Only Servants: Man's Division and God's Multiplication
Only Servants: Man's Division and God's Multiplication (1 Corinthians 3:1-10)
How do you measure spiritual maturity? Spiritual maturity cannot be identified with age on the calendar. Neither can it be identified with the number of years you have professed Christ. Spiritual maturity reveals itself in certain reactions and evaluations. How we react in situations and how we evaluate persons can be a key to our spiritual maturity.
In the church at Corinth people were demonstrating reactions that lacked maturity and evaluations that showed a lack of growth. All of us may measure ourselves by the Word. Our reactions to situations and our evaluations of people demonstrate our level of spiritual maturity.
Spiritual Maturity Reveals Itself in Certain Reactions
We live on a higher or lower level according to the life of the Spirit. How can you tell on which level you live? Paul had founded the church at Corinth. Later he wrote them with tenderness but firmness. They still lived on the level of the world, not the spirit. How did he know this? What are the marks?
Our spiritual age reveals maturity: "mere infants in Christ" (v. 1). There is nothing wrong with being an infant at the very beginning of life. A newborn cannot help being an infant. But when the infantile stage continues, there is something wrong. Actually, our spiritual age is revealed by our spiritual appetite.
Our spiritual appetite reveals our spiritual age: "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready." At the beginning the apostle gave the the basic fundamentals of the message about Christ (2:2). There were certain rudiments that belonged to the elementary instruction of Christians (Heb. 6:1-3). These are spiritual "milk." But growing believers develop an appetite for spiritual meat (2:6-13).
Our spiritual actions reveal our spiritual maturity. Among the believers in the family of God at Corinth were jealousy and quarreling. The jealousy consisted of envy and rivalry, which were destructive of personal relations and individual happiness. The quarreling was a contentious temper of dissension and disputing. Paul called this the mark of the pagan world (Rom. 1:29). Paul considered such an attitude the outward evidence of spiritual immaturity.
Spiritual Maturity Reveals Itself in Our Evaluations
Spiritual immaturity reveals itself in factionalism over leadership. When God's people become partisans, some following one servant and others following another, they reveal a level of immaturity. At Corinth there were four parties in the church, each claiming a leader—Paul, Apollos, Peter, and Christ (1:12). Paul considers such reactions as evidence of life on the merely human level, not the spiritual.
Spiritual maturity reveals itself in a proper evaluation of leaders in their person and their performance. Spiritual maturity evaluates leaders as to their person.
The identify of a Christian leader is that of a servant: "only servants." The word refers to a humble household servant marked by activity in service. Paul and Apollos are not the heads of rival factions, but only servants.
The instrumentality of a leader is that of a channel of God's work: "Through whom you came to believe." Leaders are instruments or channels. To exalt one leader over another is simply to mistake the channel for the Source, God.
The individuality of a leader is given by God Himself: "As the Lord has assigned to each his task" (v. 5). The success, visibility, notoriety, and position of any leader belong only to the mercy of God. Everything we have is a gift.
Spiritual maturity not only evaluates leaders as to their person, but also as to their performance. Some leaders have a work of inauguration. They begin the work of God in a place. Other leaders have the work of continuation. They take what has been started and nurture it. But throughout the process it is God who gives to all the work its energization: "God made it grow" (v. 6). The work of those who inaugurate and those who continue is nothing without the continuous blessing of God over it all. A farmer may plant and cultivate, but he has to look to heaven for the blessings of rain and growth. Even so, all Christian leaders are desperately dependent on God for the increase.
Spiritual Maturity Reveals Itself in Our Own Confessions
Spiritual maturity reveals itself in what we confess about ourselves: "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything." Paul had a proper evaluation of himself minus the blessings of God. Minus God we are nothing.
Spiritual maturity reveals itself in what we confess about God: "Only God, who makes things grow" (v. 7). While we are relatively nothing, God and God alone is everything. Paul readily confessed the uniqueness and centrality of God, not himself.
Spiritual maturity reveals itself in what we confess about our coworkers: "The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose" (v. 8). Christian workers are not rival leaders of competitive organizations. Paul readily confessed that he and the eloquent young Alexandrian, Apollos, were members of the same team. At the end, God will make an individual assessment of the "labor" of each of His servants. Only God is capable of doing that. In this present age, we are all coworkers.
Spiritual maturity reveals itself in what we confess about the work. Three times in verse 9 Paul underscores that the work itself is "God's . . . God's . . . God's." The church itself is God's act of cultivating and God's act of building. All nurture, building, and growth come from God, or not at all.
We can evaluate our level of spiritual maturity on the basis of these indications. May God grant that we grow up in Christ.