- Sermon Notes
Mere Men No More
1 Corinthians 3:1-15
The church in Corinth was only five or six years old when Paul wrote this letter. The church was filled with young believers and so, as you can imagine,
there was a lot of spiritual immaturity. This letter is filled with instruction, but also encouragement to strengthen their faith. Although, as is
typical of Paul, he pulls no punches, he calls things straight out.
The problem was that there was division and strife. Different groups were forming, some saying, “We are of Paul,” others were saying, “We are of Apollos,”
others were aligning themselves with Peter, and finally, some were saying that they were of Christ. But all of it was spiritually immature.
In these chapters Paul refers to three kinds of people. There is the natural man; he does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness
to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Then there is the spiritual man. He has received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God. He receives those things taught by the Spirit,
combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words because he is growing in God’s wisdom.
But also, there is the Christian who is immature in his faith. They are in Christ, but they are men strongly influenced by the flesh. Paul says they are
babes in Christ. That was the problem in the church in Corinth. They were a young church with many babes in Christ.
Paul is writing to grow their faith, to bring spiritual maturity so they will be transformed from babes in Christ to those mature in faith. All fathers
want their children to grow and mature. The same is true with God.
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with babies. I love children and I think they are wonderful at any age. It’s such a joy to watch every aspect of their
growth. Our middle daughter just had her first baby and it’s fun to watch her and her husband become so excited with everything the baby does, “She’s
lifting up her head; she starting to smile.’ Jordi used to keep a little journal of all our kids’ accomplishments; taking their first steps or saying
daddy for the first time.
The key is that they keep growing. Throwing them up in the air makes them squeal with laughter when they’re three, but they move from that to the high
A pastor friend of mine has recently become a foster parent, along with his wife, to a little baby. He said, “How can something so cute and cuddly make
such a huge, smelly mess in her diaper?”
Here’s the application. Young believers are absolutely a joy to be around. I love their exuberance and excitement for Christ, but you want them to keep
growing, to keep maturing. You don’t want them to stay babes in Christ. But some people do, you would be surprised what huge, smelly messes people
make of their lives because of spiritual immaturity.
I. We Need Healthy Spiritual Food
- What does it take to grow in spiritual maturity? Paul uses the analogy of food.
- In order for a baby to mature, he needs food. He starts out with milk because his system can’t tolerate anything more. But as he grows he moves to
soft foods and finally to meat, potatoes and vegetables.
- In order for the mind to mature, a baby starts out with simple words, then learns to read, write, and do math problems. His mind is able to handle
greater and greater challenges.
- In the same way, a spiritual baby starts out with simple things, but then needs to take in spiritual truths, spiritual thoughts and spiritual words
and wisdom from God to grow into deeper and deeper maturity.
- That spiritual maturity will be seen in deeper faith, in an appetite for deeper things, in not easily becoming offended or taking things personally,
by appraising the value of things spiritually, by having a heart that is thankful to God for all things.
A. Milk is a good start
- In verse 2 Paul says that he gave them milk to drink, not solid food because they were not able to receive it. Milk is not bad, it’s a great way to
1 Peter 2:2-3, Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, since you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
- Paul refers to spiritual milk as the elementary principles of the faith; literally the ABCs.
- When a person first comes to Christ, we often ask them to start out by reading the gospel of John and the gospel of Mark because they get to know Jesus
personally and to understand how much God loves them. There are many deeper things there, but it’s a great place to start so they can get to know
Illus – When I first came to Christ, I was given a copy of the New Testament and I started reading in Matthew the genealogies of Jesus Christ and I thought, “Man, reading the Bible is going to be harder than I thought.”
- You don’t ask a new believer to understand the nuances of Jesus being a priest in the order of Melchizedek, for example. Nor do you have them read
the visions of the prophet Ezekiel.
B. But be able to receive solid food
- When we think of maturity, we commonly think of age. In other words, the common assumption is that as a person gets older they grow in maturity. But
in reality, age alone does not produce maturity.
Illus – Once there was the principle of a school who needed to promote someone into a position and selected someone who had been teaching for 10 years. Another teacher was offended that he was not selected. “I have 25 years of experience,” he said. “No,” the principal replied, “you don’t have 25 years of experience, you have one year of experience that you have repeated 25 times.”
App – Time alone does not heal a person of a hot temper, or of a catty tongue, or of an unforgiving heart, or a bossy attitude, or a bitter spirit. It takes the Spirit to do that.
- However, it’s very possible to be young and quite mature in your faith. Timothy was a young man and yet Paul entrusted him with great responsibility.
1 Timothy 4:11-12, Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
- Paul wants them to move beyond elementary things spiritually so they will be able to receive solid food and mature in their faith.
Hebrews 6:1, Therefore, leaving the elementary teaching about Christ, let us press on to maturity…
- It’s interesting that in verse 2 Paul said he gave them milk because they were not yet able to receive solid food. A key then is being able to receive solid food.
Hebrews 5:12-13, For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
- Those verses give us a key – we must become accustomed to the word of righteousness. That word accustomed means to be skilled or experienced.
- It’s not just knowledge, it’s the practical experience.
- This, too, is a principle of faith. By faith you believe the principles in God’s word and that He empowers them by His Spirit, so you trust those principles
and those truths and put them into practice.
Illus – A new, young pastor came to serve in a church in a small town where the pastor was retiring. As he got to know the people of the town, he met an old maid who was bitter and cantankerous…
In the same way, you choose grace over and over until it chooses you; when grace becomes part of your character.
Hebrews 5:14, Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
- In other words, as you become accustomed to the word of righteousness and take hold of spiritual thoughts and spiritual words and the wisdom of God,
you can spiritually appraise all things.
- The more you understand the truth, the more you can discern that which is false.
Illus – A few years ago Jordi and I went to the Singing Christmas Tree. At one point everyone stood up and I took the opportunity to put my arm around Jordi. At first I thought, “Wow, I didn’t realize she had such a muscular arm; what triceps.” then I quickly spiritually appraised and discerned the truth…
C. Have an appetite for good food
- The word of God is often compared to food in the scriptures.
Matthew 4:4, Jesus answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
- That said, it’s absolutely essential that we have an appetite for good, healthy food. We live in a culture that in many ways is addicted to junk food
and the same can be true spiritually.
Illus – Through the years I’ve known several people that absolutely will not be vegetables; that’s because they much prefer Doritos and Ding Dong’s. The same is true spiritually; some people can’t stand spiritual meat and vegetables, they prefer fast food.
Illus – I’ve often said that a pastor is like a chef, preparing a tasty meal of meat and vegetables. Nothing wrong with adding a little sauce and a touch of dessert.
Jeremiah 3:15, “I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.”
II. Be Careful how You Build Your Life
- Paul then goes on to explain that all those factions and divisions were spiritual immaturity because we all share the same foundation on which we build our lives.
- Verse 9 – we are God’s fellow workers, which is an amazing thought, and God is using us to build and edify those around us…
- Therefore be careful how you build, be careful how you live because we’re living before God. That’s the eternal perspective
A. There is only one spiritual foundation
- There is only one foundation for the church and only one foundation for our lives, the Rock, Jesus Christ.
- This is spiritual wisdom, this is spiritual truth. There is no need for division and strife when we share the same foundation.
Psalm 133:1, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
- The point is that when Christ is your foundation and you take hold of His words and live according to them, He causes the increase, the blessing. (Verse
Matthew 7:24, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
- Verses 12-13 – How you live matters to God and has eternal consequences. These things are spiritually appraised; discern the spiritual value of everything.
- Notice the distinction in this list in verse 12; wood, hay, and straw all burn up in a fire, but gold, silver, and precious stones will survive a fire.
- Wood, hay, and straw represent their immature, fleshly attitudes of mere men and it is nothing but the grace of God that these things are burned up.
- Verse 15 –When all is said and done in regards to how you lived your life, and all you have to show for it is wood, hay, and straw and it all gets
burned up, then you’re not left with much, but at least you yourself are saved. At least you’ll have your robe of righteousness.
Illus – If your house caught fire in the middle of the night, the first thing you would want is your robe, you wouldn’t want to go out into the street in your skivvies.
- But you can build your life also with those things which are eternal; gold, silver, and precious stones.
Illus – There is something you can take with you, your relationships. Have the heart of Christ in them.
Matthew 6:20, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
1 Corinthians 3:1-15 NASB
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food;
for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife
among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you
5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gaveopportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered,
but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who
plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s
field, God’s building.
be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds
on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it
is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he
will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.