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But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human? -- 1Corinthians 3: 1-4 (ESV)
As we continue verse by verse in the first Letter to the Church at Corinth we see the Apostle Paul begin to expand on his earlier references to the divisions within the church. The more Paul expounds the deeper the truths that are revealed. Someone without the indwelt Holy Spirit may even look at a chapter like this and think that Paul as free-associating his thoughts but they all tie together in relation to each other and the overall message of this letter. The Church at Corinth was a divided church that saw many follow the cult of personality preachers that spoke there. Some liked Paul and thought they were following him. Others preferred Apollos and thought they were following him. Still others correctly surmised that they were following Christ. Anything not following Jesus is anathema beloved. No matter how revered the man might be -- he is but a man. Romans teaches us that true division comes into the church through contrary doctrine, or false teaching. When we choose to follow Joel Osteen or Joseph Prince instead of the risen Savior we are actively dividing the church with their false doctrine.
As Paul writes we see several standalone truths that are relevant to the overall message and important to us as believers. The key verses today are the first four verses of the chapter and we start to see these truths emerge. The first is that there are levels of maturity in our salvation. Often times we hear people claim a false equivalency between all who are saved. Yes the ground is even at the foot of the cross but that is in relation to the availability of salvation for all. Once saved however, we are to grow into maturity in Christ through His Word. Not the words of Paul or Apollos. Not the words of Joel or TD. Only the Word of God matures the believer. This further debunks purpose driven, seeker friendly theology that markets the church to non-believers. The Gospel not only brings the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon the sinner but serves as a maturing agent for the saved.
So Paul laments here that he could not even bring the Corinthians solid food yet as they were still babes in Christ. Oh how this problem has devolved over the centuries! Today we have churches that refuse to provide solid food for the fear that the truth will cause the visiting goats to never return! What is presented instead cannot even be properly defined as milk. Perhaps rotten spoiled milk or pablum. Many decades ago pablum was a bland cereal that was easy to digest. Unfortunately that properly defines what is preached in churches today. Seven steps to a better you. How to feel significant in your community. How this summer's blockbuster movies can teach us life lessons. Paul presented the Corinthians milk because they were still of the flesh. Preachers today preach pablum because their listeners are still of the world. They are still merely human beloved.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. -- 1Corinthians 3: 5-9 (ESV)
The second truth for us to grasp today is that preachers and pastors are supposed to be servants. There is not supposed to be this cult of personality following because that detracts from the Lordship and supremacy of Christ. This is the Apostle Paul. Personally visited by Jesus Christ Himself. Led three missionary journeys where he successfully evangelized the known world. He would end up the author of three quarters of the New Testament. Yet what is Paul? He is just a servant through whom you heard the Gospel and believed the Lord. Do not follow Paul beloved. Do not follow Joel or Jentzen. Believing in them cannot save you. It is high time we stop deifying men who are only supposed to be servants of Christ.
The next truth here is we need to stop trying to give God's glory away. We do not save anyone. As a pastor, your altar call did not save anyone. Churches every year brag about accomplishments that cannot be accurate since they do not present the true Gospel and even if they did they are usurping the glory that belongs to God alone. This again flips purpose driven theology on its ear. According to Rick Warren the pastor is responsible for the horizontal growth of his church. Nonsense! The entire model hinges upon a cult of personality dynamic speaker, who casts vision, and runs his church like a business. Read these verses carefully beloved. There are only two choices the speakers have for roles in this equation. They can plant or they can water. That's it! When you plant, you are giving that unbeliever their first exposure to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is like a seed now inside of them. A week, month or years later someone else presents the Gospel and they are watering that seed. Those are the only two biblical roles for preachers and pastors. Planting and watering. Only God gives the growth. Only God deserves the glory. We are merely His workers beloved; laboring for the kingdom.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. - 1Corinthians 3: 10 - 15 (ESV)