Knowers, Growers, and Showers

November 14, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Biblical farming, I Corinthians | 15 Comments
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The Knows sometimes behave like Know-Nots. This was another one of the chief problems in the church of Corinth. In I Corinthians Chapter 2 Paul had defended his method of preaching and the message he preached. In Chapter 3 he once again takes up the problem of factions and fighting among the church members. He ties the ideas together by addressing the accusation that his message (the Gospel) and his method (simple preaching) were too simple.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ.

I Corinthians 3:1

Paul said that he had spoken to them very simply with a very elementary version of the message because they were obviously babies. You may have heard the term “carnal Christians” or maybe not. It was very much in vogue for a while, but in more recent times it has come under attack. On one side are those who say every professing Christian who lives carnally must still be considered a true Christian because of his profession. On the other side are those who say that the profession of those who live carnally must be false. I Corinthians Chapter 3 has nothing kind to say about carnal Christians, but it certainly proves that there is such a thing (“brethren” who are “carnal”).

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.

I Corinthians 3:2

Milk is good for babies, but, whether good or not, it is necessary because it is all babies can handle. Basic Christian doctrine can be both milk (for baby Christians) and meat (for mature Christians), but there is also a sense in which it can be seen as needing to be controlled by the givers of the milk rather than offered freely and received according to maturity level by the receivers of milk. The Roman Catholic church grew apostate partly over this doctrine, known as the Disciplina Arcani, the doctrine of the “hidden essence.” Lay people shouldn’t be trusted, they say, with the unadulterated Word of God. God says otherwise.

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

I Corinthians 3:3

Verse 3 sounds as if was written as a scolding – albeit a scolding-in-love. “Divisions” especially speaks of a spirit of “side-choosing” – factions or “parties.” Such divisions are not only troublesome among the church, and not only irritating and time-consuming for the leadership and those caught in the middle, but they ruin the testimony of the Church of Christ. Why would an outsider seeking an earthly representation of the Kingdom of Christ want to join your local church assembly if the members “walked like men,” meaning they lived just like every other worldly, non-Christian person? The distinction here is not a literal distinction between immature children and mature adults, but between regenerated spiritual believers who should be united around sound doctrine, and ungodly pagans who squabble childishly over personal recognition and preferences.

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

I Corinthians 3:4

Can you hear the sing-song connotation of childishness in Verse 4 as each petty party-member calls out his or her favorite church leader by name? Paul tries to put a stop to it in Verse 5.

Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

I Corinthians 3:5

Paul, who, among all his virtues, really stands out for his humility, is not being falsely modest when he denigrates his own personality as being completely unworthy of any party allegiance, and he illustrates this with a familiar Bible example: a vineyard or a farmer’s field.

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.

I Corinthians 3:6-7

Planting and watering are menial tasks compared with the power of God, Who actually gives the increase. Charles Hodge, in his commentary on I Corinthians, wrote that the Holy Spirit’s point here is, “Ministers are nothing.”

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

I Corinthians 3:8

Not only is the work of Christian ministers remedial and replaceable from God’s perspective, but their personalities are in a sense consumed corporately into the same goal: the fulfillment of the Owner’s plans and desires.

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, [ye are] God’s building.

I Corinthians 3:9

We are both the tools and the building. We are what God uses, and we are supposed to be the habitation in which He is pleased to dwell and show His glory. Remember, the Knows have only received their “know-how” purely as a gift.

Growth requires different types of workers (diversity), but diversity requires unity (working toward the same goal). Unity requires humility.

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

I Corinthians 3:10

We can be “wise masterbuilders,” but we must build on the foundation already laid, and we have to “take heed” to be careful how we build. We can put our “wisdom” to use in building relationships or even just gaining an audience, but we can’t deviate from the foundation of Christ or the foundation of His Person and work in the Gospel any more than a door framer can frame the door 30 feet from the slab, or than the cabinetry workers can build cabinets in mid-air above the slab.

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 3:11

The foundations of the Know-Nots are false foundations, and they will be tested.

The beauty of God’s building is a byproduct of its strength. Its foundation is Christ and the Truth about Himself. This is the “rock” upon which He builds His church.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 6:13-17

The building must have the right foundation, and only the right doctrine (precious jewels and materials) must be used to build it.

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

I Corinthians 3:12

Gold, silver, and precious stones like granite and marble were used in temples, but wood for the doors and posts, hay for the walls, and stubble or straw for the roof were used in common houses.

Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

I Corinthians 3:13

The day of the Lord will be revealed by Jesus appearing in fire. It will be a time of harsh testing, and then the wood, hay, and stubble will burn, and the gold and silver and precious stones will be purified. False teaching will be revealed. False doctrine will be exposed. There will be no disputing or confusion in that day of fiery judgment.

 

REVIEW

I. Knowers (I Corinthians 3:1-4)

A. New believers feed on Bible facts.

B. Mature believers feed on Bible doctrine.

II. Growers (I Corinthians 3:5-9)

A. Growth requires diversity.

B. Diversity requires unity.

C. Unity requires humility.

III. Showers (I Corinthians 3:10-13)

A. The beauty of God’s building is a by-product of its strength.

B. It must have the right foundation, and it must be built with the right materials.

C. False teaching will be revealed and false doctrine will be exposed in a future judgment.

It’s Time to Grow Up

April 16, 2012 at 10:55 am | Posted in Bible Studies, I Corinthians | 18 Comments
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During the months leading up to the birth of our first daughter, my wife and I had many long discussions about all the plans and goals we had for her life. We talked about education, development, character, spirituality, even sports. I wanted to be the best dad in the world. However, that first night home from the hospital was an eye-opener. All the visitors and well-wishers had left, we were exhausted (and when I say “we” I really mean my wife was exhausted), and we were ready for our first peaceful night as parents. Our daughter had different plans though. She didn’t want to nurse, she didn’t want to take a bottle, and she didn’t want a pacifier. Most of all she did not want to sleep. What she wanted to do apparently was cry all night (and when I say “cry” I mean scream at the top of her brand new lungs). To say that my wife and I were freaked out is putting it mildly. I tried to remain calm for her sake, but the truth is I spent most of the night pacing, praying, holding the baby, trying to sing soothing lullabies through gritted teeth, and (even though I’m embarrassed to admit it) even crying a little myself. I also drastically altered my main goal as a parent that night. My main goal no longer had to do with making sure I had a daughter who would graduate from college or excel at sports or have tons of friends. My new main goal changed to just making sure she stayed alive.

About 7 1/2 months later I considered myself successful. She was still alive – and it was easy to prove because she still cried almost all night every night – and throughout most of the day unless she was being intensely entertained and stimulated. Then she started walking, and I changed my main goal as a parent again. This time my new main goal was to keep her from busting her head open. That goal lasted until she was 18 months old, at which point she took a head first dive from her stroller onto a concrete sidewalk and busted her head open. Thankfully, God protected her and she survived with a few stitches and a very small scar. My friend, Pastor John Wilkerson, once told me that it’s far easier to have a baby than to raise a child. He was talking about the challenge of evangelizing the lost and then discipling new believers, but the thought really resonated with me.

Eventually most parents realize that one of their main goals is to help their children become “mature.” When the Lord used the Apostle Paul to found the church at Corinth, the new Christians there were like spiritual babies. They had been “born again” by trusting Christ, but they were not yet mature. They were what are sometimes called “carnal Christians.”

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

I Corinthians 3:1

Physical size is often an indicator of maturity in the natural sense. We can tell a baby from a grown-up partly because of how big he is. But that doesn’t work in the spiritual sense. A person can become a Christian as a young child or as a full-grown adult. However, there are other ways of distinguishing children from adults that do apply to Christian maturity.

DIET

New-born babies have a very limited diet: milk or baby formula – that’s about it. Grown-ups can eat “meatier” food. The spiritual version of food is the Word of God – the Holy Scriptures. Several kinds of food are used to illustrate the Word of God.

Honey:

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Bread:

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4

Meat:

For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 5:13-14

Milk:

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

I Peter 2:2

The Word of God nourishes Christians, and helps us grow, and we should be getting more mature in our understanding of the Word. We should not only be reading the Word, but heeding the Word.

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.

I Corinthians 3:2

INTERACTION WITH OTHERS

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

I Corinthians 3:3

These kinds of statements are to be somewhat expected from immature children:
-“Would you stop touching me!”
-“She stuck her tongue out at me!”

But these kinds of statements are pathetic and unacceptable coming from grown-up Christian believers:
-“Somebody sat in my pew!”
-“The preacher had better not be too busy to call me back or I’ll find another church!”

Immature children frequently fuss and fight (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “strife”).

This is what you expect to hear from little kids:
-“I had it first!”
-“Sally got a cookie and I didn’t – that’s not fair!”

This is what we should not expect to hear from mature Christians:
-“I would tithe, too, if I had a good job like him!”
-“It’s easy for her to have faith – she’s never been through what I’m going through!”

Children tend to think they should have whatever the other children have (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “envying”).

We might think it’s somewhat cute to hear little kids saying:
-“I’m not going to be your best friend any more, I’m going to be Suzy’s best friend!”
-“Don’t let Jimmy join our club!”

But it’s not so cute to hear grown-ups saying:
-“We can’t invite Billy Bob to the retreat – he’s difficult to deal with.”
-“Oh sure, if I had a fancy car like so-and-so, maybe the preacher would like me, too.”

Children like to exclude some and include others as a way of being mean (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “divisions”). Two signs of maturity are what we eat, and how we act. Another sign of maturity is who we follow. Children tend to have “heroes.”

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

I Corinthians 3:4

The baby Christians in Corinth were identifying themselves with Paul or Apollos or Peter or other church leaders, and they were making a sinful issue out of it.

Little boys brag: “My dad can beat up your dad.” But Christian men should not be dividing over which famous evangelist or TV preacher they follow. Mature believers look to Christ as our role model.

I Corinthians was written to church members who weren’t getting along. They were acting like little babies when, time-wise, they should have been growing up. These were people involved in ministry. They had talents and spiritual gifts, but they were ignoring the reason for these gifts. God gives us spiritual gifts to bring lost folks into the Kingdom, to do the work of bringing people to Jesus, to make disciples, to help others grow up, to build up the saints. Many times, though, like little bratty children, we’re misusing the gifts and talents which our loving God gave us. We’re playing with them. Or we’re fighting with them or over them. Or we’re bragging about them, and trying to show off, as if we earned them, or did anything to get them for ourselves.

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

I Corinthians 3:9

The spiritual gifts and talents given to us by God are not weapons to fight with. They are not toys to play with. They are not trophies to brag about. They are tools, and we ought to be using them, as humble workers, to build with.

https://i0.wp.com/cache2.artprintimages.com/p/LRG/26/2679/7MZUD00Z/art-print/little-kids-sword-fighting-at-sunset.jpg

Destined for Victory

February 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Romans | 18 Comments
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For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Romans 7:14

The Law can not change us. Nobody can deny that the Law is holy and good and just, because it came from the holy God. The Law is good because it reveals God’s holiness and our unholiness – our sinfulness. But the Law cannot cure us – it makes the diagnosis.

According to Romans 7:15-21, our “members” – our arms, legs, and whole body – can be controlled by our flesh (carnal nature; old nature), or by the Spirit (new nature). It is okay for the believer to have a goal of not breaking God’s laws, but the believer has to realize that, like the Apostle Paul, we can not obey the laws in our own power. Nor does the Law itself provide the power for us to do good.

According to Romans 7:21-24, believers have been “redeemed.” We have been “set free” or “bought out of slavery.” But the Law can not set us free. The Law is like gravity. The more we struggle to jump up in the air, the more keenly we feel its weight drawing us down. The Law – when viewed as a burden of weight to carry – draws us down into sin. When the Apostle Paul calls himself a “wretched” man, he means “wretched” in the sense of someone who has been in a battle and is worn out and worn down. No matter how hard we struggle in the battle, we will wind up wretched unless we are delivered – delivered by the Lord Jesus.

According to Romans 8:1-4, as believers, we are not condemned by the Law. There is now (present tense eternal) no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus (those who are saved). We owed a debt for our sins, but Christ paid it for us. Now, it has been paid in full – the Law can not claim that it is still owed.

According to Romans 8:5-17, as believers, we are destined for four specific victories:

1. God’s Spirit, which lives inside us, is stronger than our flesh. Therefore, we are destined for victory over the flesh.

2. We had physical life before we were saved, but were dead spiritually. Now, we have the victory of spiritual life, too.

3. Before, we were at war with God. Now, we have peace with God. The victory is chiefly His, but, in a sense, it is ours, too.

4. Before, we wanted to please ourselves. Now, we want to please God. We are destined for victory over self.

According to Romans 8:18-30, as believers, we do not have to feel frustrated. The suffering in the world was not “created” by God. It was created by Adam’s sin. The suffering of the believer is temporary. We long for the fulfillment of our hope, but, because we know it is coming, we shouldn’t be discouraged. Jesus feels our pain, and intercedes for us in prayer. We know that God’s plans are perfect.

According to Romans 8:31-39, as believers, we do not have to worry about God disowning us. We need to be focused on serving God as our King and Lord, but there is also a sense in which God is “on our side.” He proved it when Christ died for us. If He died for us while we were sinning against Him, how much more will He bless us, now that we are His children? God is not a double-minded hypocrite. Having justified us, He will not now accuse us. Not only does the Holy Spirit pray for us, but Christ does, too. Even when we fail God, He still loves us. It is not a conditional love. A child who disobeys his father is still that father’s child. No child, once born, can change the fact of who his father is. Nobody can go back and be “unborn.” NOTHING can separate the born-again believer from the love of God.

Learning to Like Eternal Life

December 8, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Eternity | 5 Comments
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The idea that professing Christians should put up such a fight against the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer has always been a little puzzling to me. True Christians are new creatures, who have been born again, and therefore, can never go back to having not been born. “But wait,” goes the all-too-common, and not-well-thought-out objection, “what about this one person I knew who was saved, but did something really horrible..?” Or, the ever-popular “Yeah, But” school of theology which says, “Yeah, the Bible says God gives ‘everlasting life,’ BUT… what about this specific situation I know about?”

I have even heard some very well-respected preachers say, “I sure wish these verses about carnal Christians weren’t in the Bible. I could really get people to act right if they thought they were going to be kicked out of God’s family and sent to hell when they messed up bad enough.” I always cringe when I hear that. First of all, we had all better be extremely joyous that everything in God’s Bible is in there. He knows more than we do, and He knows better than we do. Second of all, if true Christians lost their salvation every time they really “blew it” according to God’s standards, not a one of us would stay saved very long.

The fact of the matter is, a true Christian is motivated by God’s love and holiness and saving grace to avoid sin, not indulge in it. Only a cult leader would want to hold his congregation through unbiblical fear. The salvation of the Lord comes with the Spirit of the Lord taking up residence in the heart of Christians. God’s Spirit is in charge of the believer’s sanctification, not another person.

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

I Thessalonians 4:7-8


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