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"But we have the mind of Christ"

1 Corinthians 3:1-23

Jim Davis

Paul closes chapter two of first Corinthians saying, "But we have the mind of Christ" (2:16). He has revealed to the Corinthians his God given message. The Spirit of God gave it to him. He revealed to him the mind of Christ. The Spirit's message through the help of God has developed a Christ-like mindset in Paul's thinking. This is the purpose of the Spirit's message about Christ.

Though the Corinthian church is gifted by God and is very knowledgeable, the message of Christ has not reshaped their thinking. They have not matured in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:1-4
"Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly-mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?" (NIV).

One of the greatest needs of the church today is for believers to mature--to grow up in their spiritual experience. Some churches today resemble the nursery department--mostly crying babies and quarreling children. That is not to say that spiritual babies are not believers, but that not all believers are at the same level of maturity. One of the most difficult tasks for a preacher is to discern the needs of his people.

 Paul's primary concern for the church at Corinth was for their maturity. He spoke of them as infants who had been fed milk but should have been ready for meat, but were not. Paul recognized that spiritual growth is a gradual process that starts with spiritual babyhood.

It is not difficult to recognize the infant. There were many babies in Corinth. Babies disprove the theory that if you smile the whole world smiles with you. This concept conveys the idea that you get more attention through smiling. But that is false. You get more attention by crying. If you don’t believe this—turn on the evening news.

I called my daughter, Jennifer, last night. I heard Skylar, our 1 ½ year old granddaughter, screaming to the top of her voice. I ask my daughter what was wrong with her. She said, "She wants to drink her juice from the juice box instead of a training cup." Jennifer was mixing water with Skylar’s juice otherwise the juice gives her a severe diaper rash. She couldn’t put the juice back into the little hole in the box after diluting it. So Skylar was screaming. I didn’t talk to my daughter long. I tried to talk to her dad, but she was having a fit. I ask him how did he like his new boss in the house. He said, "She is boss alright!" We finally said goodbye and hung up the phone. Skylar, as most infants, has learned that she has a better chance getting what wants through crying. Many in the church have learned this powerful technique.

The Corinthian’s were arguing over whom to follow, Paul or Apollos. Like young children, they became easily attached to an individual. Those who aligned themselves with one teacher or the other became quarrelsome and lost sight of the main One to whom they should cling--Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:1-5
"Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (NIV).

Someone has said there are three phases of Bible study. First is the "cod-liver oil" stage, where you take it like medicine because it's good for you. The second is the "shredded-wheat biscuit" stage-dry but nourishing. And third is the "peaches and cream" stage-really enjoyable.

Purpose of the Gospel

The message of Christ is given to us so that we may grow up in our salvation. When a young bird leaves the nest, it usually needs no instructions on how to fly. But as a rule, it requires plenty of help in finding food. Even after leaving home, the fledgling must be fed while learning to feed itself. It may take pride in its new independence, but its first solo flights are quickly followed by cries of, "Feed me! Feed me!" For some time afterward the parent must keep providing a daily meal. Gradually, though, that begins to change. God has built into the natural order a wonderful progression of maturing that turns helpless young birds into experienced adults capable of feeding not only themselves but also their own brood.

This development should be just as predictable for the spiritual lives of believers. The reason God has given us his message through gifted individuals is so that we might grow into a mature person in Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-16
"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (NIV).

Failing to grow up in our salvation robs us of the powers of discernment.

Hebrews 5:11-14
"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. "

Hebrews 6:1-3
"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so" (NIV).

There comes a time when we need to leave first principles and grow up. If we fail to grow, we may find ourselves forgetting what we already know. It takes more than memorizing the alphabet to write a book. You must learn to turn the letters into word, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and learn how to carry the mind of the readers to get the message across. Some of the Hebrews were still playing with their ABC blocks. They needed kindergarten instruction.

I have always been thankful for the maturity of our members. The one thing that impresses my wife and I about this congregation is the maturity of the people. My sister visited this congregation a couple of years ago. She said, "You have a mature group of Christians." I didn’t prompt her in any way to say that. Maturity is manifested when we are not easily angered over the actions of others.

Motives for Spiritual Growth

Faith in God is the only means to maturing in our spiritual knowledge of Christ. Placing our faith in those doing the teaching will not lead us to spiritual growth. Isaiah warned Israel as he admonished them to "Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?" (Isaiah 2:23.) Isaiah encouraged Israel to go up to the house of God so that they could learn God's ways. They need to translate God's teaching into a way of life.

It takes more than great teaching to build a church it takes faith in God’s action in the growth process. Fleshly efforts without God will only lead to frustration and failure.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9
"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. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building" (NIV).

Everyone in the church has his or her God given place. Some cultivate the soil. Some plant the seed. Some water the planted seed. However, only God can make it grow. It is essential that each of us fills the role assigned by God. Occasionally we can pinch hit for one another, but we must fill our God given role.

Producing a fruitful harvest is hard work. The lazy preacher or Sunday School teacher is like the slothful farmer.

Proverbs 24:30-34
"I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man" (NIV).

Nothing cultivates the hearts of others better than our attitudes towards each other.

You may do a good deed, say a kind word, or give an encouraging word. You may just be friendly. You may never get a chance to tell the person about Christ, but if you cultivate the soil, i.e. the heart for others to plant the seed, you have done your job. We need hearts cultivated for planting. Often, we never recognize the work of those cultivating the soil. It takes maturity to cultivate the hearts of others. It usually takes a meek and quiet spirit. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.

The cultivators merely prepare the soil for those who sow the seed. Those cultivating the soil can make planting the seed easier. However it takes more than cultivation and planting. Someone must water what has been planted. Too me, watering the seed is the equivalent of encouragement. Those taught must be encouraged to allow the seed to take root.

Some years ago a lotus seed was germinated after lying dormant for several thousand years in a peat bog. Human beings don’t live that long--at least not here. But they do have a remarkable power to respond to seeds of spiritual life sown years before. Isaiah states far better than I the power of the Word to spring to life after long periods: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11). (Graham R. Hodges in Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 4.)

Regardless of what we do, it is faith in God's power to make the seed grow that is critical. Only God can produce a crop in the hearts of others. God's power and efforts makes our efforts pale into insignificance, for without God we will not produce a crop. God can make seed grow in barren places.

When I was back packing in the Sequoia National Park, the trail often led me to the edge of the tree line. The tree line was where the trees stopped growing. Usually, the mountains were very rocky above the tree lines. There would be rocky cliffs that extended upward, but invariably above the tree there would always be a tree here or there growing out of a crevice in the face of a cliff. It always amazed me at how large some of those trees were. It was as if it was a freak of nature, but I realized that God makes things grow in strange places.

Corinth was a strange place and Paul relied on the wisdom and power of God to succeed in the task of preaching. Spiritual growth comes from God. It takes more than knowledge and technique. It takes the power of God to make the seed grow. Our fleshly efforts are insufficient to accomplish God's purpose. They are important, but when we rely upon human strength to accomplish God's purpose we will fail. Our efforts are important, but only God’s power can make our lives fruitful.

It is possible to have a great deal of knowledge about God, Christ and salvation without using that knowledge to direct our lives. We may know God's word, but we live according to the wisdom of this world. We may seek to fit the Bible into the world's way of thinking. This leaves us immature. The division of the church today is the greatest indicator that we are seeking worldly wisdom to build the church.

You can tell a person who is seeking to grow spiritually by their diet. They are graduating from a diet of milk to one of eating meat. There is a desire to be enlightened and edified or had we rather be entertained. We will have patience with the growth of others rather than expecting an overnight miracle? God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.

Another mark of maturity is an attitude that practices love and seeks to get along with others. Children like to disagree and fuss. Children like to identify with heroes, whether they are sports heroes or Hollywood heroes. The "babes" in Corinth were fussing over which preacher was the greatest--Paul, Apollos, or Peter. It sounded like children on the playground.

There must be a unity of purpose in the church. Whether you are cultivating the soil, planting the seed, watering the planted seed or harvesting the crop there is a unity of purpose. As time passes the seed grows, the fruit appears and the laborers enjoy the harvest. There is unity of purpose. No matter what we are doing each of us is a part of the harvest. We must recognize that each person is contributing to the labors of others.

There is humility in each aspect of the work as each person waits on God to give the increase. We can be proud of the church and proud of its leaders to an extent that we are puffed up. A puffed up condition destroys our unity of purpose.

Maturing Christians bear the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-26
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other" (NIV).

The fruit of the Spirit as described in Scripture is nothing more or less than the character of Christ reproduced in the life of the believer. A big part of Christian maturity is learning to let God keep you steady and to be ruled less and less by your emotions and circumstances.

Spiritual Growth Produces Skillful Labors

A preacher said, "When I turned 30 I wanted to build a large church. At 40 I wanted to learn how to preach. But at 50 I want to know God deeply."

A willingness to learn and mature is the only thing that will produce skillful labors.

You can have the best of materials and the best financing possible, but it takes skillful labors to build a house. This is especially true concerning God’s house. Maturity is the basic element required to be a skillful builder.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15
"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. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 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. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames" (NIV).

It takes many people skilled in different areas to build a house. Some are skilled at building foundations, some at framing, some at sheetrock, some at roofing, some at wiring the electricity, etc. It is amazing how many of the tradesmen started out as labors. They worked there until they found their niche. It took a willingness to stick to it long enough as a labor before they were able to launch out and go it on their own.

We need skillful labors that we can commit the Lord’s work too.

2 Timothy 2:1-7
"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this" (NIV)

When immature Christians, without spiritual discernment, get into places of leadership in the church, the results will be disastrous. Committing the work to unskilled people can make church growth all but impossible. "A little learning is a dangerous thing." Too often the newly acquired knowledge of a beginner instills pride. Some who have been the church for years are still babes, because their pride has prevented spiritual growth.

1 Timothy 3:1-7
"Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil" (NIV).

The first mark of those desiring to be a leader is disposition. Nothing reveals our desire to do what God is calling us to do more than our disposition. When a position goes to someone’s head it is a sure sign that person lacks the disposition to fill the position. Corinth lacked nothing concerning knowledge and spiritual gifts, but apparently they lacked persons with the correct disposition. Conceit was the problem of the Corinthian Christians. Paul doesn’t address elders in his letter to the Corinthians because there wasn’t any. It is apparent throughout Paul’s letter that they lacked the mature disposition to hold the office.

A man told about his youngest daughter who graduated from the university and started teaching in an area college. One day, she went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. The man who seated her asked, "Are you a teacher?" Surprised, she replied, "Why yes, I am." She enjoyed a warm feeling throughout the meal; she looked like a teacher.

As she was leaving the restaurant, she asked the man, "How did you know I was a teacher?"

"You have chalk dust on your seat," he replied. (David L. Roper, Judsonia, Arkansas, Christian Reader, "Lite Fare.")

Danger of Destroying God's Temple

Failure to mature destroys God's purpose for our lives.

1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

"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. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness'; and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.' So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future-all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God" (NIV).

These verses warn us of the danger of destroying the temple of God. Paul writes, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." The only way we can truly be the temple of God is to have the mind of Christ. God lives in us as the Spirit guides us to develop the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ produces the character of Christ. If we allow the demons to occupy our mind, we destroy God’s rightful place in our lives. We destroy his temple by driving Christ out. It would be like Israel placing an idol God in the tabernacle’s Most Holy Place as they journeyed in the wilderness. It would desecrate God’s temple.

We cannot build God's temple out of worldly materials. Paul writes, "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 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" (NIV). If we build upon God's foundation with worldly material our work will turn to ashes.

The world depends on promotions, prestige, and the influence of money and important people. The church depends upon God through prayer and the power of the Spirit. The church relies on humility, sacrifice and service.

First century Christians were considered ignorant and unlearned men, they owned no property, they had no influence in government; they had no treasure; Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none," their leaders were ordinary men. They were not celebrities. Yet, they turned the world upside down.

Conclusion:

I don't think God is interested in our success. He is interested in our maturity.

Full-grown oaks are not produced in three years; neither are servants of God.

Faith is an area where growing up means we must become more like a child.
 
 
 
 

 

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