home dads are still a minority, parents increasingly view an SAHD as an attractive option. More and more men are diving into the world of diapers, play dates and car pools. Increasingly, fathers are sharing the joys and frustrations of caring for a young, often needy life.
The Apostle Paul had a bit of the SAHD mojo working in his life. God had used Paul to birth and nurture churches in four provinces of the Roman Empire. As Anglican missionary Roland Allen wrote in the 1920s,
Before AD 47 there were no churches in these provinces, in AD 57 St. Paul
could speak as if his work there was done… [Missionary Methods, p. 3]
Paul visited the city of Corinth in Greece, in the Roman province of Achaia, on his second missionary journey. He stayed there eighteen months. Three of four years later, Paul writes to his spiritual children in Corinth because he had received reports about problems in the church there. Paul writes to exhort the church in Corinth to grow up! He is disappointed that they aren’t moving forward toward spiritual maturity. In our second lesson Paul says,
v. 1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.
As their spiritual father in Christ, his heart is broken. Why haven’t they grown in their Christian faith? He’d like to address them as spiritually mature Christians, but he realizes that their behavior shows that they are still infants in Christ. Many of the Corinthian Christians are what are sometimes called today “carnal Christians.” If you’ve completed session three of Knowing God Personally you know what I mean.
Carnal means, of the flesh, worldly. Chili con carne is chili with meat. The incarnation is God in the person of Jesus taking on human flesh. A carnal Christian is one who has received Christ but who is still controlled by carnal passions. These carnal passions could be fear, jealousy, guilt, worry, unbelief, disobedience to God, a critical spirit, a poor prayer life, or no desire to study the Bible or read the Bible devotionally.
vv. 2-3 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
Jealousy and strife in the Corinthian church are evidence that there is little spiritual maturity
there. God wants churches to be unified in the faith and Spirit of Christ. In verse four, Paul
exposes one of the problems in the Corinthian church.
v. 4 For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human?
As Paul explains,
vv. 5-6 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
Paul and Apollos, servants of God, worked in the church in Corinth as God led each of them to
do so. Paul was used by God to plant the church and Apollos nurtured the church that God had
planted through Paul’s ministry.
One of the axioms of ordained ministry is don’t be the person who follows a long-term pastor.
Whether you realize it or not, Fr. Dan Barker had one of the toughest challenges in pastoral
ministry. Following a founding rector who had served St. Andrew’s for twenty-seven years is
extremely difficult work.
When we were moving into the rectory twelve-plus years ago, Fr. Dan came by to welcome us. He said to me that he had worked as my interim pastor. I told him that I thought that nine years is a pretty long interim. I suspect that for much of those nine years Fr. Dan wondered whether he would ever be able to step out of the shadow of Fr. Kilmer Sites.
Can you imagine what it was like for Apollos to follow Paul? The church in Corinth was founded by the greatest apostle that the church had ever produced. Some Corinthians never shifted their allegiance from Paul to Apollos. Paul says,