Summary: Exposition of 1 Cor 3:1-9 regarding carnality and immaturity that was causing division in the church
Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Title: Where the Rubber Meets the Road, Date/Place: NRBC, 8/8/10, AM
A. Opening illustration: Tell some story about being stuck with a needle, maybe that one about the needle going all the way through my hand…and say what they always say, “OK now, just a little stick…”
B. Background to passage: Remember that Paul is addressing the congregation about the division within the church. After having spent a chapter and a half undermining their desire to seek worldly approval and wisdom by aligning themselves with the “most wise, articulate orators” among their teachers, Paul begins to chop at one of the roots of the problem of division: carnality. The word simply means fleshly or of the flesh. The word didn’t have to have a bad connotation, but biblically, it usually does. He had already hinted at the lack of maturity among them as a contributing factor, but here he deals with it front and center. And building off that thought about the natural vs. the immature vs. the spiritual, he pursues immaturity, and explains
C. Main thought: in this text we will see Paul addressing root cause #1 of division in the church
A. The Cause of Division (v. 1-3a)
1. Up to this point Paul has been peripheral in his argument against the wisdom and allegiance sought out by the church members; gloves are off now; he is being very direct. Note that he does address them as brethren, acknowledging their genuine conversion, or at least its possibility and their profession. But then alluding to his “mature” comment in 2:6, he tells them that he can’t speak the deep things of God (2:10) because of their carnality (fleshliness, Adam’s nature, that should be being worked out or at least mitigated through sanctification) and their immaturity. In fact he says that they are infants in Christ. In Christ, but tiny infants that can’t even talk. And this is after five years of being believers. He says that they are not able to eat steak, they have to have milk, not even baby food. Just BTW, milk is not always bad. And they are immature because of the carnality. Some translations make this word “worldliness,” which is not a good translation, but a good interpretation. In Paul’s mind, this is unacceptable, inexcusable, blameworthy, detrimental, and unnecessary.
2. Matt 16:23, 1 Cor 14:20, Eph 4:13-14, Heb 5:11-14,
3. Illustration: “Nothing is more precious or wonderful than a little baby. But a twenty-one year old with the mind of an infant is heartbreaking. A baby who acts like a baby is a joy; but an adult that acts like a baby is a tragedy.” –JM, one pastor’s definition of worldliness, “worldliness is much deeper than bad habits; it is an orientation, a way of thinking and believing. Basically it is buying into the world’s philosophies, and buying human wisdom. It is looking to the world—to human leaders, to influential and popular people, to neighbors, to associates, and fellow students—for our standards, attitudes, and meaning. Worldliness is accepting the world’s definitions, the world’s measuring sticks, the world’s goals.” Got a book on the shelf called Fool’s Gold, and it is all about a spiritually immature Christian church and community that is not discerning enough to distinguish between good truth and bad truth, and is captive to Christian fads and their wholesale acceptance, thus they spend time “outing” some major Christian books for their poor, and sometimes heretical doctrine. And several of them would be on your shelves at home! Andrew Murray said: “The Christian who is still carnal has neither desire nor strength to follow after God. He rests satisfied with the prayer of habit or custom.”
4. Carnality is a pattern of behavior that believers can be ensnared in, but it is not permanent, long term, but not permanent. And difficult to distinguish from the natural/unconverted/unspiritual man, as we will see below. Carnality and worldliness is more about thought than about behavior, although the two are intrinsically linked. How you think will determine how you act. Being an immature Christian really doesn’t have much to do with how long you have been a Christian, but by your progression in the faith, what kind of food you can process. What is your diet made up of? What kinds of Christian books are you reading? What are you listening too? Who are your favorite teachers? What kinds of truth do you think about, wrestle with? What sorts of sins are you attempting to kill? Remember that you will be held accountable for your progression in the Christian faith. It is not all about effort, but most of the time our lack of growth is directly related to our lack of effort and pursuit of Christ.
B. The Symptoms of Division/Carnality (v. 3b-4)