Summary: Spiritual maturity comes not in some “new” teaching, but through a deeper grasp of the cross of Christ.
For those of you who are new, we are in a series called Spiritual Wisdom in a Foolish World, looking at deep roots of our faith. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in ancient Corinth in Greece. The churches there were filled with immature people divided into different factions. We are the same today. Christians divide into different groups based on some personality, practice, label, or doctrinal distinctive. Then some churches compete with each other to get people to come to their deal that they think is better that what other good churches are doing.
In Corinth, what they thought was wise ends up being foolish. Paul takes us back to deep roots of our faith to show us how to live for Christ in a corrupt culture. He urges us to live Christ-like lives by the power of the Spirit as a unified church. We’ve looked at our spiritual identity, power and discernment. Today we look into spiritual maturity. What is mature and what is not? While you could answer that question in many ways, in this chapter Paul says that jealousy and quarrelling are evident marks of immaturity.
Open your Bibles to First Corinthians chapter three. For the first time in the letter Paul criticizes the church directly and sharply, but he cushions his rebuke by addressing them as brothers and sisters (cf. 1:26, 2:1). He will confront them for dividing over human leaders instead of unifying on the triune God
Apparently the Corinthians were lining up with human teachers like fans or groupies. Then they were arguing that their group or their teacher was better than some other one. This kind of behavior has sadly hurt the church through the centuries. It is the absolutely wrong focus. When a leader tries to build a personal following and personal empire, it distracts from the gospel bringing glory to Christ.
In First Corinthians chapter three, God addresses this issue with a serious warning that we dare not take lightly. Paul’s point is that we should focus on the triune God, not on human leaders. As you scan chapter three you will see the logical divisions represented on your sermon outline. After describing the problem, Paul uses three images to make his point: a field, a building and temple. Each image is connected most directly with a different member of the Trinity from God to Jesus to the Spirit. We will work through the text a paragraph at a time. The point of our text is that we should stop foolishly dividing over human leaders for three powerful reasons, each tied to the Triune God. Follow with me as we look at verses one to four where Paul describes the problem, which is that they are unspiritual babies.
The Problem: you are unspiritual babies 1-4
Brace yourself as we begin in chapter three, verse one.
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,”are you not mere human beings? 1 Corinthians 3:1–4
Essentially Paul is saying; you are a bunch of spiritual babies. The Greek word for “infants” was almost always used in a negative way much like when we say in English, you are acting like baby! Like babies they were being self-centered, competing with each other. Can you imagine God saying to you or to your Life Group or to Christ Fellowship: “I wish I could address you as spiritually mature people, but you are being childish, acting like spiritual babies.” Ouch.
Then Paul adds some color when he says, "I gave you milk not solid food because you were not ready for it and still are not." You could only handle baby food. Hang with me for a minute as I make a distinction. In the past I have misread this passage along with many others. I wrongly saw the text to be saying that the Corinthians could only handle elementary truths so Paul could not give them more advanced truths. But that is not what Paul is saying. Paul is not saying they are babies who need to grow into adults, but that they are adults who are acting childishly. The point is not about their diet but about their perspective. Did Paul intend to start them off with the message of the cross and then, after they grasped it, advance to deeper things? No. By considering Paul’s teaching “milk for babies” they show that they are “mere infants;” they have abandoned the gospel for something that may look like “solid food” but is without nutritional value.