There are three basic things necessary for proper growth.
- The right mindset for learning & growing.
- The proper cornerstone & foundations.
- Doing the work for growth.
We will cover each of these today in 1 Corinthians 3.
Wrapped up in this statement is the conundrum all teachers face.
What shall you teach, and when?
When you are teaching one concept,
you are necessarily not teaching another.
Now, the excellent teacher observes their student,
and he modifies his teaching to fit their needs;
while at the same time, he encourages them to grow.
The challenge is real and must be taken up with sobriety of mind.
1Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
2For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.
Get the balance right, and the student thrives,
get it wrong, and you hold them back,
stunt their growth,
or lose them altogether.
In 1 Corinthians 3
Paul is chastening his pupils for failing to grow.
He had to feed them an extended diet of spiritual milk,
and yet they would not grow past the petty jealousies
and strife of mere men.
And this rightly demonstrates the other side of the learning dynamic.
Students must come with a mind to learn.
That is, a mind humble enough to take in new information.
The greatest regret of my life is the extended period of arrogance that began in my youth.
There were too many noble teachers I didn’t get to learn from,
because I could not be taught.
Pride, arrogance, and hubris are dangerous things for the mind.
And these things tend to be higher earlier on in one’s education than later.
There is a generalized rule called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
It demonstrates the level of confidence we have
as we pick up knowledge in a new area.
Often, the highest point of confidence is at the beginning.
However, once the hubris of the early phases wears off
we see a rapid decline in confidence
that slowly builds back over time.
At that late phase in the graph
you are more aware of the scope of knowledge
and more aware of your own ignorance of the subject.
This most certainly applies to the spiritual life
as much as it does the intellectual.
Very often the most unbearable people in the brotherhood
are those who have been babes too long.
Having never reached the valley in our chart
that is brought on by deeper study
they try and stay on this overconfident bubble.
Some even consider dropping into this valley
as a sign of weakening faith.
So they resist learning too much,
they shut their ears to the truth,
they resist meditating on the deeper things
because they will have to grapple
with the despair of their own ignorance.
Failing to grow past this initial bubble of overconfidence
is what Paul is chastening the Corinthian brethren for.
Their jealousies and strife make it clear
that they have not learned more than the surface things.
They have not yet grasped the profound blessings
we have through Christ;
peace and reconciliation to God
unified as His children
and the subsequent consequences of this reality.
To engage in open factionalism
is a sure sign that one
has missed the point of the mission of Christ.
He came to unify the spiritual among men
to make us one under His headship.
Yet He did not come to be at peace with the fleshly minded,
but to make them uncomfortable with their carnal ways.
In their unease, their hearts are being tilled up
and the seed of the word is planted
so that a spiritual man may come to fruition.
For it is the good news of Christ,
risen and reigning,
that is sown into the bosom of men.
From the pure milk of the word
the seed germinates
and the one who accepts the spiritual realities
is made alive in Christ Jesus.
However, all too often, men reject spiritual discernments.
Preferring instead the love of self over God and others;
serving himself in pride, vanity, and arrogance.
Such men as these puff up and sow the seeds of destruction
theirs and the local assemblies.
They form factions
that become sects
that become denominations.
Those of this type forget who gives the increase.
It is not the men who labor,
but God above who works on the hearts of men.
“we are oaks of righteousness
the planting of the Lord,
that He may be glorified”
We, laborers, are merely instruments of God,
tools in His righteous hands.
If we become unfit for purpose
God is just and right to lay us aside.
And so we must not be sectarian.
Rather we must humbly build up His kingdom.
Laying the foundation of the gospel of Christ
and laboring in the Spirit to increase in the wisdom of God.
we have been called to careful work.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of the Living God,
God in the flesh,
and the Savior of mankind,
all who make this proclamation have the cornerstone laid.
But that is not the whole foundation.
19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,
20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
The foundation is laid from the cornerstone of Christ,
the remainder of the foundation is the apostles and
prophets of the first-century church.
From these, we see the revelation of the mystery of the Christ.
Not only that He redeems all men,
but also the type of His kingdom
and the method of His reign.
With this foundation laid
we must all work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Or to put it another way,
living it in our lives,
holding God in awe and reverence as we proceed.
As such, we must internalize the truth of God expressed in His word.
Everyone’s work will be tested in the day of our Lord.
All of our thoughts, words, and actions
will be laid bare before His testing fires.
Some of those whom we teach will not live faithfully.
In the final day,
we, as teachers, will feel that loss.
For those whom we labor over are loved by us,
yet if they are burned up in the eternal fires
we will see where and if we had any deficiency in our teaching.
Likewise, some brethren never come to a full knowledge on a given topic.
As a result, they won’t be 100% correct on that topic.
So in the proving fires,
as we stand before our God
in His full grandeur,
their deficiencies on that subject will become quite apparent.
In that moment it is a loss for them,
but they rest upon the foundation of Christ Jesus,
and His saving grace (thank God).
If they have been washed in the blood of the lamb of God,
and were not willful sinners,
they will hear those blessed words
“well done, good and faithful servant, enter into my rest.”
Now shall we continue in ignorance because of the grace of God?
For we are commanded to build upon the foundation of Christ,
to build our own faith up from the deep things of Christ Jesus,
to be a temple of God.
You see, our lives are to be a glorious tribute to the Christ.
Our thinking must be refined by Him.
Our teaching must be according to His will and His way.
To do otherwise is to destroy this temple.
God has made us holy through Christ Jesus.
God has given all the saints the Spirit to dwell in us.
Paul is warning us to live lives that honor this fact.
To build up our lives in accordance with this reality.
So how can we destroy ourselves and call it a good thing?
How can we debase our bodies, our hearts, and minds
and call it good?
Yet this is done all too easily today.
It is easy to heap up foolish teachings for ourselves.
Consider the increase of people who think the world is flat?
This foolishness from the Internet is just one of many examples.
If we don’t check our labors against the standard of Christ,
we are sure to get off track.
But if we are careful builders
we will look to the New Testament plan
and see that it is indeed the blueprint for our lives.
We must not get trapped by the new age mysticism
or the ivory tower philosophies of our day.
We must hold to the truth of God.
For all that is good is from God above,
and so as His children
everything good is rightfully ours
We are not therefore fearful of the ideas in the world,
but rather, we prove those ideas against the fire of Christ.
Does it hold up against the reality of Jesus and the apostles?
Truth has nothing to fear from examination,
and so the winnowing fan is brought to bear
to sort the wheat from the chaff
and the chaff is burned upon the fire
while we are left with the golden harvest.
Our boast is not in men, nor in ourselves,
but in Christ Jesus.
For those of us who belong to Him
have been redeemed from the fire.
We have been made into a holy dwelling place
for the Spirit of God.
We are heirs with the prince of peace,
sons of the living God.
All things belong to us
because we belong to Christ,
and Christ belongs to God.
So in that fateful day,
that day of Judgment when all the works of man are laid bare
we shall rest in the Christ to whom we belong.
For in this life, we rest in His wisdom and His way.
That is the blessed good news of Jesus,
that people can be redeemed from those fires;
that God wants to bless us with all good things.
That even in death we are not defeated,
for to live is Christ
but to die is gain
for we gain the heavenly crown
when we put this body down.
All of these great riches are had in Jesus Christ.
The question of each of us is what we will do about it.
If you have not been baptized into Christ Jesus
then you do not belong to Him.
But that is a condition that is easily remedied.
Believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ,
the Son of the living God,
God in the flesh
who came to save the world
from sin and death.
Turn toward God
and away from sin.
Confess the Christ before men
and be baptized into Christ Jesus
having your sins washed away by God.
To be added to His holy family by Him who loves you.
With this you lay the cornerstone of your faith,
and from there the foundation
and the temple of God
which you will become
if you submit to the gospel call;
the great call to a life of truth, love, and spiritual adventure.
That is the invitation of Christ.
Many are called, but few are chosen,
will you answer the call today?
Appendix A: Appendix of Verses | by order of appearance
- 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
- James 3:1-2
- Isaiah 61:3
- 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
- Ephesians 2:19-22
- 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
- 1 Corinthians 3:18-23