Summary: Our aim this morning is to sniff out the barnacles of pride inside of each us. Today’s Big Idea: Pride causes division; humility draws the gaze of God.
Paul writes to the church at Corinth to help genuine believers solve their divisions. When you read today’s words from Paul to the church at Corinth, you need to prepare for the knife. Paul writes as one who is taking a scalpel in hand to perform surgery on the church he founded by the grace of God. This is one of those texts that offer tenderhearted hope and tough-minded warning in the very same truth. The hope is especially intended for the earnest struggler in the faith and the warning is especially intended for the careless drifter. And both are intended for the person on the outside looking in this morning, wondering what it might be like if you trusted in Christ and became a Christian.
“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)?
Our aim this morning is to sniff out the barnacles of pride inside of each us. Today’s Big Idea: Pride causes division; humility draws the gaze of God.
Paul’s words in verses one through four mark a transition. He’s been talking about what is true wisdom in chapter two. There we discovered that true wisdom is the mind of Christ. Yet, the church often displays a false “intelligence” where you see quarrels. That is exactly what is happening in today’s text. This false intelligence worked to destroy the very church for which Christ died. Despite his transition, Paul is not entertaining about a new subject. Let me help you place some markers down in 1 Corinthians so you can see the contours of Paul’s argument.
Look at back 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 for the first maker: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)?
Here’s the arrogant hostility Paul references in verse four of today’s text. You can his connection of how he connects the dots between the division of the church and true wisdom if you take your eyes down just a little later in chapter three. Go to verse eighteen for our second marker: “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age… So let no one boast in men” (1 Corinthians 3:18a, 22a). So, here you see how true wisdom doesn’t play games over boasting in men. Godly wisdom fails to divide into which rival pastor to follow.
1. A Christian Is What a Christian Does
Here is Forrest Gump (Stupid is as Stupid Does) meets the Bible. This is the first time in his letter that he sharply criticizes the church. His criticism is simple: they are spiritual but they live as if they didn’t have the Spirit. The church in Corinth was enormously divided. There were divisions over which apostle was superior, sexual morality, lawsuits, marriage, eating meat, headcoverings for women, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection of believers, and I’m probably missing some! Paul is speaking to people who are saints who act like sinners: “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). Look and listen to Paul in verse three: “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” (1 Corinthians 3:3)?
Because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christians are graced with seeing and tasting and exulting in gifts that are beyond my ability to comprehend (1 Corinthians 2:9). For all the gifts the Spirit had given them at their conversion, these believers were acting as if they had never been converted. Their actions worked to deny the presence of the Holy Spirit. Every new believer receives the Holy Spirit at conversion: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9). Yet, their claims to be Christ-like contradicted their actions. They desired status. They displayed jealousy and quarrelling. Their actions were self-centered.