Summary: In today's lesson we are urged to behave like people taught by the Holy Spirit and not act like unbelievers.
The past two Sundays we had a Missions Conference and an Ordination and Installation Service for Officers. Today we continue our study in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the worldly practice of divisiveness. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “Sectarianism Is Carnal.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 3:1-4:
1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 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? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? (1 Corinthians 3:1–4)
Pastor, professor, and author Kenneth L. Chafin told the following story in his commentary on 1 Corinthians:
Over lunch, several friends were discussing a church we all knew about which was so wracked with internal strife that it had become common knowledge in the community. Some members, who had no stomach for a fight, were drifting into neighboring churches. Those who remained were being pushed by the opposing groups to take sides, and the affair was becoming very unpleasant. The issue that had precipitated such a furor was the changing of the job description of the organist, who had been there for years and had built a small empire in her area of work. She had developed great skill in using a loyal following as a power base for budget, program, and calendar advantages. So when a special lay committee brought a report to the congregation suggesting a slight change in her duties, she took it as a personal rebuke and declared war. Since none of us were having to deal with the situation, most of us agreed with the one who said, “That doesn’t sound like a big enough problem to split a church.” Then one of the group reminded us of a truth that is too easily forgotten: “Any problem that has to be dealt with by people who are spiritually immature can divide a church, no matter how small it may appear.”
That last statement is a remarkably insightful statement. As I reflect back on my past twenty-five years of pastoral ministry I think I can safely say that every instance of division has been caused by people who were spiritually immature. I have seen divisions over who should teach a Sunday school class, or even over calling a particular doctrinal error an “error”! On the other hand, I have also seen churches face with great spiritual maturity radical changes in the community, new and different leadership, or every kind of hardship grow stronger and more united.
In today’s lesson the apostle Paul ties the worldly practice of divisiveness that is dividing the church to the failure of the members to grow up spiritually.
Before we study today’s lesson, let’s briefly review what we have covered so far in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians.
After the introductory salutation (1:1-3) and thanksgiving (1:4-9) of the letter, Paul immediately addressed the issue of divisions in the church in Corinth (1:10-17). Paul urged the Christians in Corinth to heal the divisions in the church because they are contrary to the unity that exists in Christ’s body.
The reason for the division in the church at Corinth was due to a misunderstanding of human wisdom versus the wisdom from the Spirit.
Paul came down hard on human wisdom because he argued against a Corinthian attitude toward wisdom that placed him and his gospel in a less than favorable light. Human wisdom about salvation that is purely philosophical, rhetorical, and speculative is wrong. Instead, there is a wisdom about salvation that has been revealed by God that is right.
The radical contrast that Paul set up between human wisdom and the message of the gospel could have led to the misconception that the Christian faith is foolishness. So, Paul carefully explained that the gospel is a very special kind of wisdom that can be discerned only by those who are spiritually mature.
Having shown that the gospel of Christ opposed the arrogant wisdom of this age, Paul warned against the celebrities whom worldly wisdom had created in Corinth. And so the apostle Paul pointed out that the Corinthian believers did not behave like people taught by the Holy Spirit. Although they were believers, they acted like unbelievers.
Similarly, in today’s lesson we are urged to behave like people taught by the Holy Spirit and not act like unbelievers.