Oh, Grow Up!
1 Corinthians 3:1-4
- This comes from a Boston newspaper clipping in 1872:
- "A man about forty-six years of age, giving the name of
Joshua Coppersmith, has been arrested in New York for allegedly
attempting to extort funds from ignorant and superstitious people.
- He exhibited a device which he says
will convey the human voice any distance over metallic wires, so that
it will be heard by the listeners at the other end of the wire.
- He calls the instrument a
"telephone," which is obviously intended to imitate the word
"telegraph," thus winning the confidence of those who know the success
of the later instrument without understanding the principles on which
it is based.
- Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit
the human voice over wires, as may be done with dots and dashes and
signals of the Morse code and, that, were it possible to do so, the
thing would be of no practical value. Authorities who apprehended this
criminal are to be congratulated, and it is hoped that his punishment
will be prompt and fitting."
- Concerning the telephone, an American mayor once boldly
predicted: "One day there'll be one in every city." And in Britain the
chief engineer of the Post Office, Sir William Preece, told a Commons
committee. "The Americans have need of the telephone—but we do not. We
have plenty; of messenger boys."
- Progress sometimes comes quite slowly, doesn't it?
- There is no doubt but that Alexander Graham Bell could never
have envisioned a day when there would not only be a telephone in
virtually every home but a cell phone in virtually every pocket.
- There was a time when we would have to mail letters to our
family and friends and pay our bills by sending checks in the mail, but
now we can e-mail our friends and family and pay bills online.
- There was a time when we would have had to travel for a long
period to make it to Charleston, but now we can be there in about
- Just as we see progress in every area of life, we are to see
progress in our Christian lives.
- Paul writes to the Corinthians in our text this morning and
comments about the lack of growth in their Christian lives.
- As the apostle talks about the need for the Corinthians to
grow up, he speaks of A STUNTED GROWTH & A WORLDLY GROWTH.
- A STUNTED GROWTH, vv. 1-2.
- To the Corinthians, Paul says. "Brothers. I could not address
you as spiritual but as
worldly—mere infants in Christ," v.l.
- Notice that Paul addresses these Christians as "brothers."
- Does that not imply that these
Christians, although they were not growing and maturing, were still
- Is not the fact that the Corinthians
were still considered by Paul surprising with all that we know of the
Corinthians? They were divided over preachers and over social status,
they were abusing their spiritual gifts,
they were proud that they had a sexually immoral person as a member of
the congregation, they were taking one another to court in front of
unbelievers, and they were doubting the resurrection.
- What does the fact that the
Corinthians were still considered Christians have to say to us?
- First, we need
to understand that no congregation is perfect.
- The Corinthian church was far from
perfect, but it was still the church of God. Do you recall how Paul
began the epistle? "Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by
the will of God. and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in
Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy" (1
- This church is not all that God
would have it be, for this church is made up of people who are not all
that God would have us to be.
- Do we always care for the sick the
way God would have us care for them?
- Do we always care for those
struggling with sin the way God would have us to?
- Do we put up with some sin that we
shouldn't put up with?
- No, we are not a perfect church, for
no such congregation exists.
- Second, we need to understand the
concern Paul had for the Corinthians.
- Paul does use quite strong words
here, but even as Paul uses strong words he is demonstrating great love
for the Corinthians.
- Instead of addressing these
Christians as dim-witted idiots, he addresses them as brothers.
- If someone needs to come and
confront us with some wrongdoing, how do we prefer it to be done?
- Wouldn't we much rather have someone
show great concern and love for us rather than jumping in and saying,
"Ok, you're wrong here and here and here"?
- Paul could not address the Corinthians as spiritual but as
- Throughout the last couple of
paragraphs. Paul has mentioned the idea of Christian maturity.
- "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom
the mature, but not the wisdom of this
age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing" (2:6).
- "This is what we speak, not in words
taught us by human wisdom but in
words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual
(2:13)—As we mentioned last week, a better translation would be
"interpreting spiritual truths
to spiritual men."
- Paul seems to have been preparing
the Corinthians for the rebuke we find in this passage.
- Paul couldn't give spiritual
to the Corinthians, for they were
not yet ready for it; they were still worldly. Instead of looking at
things through a Christian perspective, they were still viewing things
from a worldly standpoint.
- These Corinthians were mere infants
- Ancient writers often compared those
without much knowledge to infants who needed the basics.
- This epistle was written about five
years after Paul had established the congregation in Corinth.
- There was not a thing wrong with the
Corinthians having been infants in Christ five years ago. They were new
to Christ, and they began, as do all of us, as babes in Jesus.
- There problem was that they stayed
- Is there a single mother in here
this morning who, if you had a five-year-old who had never been able to
eat solid food, never sat up, never spoke his first word, and was never
potty trained, who wouldn't have that child to doctor after doctor
until you discovered the problem and received adequate help for the
- Yet. the Corinthians don't seem to
have been concerned at all that they weren't growing.
- We need to grow in Christ, as well.
We dare not stay as infants.
- "Let us leave the elementary
teachings about Christ and go on to maturity" (Heb 6:1).
- "Make every effort to add to your
faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge,
self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance,
godliness: and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly
kindness, love" (2 Pt 1:5-7).
- What efforts do we undertake to grow
- Do we spend time in Bible study and
prayer that we might grow to maturity in Christ?
- Do we spend time in the assemblies
of the congregation that we might fellowship with fellow believers and
grow into maturity in Christ?
- Do we regularly examine ourselves in
light of Scripture to see how well we are following Christ?
- Paul provided the Corinthians with milk, not solid food, for
they were not yet ready for it, v. 2.
- The spiritual
Paul has been discussing in the
previous chapter could not be explained to the Corinthians, for they
were not yet mature.
- The Corinthians stood in need of the basics, not the things
Paul was ready to share with them.
- If Paul were writing this epistle to Alum Creek today, what
would he say about us? Would he be able to say, "I gave you meet,
because you were ready to eat it"? Or, would he say, "I had to give you
milk, not solid food"?
- WORLDLY GROWTH, vv. 3-4.
- You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and
quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere
men? v. 3.
- The Corinthians were worldly.
- The word in verse 3 and in verse 1
for "worldly" or "carnal" (KJV) are different in the Greek.
- In v. 1, the term refers to the
nature of man.
- I do not believe, nor do I mean to
imply that Paul declares, man is totally depraved. I do believe that
even those who have never responded to the Gospel can never do anything
- However, man left without guidance
from God is not the nicest creature, is he? Children quickly learn to
lie. to cover up their actions, to fight, and a host of other improper
- The word in v. 3 refers to the
actions of man not guided by the Spirit.
- Paul is not just discussing here
man's inclination to sin apart from the Gospel, but he is discussing
the sinful actions of people who do not live according to the Spirit.
- Paul mentions the worldly actions of
the Corinthians in this verse as he discusses their jealousy and
- There was great jealousy and quarreling among the Corinthians.
- They had jealousy and quarreled over
which preacher was better (Paul or Apollos), over who had more money,
over who had the best
gifts, and they were taking one
another to court.
- Paul lists jealousy, fits of rage,
selfish ambition, dissensions, faction and envy among the works of the
flesh (Gal 5:19-21).
- How sad it is to see congregations
torn apart by jealousy and quarreling!
- In some congregations, it centers
around the preacher like it did in Corinth—some love the preacher and
want him to stay forever and there are others who hate the preacher and
can't wait for him to leave.
- In some congregations, it centers on
the types of songs that are going to be led in the service—some want
newer songs and some prefer the old hymns they've known since they were
- In other congregations, it centers
around how to spend the church's resources—some want the money to go to
mission efforts and others want the money to go to benevolence.
- How are we going to respond when we
disagree with one another?
- Are we going to gather some friends
around us and tell them how horrible things are and what we need to do
to change things?
- Are we going to insist that our
opinions are the only ones which matter, the only ones which are right,
and insist that everyone agree with us?
- In opening this epistle. Paul cut
right to the chase about jealousy and quarreling.
- He writes. "To the church
of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in
Christ Jesus and called to be holy" (1:2).
- The church belongs to God. Therefore:
- How can I fight and quarrel with my
brethren over things which don't matter when it's God's church, not
- How can I insist I'm right and tare
apart the church when God bought the church with the blood of his own
- Paul then asks the Corinthians the rhetorical question: "Are
you not acting like mere men?"
- As humans, it can be quite difficult
to let go of our own desires and wants and follow the dictates of
Scripture, can't it?
- Yet, as the people of God, we aren't
to act like mere men. are we?
- We are to put off the flesh and
clothe ourselves with Jesus.
- Rom 8:12-14.
- "Those who belong to Christ Jesus
have crucified the [flesh] with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24).
- How do we act? Do we act like mere
men, or do we act like spiritual mature
men who are led by the Spirit?
- When one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow
Apollos," are you not mere men? v. 4.
- In following Paul and Apollos, the brethren at Corinth were
demonstrating that they were not led by the Spirit as much as they were
led by the flesh.
- Paul is about to make the point that
he and Apollos are nothing but servants through whom the Corinthians
had come to Christ—"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only
servants through whom you came to believe" (3:5).
- Paul and Apollos were not divine;
they were not worthy of allegiance; they were merely men, just like the
- We need to come to understand that preachers—not matter how
good or how poor they are—are just men.
- We preachers are never
worth splitting a church. We are
never worth a following.
- I am just a man like the rest of
you. I never died for you. I never saved you from sin. Therefore, our
allegiance should always be to Jesus and not to men.
- Where is your allegiance this
morning? Do you need to come and pledge allegiance to Jesus?