This sermon is number 7 in a series of 46
1 Corinthians - Part 7
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I Corinthians 3:1-9
Verse 1: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building".
'Baby Christians', a baby is a person, a little person who is utterly dependent upon another. It is a person who is amused, often times, by rubbish - you can give it the box of the toy and not the toy, and it will be more amused with the box than the toy. A baby is a creature that seems to put into its mouth anything that it finds lying on the ground. As that little baby gets older - and it doesn't need to get too old, I can tell you, to go into little tantrums when it doesn't get its way. When we look at the figure, or the metaphor, or the illustration, the analogy that Paul gives us of baby Christians, we see that he's talking about people who are always dependent upon others, who never learn to have spiritual independence and growth individually. They are often amused by rubbish, by things that don't really matter, they'll put anything into their mouths, they'll feed themselves on anything except the word of God, and they are often - within the church of Jesus Christ - prone to tantrums. That's what a baby is like, and if you can imagine what an adult like that would be, you have now imagined what the Corinthians Christians were like in the days of Paul.
Imagine the tragedy of an adult, a grown man or woman, that behaves like a baby! A man who has never developed, a man who has never grown! There are several genetic and medical conditions that actually realise this awful tragedy and monstrosity of a nightmare for people, when they see children that do not age, that don't appear to age at least - they are ageing in years, but they never grow, they never mature. It's a tragedy to see. What is further a tragedy to see is if you went to China, which I mentioned in my prayer, and you see there parents who take their little children and they put shoes on their feet that are too small for them because they believe it's great have small feet, something beautiful to have small feet - so they force their children not to grow by putting shoes on them that are too small so that they'll have small feet. It's a tragedy, isn't it?
But imagine: not something genetic, not something that is forced upon you by another, but something that is actually an intelligent reasonable choice - to choose to stay a baby! To choose to never grow! Imagine, if you will, a 40-year-old man turning up for work with a dummy in his mouth and his favourite toy underneath his arm! Someone related to me today what it would be like to see a 70-year-old man in a play pen with a rattle in his mouth and toys around him. What would it be like? It seems absolutely ridiculous, and it is ridiculous! But what is more ridiculous than that human illustration, Paul is saying, is a Christian that has at his disposal all of the power and riches of God; yet he fails, willingly, to grow and to mature - he is still a babe in Christ.
The awful fact that we have to face tonight is that there is a reality called 'Baby Christians'. There is such a thing as an underdeveloped, immature Christian. Paul speaks to these people in verse 1 and he says: 'Brethren', he looks upon them as believers, brothers. This is the staggering thing about it, that he's not saying, as he said at the end of chapter 2, that these people are natural, they're not even saved, they're not living like Christians so they're not saved, that's not what he's saying! He says that they are babes in Christ, positionally they are in Christ, and he calls them brothers - they are real Christians yet they have never developed. I believe that he calls them brothers because he wants, as he did in chapter 1, to show them affection, to show them grace before he comes in very hard and rebukes them. He wants them to realise that his strong words of exhortation and rebuke are coming from a heart of strong affection and love and compassion towards them - and let me say before I go on any further that I hope you understand in some of the rebukes and exhortation and encouragement that I give to you tonight, and I have been before the Lord, this is from a heart of love, it is from a heart of compassion toward you, it is from a heart of a shepherd - I hope - that wants God's best for you, and wants you to enter into the joy of the Lord that He has prepared for you, and the maturity and the growth that He wants for you.
We must not, tonight, miss the import and the significance and the magnitude of this illustration that Paul is giving to us. Look at verse 1: 'I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ'. Now I want you to note that Paul, I believe, is speaking about the first time he was with the Corinthians. He is speaking of when he came to them and he led them to Christ, and then they were babes in Christ, they were mere infants, and he says: 'You're carnal'. Now that word 'carnal' simply means 'fleshly', it means 'worldly' - the opposite to spiritual, to be rooted down and have your tent pegs in this world, to be a fleshly Christian. When these Corinthians were first converted, like many people - and some of you can testify to this tonight - when you're first converted you don't really understand everything that takes place in your conversion, you don't understand and are given a great revelation of all things spiritual that God ever wants to reveal to you right throughout your whole spiritual life and pilgrimage. Even when you get converted, although you don't know everything, there's still a baggage of worldliness that often comes into your new life in Christ. You don't let go of everything that you had in the world and it takes a little bit of time.
Some Christians get saved and they think, initially, that they're going to live just as they lived before, in the same sort of way. When Paul first ministered to these believers in Corinth he realised that the process of sanctification had only started, and that there was a long road ahead of him - they had not yet naturally developed the way that the Holy Spirit would develop them one day. So I want you to see that: that when they were first converted they didn't know everything about salvation and sanctification, and they brought with them much of the baggage of the world before their conversion. Then when we go into verse 2 - now don't worry about the lights flashing, they're not bothering me until I can't see the Bible, so don't you worry about them either - verse 2: 'I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able'. So when he first came to them and they were converted - and he realised that they could never be, right at conversion, fully spiritually developed - he knew that they couldn't take the meat of God's word, he had to feed them with milk, not solids. Like a baby, a baby would right away choke on solids if it was fed with them from birth - all that he could feed them with and all that they were able to receive and digest were the simple basic truths of the word of God. They were not ready for anything else, and there's a lesson in that right away, because there are many people that I see coming in and out of this church and they get so taken up with the depths of prophecy, the intricacies of Scripture, and they have not yet learned the basic simple truths of the milk of God's word - and some of them are backslidden tonight who used to come to this Bible study. It is important to realise, when you're first converted, that you will never understand everything and there's a lot of growing process that has to come to pass.
These Corinthians, like all people converted, were not ready for anything else, and it was fully understandable and it was appropriate for their condition at that time as babes in Christ - but the dilemma and the difficulty for the apostle Paul was this: they were still there as babes! That's what they were like when he first led them to Christ, that's what they were like when he was revealing to them the basic ABCs of the Christian life and faith and truth, but they're still there! And they still weren't ready, the apostle said, to receive the meat of the word of God! I don't care what way you look at this, this is abnormal. It is just like the little child that has never matured, never grown up - but it's more than that, it's something that is not genetic, and it's not even forced on them by another, it is voluntary - they are choosing not to grow as believers, they are choosing not to take the meat of God's word but to still feed on the milk! It's abnormal and it is unnatural, it's a lack of natural development.
So Paul is distinguishing that there are two different types of Christians. In chapter 2 he talked about the spiritual man and the natural man. The natural man is unconverted and does not perceive or discern spiritual things, and the spiritual man is a man who is regenerated by the Spirit of God and made alive to God, and made to be able to see the truths of God and see the Gospel as the power and wisdom of God - it no longer is foolishness. But now, as he's coming into chapter 3, he's not talking about the saved and the unsaved, but he's talking about spiritual Christians as opposed to carnal Christians. So he says that not only are there two camps in humanity between those who are saved and are lost, but there two camps even within Christendom - those who are carnal and those who are spiritual. It's not that you're spiritual and then you stay spiritual the rest of your life, and it's not that you're carnal and you have to remain carnal - sometimes you can be spiritual one day and carnal the next day, and vice versa. You can go into bouts of each of these conditions: spiritual and carnal. But what I want you to see is that Paul sees those who are spiritual not as the ones who are extraordinary, he sees the Christians that are carnal and fleshly as the ones who are out of the ordinary because it was abnormal, unnatural development - they should have grown!
They are Christians, but Paul says they are still men of the flesh. Now let me reiterate tonight, if you're a young believer, that the Bible does not expect young Christians to be spiritual instantaneously - but what we have here are Corinthian believers after they were converted, after they were feeding upon the milk, they failed to move forward and they frittered away their lives and remained babes still in flesh. Now although it takes a little bit of time to mature, to become spiritual believers, to grow up from being babes to adult Christians, it doesn't take as long as many of us think. It doesn't take as long as some of us think it should and ought to take, because as you look at Paul here you find that these Corinthians - and you know the background that they had, we went into that in our very first study, they were from an awful, pagan, immoral, amoral background - and the probability is that since Paul led them to Christ, and is now writing this letter, there are only 3 to 5 years maximum that have passed. Note that: 3 to 5 years, yet Paul is expecting natural spiritual growth in these believers - in fact he thinks that at this stage they should be spiritual and not carnal, yet they are still babes. Do you know what he's saying effectively? 'You've remained babes too long, it's time you were spiritual!'.
Challenging stuff, isn't it? When you think about it, this is why the Lord Jesus shed His precious blood at Calvary, isn't it? He didn't just shed His blood to save us from the penalty of sin, but He shed His blood to save us and deliver us and emancipate us from the power of sin in our lives, so that we could become conquerors through Him that loved us. He died that we might have removed in our lives all of the hindrances to the Spirit's power and effectiveness in our testimony. Yet it's sad to find today, Christians who achieve no progress year after year after year - the tragedy of even decade after decade, 40, maybe even 50 years without any progress whatsoever since the day that they first believed! Believers are even filled with amazement when they see a young man or a young woman after three years of conversion going upward and outward, breaking out and for God - they think it's out of the ordinary, it's abnormal, it is not normal! That is normal, that is natural! Let us change our perspectives if they are unbiblical, and I believe that they are - this is not unusual, to see a man or a woman break through for Christ after a couple of years in the faith.
In the light of that, can I ask you all here this evening - and I plead with you to recognise that this is coming from a heart of compassion and concern, and I have been asking myself this before God in the place of prayer - how long is it since you have believed? How long since you first fed on the milk? And here's the next question: are you, today, spiritual? I put it another way: are you, today, normal in the sight of God? Paul is saying that we all ought to have an insatiable passion to grow and to not wait for another - to grow and to seek God until we see that growth, such a growth that we become spiritual and mature! We need to ask several questions of ourselves tonight, and one of the questions that we need to ask as the church in the West and in Ulster this evening is: why does this not happen? Why is it that so many believers are saved and still on milk, and do not develop to maturity on to meat, and become spiritual people but remain carnal? Why is it?
Well, I can't enter into it all tonight because I want to do with the whole of this passage, but there is a twofold answer I believe: first and foremost, carnal Christian leaders allow carnal Christianity to happen. That may be because the elders, I mean the older people, not the oversight but the older people, do not instruct the younger as we find in Titus 2 and various other passages. But it may be, and I think this is the probable reason, that these leaders, a great number of them, are unspiritual themselves and are carnal and cannot teach spirituality! The second reason is most likely also the mirror image of this, that there is no appetite, or at least generally speaking to a large extent, there is not an appetite within believers. There is not a desire within Christians to seek after God's truth, God's meat, God's maturity, spirituality - and if there is that desire, there's not the willingness to pay the cost, to pay the price! Because of that and many other reasons, the consequence, as Watchman Nee said, is that the church is overstuffed with big babies. The church is overstuffed with big babies.
What we want to do tonight is look at the characteristics of what a baby Christian is. We find them all in this passage, the first is found in verse 2 as we have already alluded to it: they are never ready for meat, they never get ready for meat. Because they stay babies too long they get to such a stage that they are unable to absorb spiritual, real spiritual teaching and truth. We can see that at large in our nation today, where the word of God and the preaching of the word of God is relegated to epilogue status - it's put at the end of meetings, it's shoved out of the way, as little as possible. Now Christians can watch a 3 and a half hour long film, an epic, sit before it and take it all in, follow the plot - but they can't sit for half an hour or 45 minutes or even an hour under God's word and think about it!
There is a famine in God's word and there is a famine in doctrine, doctrine is diluted and made to seem unimportant - but that is not, I believe, what Paul is talking about here. I'll tell you why: because the Corinthians, above perhaps every other church that Paul had ever written to, knew a great deal of spiritual truth. Remember the wisdom that they were priding themselves in? If you look for a moment to chapter 1 and verse 5 you can read it for yourself, Paul was rejoicing, remember, in grace for them '...that in every thing they were enriched by Christ, in all utterance, and in all knowledge'. In all likelihood, when Paul came to them and taught them spiritual truths, they were able to grasp it, they were able to understand what the great apostle said - but the problem that they had that distinguished between spiritual Christians and carnal Christians was that that understanding was purely and only in the mind. They knew everything, but what made them carnal was that they didn't have the power to express in their life that which they knew! That, perhaps, is the fundamental distinction between those who are spiritual and those who are carnal - it is not how much you know, it is how much you implement of what you know!
We are plagued today in the church of Jesus Christ in the West with people who can grasp so many things so well, and can even teach and preach them well, but they themselves are unspiritual! I'm not setting myself up as some kind of Pope or Ayatollah to hammer everybody else in a pulpit; but I'll tell you, as I move among some men I find them extremely unspiritual. Spirituality doesn't lie in some kind of a wonderful mysterious thought or thoughts about Christ or about prophecy or about the old or the new covenant, it doesn't rest in that. It rests in actual spiritual experience, not just what you know, but how what you know has affected your walk and how you have experienced God in your life! Cleverness does not matter, even eagerness for the truth are useless because the essential path that God blesses and God deigns to be spiritual is the path of obedience to the Holy Spirit of God - now you mark that! He, the Lord Jesus said, would not leave the disciples comfortless, orphans, but He would come - and what did He say He would do? He would lead them into all truth.
All else apart from that path of obedience is simply a transmission of knowledge from one mind to another - I hope that that's not what I'm engaged in every Sunday morning and Sunday evening and Monday evening: just transmitting what I have learnt in the study to you, and you go home and maybe even transmit it to someone else. That is carnality of the highest kind - and what many people today, especially in our circles, need is not increased spiritual teaching, but an increased obedient heart to the Spirit's command. In fact, if you don't have obedience to the Spirit's command in the teaching of the word of God, the more teaching you get the more carnal you get! Does that mean we need to stay away from meetings and start to consider for a while whether we've put into practice what we believe and have been taught? Well, I'm not espousing that, I want to get you to the meetings - but sometimes I wonder!
Carnality, to heap to ourselves some kind of a knowledge, and then we begin to believe and deceive ourselves into thinking that we're spiritual because of what we know. We say: 'Well, how else could I possibly know so many spiritual things unless I myself were spiritual?'. But that is not the touchstone of spirituality, rather it is: 'How much do I know from life experience?' - and if it's only in the mind it is merely Corinthian, and it is the carnal product of the mind.
What I'm talking about is...you talk to some people, and I'm not being ostentatious here, but you talk to some people about certain spiritual experiences that either some other man has had that you've read about, or that you have had, or a friend of yours has had, and they look at you and they go: 'Aye' - ever get that reaction? 'Aye' - it's foreign. Oh, the truth's all there, but ask about experience and reality - and do you know the only conclusion I come to? It's this: some believers never grow up! They never mature! Now the Lord knows my heart tonight, and if you are carnal I pity you - like a child gazing into a cage where there's a stray puppy confined that can't get out, and the child has pity on it. I pity you. I have been praying before God for a heart of grace and love, for you to realise that by remaining carnal and a babe in Christ just feeding upon milk, you limit your own spiritual capacity because you refuse to grow. You fit, you fit into this definition of a carnal Christian. Listen what Roy Lauren (sp?), the author says: 'Many Christians are parasitic consumers' - you know what a parasite is, something like a leech that latches onto you and sucks life from your life - some Christians are like parasitic consumers. He goes on: 'They have arrested their own development because they have ceased to search for food themselves. They are content have someone else find it for them. They have also ceased to pray, being satisfied with being prayed for. They do no form of spiritual work since they pay their preacher to work for them. In other words they live off another, they nurse off another, they are being fed by another, and they never come to spiritual maturity, they are never ready for the meat'. Is that you?
Let us move on to the second characteristic in verse 3: they thrive on strife and quarrels. This is another evidence, he talks about envying among them, strife and divisions - jealousy is another translation of it, jealousy and strife. He mentioned this as the cause of division in Corinth in chapter 1 and verse 11, and two more times he's going to mention it: chapter 3 verse 22, and chapter 4 verse 6. He's always coming back to the fact that they are divided because of their humanistic wisdom and reasoning, because of their carnality! He says: 'Even the ones that are saying, 'I am of Christ', the motivation behind it is jealousy and strife'. They're trying to set themselves up as spiritual when they're carnal! As one man has said: 'The fact is this: any sectarian boasting is but the babbling of a babe' - any sectarian boasting is but the babbling of a babe!
Now listen, this is extremely important, because those who are never ready for meat, and those who thrive on strife and quarrels - essentially those who are carnal, they are babes in Christ - they have a camouflage so that others do not see, or at least they think they do not see, that they are only babes. They know deep down, they maybe don't admit it, but they know that they are essentially unspiritual so what they do is they get a camouflage, and it's usually a little crusade, a little hobby horse that they like, that gives them a feeling within their heart of rightness - 'I'm right!'. It's not righteousness, it's just rightness. Have you ever met these people? They are 'one issue people' - one issue. They fight for that little issue, they would die for that little issue it would seem, they turn every conversation round to the hobby horse or this issue of contention - and I ask you tonight: are they are not babes? Are they not the ones who never grow up? And I'll tell you, as I've been before God for grace, sometimes I feel it hard and my patience wears thin, and I could grab some grown men and shake them and say: 'For God's sake, man, grow up!'.
Some of us are no different than politicians in the lobby of Parliament arguing party politics, men - and I say it reverently - men in a pub fighting over a horse or a dog that they've put a bet on. If you think that I'm being too low or too hard, Paul says that when you do these things - look at the end of verse 3 - you walk as mere men! Now you might put some kind of a facade and an air of respectability on your particular quarrelling and arguing, because you're doing it over so-called spiritual matters, but Paul says it's no different. It's all from the same source! What is the source? It is the flesh! Now it doesn't matter if it's the flesh of party politics, it doesn't matter whether it's the flesh of sinful revelling, even if it's spiritual argumentation from a motivation of pride - it is the flesh!
This is devastating stuff, because Paul says you are living like mere men. What is a mere man? It is like the natural man in chapter 2, without the Spirit! He says you're living like a man that doesn't even have the Spirit of God! What could be more awful than to conceive in your mind of a Christian who had to live without the Spirit of God? Yet there are many people in our churches today and they're living as if they didn't have the Spirit of God in their life, because the churches are wrecked! I wonder if there's a church this side of Iceland that has not had a split in it within the last ten years or so? It is all from the flesh, ultimately from the flesh, the quarrelling over these things, the strife, the envy - it stems from jealousy! Imagine, could you tonight, I ask you this from the depths of my heart: could you be living as a Christian as if you didn't even have the Spirit of God? A mere man.
Let me ask you it in this simple question: you live in number 32, and next door to you in number 34 there's a man who is not a believer, and his whole family aren't believers. You've got a nice house and he has got a nice house; you've got a good job and he's got a good job; you've lovely children and he has lovely children, they're all going to good schools, they've got prospects ahead of them. You go to church because you're a Christian, but he goes to church yet he's not a Christian. Can I ask you a simple question: what's the difference? You're not going to tell me it's because you're saved, are you? Is that difference enough? Paul is saying: 'No it's not' - it's not different enough. You've got to be seen not to just walk as mere men - what makes us distinctive as believers? What are we living for? He's saying your life will tell what you're living for!
People come in and out of church, and they show their face once in a blue moon, and they don't do anything in the assembly, and they watch others breaking their back working for Jesus, needing help and they won't give any hand - and they think that they're fooling everybody going in and out week after week! We can see where their priorities lie! You're not fooling anybody! I can see right away when a man's priority is his work - and we all have to work, and I am in a position where I can say certain things and I have to be careful. But I know other people, even people in levels of Professorship in medicine, but they chose not to go all the way up the ladder, not to be one of these people that never had an hour to go to a prayer meeting, or never had an opportunity to take free time to give out a tract, so they chose a job between 9 and 5 - they excelled in it, so much so that people were showing documentaries about them on the television, Professor Verner Wright (sp?). They made a choice that showed where their priorities lay, and it marked them out as spiritual.
You're not fooling anybody. The tragic fact is that this baby Christian generation, if the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from much of the church our lives would just go on as usual. Are we living just like mere men? These baby Christians, they're never ready for meat, they thrive on strife and quarrels - verse 4 says that they enjoy factionalism. These splits, they thrive on it! It's not something that they put up with because of truth or martyrdom, they want to see it, they love a good fight, a good argument! These are the people, I think, that take their stand when there's nothing to stand on, when there's nothing to stand for or fight for. They love to divide on a point of rightness, not a point of righteousness but a point of rightness - usually because it's a point of pride and it makes them feel better than the next one! God give us more protestants in the truest sense of the word, pro-test-ants, who'll stand up against error and against untruthfulness. Sometimes I feel that some of these so-called Protestants, I define them as pro-pest-ants! They're a nuisance to God and to His church and to the witness! 'Everything's an issue to die for', and much of it - and this is what I want you to see tonight - much of this is just to cover over that they have nothing else worth fighting for! Only human wisdom, human personalities, human parties - they are trying to camouflage, to cover over that they don't have a real spiritual vital walk with Christ! Someone has said: 'Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people - all to hide carnality'.
The fourth characteristic is that they exalt man above God, verses 5 through to 9. The reason why they exalt men above God, first of all, is because they don't understand the Spirit's sovereignty. They see a man with a gift, a tremendous gift that the Lord uses, and they set him up on a pinnacle over another man that doesn't seem to have as much of a flamboyant gift - but they are priding the man, ignoring the fact that the Spirit is the one who has given the man the gift. These people are not demi-gods, they are servants, Paul says: 'I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase', and in verse 5 he says: 'Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers' - now that's not an ecclesiastical title, that is the description of a servant of Christ, one who ministers to others.
Now what makes them different? What makes one man different from another in his gift? It is simply this, look at the end of verse 5: 'even as the Lord gave to every man'. Another translation puts it: 'even as the Lord has a sign to different men'. Now worldly leaders, what do they seek? They seek fame and prestige, and they force their own ways upon others, and they force their face into the limelight - but Paul is saying Christian leaders shouldn't be like that, they should seek only to serve and follow the will of God. We should never make preachers or teachers into celebrities. We are not to celebrate the servants of the Lord, but the Lord Himself! If we recognise the sovereignty of the Spirit we will realise who makes one Christian to differ from another. Paul says: 'I am what I am by the grace of God'.
If you turn to chapter 12 of this epistle he talks about spiritual gifts, and we'll come to it in a later study, in verse 11 he says: 'All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will' - as the Spirit wills, the sovereignty of the Spirit. In chapter 4, if you look at it, and verse 7 he addresses it specifically: 'For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?'. You're glorying in men's gifts as if they had achieved it, but God has given them it! We will exalt men when we don't understand the Spirit's sovereignty.
They also exalted men because they didn't understand the Lord's method. He used an agricultural metaphor, he says: 'I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase'. Paul planted the seed when he shared the Gospel with them, and then Apollos came along when Paul had left Corinth and he watered, he discipled them and taught them the ABC, he fed them on the milk - but what he is saying is: 'Although I planted the seed and Apollos watered, it was the Lord who made the fruit grow! It was the Lord who gave the life. Our human leadership that you're hankering after and following and worshipping, it accomplished absolutely nothing apart from the Spirit's power that unctionised it'.
Now I want you to note something here, because there's a danger when we talk all about the sovereignty of God, and last week we were talking about inspiration and illumination and so on, that we sit back and we say: 'Well, that's the way it is. You sow the seed, somebody comes along and maybe says another wee word that builds upon yours, but you've got to stand back and God will do the rest. God will do the rest, sit back and God will do it all!'. The answer is: God does it all, but He does it all through us - and God wouldn't have given the increase, I believe, if Paul hadn't planted and Apollos hadn't watered. What Paul and Apollos could do God wasn't going to do, because He commanded them to do it. That's important, as we heard at the Breaking of Bread yesterday morning Florence Nightingale said that she worked very hard, very very hard, and yet she did nothing, God did everything. As another has said: 'There is only one way to make dreams come true: wake up and go to work!'. We can't attribute any blessings that we have in the church to mere men, but we recognise when God works through men that it is God that giveth the increase - and it should bring loyalty not to the men, but loyalty to God.
Well, thirdly they exalted men above God because they didn't understand the body's co-operation. In verse 7: 'Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one'. They're working together, they're not opposed to one another! They're like a team working for the one purpose, united, serving the same Lord. What Paul is effectively saying is: 'The basis of your division is that Paul is saying something different than Apollos, and Apollos is saying something different from Cephas, and Cephas is saying something different than the Lord Himself - but the basis of your division is wrong because we're all saying the same thing! We are all working for the same Lord, so you shouldn't be divided at all!'.
They didn't understand the body's cooperation, and they didn't even realise - as verse 9 says - that they are fellow-labourers with God, they are a team working for God, that the church is God's field, it's not our field, it's not the Iron Hall's field, it's God's building! He has a unified field, not divided into sections! He doesn't have a building that has a segregation down the middle, but it's one building, one field, and it's all God's and He's the leader!
I heard a story about a lovely old lady who was well past her threescore and ten, and she came to her Pastor's door and knocked on it. He opened the door, and she had a big basket of fruit and vegetables, and she just handed it to him and said: 'Pastor, something the Lord and I raised for you' - something the Lord and I raised for you! Imagine being called fellow-labourers with God! God does all the work, but the mighty thing about it is that all His work that He does, a lot of it is through us.
Fourthly, they didn't understand the labourer's reward, they didn't realise that they would be rewarded. Three marks of spirituality that we've seen as we've been going through this epistle, and the Lord has in a wonderful way married it all with the book of Philippians, is that spirituality is marked by maturity, unity and productivity. The three things: maturity, unity and productivity. Productivity is our work for the Lord! If we work it is duty, but if we stay it is mutiny - and I ask the question to you tonight: are you a worker, a fellow-worker with God; or are you a waster?
You know there's this air of pretentiousness today, where people will not work unless they get a pat on the back, unless they get recognised - when it is an invitation to work with the Almighty! But we want the praise of men...strange, isn't it? Do you know that you're saved to serve? Do you know that if you don't use the abilities God has given to you, you might lose them? You could stay as a baby right throughout your whole Christian life! Do you not realise the passion and the pleasure and the power that there is in working for Christ, and even the joy that there is in it of itself? No matter about people getting saved, no matter about the blessing it incurs, the joy to serve the Lord! Let me read you a poem that I read today, and boy it did me good, listen to this - it's called 'Work', it's by an unknown author - and I haven't finished yet. Listen:
Thank God for the might of it,
The ardor, the urge, the delight of it -
Work that springs from the heart's desire,
Setting the brain and the soul on fire -
Oh, what is so good as the heat of it,
And what is so glad as the beat of it,
And what is so kind as the stern command,
Challenging brain and heart and hand.
Thank God for the pride of it,
For the beautiful, conquering tide of it.
Sweeping the life in its furious flood,
Thrilling the arteries, cleansing the blood,
Mastering stupor and dull despair,
Moving the dreamer to do and to dare.
Oh, what is so good as the urge of it,
And what is so glad as the surge of it,
And what is so strong as the summons deep,
Rousing the torpid soul from sleep?
Thank God for the pace of it,
For the terrible, keen, swift race of it;
Fiery steeds in full control,
Nostrils aquiver to meet the goal.
Work, the Power that drives behind,
Guiding the purposes, taming the mind,
Holding the runway wishes back,
Reining the will to one steady track,
Speeding the energies, faster and faster,
Triumphing over threatened disaster.
Oh, what is so good as the pain of it,
And what is so great as the gain of it?
And what is so kind as the cruel goad,
Forcing us on through the rugged road.
Work!' - listen to this last verse:
'Thank God for the swing of it,
For the clamouring, hammering ring of it,
Passion of labour daily hurled
On the mighty anvils of the world.
Oh, what is so fierce as the flame of it?
And what is so huge as the aim of it
Thundering on through dearth and doubt,
Calling the plan of the Maker out.
Work, the Titan; Work, the friend,
Shaping the earth to a glorious end,
Draining the swamps and blasting the hills,
Doing whatever the Spirit wills -
Rending a continent apart,
To answer the dream of the Master's heart.
Thank God for a world where none may shirk -
Thank God for the glorious splendour of work!'
You will be a carnal Christian if you don't realise that work for God will be rewarded in glory.
As I close I want to say in one or two minutes: how do you come from being a carnal Christian to a spiritual Christian? What's the problem? The problem is the flesh. What can we do with the flesh? Maybe you're a young Christian, and Christians struggle with the flesh, they try to beat the flesh and conquer the flesh and tame the flesh - but you can't do it. Can I say a startling thing tonight? Even the blood of Christ can't cleanse the flesh - do you know what the only answer for the flesh is? Crucifixion. Where was the flesh crucified? Calvary. Crucify the flesh, the lusts thereof. It's irredeemable, you can't make it better. Don't pray for God to make you better, pray for God to make you dead - that old nature crucified with Christ, that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our bodies. Is it any wonder he said: 'I am determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified', because it's the answer to everything.
Our Father, Thy word testifies very clearly that they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and the lusts, and we are to live in the Spirit, and if we are to live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit. Thy word tells us on another occasion that he who has died is freed from sin, and we thank Thee that One has died on our behalf, and we can sing with great might: 'My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul!'. But our Father, all of us on a daily basis struggle with the old man, the old nature, the sinful flesh, but Lord help us as Paul has instructed us to reckon it dead because it has been crucified with Christ, there's no longer power in it over us. Lord, let some soul tonight, ravaged with sin and temptation, hear this: 'Sin shall no longer have dominion over you'. Let us all move from our carnality into God's spirituality, to the glory of Christ we ask it. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "Baby Christians" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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