Ephesians 4:4-6, One hope of your calling: Eternal Reward, 1Co 3:1-17, part 4.
length: 65:49 - taught on Jan, 27 2021
Wednesday January 27,2021
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes 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 not mere men?
Fleshly denotes persons in respect to their drive toward self-esteem, preservation, or success with no mind towards God and His spiritual life. Certainly, sensuality and immorality would come under the heading of “flesh” but it does not exclude people who don’t delve into sensuality but do delve into self-sufficiency. So then, we see the Corinthians to be moved entirely by human drives.
Certainly, a moral man is better for society, his family, neighbors, and himself than an immoral man. But if he is without Christ he has nothing in terms of divine righteousness. Self-sufficient and adhering to social standards, minus sensual perversions, and generally nice, polite, and agreeable to others, even kind at times, but without Christ, a man without Christ and dependence upon God has zero righteousness.
The immoral criminal also has no righteousness, but he is a far greater pain and nuisance than the moral man.
“If you greet and love those who greet and love you, how are you extraordinary?” says the Lord to His own who are called to be His disciples; to be like Him.
Paul gave them milk, the doctrines of the cross, but because of their turn to fleshliness after Paul’s departure, they were no longer adhering to it, and now were unable to digest it.
They were Christians who were nominally focused on Christ but in practice and stance still focused on the interest of self (fleshly).
The proof of their immaturity was their partisanship.
The continued theme of being mere men, or we could translate, “all too human,” is that they actually split from one another based on teacher preference. The world of men separate based on various preferences.
As for the Corinthians, Christ and the Holy Spirit have become decisive determinants for their lives, and yet they continue as if they had no horizon beyond the merely human.
They are believers, saints by calling, and we must avoid this trap at all costs.
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.
The contrast in this sentence is between the “What” which is the low status of things, or tools that serve only the user (like a teacher) and the Lord which is the high-status of the spiritual life. It’s not that those elected to apostle and teacher are not important, but that they are fellow servants like the rest of us. They are instruments that the Lord uses to serve His body, as are all in the body since all have a spiritual gift(s) with the one purpose of serving the body for “the common good.” The gifts God has given each of us are for serving the user while all of us serve the Lord of glory.
The Lord gave “opportunity to each one,” but as he goes on to say, they work together in a corporate ministry.
Then Paul puts forth the image of the field and the fellow laborer (vv. 6-9).
Whether a minister is anything depends upon whether they play the subsidiary role assigned by God as agents to facilitate God’s work, not their own projects. The image is the people of God as a field and the agricultural laborers perform tasks that make for conditions of maximum growth, but they are not sources of growth.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
I planted, Apollos watered are both aorists (past events completed), but “causing the growth” is imperfect (went on doing and still is).
The imperfect is much like a present tense (continuous action), the only difference being, for the most part, that the imperfect is used for past time. Like the present tense, the imperfect portrays the action from within the event, without regard to beginning or end. It is sort of like the continuously moving background in which a particular event takes place. This contrasts with the aorist, which portrays the action in summary fashion. For the most part the aorist takes a snapshot of the action while the imperfect and the present takes a motion picture. This tells us that Paul and Apollos watered at a point of time but God; past, present, and future is always the one who causes the growth.
It is to God we must look for all further growth. We must use the best books; we must put ourselves under influences we know are good for us, we must conscientiously employ such means of grace as our circumstances permit; but, above all, we must ask God to give the increase. We are God’s field, God’s building, and God’s temple.
All teachers come and go, but God keeps on giving the increase in the lives of believers who by faith continue in His word.
Paul is inverting the Graeco-Roman scale of values. Those who are being looked upon as patron figures, he is describing as servants who come and go. He exposes God alone as the giver of life and growth. No fruitful ministry is the work of a man. The same is true of any spiritual life.
And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' 26 "But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.
The kings exercise their authority with force. The benefactors are the administration or bureaucracy that are the backbone of government whom the king uses to administer the departments of the government. Jesus tells us that this is not the way of His government nor is it the way of any true church. The pastor does not “lord it over” the congregation.
shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
Nor does anyone in the church with a position (deacon, secretary, Sunday school teacher or youth pastor, etc.) have a greater standing in the church, neither are they to lord it over others. All in the church are servants, and if we serve God and one another (one and the same thing), we create an environment conducive to growth and God will always be the One causing that growth.
A fruitful ministry is the work of God in the life or lives of those who submit to the subsidiary role of God’s servant doing only God’s will.
Sometimes it may not seem like we are growing at all; that we are wilting plants without much promise of future fruit and rickety structures that seem like they might collapse at any moment, but it is God’s work. Our end is to keep following Him. There may be little appearance or promise of good in you; but underneath the little there is lies what is infinitely great - the purpose and love of God Himself. If you doubt, notice all of human history - the redemption and deliverance of the human soul from evil has ever been what engages all of God’s care and energy.
And, for this reason, we must hope as much for others as we do for ourselves. We look at the sad state of the world, the deep degradation and misery that abound, and feel the burden of it. We may resign to do nothing, reveling in our own reward and caring not for the reward of others, almost as if their receiving would diminish our own, which it will not. The seemingly hopeless conditions of the world around us, the rejection of the gospel and the truth by so many, can oppress our spirit and cause us to despair. But we don’t see despair in the hearts of Jesus and Paul. Both knew what their countrymen and nation did not, that it would soon be destroyed. Both wept; neither despaired. Why? Both knew that at all times that the whole energy of God ceaselessly goes forth to accomplish good, and nothing but good, and that among the good ends God is accomplishing there is nothing for which He has sacrificed so much and at which He so determinedly aims as the restoration of men to purity, love, and goodness.
He recapitulates and reiterates the same point in the next line.
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
God alone causes growth in persons and churches; never the ministers who make for the conditions of growth.
It’s not that the ministers are unimportant. The calling upon their ministering is to create the optimum conditions for growth.
In contrast to the Corinthians placing each of their teachers in different categories and evaluating them, Paul says that they are one.
All of God’s ministers are one - all do the work of God’s will and purpose.
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.