Thursday 13 February 2020

                                   1 Corinthians 3 v 1/9

 This morning our study of 1 Corinthians has reached Chapter 3.

This is the first of Paul’s Letters to Church which Paul had founded situated in the heart of Corinth, a trading and manufacturing centre. The city was a cosmopolitan and sophisticated place, where there was sexual immorality and corruption, which likened it to the Soho of the day.

As seen in earlier Chapters, the Letter was written by Paul because of the worldly views that had crept into the Church at Corinth. It came to his notice that tensions had arisen in the congregation. The worldly view of spirituality and morality did not equate with the Church’s standards, but some members were influenced and were encouraged by false teachers. This was causing disunity and such grieved Paul who disliked Christians disagreeing.

The same sort of controversy is apparent in today’s Churches, where one section is determined to introduce into Church teaching, a morality which is clearly forbidden by Scripture.  The Bible leaves no option for their alternative view, and those who fail to observe that which God laid down, in preference to some wayward apostate bishops, are heading for spiritual disaster.

 Paul refers to their divisions which attributes to not just jealousy and quarrelling, but the defective understanding of the Church. You will note how relevant the Letter has become to us in this and other Western nations, where the Church is not only accepting, but encouraging and even participating in, the  acceptance of society’s moral standards.

 Paul reminds that Christ was not divided and neither should we be. We can still worship in different ways as some like much ceremony, and others a simpler method, but as long as the doctrine of the gospel is the same, we must accept one another.

 Paul’s guidance had been sought about the governing of the Church, whilst the real needs had been concealed.  Paul is now making them face the reality of their sinful lives so that they grow spiritually perfect. Paul tries to show them how they will appear in God’s eyes, and how they must act to be worthy of following in the name of Jesus who died and rose again.
 In verse 1 Paul addresses them as brothers (and sisters) which shows he accepts them as members, but states they are not truly spiritual, but self-indulgent and self-centred, and their faith is childlike like babes in the Christian faith.

 When Paul uses the word ‘spiritual’ he does not mean that they are not Christians, but that they are not living up to their Christian way and they are not acting as mature Christian people, but as baby Christians. When one becomes a Christian, our sinful nature is not erased, but should no longer control us; but it can still influence us and influence our lives.

 I fear Paul would say the same thing to day. He calls on them in the name of Jesus to stop arguing, to create harmony and avoid a divided church. We can only achieve this if we are all one in Christ Jesus. Division only leads to unsettled situations filled with gossip and envy.

In verse 2 he says he had to feed them with milk, not solid food for they would not be able to digest anything stronger, so keeping to milk. Paul gives illustrations from life to indicate his message.  We feed children with milk until they can digest solid food, so they had to learn the rudiments of faith before getting down to the full Word of God.

There must be many who will not move out of the milk strength, for members do not in great numbers read their Bible on a regular basis, and are confined to hearing it read in Church. At one time, not so long ago, every pew or seat had a bible on to enable people to follow the readings and sermon to make certain the preacher is confining him/her self to the text. I notice this still prevails in American churches, where people take God more seriously I think.

 How many Churches have a weekly Bible study group? ; that would make a difference.  
   Children are not being taught the characters and values of the Bible which give such a firm foundation for life, whilst other faiths have no inhibitions. Children are being brought up without any real understanding of true values, but are encouraged to model themselves on pop stars and footballers with the X factor the ultimate achievement in life. Parents spend freely on classes designed to promote such ambitions.

In verse 3 by letting themselves be controlled by their own desires, and being jealous of one another, they are dividing and breaking up into quarrelling groups. He suggests this proves they are still like children wanting their own way, and as if they don’t belong to the Lord at all.

Some enterprising Ministers have found this out clearly. I know of some who have gone to a new appointment with great anticipation, but have found out how true is the verse, ‘as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be’. Any attempt to move from 1611 to 2020 is doomed.

Corinth, like many Churches of today preferred a gospel which impresses rather than the gospel of Christ.  When Billy Graham first came to England many years ago now, bishops were trying to stop him his preaching was too biblically based..

Verse 4 tells of them unnecessarily comparing Paul with Apollos who was a gifted scholar and Scriptural expert, as to who was the greater.  This is another way he points out their inability to grow in the Lord.

Paul, rebukes them for following and favouring particular preachers. It is natural for us to have a favourite preacher, but there is also a danger that we may become attached to one who is not a biblical teacher. Paul was concerned and had occasion to warn that some people, who did not want to hear sound doctrine, were turning to teachers who would say what they wanted to hear rather than what they should hear. It is a sad fact, that there are quite a number of preachers, lay and ordained, male and female, who are ignoring the Bible in order to accommodate both their congregations and themselves.

Verse 5 asks who is Paul and who is Apollos that they should be made the subject of a quarrel, each being a servant of the Lord with different abilities to help them believe God’s people.
There are people in churches now with different gifts, some have technical, technological, academic, secretarial, all of which we are given by God, and we should be ready to offer back to his use.

Paul then gives an analogy in which he plants seeds which Apollos then waters, but it is God that makes them grow in the garden of people’s hearts. Those who do the planting and watering e not all important, it is God who makes growth that is important

This was so vividly told in Acts where the Apostles were sent out by the Lord Jesus to teach his gospel and commands. They did just as he directed and when the people responded by listening and acting upon, God we are told added to their number daily.

 In the final verse of this passage set for today, Paul concludes they are God’s co-workers, the people are God’s garden,

Im order to discourage people from devoting themselves to a man, he uses an horticultural example, describing how he plants and others water, and God makes the seed grow.  They, Paul and Apollos are working as a harmonious team each with a different way but one aim, and both will be rewarded for their Work. 

Then he turn to an architectural example when he quotes our Lord, who said, ‘I will build my Church’.  The Bible clearly shows us how Jesus alone can be the foundation, and when we follow the Apostolic teaching, first given to us in Acts of the Apostles by the men whom our Lord taught and instructed to pass on the teaching, which we have in the New Testament, we will see the harvest of souls in the Church,

We are a body of believers on earth, and when 2/3 gather in Jesus’ name, He will be with us in Spirit.  Paul saw the Church as God’s body and himself as a master builder, and is very clear that the only true Church is based on the gospel of a suffering Messiah dying for His people. A problem to day is that many Church members do not grow out of spiritual childhood and are more concerned with trivial issues.

A lady once came to my Church on a visit with people from her own Church which was much larger than mine at that time. She so enjoyed the time sharing with us that she said that she would propose to her Vicar that we be twinned.  I was later told her Vicar deemed us too small for that, which exampled the superficiality, immaturity and arrogance within the Christian community.

In a mixed-up world, we are constantly tempted to become world centred, importing all the sins and vices of society, and being adept at finding excuses for doing so.  We should never excuse sin; we should always ask God by his grace to help us not to give in to our own sinful nature.

When we give up letting the world set our agenda, the Church can get back to its original purpose of preaching the gospel instead of allowing the rights of sexual freedom to dominate.

The Bishops of the Church of England recently announced they reiterated their official teaching that sex is for married- male and female couples only. Now this may not be the general opinion for people of the 21st century, and indeed will be something to mock and ridicule, but the Church is speaking for God, we are his ambassadors in this earthly Kingdom, and the duty of an ambassador is to represent and proclaim his King’s declarations.

Within hours, liberals in the Church raised such a furore that the Archbishops apologised and said they were very sorry for releasing the statement. (You couldn’t make it up.)

What sort of integrity and character do those Archbishops have. How God must weep when he sees such weak men leading his Church.   Compromising on God’s Word doesn’t work, it only means we drift into confusion, irrelevance and unfaithfulness.

The Bible states, ‘preach the Word’. Not preach your opinion or preference; and the Word is the Bible.  Franklin Graham, the son of the world’s all time greatest preacher Billy Graham, was due to fly over from America to speak at a number of evangelical meetings across the United Kingdom, but due to pressure from activists who objected to him speaking because he doesn’t believe in same sex marriage, all the meetings were cancelled.

These incidents are totally unacceptable to all reasonable people, whether in or out of Church. How people lead their lives is a personal matter for them, God allows free will, and the State allows free speech (unless you are a Christian).  The anomaly is any activist groups can state anything they wish, which is their right to do so, but they object for an alternative view to be stated. This is what was once meant by the word ‘intolerance’, but not any more.

We should all be able to live and believe as our conscience tells us. I have no animosity to individuals, but the action of activists preventing people of different views to express them, is to any intelligent fair-minded person unacceptable.

The Americans are more in relationship with God than many British, and now have a President who has issued an executive Order granting Christians the right to express their beliefs, which are happily his. Our leaders have little faith and even less interest in allowing others to have belief.

Let us pray God will protect his Church and bless his people.   Remember you are Methodists and have been bestowed with a great legacy from the two greatest Christian revivalists this country produced, and created a Church with a sold biblical foundation.  Never let that legacy be betrayed by abandoning the gospel Charles and John Wesley proclaimed.

I close as I now so often do with the words of John Wesley

I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God!”

I close as I now so often do with the words of John Wesley

I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God!”

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