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1 Corinthians 3:1-23 Notes

By January 24, 2021Sermon Notes

Today we have been singing old songs.

Nothing wrong with new ones…unless of course they are wrong.

But there is certainly nothing wrong with old ones just because they are old.

These old songs were new songs once…but all songs, old or new that are useful for church worship must have lyrics that are true.

You may like a certain song or style better than others…but if a song is true…it can shape your mind in God’s direction…if you let it.

A song is not “better” because you “like” it…it is better because it is true and it shapes our hearts to worship.

There is no new truth…we might discover something new to us…we might express truth in a new way. (words, melody)

But God has known all truth from before time…there is no truth, apart from him…and he does not change, grow, or improve…he is what he has always been…perfect, complete.

God is the ancient of days and he is forever current…more up to date than anyone possible could be…so current that he sees the future

And all truth…originates with him…all time to him is a perpetual “now”

If we become weary with what is true…we must not go hunting for something brand new…a brand-new truth or brand-new experience.

We do, however, need to have our minds and hearts continually renewed.

We need to see truth (and again, all truth is very “old”)…as precious and more relevant than we can even imagine.

We need to have our hearts continually refreshed so that we love truth…more than anything else our silly hearts are prone to run after.

Let’s hear the Word of God…1 Cor. 3.

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. (behaving only in a human way). For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? (being merely human)

There is nothing wrong with young Christians being young in their faith.

There is no critique here for young believers not being ready for more advanced teaching and training.

To see a child…acting like a child brings a smile to an adult…it is a beautiful thing

However, there is nothing beautiful about an adult, acting like a child.

The problem is that some of these believers in this Greek city should have been more grown up at this point…

Their model for maturity was the larger culture rather than Christ himself.

They are not becoming more like Christ they are continuing to act in a “mere human way”…that is spiritually immature.

In verse 1 he uses a word that is translated “worldly”…some translations use “flesh” (as opposed to “spirit”)

Here in this verse, he uses a word that means “you can’t help it”… this is what you are.

In verse 3 he uses another word that is also translated “worldly” but here it is a word means you can help it… “it’s how you choose to behave.”

Think of it like this…

  1. you see a child at play and you think fondly, “Look at that child”
  1. You see an adult acting with immaturity and you think with sadness “Look at his childishness”

That’s the difference in these words…the young believer is a child; the older believer is acting childishly.

What is the main proof of this accusation of ongoing childishness?

The jealousy and strife.

Jealousy is the heart issue while strife is the external/interpersonal manifestation of their hearts.

Instead of putting the interests of others first…(a key sign of spiritual maturity)

They were trying to assert themselves…promoting their own personal agendas.

In culture at large…online and in person…there is this near universal display of this self-asserting childishness.

By every political party, and in virtually every sector of society.

So much so that when you see someone acting with maturity…it stands out…because it has become so rare.

The Corinthian immaturity showed up (much like our culture’s has) in them forming their various celebrity clubs.

Paul chooses Apollos (who was probably a close friend) and himself to illustrate how childish these clubs were.

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul doesn’t ask “who” is Apollos and Paul (as we would expect)…but “what”

He is taking attention away from human personalities altogether and focusing on their functions.

We are “servants”…it is “what we do” and that is “who we are”.

He uses a word that originally meant a table waiter…it came to be used of lowly service in general.

Paul is making light of the idea of celebrity Christians.

Imagine what he would think about the current status of Christian “celebrity-ism” in our time.

Paul and Apollos are not “who’s who” but “God’s what”…they are his instruments through whom God does his work.

He uses a farming analogy to describe the reality of Christian fruitfulness and the folly of Christian fame.

Paul planted the gospel seed in Corinth, Apollos came after him and watered (with his teaching)…but God is the only celebrity…he alone makes things grow.

*I said before, it is worth repeating…learning from others is wise, elevating others to “hero” status is foolish.

A trend I’ve noticed in media the past few years is this “hero” theme.

It is shows up in kids shows (I watch a lot them with 7 grandkids)…but also in adult shows.

It’s always been there…but it seems like it has been very prevalent of late.

Especially the twin themes of:

  1. Trying to define what a “hero” really is
  2. The pursuit of becoming a hero.

Both of those themes say a lot about our culture:

  1. That the definition of what a hero is isn’t obvious to us…that it has to be defined.
  1. That the pursuit of being a hero is not seen as being self-defeating (If you are trying to be one, you are not one)

For Paul there is no competition…both him and Apollos have “one purpose”…it’s not to achieve hero or celebrity status.

They are together, God’s fellow workers…and the church is God’s field.

We should find great encouragement and comfort in this passage…and challenge as well.

Years ago I became friends with a man named Todd, I worked for his wife at the YMCA in Ft Worth.

Todd and I worked out together, played basketball, ate meals…and I shared the gospel with him as we became good friends.

In time, Todd became friends with my friends…he began to hang out with them, whether I was around or not.

One day, my friend Steve, called and said “Todd committed his life to Christ last night at my house.”

I wasn’t even there…but I was very happy…happy for Todd, happy to be a part of what God had done.

I planted; Steve watered…but God made it grow.

Fact is…if you happen to be there when someone gives their life to Christ…most often you are just one in a chain of people God used.

The hero of Todd’s and of any story…is God.

So, the pressure is off of us to “produce” change, growth, salvation in others

But the challenge and the opportunity is there…we can get in on what God is doing in the lives of people…why wouldn’t we want to?

Then Paul switches metaphors…from God’s field to God’s building.

But before we go from the farm to the building…look at verse 9…

Just to make sure they get the point regarding who the only real celebrity is…he says “God’s fellow workers, God’s field, God’s building.”

“We got it Paul”…God

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

This passage in short tells us this:

-If your faith foundation is Christ…you will receive eternal life…your foundation is secure, so you are secure.

-On that faith foundation there are two ways to spend your life (or to build a life)

            -Things of value that will last

            -Things that are worthless that will not last

Now…let’s unpack it.

Paul says his work at Corinth was a grace-gift.

God empowered Paul’s leadership for the good of others.

This is the heart of real leadership…it is grace-gift to others…for their good.

Leadership is often twisted into seeking a position where we can be served by others…”I’m finally the leader…now people can do what I say and give me what I want”

But this is not the purpose of leadership.

It is a role God places people in to serve and bless others…often it becomes twisted and diverts from God’s purposes

You see this historically and currently in the leaders of nations, companies, families…good leadership is a grace gift to others…poor leadership a curse.

How many people have suffered because of self-serving leadership in nations and families…God intends leaders to use their position to bless others.

Paul laid the foundation as a an “expert”…wise, or skilled builder…now others have come after him and are erecting the superstructure.

Our building project’s foundation took a lot of time, effort, materials…look quick because soon we won’t be able to see it…we will see walls and ceilings and carpet and paint

But we will continue to rely on that firm foundation from now on.

They are now working on the superstructure, the things we live in and see…built on the substructure.

Fortunately, they are using steel, wood…substantial materials made to stand up to time and wear and tear… built on a concrete and rebar foundation.

If your foundation is faulty…it doesn’t matter how you build on that foundation…the thing won’t last.

If your foundation is good…you still want to use good materials to have a good building.

If you use crummy materials even on a good foundation…the foundation will last but the building will not.

I’ve seen plenty of concrete or stone foundations left after the house itself has been burned, or destroyed by storms…or just fell down under the weight of time.

Paul’s simple building analogy is describing an eternal reality.

If we build our lives on anything other than the gospel…our lives will not survive “The Day”

The “Day” is the day when Christ returns…what Scripture calls “The Day of Judgment” or “Day of the Lord.”

If we have trusted Christ…he is our life foundation…we will survive the Day, intact.

But if we spend our lives being unfaithful, self-serving…we will survive the “Day” but the work of our lives will count for nothing.

He uses the analogy of a person who survives a fire…but only escapes with his life…nothing else.

“Okay, but as long as I make it out…who cares?”

I think Paul would say… “If you are a mature Christian how could you not help but care?”

If you truly don’t care…whether your life is God honoring or not…he would question your faith foundation…or at very least your spiritual maturity.

It is the child who only thinks of “right now”… “me, mine”

Adults care…the spiritually mature care…they care about the impact of their choices.

Another common theme in culture right now…is a focus on legacy…making a difference.

A young celebrity died last week…his overdose death was tragic and as best I can tell he largely lived for himself for his brief time on earth….as acknowledged by those who knew him well.

But what his parents said about him was… “He made a difference; his life had an impact”

Yes…but by whose measurement…not by mine and from Scripture…not by God’s

There is this near desperation in people’s tones…as they talk of their lives or dead loved ones…a desperation to prove their lives mattered

But this how God has made us…

So, this theme has always been there…you just hear it everywhere now because of the volume of media.

People are concerned with their legacy, making a difference, their lives counting.

Paul is simply saying…build on the only foundation, using materials (choices) that will last for more than just this life.

Grow up in your faith…build well on the only sure foundation for a life.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

God’s temple refers to the church not to individual Christians…you yourselves is plural…temple is singular.

You together comprise God’s church there in that location in Greece.

The word used for temple indicates the sanctuary…the inside part of the Temple where God’s presence dwelt.

We are where God’s Spirit lives…in us (both individually and together as a church body)

So, what follows is a serious warning “Try to destroy God’s church…God is going to destroy you.”

What?…that sounds harsh…God isn’t like that…he’s loving, he’s nice.

Let’s reframe it.

What would you say to someone who shows up on your doorstep, your family sleeping inside and says “I intend to destroy what is most precious to you…I will destroy your family”

What would you say to that person?

What would “love” say to that person?

Love would say, just what love did say here “Attack my beloved and I will destroy you.”

Not because I hate you, but because I love my family.

Make me choose…and I choose them.

We saw a show the other night where a character, who was a “pastor” rebuked another character by quoting an OT verse on judgment and then mocked that verse by saying “There is a whole other testament since then.”

Meaning…the OT is outdated by the NT…no more judgment only love.

God has grown since those OT days…he’s much nicer now.

I’ve heard this fairly often…things like…the OT God and the NT God are different.

God in the OT is all wrath and Jesus in the NT is all love.

The fact is Jesus talks more about hell/judgment than heaven in the New Testament and in great detail.

(Luke 16:23, Mark 9:43, 9:48, Matt 13:42, Luke 19:19-31, Matt. 25:30, Matt. 10:28)

The judgment of God is not an easy topic…but it is an important one…so Jesus, THE Jesus spoke of it more than anyone else.

It’s important to not discount what is true…just because we may not want it to be true.

It is especially important to remember that it is God’s judgment…not yours or mine.

We are not equipped to pass on judgement on others (in actions yes, but in hearts and eternal destiny, no)

We are certainly not in a position to judge God when he tells us he will judge the world…in justice.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

Don’t be self-deceived=make a choice.

Are you going to be a wise person of this “age”…meaning embracing contemporary thought forms, transient, passing ideas of what wisdom is?

Or will you choose what looks like folly in order to become wise?

Why do I have to choose?

Because the current wisdom of humans is foolish to God…so we choose because a choice is required.

Paul uses some OT quotes, first from Job, then from Psalms to make an important point.

“He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 19,20

HIS POINT IS: TIME WILL TELL: TWT…TWT what? Whether this really is wisdom or not.

And if this wisdom is not in line with Scripture…then Time will tell that this “wisdom” is not wise…that the crafty have been caught in their own traps.

Why don’t we spend more time talking about current events on Sunday morning?

*A pastor at Christy’s childhood church left Joplin years ago and went to a church in NC.

-One Sunday as he spoke, someone in the choir behind him, said out loud “Is he going to preach from that “blank” Bible again”

-The pastor didn’t stay long at the church.

Why spend all this time on a letter (two years on a bunch of letters) written 2000 years ago?

Because they are the very Word of God…he sees all past, present, and future in a single glance.

He is never chasing culture or cool…again he is the God who transcends time and space…

-He is never out of date…we are.

We must pay attention to him and what he has said…because current events are like the current of a River…flowing, changing, fickle not fixed.

We can’t navigate the river of time(our lives)…by looking at the currents swirling around us.

People who do this suffer disastrous life outcomes.

Scripture allows us to understand the river itself…what are the realities behind human history…what do these trends, and currents mean…what is God up to?

What has he always been up to?

To focus entirely on current events and current “wisdom” is like trying to understand the Amazon River, 4,000 miles of it… by looking at the water flowing by my little canoe right now.

How many human philosophies have come and gone…how many ideas about what is true and valuable have come and gone.

Paul’s point in verses 19, 20 are…

Current “wisdom” sounds convincing, compelling.

And often self-serving people(the crafty) will use their ability to “craft” convincing ideas to control others…

But in the end, in due time…God catches them in their own craftiness.

I mentioned the Philosopher Nietzsche last week, in his autobiography, arrogantly entitled “Behold the man” (Ecce Homo)

-He states that his books are the greatest ever written

-People don’t understand them because he is beyond any other human’s capacity

-His books will shape the future world

-He mocks faith, morality, the idea of God…he is above “good and evil”

And he lost his mind, health, life

In time, as Paul wrote…regarding the thoughts of the “wise”…God himself will prove them to be futile.

The sad truth is by the time some these ideas have been proven wrong (they have already done tremendous harm to the lives of real people…generations of people.

Because ideas have consequences.

Benjamin Walker wrote a book entitled “10 books that screwed up the world”

It includes:

Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, and others that have led to “war, genocide, oppression, family breakdown, and disastrous social experiments.”

Yet humans continue to embrace the next idea that proposes to be wisdom, and is in fact foolish.

And, people suffer for it…because beliefs become values become behaviors.

Paul turns their minds away from the wisdom of men that they were so caught up in there in Corinth…

21 So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

No more boasting about men.

He said in chapter 1 there is only one legitimate boast:

31 “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

“Why in the world are you guys limiting yourselves to these little groups…Paul, Apollos, Peter?”

We are just servants of Christ…anything of value we have to offer is yours already in Christ.

Along with the truth of the Cosmos itself (translated “world”)…and life and death, and the present and the future.

The ultimate realities that matter most to humans…have been made known to you in the gospel…and all things are under the control of God.

This is all your possession…because you are Christ’s possession.

Why are you willing to settle for so much less and call it more.


Maturity of thought is I am a servant of God and others.

-Others don’t exist to serve me, I live to serve them.

-I must stop contemplating the ways others fail me…I will focus my attention on how to serve others.

-I must stop thinking mostly of me…it only makes me miserable, and foolish, and empty.

Maturity of values is a heart to put the interests of others ahead of my own.

-I will embrace the joy of a heart that seeks to serve not be served.

-I will train my heart to love others…not self-first. (God will empower this effort…but he will not do this for us)

Maturity of lifestyle is seen consistent actions to serve and not be served…at work, home, church, and the community.

-My words, my time, my reputation, my life is not my own.

Immaturity of thought, value, and behavior by the young believer is remedied by attention to the things that bring Spiritual growth…grow up.

Immaturity by the older believer…is to be repented of…it is not a natural component of being young in the faith…it is a factor of sin.

If you have been a Christian for years and yet you continue to make life largely about yourself…you must grow up.

You must put these childish ways behind you…you don’t need to live this way…it is not what God wants for you and there is no joy in it.

You are living in slavery…though God has made you free.

Perhaps you are tired of chasing the news…it seems obvious but have you considered that the etymology of “news” is a word that means “new”

News…is always chasing the “new”…it is what it does…what it is.

So, when people consume only the “new” and not the “old”…they are going to perpetually malnourished.

I’m not on an anti-news tirade…if your mind goes to “fake news” you are not hearing me at all.

We live in the “new” the “now”…we need “news” of what is happening now.

But we are weary of it as well…we must not let “news” continually set the mood of our hearts and the course of our lives.

We have from God the truth of past, present, and future.

And since we have the eternal truth and not just the “new”.

Let’s not be grumpy, angry, and unhappy…or fearful, moody, unstable, unselfish.

Let’s choose joyful, hopeful, faithful…let’s move into maturity…out of spiritual infancy

Let’s grow up in our faith.

Rodney: Demonstrate what this means by demonstrating what it doesn’t mean.

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