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1Corinthians 3

Thursday Evening Bible Study

June 19, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 4400 words, perhaps 3500 words

In Paul's day, Corinth was the capitol of the province of Achaia (southern Greece), and was the most important city in Greece.

Corinth was quite the cosmopolitan city.  All merchant traffic flowing north and south, as well as east and west, flowed through Corinth.

Corinth was also the center of the world’s greatest immorality.

The Temple of Aphrodite stood on the hill overlooking the city, and every night 1,000 male and female prostitutes would come down into the city and encourage the citizens to “worship” the goddess of love.

Paul had established the church in Corinth in AD 51 on his second missionary journey.  He had spent 18 months teaching and building the church before moving on.

It is now AD 56, and Paul is across the Aegean Sea in the city of Ephesus.  He’s received a letter telling about the immorality, quarrels, and questions in Corinth.

Paul writes back.

3:1-4 Immature Divisions

:1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

:1 spiritual … carnal

When you look at this verse, and also in 2:14, you will see that Paul describes three different kinds of people.

The natural man, the carnal man, and the spiritual man.

Everybody has a “throne” in their life, the place where decisions are made.
The natural man is the person where “self” sits on the throne of a person’s heart and Christ is outside of their life.
The carnal man is the person who has asked Christ to come into their life, but they do not allow Him to sit on the throne of their life, and they still live their life governed by their sin nature.
The spiritual man is the person who has not only asked Christ into their life, but is allowing Jesus to sit on the throne of their life, allowing Him to guide them, choosing to live their life after God’s ways, not man’s.

:1 spiritualpneumatikos – belonging to the spirit, human or divine

This is the Christian who chooses to live their life, as much as possible, filled with and governed by the Holy Spirit.

:1 carnalsarkikos – belonging to the flesh, carnal

This is the immature Christian, one who knows the Lord but who lives their life ruled by their flesh, their sin nature.

This is not the same as a word we looked at last week for the unbeliever –

2:14 naturalpsuchikos – belonging to the soul
This is truly the “soul man”, a man who has nothing higher to govern his life than his own flawed, sinful soul.

:2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;

:1  as to babes in Christ


Growing up

babesnepios – an infant, little child; childish, untaught, unskilled
Babies are cute. 
Video: Messy Babies

You can put up with dirty diapers, messy dinner tables, broken glasses, crying spells, because they're babies.

If an adult acts like a baby, speaking gibberish, throwing temper tantrums, or buries his face in his birthday cake, we might just have a problem.  That's the picture here.

We read in Hebrews:
(Hebrews 5:12–14 NKJV) —12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Here, “milk” refers to the basics, the gospel, people turning to God.

Solid food is for those who are “mature”, those who have learned to “exercise” their senses to know the difference between good and evil.

One aspect of growing up is learning to consistently tell right from wrong and acting upon it.

To the Corinthians, growing up has to do with learning to get along with each other.

:3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?

:3 envyzelos – zeal, contentious rivalry, jealousy

:3 strifeeris – contention, strife, wrangling

:3 divisionsdichostasia (“two” + “standing”) – dissension, division

:4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?

:4 are you not carnal?

We often limit our definition of “carnal” to sexual things.  Yet Paul is using the word to describe divisions and fighting in the church.

The “carnal” person is the one who is not living under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Paul defined carnality this way to the Galatians:

(Galatians 5:19–21 NKJV) —19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Here we are getting another of Paul’s definitions of the carnal Christian.


My church is better

I think there’s something in all of us that wants to be “better” than others.
Video:  The Joneses
One of the ways we work at this is to put down others who don’t seem to be as good, smart, beautiful, as we are.
We do it with our churches when we compare our pastors, worship teams, or the way we do church.
Is there a “better” way of doing church?
I think we have to be careful when we go down this road, asking this question.

There may be a “better” way of doing church for me, because I have certain tastes and preferences.

And there may indeed be problems in another kind of church and how they function, or the finer points of what they believe.

But sometimes God works through flawed people.  Sometimes God works through flawed organizations.

Paul wrote to the Philippians while he was in prison in Rome:

(Philippians 1:12–18 NKJV) —12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

We ought to be happy when people are reached for Christ, even if it isn’t through our group or our church.  Even if we aren’t sure of what the motivation is.

3:5-8  Planting and Watering

:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?

:5 ministersdiakonos – one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant

When I was growing up, the church our family went to used to call their pastors “ministers”.  In some church settings, the term “minister” refers to some tall somber fellow who wears a long robe, has his nose stuck in the air, and deserves to have you kiss his feet.

In reality, the term simply means a “servant”.

It’s more like a waiter or waitress in a restaurant.
I had breakfast with Dave Ritner yesterday and we were talking about the phrase “waiting on the Lord”.  Dave was sharing that sometimes “waiting” on the Lord doesn’t mean inaction, but action.  A good “waiter” in a restaurant is one who keeps an eye on their customers and who anticipates their customers needs.  Our waitress, Peggy, was telling us that she watches to see if a customers is tipping their coffee cup all the way back while they drink, giving her the idea that they need a refill.

Paul and Apollos might have been honored by the Corinthians, but they were nothing more than servants, waiters taking orders.

:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

:7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

:6 I planted, Apollos watered

As individuals, we may have a part in the farming of God’s field.

Some may plant seeds like Paul.
Planting seeds is a little like evangelism.
Others may water the field, like Apollos.
Watering the field is a little like teaching, or at least the work of helping others after the seed has been planted.


Plant the seed

Jesus told a story about a farmer going out into his field and scattering seed.  As Jesus told the story, there were four types of soil that the seed landed in, and the type of harvest that each seed would produce depended on the type of soil.
(Matthew 13:3–9 NKJV) —3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
(Matthew 13:18–23 NKJV) —18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

When we share our faith in Christ with others, we are doing nothing more than planting a seed.

What happens to that seed is related to what kind of person the seed has been planted in.

We may yearn for a person to hear the gospel and accept Christ, but if their “soil” is not in the right condition, you aren’t going to see a successful harvest at the end of the summer.

I think there might be something to the idea of cultivating a field – removing stones, removing weeds, even watering the field and adding some fertilizer every once in a while.

Yet ultimately what happens to that seed depends on two people:

The person who received the seed, and God.

My responsibility is simply to plant the seed, to share with people about Jesus.

:7 God who gives the increase

The Corinthians wanted to line up behind their favorite pastors, but in the end it’s not that pastor or leader that causes things to grow.

The only one that counts is God.

It’s only when we are connected to Jesus that we can accomplish anything worthwhile in God’s field.

(John 15:1–5 NKJV) —1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

:8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

:8 each one will receive his own reward

Each one that helps with the cultivation of God’s field will get a reward.

Paul is talking the rewards from building up God’s church.

Not just Calvary Chapel of Fullerton, but the bigger, worldwide church.

5:9-17 The Building

:9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.

:9 fellow workerssunergos (“together” + “work”) – a companion in work, fellow worker

We get the word “synergy” from this word.

Paul sees himself and Apollos as fellow workers with God.

:9 God’s field … God’s building

Paul will now switch from talking about the church as a “field”, and now use the metaphor of a building.

Keep in mind, the “you” here is plural (“you all”).  Paul is talking to the believers as a group in Corinth, not individuals.

:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.

:10 I have laid the foundation

Paul was the one that started the church five years earlier, then spent the next year and a half building up the church, laying the foundation.

:10 another builds on it

After Paul laid the foundation, successive leaders (like Apollos) “built” on the foundation that Paul had laid.

Paul is painting a picture of a building being built.


There’s a house under construction along the route I walk every morning.  Last year they tore down part of the house, and began building an addition. The first thing they did to build the new section was to carefully grade the land, then they drilled holes which they filled with concrete to strengthen the foundation, then poured the foundation, and had been building on top of that foundation.
Video:  Skit Guys – The Foundation

:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

:11 foundation … Jesus Christ

The building that Paul is talking about is the church.

If you don’t get the foundation right in a building, you’re headed for trouble.
The house on my walking route spent months working on the foundation.
Jesus talked about the importance of getting a foundation right:

(Matthew 7:24–27 NKJV) —24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

There is no other “foundation” for a church than Jesus Christ.
If a “church” does not have Jesus Christ as the central focus of who they are, run as fast as you can.

:12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

:13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

:14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

:15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

:12 gold, silver … wood, hay…

The issue is what you are going to build with after you lay the foundation.


Building materials

In context, Paul is talking about the building of the church, and what kinds of things you are going to use to work to build the church.
You can build the church with precious things, or you can use inexpensive materials.

I want to be careful in what I say here, because I don’t know the motives of some of the fellows who pastor other churches, but sometimes I wonder if we sacrifice the best things for the “quick” things.

I think a church ought to be teaching people God’s Word.

Jesus told a story about two men who built their houses on different foundations.  The man who built on sand lost his house in the storm.  The man who built on rock survived the storm.

(Matthew 7:24 NKJV) “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

The rock involves hearing God’s Word and doing it.  It’s hard to do God’s Word if you’ve never been taught it.

When a church is all about flash, productions, lights, and entertainment, I think sometimes a church can veer off the road and build on things that aren’t valuable in people’s lives.

That can sound a little like “sour grapes” on my part since I do not pastor a mega church, and I’m not sure our church will ever be a mega church.

But I do hear from folks who tell me that they’ve been to certain large churches for years and never grew in their faith until they left and went where they were taught the Bible.

What Paul is talking about can also be applies to an individual’s life.
What are you building your life with?

What are the priorities in your life?

Is your priority to have a nice house, lots of stuff, and a nice retirement?

If you follow Paul’s thought process, the bigger question is, what are you going to do after retirement?  What kind of life are you preparing for after this life?

Learn God’s Word and obey it.

:13 the Day will declare it

The day that Paul is talking about is when we as believers will stand before the judgment (bema) seat of Christ.

This is not about deciding whether or not you will make it to heaven.  This is about what kind of rewards you will receive for the things you’ve done in this life.

(2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

(Romans 14:10 NKJV) But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Here, Paul describes the process as that of a fire.  Everything is thrown into the fire and whatever survives the fire is yours.

One of the possible tests that will determine whether something survives the fire is our motivation:

(1 Corinthians 13:3 NKJV) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Things we’ve done for the wrong motives are burned up.  They will profit us “nothing”.

:15 but he himself will be saved

Again, this judgment is not about whether you’re saved, but whether or not you receive rewards.

Some people will come through the fire with nothing but smoke coming off the tops of their heads.

:16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

:17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

:16 you are the temple of God


Don’t mess with the church

These two verses are often used to discourage someone from committing suicide.
The warning is that if you destroy the temple of God (yourself), then you will be destroyed by God.
The problem is, this is not what Paul’s talking about.
In context, Paul has been talking about building a building, and that building is the church.
The Greek word for “you” is a plural “you” (“you all”).
The temple that Paul is talking about is not the individual’s body, but the church.

When we are gathered together as the church, we are God’s Temple.

Jesus said,

(Matthew 18:20 NKJV) For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

The warning here is not to mess with God’s church.

If you are a person who is dividing God’s church (“I am of Paul, I am of Apollos…”), then you better watch out.

Paul also called the church the “bride of Christ”.

Don’t be messing with His bride.

There is another verse that talks about our individual bodies being a Temple of the Holy Spirit, but we won’t get to that until chapter six (1Cor. 6:19)
(1 Corinthians 6:19 NKJV) Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
If you want to discourage someone from suicide by way of a stern warning, try this one:
(Exodus 20:13 NKJV) “You shall not murder.
But I’d be careful about how you deal with a suicidal person.
Most people don’t need more condemnation, they need hope.

There is hope in Christ.

3:18-23 Worldly Wisdom

:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

:18 let him become a fool

Back in chapter one, Paul was talking about God’s wisdom versus man’s wisdom.

Man tends to think that he’s “wise” if he has lots of degrees or can win at Jeopardy.
God’s wisdom is all about Jesus.  It’s about the cross.
God’s wisdom seems like foolishness to the world.

If you think you’re wise in the world’s standards, yet without Christ in your life, then you need to rethink your life.

You need God’s wisdom, which might make you look like a fool to your buddies, but you will find God and eternal life.

:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;

Paul is quoting Job 5:13

(Job 5:13 NKJV) —13 He catches the wise in their own craftiness, And the counsel of the cunning comes quickly upon them.

:20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

Paul is quoting Psalm 94:11

(Psalm 94:11 NKJV) —11 The Lord knows the thoughts of man, That they are futile.

:19 the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God

I know that the church is sometimes guilty of “junk science”, holding on to so called scientific theories that are laughed at in the scientific community.

But the intelligentsia of this world is also quite guilty of holding on to things they need to abandon.

There are developing problems in the theory of evolution.
Try looking into the developments of the human genome over the last ten years.
Check out this video on Genetic Entropy

Scientists used to think that our DNA was like this chain of letters, perhaps a few hundred letters that gave instructions for cells to develop.

It’s more like trillions of letters with all sorts of layers of complexity to it.

Man has a Creator.  He’s a master programmer.

You can’t use the theory of evolution to say there is no God.

:21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours:

:22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours.

:23 And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

:22 all are yours

As believers, everything that belongs to Christ belongs to us.

When someone from the EV Free church down the street does a great thing, they belong to us.

When Eastside Christian church grows and reaches so many people, we ought to rejoice.

We need to be careful about being so territorial.

This week we’ve looked at things like:

Growing Up

My church is better

Plant the Seed

Building Materials

Don’t mess with the church


How would you like to grow in this week?