Summary: In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul answers two questions - what divides a church, and what brings unity.


A. How many of you know what this is a picture of? Right – the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

1. It is the freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa.

2. Construction began in 1173, and although the tower was intended to stand vertically straight, it began leaning southward once construction progressed to the third floor.

3. Why is it leaning? Could this be the cause? (show picture)

a. Actually it is leaning due to a poorly laid foundation (only 10 feet deep) and loose substrate.

b. I’m told that the word “Pisa” actually means “marshy land,” which would give some clue as to why the tower began to lean even before it was completed.

4. It took 177 years to complete the structure, because construction was halted several times due to war.

5. Scientists studying the building over they years had determined that the 179 foot tower moved about one twentieth of an inch a year, and was 17 feet out of plumb.

6. Something needed to be done to fix it, but what?

7. They tried this…(Show picture), but it didn’t work.

8. In 1999, scientists and construction experts painstakingly removed soil from beneath the north side of the tower to help ease it slightly back toward the vertical—and toward a stability it has not known for 300 years. They removed the soil with very large drills.

9. Not only has the tower moved northwards, but the south side of the foundation has come up a little, which is a very positive result.

B. The lesson we learn from the Tower of Pisa is the importance of a good foundation.

1. And just as these workers needed to fix the foundation in order to straighten the tower of Pisa, Paul needed to do the same thing with the church at Corinth.

2. The church at Corinth needed some repair. It needed to be brought back into plumb.

3. For several chapters, we have been watching Paul do this repair.

4. In the previous chapters, he has pointed their attention to the Cross, and to the Wisdom of the Spirit.

5. Now, here in chapter 3, Paul is going to emphasize that the church belongs to God – God brought it into being, and God will judge it.

6. The human instruments that God employs in the process of building His church are merely servants of God’s purposes.

7. Therefore, it is both foolish and destructive to choose sides and pit one leader against another.

C. Most of chapter 3 is structured around three metaphors for the church that Paul uses for his argument.

1. Paul discusses the church as God’s field (vs. 5-9), the church as God’s building (vs. 10-15), and the church as God’s temple (vs. 16-17).

2. The final part of the chapter (vs. 18-23) recapitulates Paul’s earlier teaching about wisdom, folly and boasting, and then concludes with a powerful affirmation that not only the church and its leaders but everything else in all creation belongs to God.

3. So let’s jump into the chapter with both feet, and apply these truths to ourselves.

I. Question One: What Divides A Church?

A. Answer: Spiritual immaturity divides churches.

1. One day some friends were discussing a neighboring church that was experiencing division.

2. One of the people said, “That doesn’t sound like a big enough problem over which to split a church.”

3. Then one of the group reminded the others of a truth that is easily forgotten, “Any problem that has to be dealt with by people who are spiritually immature can divide a church, no matter how small a matter it may appear to be.”

B. Last week as we discussed chapter 2, we noticed that Paul was contrasting Christians and non-Christians.

1. Paul made the important distinction that Christians have the Holy Spirit, and non-Christians do not.

2. Here in chapter 3, Paul won’t be contrasting Christians and non-Christians, but rather he will be contrasting two kinds of Christians – mature and immature, or spiritual and worldly.

3. Paul is trying to explain that it is one thing to have the Spirit, and it is another thing to have the Spirit in charge.

C. Paul wrote, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as 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. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-4)

1. Paul would like to address the Christians at Corinth as Spiritual, but he cannot, because they are not.

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