#7 God's Growing Field
“GOD’S GROWING FIELD”
(A Series on I Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 4/19/98 a.m. I Corinthians 3:1-9
PROPOSITION: God’s one purpose is to grow His people into maturity, in spite of obstacles, by His grace, and into His field.
- AS born again believers you and I have been saved out of the darkness and sin of this world by grace, through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- WHEN we were born again we underwent a fundamental change in nature (Romans 8:9) and citizenship (Philippians 3:20).
* Romans 8:9 says,
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit...”
* Philippians 3:20 says,
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ...”
- THIS heavenly citizenship is not something that each believer holds privately or in isolation, but rather as ‘fellow citizens with God's people...’ (Ephesians 2:19).
- THE privatized, individualized Christianity that marks so much of Western church life and ministry is not Biblical Christianity.
- THE Greek noun used to identify these people is ekklesia, which means ‘the called out ones.’
- THESE are a people called out of this world, through faith in Jesus Christ, into the reconciled covenant community of God's people.
- IT is what the writer to the Hebrews calls “the church of the firstborn.”
* This community of God crosses all geographic and political boundaries.
* It crosses all racial boundaries, socio-economic boundaries, or gender boundaries (Galatians 3:28).
* It is the body of Christ, signifying its organic unity and submission to its head, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
- AND the purpose of this community of faith, called the church of Jesus, is to live in such a way as to bring glory to God.
* That is why Paul says in Ephesians 4:1,
“...live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
* That is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:15,
“Our hope is that...your faith continues to grow....”
* That is why Paul writes in Ephesians 4:13 that the believers are to,
“...become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
* And in verse 15 he continues,
“...speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”
* James writes,
“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)
* Peter writes,
“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
- GOD is not content to call us out of the world, into a saving relationship with His Son, and form us into His church.....just to have us muddle along in sin, shame and mediocrity until Jesus comes.
- PAUL writes in Ephesians 5:25,
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (26) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (27) and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
- THE Christian life is to be a growing life, a maturing life, a victorious life.....taking the long view into consideration.
- SO, when Paul got the report from the believers in Corinth, that the church was NOT growing, the Christians NOT maturing.....he was understandably concerned.
- TURN with me to the first nine verses of chapter 3 of first Corinthians.
ii. the obstacle to growth
- PAUL comes down from the heights of his teaching in chapter 2 on the wisdom of God... “eye has not seen, no ear has heard....what God has prepared for those who love Him”
- AND then in chapter 3 he comes back to earth and the reality of conditions in the church in Corinth.
- HE opens chapter 3,
- THESE are not fledgling believers.
- THEY have been walking with the Lord for several years now.....knowledgeable in doctrine.
- THEY are having powerful worship services.
- CHURCH leadership is in place.
- THEY have had solid teaching from men like Apollos.
- THE gifts of the Spirit are in frequent operation in their services.
- BUT Paul has a GRAVE concern.....because something of critical nature is NOT happening.
- THEY are not growing in Corinth.
- BUT he is not yelling at them, belittling them.
- BECAUSE he is ultimately looking out for their good, he calls them brothers.
- LET’S go on with verse 1,
“I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. (2) I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (3) You are still worldly.”
- THEY have been Christians for a few years, but Paul says that they are not spiritual.
- THAT is because they are too tied to the world.
- THE Greek word for “worldly” in verse 1, is sarkinoi.....and means human, primarily, fundamentally of this world.
* It is the man or woman whose interests and ambitions do not go beyond this earthly, physical world.
- PAUL goes on to say that they are weak....like little babies, says Paul.
* Crying all the time.
* Making messes.
* Unable to feed themselves.
* Unable to stand on their own.
* Needing to be cared for every moment.
- SO, instead of being able to give them the deeper things of God and have them mature....Paul is having to feed them milk....after all this time still.
- THEY hadn’t grown since Paul was with them, some years before.
- MILK is the preaching that primarily calls people to surrender to Christ....and that gets old over and over again.
* Eventually turns sour in the stomach and comes back up.
* Can’t grow to maturity on milk as a steady diet.
- MEAT is the unfolding richness and majesty of the Gospel....life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- BUT they are not ready for meat.
- LOOK at the phrase at the end of verses 2,
“Indeed you are still not ready”.....is the strongest kind of phrase in the Greek.
- IN verse 3 Paul says again that they are worldly.
- BUT the second word translated “worldly” in verse 3a, is a different word than in verse 1. It is the Greek word, sarkikoi, which means “dominated, controlled by the world.”
- HARD to be growing in Christ while the world is in control.
- WHAT is the evidence that the world is in control of these immature believers?
* Cheating on their taxes?
- THE answer is in verse 3b,
“For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (4) For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?”
- DIFFERENT churches develop different reputations....influenced by the culture surrounding them or influential people within.
- CORINTH was one of those fighting churches....like their surrounding culture.
- PAUL ends 2 Corinthians by saying that if he comes to them again he is afraid that he will find,
“....quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”
- NO wonder the believers in Corinth were not growing in the things of God.
- YOU may be a church attender, a tither, a teacher, a singer, a prophet or a pastor....but if you are quarrelsome, argumentative, trouble-maker and a gossip....you are not a man or woman of God.
- THIS was the reason that the believers in Corinth were not maturing in the Lord.
- THEY were opposing each other over non-essentials.
- ONE commentator wrote this about these verses,
“You cannot digest solid food when you are under the dominion of human passions.”
- PAUL doesn’t dwell on the disputes, he just uses them as evidence of the immaturity of the church in Corinth.
iii. the source of growth
- THEN in verse 5, Paul starts to move them away from their disputes towards the true source of spiritual growth and maturity.
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-- as the Lord has assigned to each his task. (6) I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (7) So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”
- THE key to spiritual maturity is found in verse 7,
“...only God, who makes things grow.”
- ONLY God is the Creator of human life....and the Author of spiritual life.
- WE can’t even come to God unless the Father draws us.
- WE can’t turn from sin unless the Holy Spirit convicts us.
- WE can’t understand spiritual things unless the Holy Spirit illuminates us.
- WE will never grow until we loose ourselves in His glory....and only then will we be changed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
- ONLY God makes things grow.
- HE alone is the Source of our growth.
- BUT I want you to see two other secrets for spiritual growth in these verses.
- THEY have to do with how we see ourselves in God’s scheme of things.
* In verse 5, we are “only servants.”
* In verse 6 we are “each doing only the tasks assigned by the Lord.” No great credit due us. We are simply doing what we have been assigned to...planting and watering. No one is idle.
* In verse 7, “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything.”
- PAUL is trying to teach the heart attitude of humility that is absolutely indispensable to the growth process in spiritual things.
- WE are just a means whereby God accomplishes the eternal work of the kingdom.
- WE are not the main thing.
- OUR work is not the main thing.
- NO need to be jealous over each other’s gifts or successes.
- NONE of them brings the growth.
- ONLY God makes things grow.
- THAT is why ALL of the glory goes to Him.
- OUR only boasting is in the Lord.
iv. the purpose of growth
- FINALLY, in verses 8 and 9 Paul brings us to the reason for his concern over the lack of growth in Corinth.
“The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. (9) For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.”