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Laboring Together

1 Corinthians   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts
Introduction
Carnal Christian is one that is immature and worldly.
Introduction
Paul has been speaking to the Corinthians about the source of their division
There should be no divisions among you! Chloe told me you are fighting and gossiping.
1 Corinthians 1:10–11 KJV 1900
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
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He also had spoke on their cleverness
1 Corinthians 1:18 KJV 1900
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
He comes right out and call them fleshly and not spiritual.
Illustration - just get it out on the table.
You guy's are not spiritual.
1 Corinthians 3:1–3 KJV 1900
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?
QUESTION: What did apostle Paul mean when he told the church at Corinth that he taught them the MILK of the Bible and not the MEAT?
ANSWER: In two separate Bible books written by Paul, 1Corinthians and Hebrews, he contrasts "milk" and "meat" in order to make a spiritual analogy. When addressing the Corinthian church Paul wrote the following.
The word "milk" in the above quote (Greek gala, Strong's Concordance #G1051) means the basic, elemental teachings of true Christianity first learned by new believers.
The word "meat" comes from the Greek word Broma (Strong's #G1033) and means the more solid, complete and deeper spiritual doctrines of the Gospel.
Some in Corinth had not only aligned themselves to certain teachers (Paul, Apollos, Peter), they were also causing contentions and divisions in the church by arguing which of these preachers was the most spiritual (verses 3 - 23)!
The apostle felt that trying to teach the church the deeper truths of God would be a waste of time so long as they continued to indulge in petty debates over who was 'the greatest!'
Human milk provides all the nutrients (including iron) that babies need for about the first six months of life. But once the iron stored during pregnancy is used up (at about 6 months of age), iron-rich foods such as meats or iron-fortified cereals need to be added to the baby’s diet. Plus, most babies are developmentally ready for solid foods around 6 months of age.
Signs that your baby is ready for solid foods include: 
the ability to sit up with little support the ability to hold his head up the development of motor skills to pick up soft foods the ability to put those foods in his mouth
He decry s their condition
They have never matured; they stay the same ....
ILLUSTRATION -
They still are easily directed toward doctrinal error - gifts
They love groups and picking sides
They talk behind Paul's back “everybody says”
Paul holds the Corinthian believers accountable for their carnality. He could not even speak to them on a high spiritual plane.
In his letter to Rome, written from this very city of Corinth, Paul outlines for us the characteristics of three men.
In his letter to Rome, written from this very city of Corinth, Paul outlines for us the characteristics of three men.
Spiritual man (), the person who knows the truth of being and who, consequently, is producing “fruit unto God.” Free from the law, the spiritual person lives for the Lord.
The natural man (). The picture here is of a person in his unregenerate state doing his best to keep the commandments of God and miserably failing.
In his letter to Rome, written from this very city of Corinth, Paul outlines for us the characteristics of three men. First there is the spiritual man (), the person who knows the truth of being “married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead,” and who, consequently, is producing “fruit unto God.” Free from the law, the spiritual person lives for the Lord. This is the kind of person every believer should be. He is indwelt and filled with the Holy Spirit who Himself makes Christ real to him just as the servant, in the matchless Old Testament type, sought to make Isaac real to Rebekah ().
This is the kind of person every believer should be. He is indwelt and filled with the Holy Spirit who Himself makes Christ real to him just as the servant, in the matchless Old Testament type, sought to make Isaac real to Rebekah ().
Then there is the natural man (). The picture here is of a person in his unregenerate state doing his best to keep the commandments of God and miserably failing. Indeed, the law, far from being an instrument of salvation, proves to be a means of condemnation. Nobody tried harder than Saul of Tarsus to merit salvation by the works of the law. No one understood better than he the inner gnawing of conviction of sin, failure, and judgment to come ().
The carnal man ().
he fed them with Milk the basics of the Word!
He tries to live the Christian life in the energy of the flesh—and fails. The failure is dismal and complete. The carnal man is thoroughly wretched. The Holy Spirit indwelling him will not let him enjoy worldliness and sensuality; the old nature within him will not let him enjoy his new life in Christ.[5]
Paul holds the Corinthian believers accountable for their carnality. He could not even speak to them on a high spiritual plane.
He could only talk to them as babes. Babes are attractive enough so long as they grow up, but a babe who remains a babe for twenty years is a tragedy.
Babes are self-centered.
They are dependent on others for all their needs.
They have short attention spans.
They go for things that glitter, and they have no sense of values.
They are illiterate and ignorant of much they need to know.
They cannot see beyond their own little world.
They enjoy being the center of attention and soon learn how to get their share of it.
They have no thought for the needs and concerns of others.
The trouble with the Corinthians was that they did not grow up. Paul found them to be still babes.
Consequently, he had to feed them as babes: “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” ().
Leaving - not being fed or don't like the direction of the church ( i don't agree with something),
It was not for lack of teaching. Paul had remained in Corinth for a year and a half () “teaching the word of God among them.” He labored there as an evangelist, as a pastor, and as a teacher. Imagine having the apostle Paul as your teacher! He soon took the measure of his beloved Corinthians, however.
It was not for lack of teaching. Paul had remained in Corinth for a year and a half () “teaching the word of God among them.” He labored there as an evangelist, as a pastor, and as a teacher. Imagine having the apostle Paul as your teacher! He soon took the measure of his beloved Corinthians, however.
Doctrine did not interest them; what they wanted were the gifts—the spectacular sign gifts.
No wonder Paul tells them bluntly that clever and capable as they no doubt were, they were childish ().
1 Corinthians 13:11 KJV 1900
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
There was so much he wanted to teach them—all the great truths we find in Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, Thessalonians, and Hebrews.
He had to feed them as babes—just a few simple truths about salvation, baptism, the ordinances, resurrection, giving, and personal accountability—that was about all they were able to handle.
He underlines, too, the childish level of their behavior (3:3). He mentions envy, strife, and divisions. “Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” he demands.
envy - jealously
The word for carnal is sarkikos, “men of the flesh,” sensual, under the control of their animal appetites, governed by their human nature and not by the Holy Spirit.
strife - quarrel or fight
The word for envying is zēlos—jealousy.
divisions - always looking for a problem
W. E. Vine says that the distinction between envy and jealousy lies in this—that envy wants to deprive another of what he has, jealousy desires the same sort of thing for itself.[6] At Corinth, this attitude of jealousy was particularly noticeable in connection with the sign gifts. There were all kinds of quarreling, rivalry, and wrangling going on in this church. It was in the same spiritual state as Israel in the wilderness when they spent their time murmuring and arguing and contending with Moses and Aaron.
Experience proves that almost always divisions start as gossip or half truths that stem from someone not getting their way or a change in a program or policy.
Everybody concerned, a lot of people are talking etc....
1 Corinthians 3:4 KJV 1900
For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
The people at Corinth were picking sides and causing divisions
Sometimes parents do this with children and ignore the leadership given in the Bible for the Husband and Wife.
Picking sides: A church is lead by a Pastor and unless he is in doctrinal error or immoral the people should follow. Not every pastor is going lead in away that everybody approves. Some people can not be led unless it is their way .....
Picking sides: A church is lead by a Pastor and unless he is in doctrinal error or immoral the people should follow. Not every pastor is going lead in away that everybody approves. Some people can not be led unless it is their way .....
Trivial items that people have tried to divide over :
Words on Screen
Too much emphasis on children and teens
Too much discussion on tithing
We should vote on snow plowing budget and every line item rather than general categories
Music, music, music,
Too dressy - make visitors uncomfortable
No standards for teens
Meanwhile the world languishes laughs
That was the proof that there was jealousy and strife at work in the Corinthian church. It was also proof that they were unspiritual.
It has been part of Satan’s master strategy against the church to divide it.
In one of the grand old worship hymns we sang when I was a boy, one stanza went thus:
We would remember we are one
1 Corinthians 3:5–8 KJV 1900
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.
With every saint that loves Thy Name;
Apollos and Paul had different responsibilities - one would water and the other harvested.
We are working together for the same cause:
its almost like there can be not room for differences.
illustration : We have a meeting with 40-50 churches each February.
United to Thee on the throne,
illustration : We have a meeting with 40-50 churches each February.
I don't agree with all of them neither do they agree with us.
We are a suburban middle class church outside of Erie,Pa
We do things differently that a country church
We will do things differently than a inner city church
We will do things differently than a church comprised mostly of elderly
But we have the same cause and are united.
Our life, our hope, our Lord the same.
He defeats all the division and immaturity by describing His ministry and Apollos.
the other.
Who were these men, even Paul himself? Just servants of the Lord! The Corinthians preferred one above the other.
Paul says God simply used them as His instruments to bring about their conversion.
They had different gifts but the same grace (). What would heaven be like, indeed, if this Corinthian contentiousness were to be carried over to there?
Here would be one set of believers boosting D. L. Moody, another group singing the praises of Martin Luther, another bragging about John Calvin or John Wesley or General William Booth!
Paul, for instance, came from a Pharisaical background. He was a trained rabbi, a pupil of the illustrious Gamaliel. He grew up among the Hellenist Jews of Tarsus, the chief city of Cilicia. He prized the invaluable asset of being a Roman citizen. He was not only thoroughly at home in rabbinical law but well versed in Greek philosophy. He had been a rabid persecutor of the church and became the foremost missionary, theologian, and spokesman of the church.
Apollos, by contrast, grew up in Alexandria, which had a large Jewish community. In any case, his style, so unlike Paul’s, appealed to many.
Even so, Paul and Apollos, great and gifted as they were, were only servants whom God had been pleased to use as instruments in His hand to bring numbers of the Corinthians to Christ. That was the reality. Both the men involved and the ministry involved were of God.
Every man has characteristics and traits unique to themselves.
The next pastor may be a great expositor of scripture
But keeps things to himself
Does more counseling
Not as involved with outreach
Paul turns now to the question of results ().
Paul turns now to the question of results (). First we have his appeal (3:6). He says, “I have planted, Apollos watered [the human partners in the work of winning souls]; but God gave the increase [the heavenly Partner].” We do not know what Paul may have thought about Alexandrian Christianity, which certainly seems to have been somewhat defective, or what he may have thought of Apollos’s tendency to over-allegorize the Old Testament Scriptures. He never cuts him down. They were workers together in the great task of winning people to Christ. One did this, one did that. Paul and Apollos were on the same side.
First we have his appeal (3:6). He says, “I have planted, Apollos watered [the human partners in the work of winning souls]; but God gave the increase [the heavenly Partner].”
When John on one occasion said to the Lord Jesus, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.” Jesus replied, “Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part” ().
When John on one occasion said to the Lord Jesus, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.” Jesus replied, “Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part” ().
What asking you to know?
On all the really important issues they were one. There was plenty of work for everyone. Not all are gifted to plow and plant. Not all have the patience and concern to water. In any case, neither one could accomplish anything without God, who alone can give the harvest.
Then came the hard part, the mysterious part, the impossible part. That dry seed germinated! There was life there! Tiny roots went down into the moist soil. Tiny green shoots showed tentatively above the ground. A miracle had taken place which had no explanation apart from God. There was life and growth. Shoots became stems. The stems produced another wonder, fragrant, colored, and beautiful flowers. The bees came. The pollen was transferred from plant to plant. Fruit appeared. The miracle happens so often we take it for granted. We call it “nature.” It is God! God at work, giving the increase. Only God knows how to turn a seed into fruit.
Paul planted the seed, the Word of God (). Apollos came along and did what he could. Paul and Apollos alike were nothing. Anybody could do what they did. It calls for no great skill to pass on a verse of Scripture or to encourage someone to heed God’s Word. But by what mysterious process does the seed germinate in a human heart? “Being born again,” says Peter, “not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever … and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (, ). But how does it happen? When talking to Nicodemus about the same mystery, only using a different illustration, Jesus bluntly said, “Thou … canst not tell” (). Nicodemus may have been a learned doctor of the law but he did not have the slightest idea how spiritual life is germinated in a human soul. Nor do we.
Paul recognized that the whole mysterious process of conviction, conversion, and consecration, with all its ramifications of election, justification, sanctification, atonement, redemption, reconciliation, regeneration, and glorification, was one vast mystery which had no explanation apart from God. All is of God. God gives the increase. “How does blood cleanse sin?” an unbeliever demanded of a Christian. “How does water quench thirst?” responded the Christian. “I don’t know,” said the unbeliever, “but I know that it does.” Just so! We don’t know how blood cleanses sin but we know that it does because God says that it does (). We don’t know how the planting and watering of the gospel seed results in people being born again but we know that it does. All the glory belongs to God who gives the increase.
Paul follows all this up by raising the question of rewards (). He calls for perfect accord in the body: “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one.” It is not a question of rivalry. We all have different gifts and abilities and different tasks. The Holy Spirit is “the Lord of the harvest” (). There are few enough willing to labor; we cannot afford to spend time fighting among ourselves, raiding other men’s fields, pushing for recognition and position. We are to be one when it comes to evangelizing a lost world.
Paul speaks also of personal acclaim at the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ: “Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” The emphasis is on the words “his own.” We may, perhaps, derive inspiration from some other man’s ministry but we are not to lionize anyone. The important thing is to get on with the work entrusted to us. The promised reward is a powerful incentive. There are some who decry the idea of working for reward. It seems to them to be an inferior motive. “We should work for the Lord because we love Him,” they say. “We should work to win souls out of compassion for them.” All well and true. However, the offer of reward as an incentive for service is one often encountered in Scripture. Indeed, right here, Paul goes on to expand his own teaching on the subject. He himself never lost sight of his promised crown (). The Lord Jesus Himself held out the prospect of rewards () However, we are not going to be rewarded because of what someone else has done. We shall have plenty to do if we pay attention to the work the Lord has entrusted to us. We are neither to covet nor criticize another person’s field. We need to cultivate our own.
Beginning with the fact of their carnality, their carnality is decried (3:1–3). Paul underlines, first, the childish level of their beliefs (3:1–2). He found them to be babes: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (3:1). In his letter to Rome, written from this very city of Corinth, Paul outlines for us the characteristics of three men. First there is the spiritual man (), the person who
Exploring 1 Corinthians: An Expository Commentary Part 2: Divisions in the Church (1 Corinthians 1:10–4:21)

Paul has been speaking to the Corinthians about the source of their sectarianism (1 Cor. 1:10–2:16), exposing the folly of their clannishness (1:10–17) and of their cleverness (1:18–2:16). He now turns instead to the spirit of their sectarianism (3:1–4:21). It was, first of all, a carnal spirit (3:1–17). Paul will show the fact (3:1–4), the folly (3:5–8), and the fruits (3:9–17) of their sectarianism.

Beginning with the fact of their carnality, their carnality is decried (3:1–3). Paul underlines, first, the childish level of their beliefs (3:1–2). He found them to be babes: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (3:1). In his letter to Rome, written from this very city of Corinth, Paul outlines for us the characteristics of three men. First there is the spiritual man (Rom. 7:1–6), the person who knows the truth of being “married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead,” and who, consequently, is producing “fruit unto God.” Free from the law, the spiritual person lives for the Lord. This is the kind of person every believer should be. He is indwelt and filled with the Holy Spirit who Himself makes Christ real to him just as the servant, in the matchless Old Testament type, sought to make Isaac real to Rebekah (Gen. 24:65).

Then there is the natural man (Rom. 7:7–13). The picture here is of a person in his unregenerate state doing his best to keep the commandments of God and miserably failing. Indeed, the law, far from being an instrument of salvation, proves to be a means of condemnation. Nobody tried harder than Saul of Tarsus to merit salvation by the works of the law. No one understood better than he the inner gnawing of conviction of sin, failure, and judgment to come (Phil. 2:3–11).

In concluding this great treatise on the nature of man, Paul talks about the carnal man (Rom. 7:14–23). The carnal man is a saved man, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who nevertheless tries to live the Christian life on the same principle that the unsaved man tries to merit eternal life. He tries to live the Christian life in the energy of the flesh—and fails. The failure is dismal and complete. The carnal man is thoroughly wretched. The Holy Spirit indwelling him will not let him enjoy worldliness and sensuality; the old nature within him will not let him enjoy his new life in Christ.[5]

Paul holds the Corinthian believers accountable for their carnality. He could not even speak to them on a high spiritual plane. He could only talk to them as babes. Babes are attractive enough so long as they grow up, but a babe who remains a babe for twenty years is a tragedy. Babes are self-centered. They are dependent on others for all their needs. They have short attention spans. They go for things that glitter, and they have no sense of values. They are illiterate and ignorant of much they need to know. Their own wants are predominant. They are ruled by their appetites and move fitfully from one thing to another. They are unable to feed themselves, or to protect themselves, or to defend themselves. They cannot see beyond their own little world. They enjoy being the center of attention and soon learn how to get their share of it. They have no thought for the needs and concerns of others. They are demanding. They get themselves in the most frightful messes and seem blissfully unaware of it. They demand a great deal of care. But, in time, they grow up. The trouble with the Corinthians was that they did not grow up. Paul found them to be still babes.

Consequently, he had to feed them as babes: “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” (1 Cor. 3:2). It was not for lack of teaching. Paul had remained in Corinth for a year and a half (Acts 18:11) “teaching the word of God among them.” He labored there as an evangelist, as a pastor, and as a teacher. Imagine having the apostle Paul as your teacher! He soon took the measure of his beloved Corinthians, however. Doctrine did not interest them; what they wanted were the gifts—the spectacular sign gifts. No wonder Paul tells them bluntly that clever and capable as they no doubt were, they were childish (1 Cor. 13:11). There was so much he wanted to teach them—all the great truths we find in Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, Thessalonians, and Hebrews. He would have liked to have taken them through the Old Testament explaining the types, highlighting prophecy, showing them Christ. They, however, were restless under the most prosaic and elementary teaching. As for a full course of doctrine—Soteriology, pneumatology, anthropology, angelology, ecclesiology, theology, eschatology, and the like—they were nowhere ready for that. He had to feed them as babes—just a few simple truths about salvation, baptism, the ordinances, resurrection, giving, and personal accountability—that was about all they were able to handle.

He underlines, too, the childish level of their behavior (3:3). He mentions envy, strife, and divisions. “Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” he demands. The word for carnal is sarkikos, “men of the flesh,” sensual, under the control of their animal appetites, governed by their human nature and not by the Holy Spirit. The word for envying is zēlos—jealousy. W. E. Vine says that the distinction between envy and jealousy lies in this—that envy wants to deprive another of what he has, jealousy desires the same sort of thing for itself.[6] At Corinth, this attitude of jealousy was particularly noticeable in connection with the sign gifts. The word for strife is eris, contention as an expression, indeed, of enmity. There were all kinds of quarreling, rivalry, and wrangling going on in this church. It was in the same spiritual state as Israel in the wilderness when they spent their time murmuring and arguing and contending with Moses and Aaron. Paul could very well have written Hebrews 3:7–4:11 to this church. It certainly stood in need of that teaching.

So, then, their carnality is decried (1 Cor. 3:1–3). Now it is described: “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (3:4). That was the proof that there was jealousy and strife at work in the Corinthian church. It was also proof that they were unspiritual. We have grown up with denominationalism and more or less accept it as normal and necessary. Paul had a horror of it and of the spirit that produced it. The Lord prayed that all His people might be one in the same bond of oneness He and His Father enjoyed (John 17:21–23). It has been part of Satan’s master strategy against the church to divide it. Yet within the mystical body of Christ there is a oneness that the Father sees, which we occasionally glimpse, and which will be displayed to the universe in eternity. Satan cannot destroy that.

In one of the grand old worship hymns we sang when I was a boy, one stanza went thus:

We would remember we are one

With every saint that loves Thy Name;

United to Thee on the throne,

Our life, our hope, our Lord the same.

Having, then, discussed the fact of their carnality, Paul turns to the folly of their carnality (1 Cor. 3:5–8). He confronts the Corinthians, first, with the question of reality: “Who then,” he demands, “is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” Who were these men, even Paul himself? Just servants of the Lord! The Corinthians preferred one above the other. Paul says God simply used them as His instruments to bring about their conversion. They had different gifts but the same grace (Rom. 12:6). What would heaven be like, indeed, if this Corinthian contentiousness were to be carried over to there? Here would be one set of believers boosting D. L. Moody, another group singing the praises of Martin Luther, another bragging about John Calvin or John Wesley or General William Booth! The very idea is ludicrous! Paul urges the Corinthians to face the facts. Men, even the most illustrious of men, are only men even though they brought a great deal of background, variety, and gift with them into the ministry.

Paul, for instance, came from a Pharisaical background. He was a trained rabbi, a pupil of the illustrious Gamaliel. He grew up among the Hellenist Jews of Tarsus, the chief city of Cilicia. He prized the invaluable asset of being a Roman citizen. He was not only thoroughly at home in rabbinical law but well versed in Greek philosophy. He had been a rabid persecutor of the church and became the foremost missionary, theologian, and spokesman of the church.

Apollos, by contrast, grew up in Alexandria, which had a large Jewish community. The Jews of Alexandria enjoyed a considerable amount of self-government. Some even held influential posts in the city administration. Philo’s brother, Alexander, was not only chief customs officer, he was fabulously wealthy. Philo himself was a patriotic Jew. He was also an eager student of Greek philosophy, especially that of Plato, the Stoics, and the Neo-Pythagoreans. His goal was to interpret the Old Testament in the light of Greek philosophy. He developed a system of hermeneutics based on an allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures, pressed to the point of absurdity. He was, nevertheless, one of the most influential Jews of his day. Apollos was an Alexandrian and would have found it difficult to escape the influence of Philo. Apollos, well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, probably the Septuagint version, pointed people to Christ, even though his understanding of the gospel was defective at first. It is very likely that Apollos favored Philo’s allegorical hermeneutics. In any case, his style, so unlike Paul’s, appealed to many.

Even so, Paul and Apollos, great and gifted as they were, were only servants whom God had been pleased to use as instruments in His hand to bring numbers of the Corinthians to Christ. That was the reality. Both the men involved and the ministry involved were of God.

Paul turns now to the question of results (1 Cor. 3:6–7). First we have his appeal (3:6). He says, “I have planted, Apollos watered [the human partners in the work of winning souls]; but God gave the increase [the heavenly Partner].” We do not know what Paul may have thought about Alexandrian Christianity, which certainly seems to have been somewhat defective, or what he may have thought of Apollos’s tendency to over-allegorize the Old Testament Scriptures. He never cuts him down. They were workers together in the great task of winning people to Christ. One did this, one did that. Paul and Apollos were on the same side.

When John on one occasion said to the Lord Jesus, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.” Jesus replied, “Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part” (Mark 9:38–40).

So Paul saw Apollos as a partner, not as a rival. On all the really important issues they were one. There was plenty of work for everyone. Not all are gifted to plow and plant. Not all have the patience and concern to water. In any case, neither one could accomplish anything without God, who alone can give the harvest.

Now comes his application (1 Cor. 3:7). “So then,” he says, “neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” The seed was sown, a very simple operation indeed. The farmer made a makeshift bag out of the folds of his garment, filled it with seed, and walked up and down his field throwing the seed far and wide upon the ground. The seed was watered. Again, the operation was simple in the extreme. The water ran down channels. As the farmer wanted to direct it here or there he dammed one channel by moving some earth with his foot and opened another the same way. Nothing could be simpler than sowing or watering. Anyone could do it. It took little or no skill. Besides, in the whole process of working for a harvest, that was about all anyone could do.

Then came the hard part, the mysterious part, the impossible part. That dry seed germinated! There was life there! Tiny roots went down into the moist soil. Tiny green shoots showed tentatively above the ground. A miracle had taken place which had no explanation apart from God. There was life and growth. Shoots became stems. The stems produced another wonder, fragrant, colored, and beautiful flowers. The bees came. The pollen was transferred from plant to plant. Fruit appeared. The miracle happens so often we take it for granted. We call it “nature.” It is God! God at work, giving the increase. Only God knows how to turn a seed into fruit.

Paul planted the seed, the Word of God (Matt. 13:19). Apollos came along and did what he could. Paul and Apollos alike were nothing. Anybody could do what they did. It calls for no great skill to pass on a verse of Scripture or to encourage someone to heed God’s Word. But by what mysterious process does the seed germinate in a human heart? “Being born again,” says Peter, “not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever … and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:23, 25). But how does it happen? When talking to Nicodemus about the same mystery, only using a different illustration, Jesus bluntly said, “Thou … canst not tell” (John 3:8). Nicodemus may have been a learned doctor of the law but he did not have the slightest idea how spiritual life is germinated in a human soul. Nor do we.

Paul recognized that the whole mysterious process of conviction, conversion, and consecration, with all its ramifications of election, justification, sanctification, atonement, redemption, reconciliation, regeneration, and glorification, was one vast mystery which had no explanation apart from God. All is of God. God gives the increase. “How does blood cleanse sin?” an unbeliever demanded of a Christian. “How does water quench thirst?” responded the Christian. “I don’t know,” said the unbeliever, “but I know that it does.” Just so! We don’t know how blood cleanses sin but we know that it does because God says that it does (1 John 1:7). We don’t know how the planting and watering of the gospel seed results in people being born again but we know that it does. All the glory belongs to God who gives the increase.

Paul follows all this up by raising the question of rewards (1 Cor. 3:8). He calls for perfect accord in the body: “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one.” It is not a question of rivalry. We all have different gifts and abilities and different tasks. The Holy Spirit is “the Lord of the harvest” (Matt. 9:37–38). There are few enough willing to labor; we cannot afford to spend time fighting among ourselves, raiding other men’s fields, pushing for recognition and position. We are to be one when it comes to evangelizing a lost world.

Paul speaks also of personal acclaim at the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ: “Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” The emphasis is on the words “his own.” We may, perhaps, derive inspiration from some other man’s ministry but we are not to lionize anyone. The important thing is to get on with the work entrusted to us. The promised reward is a powerful incentive. There are some who decry the idea of working for reward. It seems to them to be an inferior motive. “We should work for the Lord because we love Him,” they say. “We should work to win souls out of compassion for them.” All well and true. However, the offer of reward as an incentive for service is one often encountered in Scripture. Indeed, right here, Paul goes on to expand his own teaching on the subject. He himself never lost sight of his promised crown (2 Tim. 4:6–8). The Lord Jesus Himself held out the prospect of rewards (Matt. 5:10–12) However, we are not going to be rewarded because of what someone else has done. We shall have plenty to do if we pay attention to the work the Lord has entrusted to us. We are neither to covet nor criticize another person’s field. We need to cultivate our own.

1 Corinthians 3:9 KJV 1900
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
1cor 3.9
We must work together. This church was fractious. One side vs the other side.
A divided can not stand.
Mark 3:24 KJV 1900
And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
There were divisions in the church based around the following of leaders.
Watch divisions destroy a family
Watch divisions destroy a company
Watch divisions destroy a church
What does it take to be successful in the world of team sports? Contrary to popular opinion, it is not tattoos, jail time, and steroids. It is teamwork! The greatest athletes in the world are only considered successful in the ultimate sense when they win the big one—the championship. However, the only way to accomplish this in team sports is to be a team player and to play on a team that is committed to teamwork.
What does it take to be successful in the world of team sports? Contrary to popular opinion, it is not tattoos, jail time, and steroids. It is teamwork! The greatest athletes in the world are only considered successful in the ultimate sense when they win the big one—the championship. However, the only way to accomplish this in team sports is to be a team player and to play on a team that is committed to teamwork.
Lets labor together and set aside our non-doctrinal differences!
Similarly, in the church of Jesus Christ the team that serves together stays together and wins together.
However, the team that becomes consumed with individual desires will falter and be forgotten.
1. Recognize your faulty perspective (3:1-4).
1 Corinthians 3:1–4 KJV 1900
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?
During his 18-month ministry in Corinth, Paul preached Christ and many Corinthians believed the message of the cross. Paul writes that when he was in Corinth, he spoke to them as “infants” because they were new believers.
They were brand new to the faith! So he gave them milk to drink because they were spiritual babies.10 This is not meant to be a derogatory remark. Every Christian begins as a spiritual infant. There is nothing wrong with this.11
One of our favorite family pastimes is to look through family photo albums and watch family home videos. It’s astonishing to look back on the lives of our children. It’s fun to see them when they were babies and toddlers and couldn’t walk or talk. Back then we didn’t expect much of them—they were babies. There’s nothing wrong with being a baby, but to remain a baby all your life is not healthy. Something is terribly wrong! This was the case in Corinth. Paul is writing them approximately five years after he first began his ministry there. By this time the Corinthians should have become spiritual children, teenagers, or even adults. Instead, they are still babies.
But does Paul have in mind the image of children who need to grow, or that of infantile adults who need to adjust their attitude?”12 Many Bible students assume that by calling them “infants” Paul intends to emphasize their need to grow. Yet, Paul’s contrast is not between infancy and maturity but between infancy and spirituality. It is more likely that Paul is rebuking his readers, not because they are babes still and had not progressed further, but because they were in fact being childish—a condition contrary to being spiritual. The problem is not that they have failed to progress but that they have failed to comprehend, in particular, the message of the cross (cf. 1:18-25).13
This view is confirmed in 3:2b-4, as Paul moves from the past to the present: “Indeed, even now you are not yet14 able, for15 you are still fleshly.16 For since there is jealousy and strife17 among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?”18 Paul is shocked that the Corinthians are still on a diet of milk. There has been ample time for spiritual attitudes and actions to develop. By now these Christians should be spiritual, but they are still fleshly infants. Paul expected them to be able to receive “solid food,” yet they are still on Gerber. However, the “solid food” is not advanced and complicated doctrine; it is godliness of living. The term refers to spiritual, not necessarily theological maturity.19 The “solid food” that Paul refers to is not deeper doctrinal truths but rather the word of the cross.20
This is important to understand because many people think they are mature since they know the Bible and are deep thinkers. Nothing could be further from the truth! God is more interested in our attitudes and actions. While knowledge is certainly valuable, obedience is far more important. To what extent are you presently obeying what you know about God’s Word? To the degree that you are obedient to what you know, you are a spiritual Christian. Do your attitudes and actions presently reflect Christ? We must recognize that our attitudes and actions are a greater indication of spirituality than our ability to memorize Scripture, study the Bible, and talk theology.
In this context, behaving in the “flesh” means “living in rivalry and disunity within the church.”21 Much to Paul’s chagrin, the Corinthians were behaving like unbelievers (cf. ) in their speech and attitudes. They have the Spirit, but at this junction they are neither thinking nor acting as if they do.22 Their overall position might be spiritual but their practice of quarrelling and their admiration of pagan intellectualism is unspiritual.23
In 3:3, Paul brings up two sins that can destroy the church: “jealousy and strife.”24 The interesting thing about these sins is that they are not considered serious sins in the church. Yet, Paul saw the spiritual danger that could tear the church apart. These sins are made manifest in 3:4, through party divisions. The apostle Paul had been the evangelist who founded the church, and there were those who were loyal to him, who trusted and respected him, who liked his style. Apollos came after him, and there were people who gathered around him because they preferred his teaching.25 As a result, jealousy and strife broke out. Paul says this is naive, dangerous, and contrary to everything God wants for us. It is sinful for church members to compare pastors, or for believers to follow human leaders as disciples of men, and not disciples of Jesus Christ. The “personality cults” in the church today are in direct disobedience to the Word of God. Only Jesus Christ should have the place of preeminence ().
It is interesting that in 3:3 Paul returns to the problem that he began to address in 1:10-17. It would seem that Paul does this to create suspense. If the Corinthians are wise and spiritual they will see the relevance of the intervening discussion about “the word of the cross” (1:18-2:16).26 Again, Paul is not chastising the Corinthians because they were babes in the faith and had not progressed like they should. Throughout this book he is going to delve into deep doctrine (e.g., ethical conduct, marriage and celibacy, freedom in relation to food offered to idols, the Lord’s Supper, the use of spiritual gifts in the church, and the resurrection). This book is full of theological meat. Rather, Paul rebukes the Corinthians because their attitudes were childish—completely incompatible with the fact that they were people who had the Spirit of God.27 They are bickering over who the best preacher is.
How should this type of division be handled? Paul explains in : “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” When Paul says we are to “reject” such a person, he means we are to break fellowship with such a person (cf. ). Paul takes seriously divisions that can creep up in the life of the church.
Consequently, in this section Paul rebukes the Corinthians for behaving in an unspiritual fashion. Apparently, he is concerned that some of us are still in the nursery when we should be in the infantry. This doesn’t happen by mere Bible knowledge. There must be a change in our attitudes and actions. Sadly, many of us think that we will grow spiritually as we age. Maturity requires time but has nothing to do with age. Maturity and spirituality are reflected in how we come together as a church family.
[After some constructive criticism, Paul turns next to a positive explanation of how his readers should view himself and his fellow workers.]
2. Remember your role in God’s work (3:5-9). Since the Corinthians were guilty of preacher worship, Paul must cut himself and Apollos down to size. In 3:5a Paul writes, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants28 through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.”29 Paul opens this section with two rhetorical questions that begin with the word “what.”30 By asking “what” rather than “who,” Paul focuses on the place or position to which the Corinthians’ leaders have been elevated, rather than upon the personalities of each. If the Corinthians had been answering these questions they would have responded: “My leader is my everything! My leader is my teacher, my counselor, my guide, my confidence, my pride.” Paul brings the Corinthians back down to earth. Speaking of himself and Apollos, the two greatest leaders the Corinthians have known, he says, in effect, “We are not heroes, to be adored; we are not gods, to be worshipped; we are not masters, to be blindly followed. We are simply servants of God, who by God’s grace and appointment were allowed to be instrumental in you trusting in Christ.”
Paul says he and Apollos are simply “servants.” In time, believers would attach the term “servant” (diakonos) to a church office (; , ), but it began as a stock term for common laborers, like table waiters () and palace attendants (). Thus, Paul is not claiming elevated status but is embracing lowly servility. He is saying, “Look, I’m just a waiter who busses tables. Nobody builds a movement around a food service worker! Apollos and I were just waiters God used as servants to bring food to you. So don’t try to honor us; it’s totally misplaced. Give your praise to the One who prepared the food, who understood what your spiritual needs were, and then delivered it through us. The Lord is the One who gave the opportunity for us and for you. God sovereignly placed you where He knew you needed to be to hear the gospel, and He put us there with you. Therefore, why prefer one waiter over another? This is foolish.”
This should serve as a humbling reminder to us: We are servants, waiters who wait upon God and His people. What a great reminder that we should treat waiters and busboys with respect and honor, because that is what we all are in the spiritual realm.
Paul continues his clarification in 3:6-7: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then31 neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”32 The point indicated above in 3:5 is illustrated in 3:6. Paul “planted” as he introduced the Corinthians to faith in Christ and taught basic discipleship truths to those who believed (4:15; , ).33 Apollos “watered” as he followed up Paul in Corinth, and fortified, fed, and nurtured the work that Paul had begun ().
There is an operative word in these verses. It is the word “one.” This word helps explain God’s mathematics. One plus one equals one. Ten plus ten equals one. One hundred plus one hundred equals one. Regardless of how many people are serving, God is the One that makes things grow.34 Paul states this twice in 3:6-7. He wants us to understand that “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (). We should dream and plan for ministry. We should want and expect our church and our ministries to grow. Nevertheless, growth is God’s business, not ours. God is the One who causes the growth! Therefore, we must pray and trust Him for it. Are you praying for the growth and health of your church? If not, please begin doing so today.
By using the illustration of a garden, Paul helps us to understand that he and Apollos are not gardeners, they are garden tools. They are shovels and rakes. Now no one fawns over a garden tool, right? Most people don’t walk into a beautiful garden and say, “Look at that shovel!” “Look at that rake!” Instead, they focus on the garden and the gardener. Likewise, since we are mere garden tools we ought to direct people to the Gardener. He is the One whom has done all the work! The mark of a successful servant is: Does he or she point others to the Gardener (see )?
Paul continues his illustration in 3:8 with these words: “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”35 Again, Paul emphasizes that all servants are one. There are no celebrities. One garden tool is not better than the other. Yet, Paul does state that “each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” In the end, servants are to do all that they do for Jesus Christ, for one day He will evaluate their lives. On that day, He will reward us according to our own labor. It should also be noted that Paul used the singular of the word “labor” or “work.” The point is: We are not rewarded for our success; we are rewarded for our faithfulness. Is your life characterized by labor and faithfulness? If so, you will receive36 a reward.
Paul closes this passage in 3:9 with these words: “For we are God’s37 fellow workers;38 you are God’s field,39 God’s building.” Paul first reaffirms that he and Apollos are both “fellow workers” of God. They do not work with Him” (see ), but for Him. Hence, God wants us to glorify Him in and through our ministries.
Paul then switches his imagery from that of agriculture to that of architecture when he calls the Corinthians “God’s field” and then “God’s building.”40 God is the focus of this passage. His name shows up six times in the last five verses. He is the only One worthy of glory.
Back at the turn of the century, there was a plague of locusts in the plains of the United States. In a matter of a few days, that swarm of locusts swept over the states of Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. In less than a week, they did over five hundred million dollars worth of damage (in the currency of that time). Locusts don’t have a king to get them organized. They don’t have a draft board to call them into ranks. By instinct the locust knows it has to be in community with other locusts. When that occurs, they are able to topple kingdoms. The wisdom of the locust is the wisdom that tells us we must have community.41
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