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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 3:10-15; The Church’s One Foundation

05/26 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 The Church’s One FoundationAudio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130526_1cor3_10-15.mp3

1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

10 Κατὰ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι ὡς σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων θεμέλιον ἔθηκα, ἄλλος δὲ ἐποικοδομεῖ. ἕκαστος δὲ βλεπέτω πῶς ἐποικοδομεῖ· 11 θεμέλιον γὰρ ἄλλον οὐδεὶς δύναται θεῖναι παρὰ τὸν κείμενον, ὅς ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός· 12 εἰ δέ τις ἐποικοδομεῖ ἐπὶ τὸν θεμέλιον χρυσόν, ἄργυρον, λίθους τιμίους, ξύλα, χόρτον, καλάμην, 13 ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον φανερὸν γενήσεται, ἡ γὰρ ἡμέρα δηλώσει· ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ ἀποκαλύπτεται, καὶ ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον ὁποῖόν ἐστιν τὸ πῦρ αὐτὸ δοκιμάσει. 14 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον μενεῖ ὃ ἐποικοδόμησεν, μισθὸν λήμψεται· 15 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται, ζημιωθήσεται, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός.

1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 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? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 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. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 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. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Paul is dealing with the root problem of quarreling and division in the church in Corinth. Much of this seemed to stem from a misunderstanding of the role of Christian ministry. Some had too high a view of Christian ministry, framing their favorite as superstar and pitting one against another. Others wanted to dispense with leaders all together and felt they had attained a spirituality where they had no need for anyone to minister to them.

Christian ministry is neither status nor stardom but service. But that service is not superfluous. It is not just any service, but service to the King of kings and Lord of lords. God alone gives the growth, and he gives it by means of the ministers he has given to his church.

Among ministers there must not be competition but instead cooperation. In his agricultural metaphor of planting and watering, there is interdependence among servants of Christ. None of us can do it singlehandedly, and for maximum fruitfulness, we must work as a team. Reward for Christian ministry is not evaluated by the plants in the field, but by the Master of the field. And he evaluates reward not on fruitfulness, but on faithfulness. Ultimately, all ministry is totally dependent on God who alone is able to give growth. We are nothing; God is everything. It is all about God. In verse 9, he emphasizes the priority of God by starting three phrases with ‘God’. God’s fellow-workers are we; God’s field, God’s building are you. And here he shifts from an agricultural metaphor (a field) to a construction metaphor (a building) because he wants to talk about foundations and quality of workmanship, and rewards or losses for proper or improper construction.

Ministry by the Grace of God

Paul starts this discussion of construction and foundation and workmanship and his own unique role in it all by tying it back to God’s grace. ‘According to the grace of God given to me’. Paul is about to say some things that could be perceived as arrogant and full of himself, but that is the furthest thing from his heart. Paul played a unique and foundational role in the church and in the history of Christianity, but rather than make him proud, it made him profoundly humble. ‘According to the grace of God given to me’. He introduced himself in this letter as ‘Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.’ In 2 Corinthians he will say ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’. Here in chapter 3 he says that Paul is a servant through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each. Paul knew that there was nothing in himself to be proud of. He says in chapter 15

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.

Unworthy. He had done nothing to deserve this role. In fact, he had done everything to disqualify himself from this role. He was a persecutor of God’s church. Acts describes him as ‘breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (9:1). He obtained authorization from the high priest to pursue and arrest any followers of Jesus he could find, men or women. But by God’s grace, when he deserved the opposite, freely as a gift, Jesus met him where he was, brought him to repentance, forgave him everything, and appointed him apostle. ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ Paul said

1 Timothy 1:15 …Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Grace is favor and kindness shown to someone who doesn’t deserve it, doesn’t want it, isn’t asking for it. Paul never forgot, never lost sight of the fact that ‘by the grace of God I am what I am’. All Christian ministry (if it is truly Christian) is by the grace of God. Not one servant of Christ, not one minister has earned the right to be called a minister. If I am anything at all, it is ‘according to the grace of God given to me’. All I have is a gift, not earned, not deserved, but freely given. It is a treasure, and so I must treasure it. We must never cease to be amazed in wonder at the fact that God calls sinners, sinners like me, sinners like you, into the high calling of service to the living God by sheer unmerited grace.

Skilled Master Builder

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation,

Paul compares his apostolic ministry to the role of a skilled master builder, a wise ἀρχιτέκτων. Only this kind of architect is not the one in the tenth floor office behind a drafting table or CAD screen pumping out reams of detailed engineering drawings but never even visiting the job site. He is the chief craftsman on the job, the master builder overseeing that the whole project is carried out with precision and skill according to plan. He personally, hands on, laid the foundation. The foundation is the first and most essential part of the building project. If the foundation is sound and well laid, the building can be strong and stable. If the foundation is faulty, the structure will sink or crack or fall over. The foundation is all-important in constructing a lasting building. The foundation defines the shape of the building. Many ancient cathedrals were built in the shape of a cross. Once that cross-shaped foundation has been laid, the building must take on that cross shape. It cannot be rectangular or square or round. The foundation sets the limit for the size and shape of the structure that will be placed upon it. To change the shape of the building, you must add to or take away from the foundation.

The Church’s One Foundation

Paul, as a skilled, or literally ‘wise’ master builder laid the foundation. That word ‘wise’ connects us back to his discussion on wisdom in chapters 1 and 2. The Corinthians made a big deal about wisdom, and Paul makes it very clear that God’s wisdom is not the same as man’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is perceived by unbelieving people as foolishness, and what seems to be wise in human understanding, God will destroy and turn upside down and bring to nothing. Paul pointed to the secret and hidden wisdom that he taught, wisdom taught by the Spirit of God, the same wisdom with which he laid the foundation of the church.

Jesus contrasted a wise man who built his house on the rock and a foolish man who built his house on the sand. When the storm came, the wise man’s house withstood because it had been founded on the rock. The foolish man’s house fell, and great was the fall of it. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Paul claims to be a wise master builder. What is that wisdom? How did he lay the foundation for the church of Corinth as a wise master builder? What is the foundation of every true church? He doesn’t leave us guessing. In verse 11, he says

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the foundation of his church. When Jesus questioned his disciples about his own identity,

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Holy Spirit revealed wisdom, the rock on which the church is built is Jesus Christ. The identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, according to prophecy both God’s anointed forever King and suffering servant who would substitute himself for his people.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

The person of Christ as the only Son of the living God, and the work of Christ, what he came to do form the solid rock on which his church is built.

How did Paul, the wise master builder, lay this solid foundation in the church at Corinth? He says

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

He preached the gospel, the good news, the cross of Christ, where the wages of our sin met the justice of a holy God in the person of our substitute, Jesus.

Paul pointed the Ephesian church to this same solid rock.

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

With this Peter agrees.

1 Peter 2:4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

Jesus is the foundation and we are built on him. We as members of the household of God, we as living stones being built up as a spiritual house, are joined together on the one foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

There are many churches, even churches that claim to be Christian, those that bear the name of Christ, that are not built on the foundation of Christ. Imagine a foreman coming up to the job site, and he is impressed with how much progress his workers have made while he has been gone. The building is growing tall. But as he enters the site, he is horrified at what he sees. ‘You morons! The foundation is over there!’ They have been stacking up bricks on the sand. The structure looks impressive, but it is not even on the foundation! All the labor is wasted. We cannot abandon the foundation! We are not at liberty to add to it or take away from it! We cannot add a wing over here to suit our fancy. We cannot dig down and rip out part of the foundation that we aren’t particularly fond of. If we deviate from the foundation of the gospel, the cross, the truth about Jesus, the structure we build might be impressive and draw attention, but it is not the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Take Care How You Build

This is not the problem Paul addressed in the church in Corinth. He believes that they are indeed building on the only solid foundation. Otherwise he would not call them ‘saints’ and ‘the church of God’. For them it is not an issue of what they are building on but how they are building on it.

1 Corinthians 3:10 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.

This is not a warning not to build. The whole point of a foundation is to be the foundation for the structure. Have you ever seen an abandoned foundation? The work was started, the foundation laid, but nothing was ever built on it? That is not what a foundation is for. Paul as a skilled master builder laid the foundation with the intent that it would be built on. The problem is not that someone else is building on Paul’s foundation. Paul is not telling them to stop all work until he returns. But he is saying to pay careful attention to how you build. There can be a deep strong solid foundation, and a lazy, sloppy, half-hearted work crew that builds second rate work on a good foundation.

An Unseen Foundation

An interesting thing about most buildings is that you often can’t see the foundation. You see the structure built on the foundation, but the foundation is hidden under ground. Our foundation is not buried in the ground, but risen and seated at the right hand of his Father on high, but he remains unseen. But everyone can see the people who claim to be build on him. When you look at a building and see major cracks, stones separating and falling out, you can draw some conclusions about the building. Probably the foundation is bad. But it could be that the foundation is good but the builders failed to build well, and their work is falling apart. When the world looks at those who claim to be followers of Jesus and sees fractures and splits and divisions and separations, the assumption is that the foundation is faulty and flawed. When that happens, we are lying about Jesus! We are dishonoring Jesus!

Paul warns the church in Corinth, ‘let each one take care how he builds upon it’. In chapters 12-14 where he addresses the issue of spiritual gifts, he says

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

And he says that the purpose of the gifts is to build up the church, the body of Christ. Every believer has been gifted by God for the common good, for the building up of the body of Christ (cf. Eph.4:12). Each one is responsible for building up the body of Christ. You are building! Building is not optional for the Christian. Even if you don’t show up, you are building. The question is not if you are building, but how you are building.

1 Corinthians 3:10 …Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 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. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

You and I are building. The question is what is the quality of our work, what kind of materials are we using? Remember, you are not building a thatched roof hut for your mother-in-law; wood, hay and stubble might be appropriate for that. We are building a temple for the King of kings, a dwelling place for the most high God. You don’t build a mud hut on a foundation of the most costly stone. Not only the shape of the building but also the quality and value of the building must match the foundation. There are two kinds of materials; combustible and non-combustible, and they will be made known on the day of judgment by fire. We build with gold, silver, and precious stones when our lives and our conversations and our attitudes are shaped by the gospel. We build with wood, hay and straw when our attitudes, actions and interactions are out of sync with the cross. What kind of advice do you give? On what do you base your decisions? Why do you do what you do? What do you do with your money? What kind of character does your interaction with others foster?

In these verses, Paul is not asking the question if you are saved or not. He is assuming that you are being saved because you have a relationship with Jesus. The issue is will you receive rewards or suffer loss. Remember Paul’s confidence in the Corinthians expressed in the opening of the letter.

1 Corinthians 1:7 …as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is a real possibility that we who have trusted in Christ, we who have had our sins forgiven at the cross, we who are being sustained guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, that on that day it will be revealed that we have wasted our life. What a tragedy to find that everything we spent our time on and invested our life in does not hold up under the scrutiny of Jesus. We may spend the remainder of our life heaping rubbish on the precious foundation of Jesus Christ, and thankfully all the rubbish will be incinerated, but we will have nothing to show. How shameful to have this ministry given to us by the grace of God, to have gifts and the infinite resources of gospel wisdom and strength supplied to us by the Holy Spirit and to do nothing with them that is of any eternal significance.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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May 26, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Say the Same Thing

02/03 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Say the Same Thing; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130203_1cor1_10-13.mp3

10 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες, καὶ μὴ ᾖ ἐν ὑμῖν σχίσματα, ἦτε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ. 11 ἐδηλώθη γάρ μοι περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί μου, ὑπὸ τῶν Χλόης ὅτι ἔριδες ἐν ὑμῖν εἰσιν. 12 λέγω δὲ τοῦτο ὅτι ἕκαστος ὑμῶν λέγει· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, Ἐγὼ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Κηφᾶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ. 13 μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἢ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παύλου ἐβαπτίσθητε; 14 εὐχαριστῶ ὅτι οὐδένα ὑμῶν ἐβάπτισα εἰ μὴ Κρίσπον καὶ Γάϊον, 15 ἵνα μή τις εἴπῃ ὅτι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐβαπτίσθητε· 16 ἐβάπτισα δὲ καὶ τὸν Στεφανᾶ οἶκον· λοιπὸν οὐκ οἶδα εἴ τινα ἄλλον ἐβάπτισα. 17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Paul is addressing the church of God in the city of Corinth, those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, part of the wider body of Christ. Paul gives thanks to God for the good things God is doing in this church; God’s grace is evident, and God is not giving up on these believers. Jesus will sustain them to the end guiltless in the day of Christ Jesus. God is faithful, and Paul’s confidence lies not in the character of the Corinthians, but in the character of the faithful God who called them into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Having created an atmosphere of gratitude, having laid the foundation of Jesus, that it is all about Jesus and the faithfulness of God, Paul is ready to tackle the first major problem in this church. It is interesting where he starts. He doesn’t start with the sick and twisted form of immorality that was being accepted in this church (ch.5), he doesn’t start with the public litigation among believers (ch.6), he doesn’t start with their questions over marriage (ch.7) or their questions about eating food sacrificed to idols (ch.8-10), he doesn’t start by addressing their drunkenness and self-centeredness at the Lord’s Supper (ch.11), he doesn’t immediately address their abuse of spectacular spiritual gifts and lack of love (ch.12-14), or even their confusion over the resurrection (ch.15). Look at the first problem Paul addresses in this messed up church:

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Paul spends the bulk of the first four chapters addressing this issue of division. This issue takes front and center in the letter.

If you remember back to his greeting in the first verses, he pointed them to the fact that they were a church; the church of God in Corinth, and that they were part of the wider body of Christ, that they were called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The whole thanksgiving is addressed not to you singular, the individuals, but to you plural, the whole group. And he says that you all have been called into the fellowship of Jesus. Division is the polar opposite of fellowship. You were called into fellowship; fellowship with Jesus and fellowship with one another. What in the world are you doing tearing apart Christ’s body?

An Earnest Plea

Do you hear the earnestness of this plea for unity? Paul says ‘I appeal to you’; I urge you, I beg you, I implore you, I entreat you. Brothers. He doesn’t address them as converts or troublemakers or inferiors, but brothers; brothers and sisters. He comes along side them with brotherly affection and appeals to them in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, for there is no higher name to appeal to. He is our Lord, our King, our authority, both yours and mine, so we are both under obligation to obey him. By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, coming in the authority of that name, being under his authority, appealing to all that he is, his character, his desire, all that his name stands for, for his sake, for his benefit, for the fame of his name.

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Say the Same Thing

Paul’s earnest appeal is that they all agree. Literally, that you all say the same thing. What does this mean? In many cults, there is a creepy form of unity where everyone robotically uses the same words and phrases, and even dresses the same and acts the same and thinks the same. Is it this kind of cult-like uniformity that Paul is calling us to? It cannot be, because he will go on to teach in this very letter that there is much diversity in the body of Christ. There are different gifts given to different members of the body; there are different situations each person finds themselves in; there are different levels of maturity; different people have different strengths of conscience – and Paul does not condemn these differences, rather he encourages unity in the midst of diversity, seeking the advantage of others, being characterized by love toward others, all for the glory of God. This is not the monotone unity of each individual playing the same note, but each having our unique instruments tuned to the same master key, and playing our distinct parts from the same piece of music so as to create harmony and not just noise. To say the same thing does not mean that we all use exactly the same words; we can use different words to express the same thought. But if someone interviewed each of us about what was most important, would they come away impressed with the truth that each one has his own story, but we are all saying the same thing? Do we all agree on what the main thing is and do we all agree to keep the main thing the main thing?

No Rips; Knit Together

Paul goes on to clarify what he means. He appeals that we all agree, or say the same thing; that there be no divisions among us, that we be united in the same mind and the same judgment. To say the same thing means that there be no divisions among us. Jesus uses this word divisions in his parables to describe a tear in a garment (Mt.9:16; Mk.2:21). John’s gospel uses this word to describe difference of opinion on who Jesus is (Jn.7:43; 9:16; 10:19); some said he must be the Christ, while others said he can’t be the Christ; some said he can’t be from God because he breaks the Sabbath; others said he must be from God; some said he has a demon and is insane; others said that a demon-oppressed man doesn’t speak like he speaks or open the eyes of the blind. These are watershed issues; is Jesus from God or not from God? A difference of this magnitude will create an irreparable rip in the fabric of the community.

Paul appeals that we say the same thing; that there be no divisions that tear us apart; that we be united in the same mind and the same judgment. This word ‘united’ is used in the gospels of repairing or mending fishing nets (Mt.4:21; Mk.1:19). It is sometimes translated ‘restore’, ‘knit together’ or ‘perfectly unite’. When there are rips in relationships, they need to be sewn back together. In our thinking and in our purpose, we must be united, functioning as a team, working toward the same goal.

Quarreling

In verse 11, he communicates the source of his information, and more insight on what kind of division he is concerned about.

1 Corinthians 1:11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

We don’t know who Chloe’s people were. Most agree that this is a woman’s name, possibly a businesswoman with connections both in Corinth and in Ephesus, where Paul is writing from. Obviously the Corinthians would have known who this was, and it would demonstrate that Paul was not speculating. It is interesting that he doesn’t keep his source anonymous with something like ‘I have heard’ or ‘some people are complaining’. There is accountability in this. If Chloe’s people are lying, they will have to answer for it. If it is the truth, they will have a harder time denying it. We don’t know if this report came from believers or unbelievers. If it came from believers, we understand it to be out of care and concern for the health and well-being of the body of Christ in Corinth. If it came from unbelievers, this would bring serious shame; even the unbelieving community is aware that there is quarreling in the church, to such an extent that they felt they needed to inform the Apostle.

This word ‘quarreling‘, sometimes translated ‘strife, rivalry, or dissension’ shows up frequently in lists of things that should not characterize Christians, alongside things like envy, murder, deceit, maliciousness, drunkenness, sexual immorality, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, disorder, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, fits of anger, divisions, slander, and evil suspicions (Romans 1:29-31; 13:13; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:19-21). Quarreling may sound like a minor issue, but to Paul it was deeply disturbing and demanded immediate attention. Quarreling, strife, or dissension would undercut the essential unity of Christ’s body, and undermine their effectiveness in the world.

Obviously this was not a major theological or doctrinal issue, or Paul would have addressed it head on, as he does in other churches who had deviated from the simplicity of the gospel. Apparently these people got the gospel right, but they had personality conflicts and opinions and preferences that were causing division in the body. They each picked their favorite teacher or apostle, and developed a personality cult around that individual. Some claimed to belong to Paul, the church planter in Corinth and the apostle to the Gentiles. Some claimed to belong to Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt whom Acts describes as ‘an eloquent man, competent in the scriptures, fervent in spirit (Acts 18:24-28). After Paul had planted the church in Corinth and moved on, Apollos was sent to Corinth with the blessing of the believers in Ephesus, and ‘he greatly helped those who through grace had believed’ (Acts 18:27). Some claimed to belong to Cephas, the Aramaic name of Peter, the rock, the apostle to the Jews. Some claimed to belong exclusively to Christ. This seems to be a super-spiritual group who claimed to have an exclusive direct connection to Christ, and didn’t need any human to teach them. There was either an over-emphasis or under-emphasis on the human instrument God used to minister to them. They had an ‘I’ problem; I follow Paul; I follow Apollos; I follow Cephas; I follow Christ. This was pride. This was not a doctrinal dispute; Paul claimed to be on the same team with both Peter and Apollos (1Cor.3:6; Gal.2:6-10). They were all teaching the same gospel. They each had distinct personalities and backgrounds and teaching styles, but they were co-workers for Christ. And it is clear that they did not elicit this kind of party spirit. Paul condemns his own fan club first. We could bring this up to date, and say ‘I follow John MacArthur; I follow James MacDonald; I follow John Piper; I follow Beth Moore; I really don’t need any teacher; I study my bible and pray and the Holy Spirit is my guide’. All of these are great! Listen to all of them! Learn from all of them! But don’t pit one against the other. They are all preaching the same gospel. Don’t over-emphasize the teacher and don’t under-emphasize the teacher. They are all God’s gifts to you for your good. Don’t in arrogance toss them aside as if you have no use for them. And don’t idolize them or become overly dependent on them. This is an issue of style over substance, personality over character. ‘He makes me laugh. He really brings it down to earth. I love the way she digs into the original languages. He communicates with such passion. His illustrations really make it stick’. Here’s another way to bring it up to date. ‘I love the old hymns. I really connect with contemporary worship music’. These are issues of style, of preference. Paul crushes all of this divisive party spirit.

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

These are ludicrous questions designed to demonstrate the absurdity of the situation. Is Christ cut up into pieces? Does this group over here have a piece of Jesus, but that group over there claims to have more of Jesus? Do you think you have a corner on the truth about Jesus? Do you think that you have more access to Jesus than the next guy? There is one Lord Jesus Christ, we all want to get to know him better, to follow him more closely. Paul uses himself as the example. The way some of these people talk about their hero, you would think that Paul was their savior, that Paul bore their sins and was crucified in their place. You would think that they were baptized into the name of Paul and became followers of Paul. This is blasphemous! Only Jesus, the divine Son of God could pay for our sins! Only Jesus is worthy to be followed. Through baptism, we are being identified with Jesus, not some other person.

Centrality of the Cross

Notice what Paul is doing here. He is bringing our focus back to Jesus, back to the cross. Who is Jesus? What has he done for you? What have you become a part of?

This points us to how Paul viewed the cross. He asks ‘was Paul crucified for you?’ The obvious answer is ‘no, Jesus was crucified for me’. Crucifixion was a means of carrying out the death penalty under Roman rule. To take up your cross was a way to say you embraced your guilt. I deserve to die. Paul is introducing the concept of dying for someone else. A crime has been committed. Justice demands the death penalty. Can someone voluntarily stand in for someone else? Can an innocent party suffer the penalty of the law and allow the guilty party to go free? In a very real way Jesus died for a man named Barabbas. Barabbas was a convicted criminal, a murderer (Mr.15:7) on death row. There was no hope for him. The night before the execution, the Jewish leaders bring in someone they are accusing of blasphemy and demand his execution. Pilate examines him and declares that he has done nothing worthy of death. Pilate, in a desperate attempt to get out of a difficult situation, puts forward Jesus and Barabbas as the two candidates for mercy. One will go free, and one will die. The crowds demand that Jesus be executed and Barabbas be released. Jesus does not speak a word in his own defense. He is executed and a notorious murderer goes free. Barabbas was guilty; Jesus was publicly declared as innocent. He died in the place of Barabbas. He took Barabbas’ punishment.

And he took my punishment. Although I am not an insurrectionist rebel, guilty of murderer, and I am not on death row with the government of this land, I have committed high treason against the King of kings. Although I knew God, I did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. I exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Rom.1:21-25). I refused to live under the rule of God, determined to be my own ruler. I was foolish, disobedient, led astray, a slave to passions and pleasures, I passed my days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating others (Titus 3:3). I, a sworn enemy of the throne, was captured, convicted, and ready to hang. I was without hope. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved me (Eph.2:4), while I was still his enemy, he sent his only Son to die for me (Rom.5:6-10). No, Paul was not crucified for me. Jesus was crucified for me, in my place, bearing my divine and eternal punishment. It is to Jesus I owe my undying allegiance, affection, and devotion. I stand, side by side with every other pardoned sinner, on the same footing, with the same standing, deserving nothing yet having been given all things, an eternal debtor to my only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have been called into the fellowship of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. I am part of Christ’s one body, undivided.

Let us all with our unique voices, say the same thing. Let us put to death quarreling, dissension, and strife. Let us be knit together in the same mind and in the same purpose.

Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 3, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment