Jump Start # 3306
1 Corinthians 3:3 “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?”
I started teaching Corinthians this quarter. It is such a powerful book, filled with many important doctrinal concepts that God wanted His people to know. It is also a troubled and divided church that is manifested in lawsuits against each other and abuse of the Lord’s Supper.
In our passage today, Paul calls them fleshly. The KJV uses the expression, “carnal.” The apostle says that they are not spiritual. He could not speak to them as spiritual men, but rather as men of the flesh. Their thinking was messing up their behavior. Poor choices come from poor thinking.
Now, as one looks at this, the thought crosses our minds, “Did Paul leave them too soon?” Should he have stayed there and helped them more? We know Apollos, Timothy and others would come and continue to teach, but should they have had Paul longer? Apollos, as good as he was, was not an apostle. Timothy was young. Had the seasoned apostle stayed longer, could some of the issues have been prevented and could they have matured spiritually?
Now some thoughts on this:
First, backseat driving always seems to have the right answers. Paul was on a divine mission. From Corinth, Paul moves on to Ephesus, Philippi and then to Jerusalem. Looking back, we always seem to know what should have been done. After the fact always gives us a clearer picture. This is true in raising kids, working with a church and making personal decisions. No where in the Scriptures is the thought presented that Paul left Corinth too soon.
It is an assumption to think that had Paul been there the whole time, the outcome would have been different. Don’t forget that some walked away from the Lord. Some heard the Lord but never changed.
Second, it is easy to point fingers at others when it is our choices and our attitudes that have gotten in the messes that we are in. It wasn’t Paul’s fault that the Corinthians were carnal and divided. He had taught them the truth. Among them were brethren who had the spiritual gifts of knowledge, prophecy and faith. Jealousy, envy and unwilling to let go of old attitudes is what kept the Corinthians from being the spiritual giant that they were capable of. They were not carnal because of a lack of teaching. The teaching was there. The responsibility was with the Corinthians who had not fully changed.
And, so it is today. We blame the church, the shepherds, the preachers when our kids make terrible choices. Maybe there is some blame there. Maybe the parents ought to look in the mirror. But, mostly, it’s the choices that those kids made that got them in the trouble that they are in. If the true fault was with the church, then one would think all the kids in the church would be spiritual messes. But most times that’s not the case. Some take hold of the lessons and grow. Some become active and walk with the Lord. And, some do nothing. Same church. Same people. Same teaching. Different outcomes.
And, the same could be said of us. Within most congregations you’ll find some real spiritual giants. But you also have some who continue to have one foot in the world. Why? It comes down to our faith and our choices. Pointing fingers at others keeps us from making the real changes that we need to in our lives.
Third, our faith is a matter of little steps that we take every day. Do we feed upon God’s word? Do we talk to the Lord? Do we allow the Scriptures to grow in our hearts? There is not one sermon, or one big thing that a person does that makes them spiritual. It’s the daily habits, the daily choices, the daily feeding of our souls that lead to a path, a heart and a way of righteousness.
Fascinatingly, Paul never recommends the Corinthians closing the door. He never gives up on them. He never tells some to leave and start another congregation. Boy, we like to do that in our American ways. What he does, one by one, is address the problems with real spiritual solutions. And, that needs to be our example. Don’t be quick to throw in the towel and run. Don’t point fingers and blame. With the Scriptures, teach and teach and teach. Then, live and live and live. Through the word of God and through living examples we show what needs to be done.
Good churches have problems. We are all on a journey and a work in progress. Patience is the key with one another.