Spiritual childishness

The other day I posted a book release for a friend in Christ from Christianwriters.com, something which I may do from time to time.  Here is the next Bible study.

1Corinthians 3:1-7  And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men. 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

In chapter 3 Paul begins addressing specific issues in the church. He starts by scolding the Corinthians as immature – spiritual infants, really – when they should have matured as a body by this time.  They formed factions, some declaring for Paul and others for Apollos, demonstrating their childish behavior.

How like the modern church: “I am a Baptist,” or  “I am an Assemblies of God,” or “I am a Presbyterian.”  We see divisions between Calvinist and Armenian explanations of salvation.  Differing styles of worship/praise, different traditions.  We find umpteen other reasons to divide and war against each other.  And then we each tend to think the way our church does things is better than neighboring churches.

Then sometimes church leaders within a given church jockey for position.  Some pastors avoid taking extended vacations, because they know or fear they will have to put out faction fires lit by those who covet more spiritual authority in the church or other, similar reasons.

Now some points we must stand firm on that are critical to true faith:  Salvation is found only through faith in Christ,  Jesus is fully God and fully man, works and growing righeousness should be evidenced in the life of a believer as a natural result of faith, etc.  But sometimes, like squabbling children, we find the silliest things to argue over, and create many aggravations for our pastors.

Paul and Apollos both spent time in Corinth evangelizing and teaching believers.  But their goal was not to form factions around themselves for their own glory, but to lift up Christ and His Kingdom.  They were like laborers planting and watering a crop in the field.  It is only God who can take their work and make it grow and bear fruit.

God expects us to mature and exhibit different behavior as His children.  He desires for us to walk in the unity of love as we grow together to maturity and perfection, not divide up into battling factions and denominations.

Verse 3 says they behaved according to normal human standards and wisdom, as if they were mere men.  But we have a higher calling!  If we have received the gift of salvation, then we are spiritually born again; We are more than just mere men, but become spiritual children of the Most High God.  We still have our humanity and the sin nature dwelling in our flesh (Romans 7), but we are also partakers of the Divine nature.  In Romans, Paul explained that we have the old man, called the nature and the flesh – which we are to consider as crucified with Christ on the cross, and dead – and the inner man or spirit, which is born of God of incorruptible seed.

If this is true, then we should be learning to act like it, learning to live up to our high calling in Christ!

You can see this basic principle even in the natural system.  For example, look at those who were born into wealth and power, especially families who have several generations of wealth.  In numerous ways they act and think differently than those of us who are lower born and must make our way in the world as best we can.  When they walk into a store, they don’t look at prices – if they want it, they buy it.  If they get really sick they don’t debate whether to spend money at the doctor, or have to sacrifice something else to get health care – they just go.

Perhaps some of you remember the television series “The Simple Life,” starring Paris Hilton and one of her rich friends, both from families of such wealth.  She was not acting out some humorously written script when she said and did what she did – that is really her personality, and the way she thinks.  She truly does not know what it is to have to work hard to earn a living, to struggle living paycheck to paycheck.

In Matthew 5 Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”  Paul stated in Corinthians that not many rich and noble hear the call to enter God’s Kingdom.  Their manner of thinking often prevents them from understanding their spiritual destitution and need of salvation.  For anyone to be saved, they must come to God in humility, acknowledging their need.  You cannot buy your way into heaven, or earn your way in or be born to the privilege.

When we are born again, we enter the Kingdom as spiritual babies regardless of our physical age or religious upbringing.  We start this journey knowing only the natural, humanistic way of thinking and behaving.  Our calling, however, is higher.  We must learn as babies how God our Father wants us to behave as citizens of His Kingdom.  Just like babies must learn to walk and talk, as believers we should learn to walk the New and Living Way in Christ as we learn from him.

The Corinthians had not learned even the foundation principles of this walk, which is the unity of love under Christ alone.  They had spiritual gifts, but gifts are not the spiritual walk.  They are not spiritual fruit.  So Paul needed to scold them for behaving as spiritual babies, as if they were still mere men rather than sons of the Living God.  They had been in the Kingdom long enough to have more maturity than they were exhibiting.

Self Examination:  Paul kicks of 1Cor 3 scolding them for what amounts to denominationalism.  What is in your heart?  Do you tend to believe that, just because God moves in your church, your doctrine is purer than others?  Or because you get more out of your church’s style of worship/praise, that those who have a different style must be missing God?  Ask God to reveal to your heart anything which might cause such division between you and other believers.

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