Problems Plaguing A Local Church,
Part 6

In Sunday’s message, OUR LEGACY- TESTED BY FIRE (1 Cor. 3:1-15), the Bible directly addressed the difficult issue of a Christian who is not maturing because of unconfessed sin.

The first key point to realize in chapter 3 is the Lord is still speaking to Christians and not to unsaved people. This does not fit with many people’s theological systems, but Paul states here he is speaking to, “brethren,” that is, to both brothers and sisters in the family of God (1 Cor. 3:1a). Also, the “you” in this passage is in the second person plural showing us the Holy Spirit is addressing the whole church and not just a faction within it (1 Cor. 3:1-2, etc.). Notice as well, unlike “the natural man” (AKA unbeliever) mentioned in 1 Corinthians 2:14, the “carnal” people here in Corinth are “BABES IN CHRIST” showing us they have been “born… of God” by grace through faith in the Gospel (1 Cor. 3:1b caps my emphasis; John 1:12-13, etc.). It should be obvious to all, a person cannot be a “baby” in God’s family unless he or she has first been born into it! (John 3:7, 16, etc.). Nevertheless, the problem here is the Lord was unable to “speak to [many of these Christians] as to spiritual people but as to carnal” (1 Cor. 3:1 compare with 1 Cor. 2:6a; 15a).

The second key point to understand from the Bible here is an evaluation of a Christian’s “works” is in view on “the Day” Jesus comes for us (1 Cor. 3:13). God’s Word shows us here- beyond a doubt- it is the Christian’s works that are being judged, and this is NOT an issue of his or her eternal destiny (i.e. 1 Cor. 3:15). We have a good Father who will never lose, leave, or forsake ANY of His children (Rom. 8:31-39, etc.). But the Almighty is also a righteous and fair daddy who will make everything right one day (Heb. 4:12-13; 12:23, etc.). For Christians, this will occur at “the judgment seat of Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; Rom. 14:10, etc.).

Continuing in chapter 3, the Bible shows us, many and perhaps most of the church in Corinth was “not able to receive” God’s Word (i.e. heavenly things) into their lives because they were not only “carnal” (1 Cor. 3:1) but they were “STILL carnal” (1 Cor. 3:2-3, caps my emphasis). When the Bible says, “you are still carnal” and “even now you are still not able,” it is showing us willful sin on the part of God’s children here (1 Cor. 3:2-3). This does not fit with the theologies of many teachers, but God shows us here Christians can behave “like unregenerate people” and Christians can live and “act… just like people of the world” (1 Cor. 3:3 NET; 1 Cor. 3:3-4 NLT). That is, it is possible for genuine Christians to behave as and to appear to be unbelievers (Matt. 13:24-30; 13:36-43, etc.). The blame here lies with the child of God’s decisions to not seek God’s kingdom or will first in his or her life (James 1:16-17; Matt. 6:33; Heb. 11:6, etc.). As believers, they were instead making provision for the flesh to fulfill its desires (that is what “carnal” means), rather than following the leading of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 13:14; 1 Cor. 11:31-32, etc.).

The book of Corinthians will address several sin issues resulting in carnality at Corinth, but contextually the first one here is “envy, strife and divisions…” (1 Cor. 3:3-4). It is important to note that being “carnal,” or immature as some refer to it here, can happen to a Christian at any point in his or her walk with God (1 Cor. 10:12-14, etc.). That is why the Lord calls all of us to be alert and to be in fellowship as His soldiers and children (Eph. 5:15-18; 6:10-18, etc.). As the family of God, the Lord wants all His children to grow as He seeks to form Christ more and more in each of us… (2 Pet. 3:17-18; Phil. 1:6, etc.).

Not only are Christians called to grow, but we are called abound in the good works God has made us for (Eph. 2:10, etc.). The church is seen as “God’s field” here being a light for Him (1 Cor. 3:5-9a). It is important to realize as we work together that every Christian, no matter what his or her position in the church might be, was assigned his or her role by the Lord. We are all His “ministers” (1 Cor. 3:5). While Paul “planted” (i.e. founded the church in Corinth through evangelism) and “Apollos watered” (i.e. he nurtured the Christians in that city apparently as an eloquent and gifted pastor), both are simply serving God in the roles He gave them (1 Cor. 3:5). They are not in competition (1 Cor. 3:8a), and it is the Lord alone who gives “the increase” producing the results of the ministry (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Also, Paul, Apollos, and all Christians we are told “will receive his [or her] own reward according to [our] own labor” when the Lord comes (1 Cor. 3:8b).
In a similar way, “we are God’s fellow workers… building” His church (1 Cor. 3:9). As Christians, we are all on the right foundation: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” our Lord (1 Cor. 3:10, 11; John 3:7; Matt. 16:18; 1 Pet. 2:6; Acts 4:12, etc.). But we are also told here, even though we have been saved by grace and are heaven-bound, we are as God’s coworkers also called to “take heed how [we] build… on” this precious foundation (1 Cor. 3:10b). We are to build up the church with the gifts God has bestowed upon us letting Christ shine through us (Eph. 4:15-16; Gal. 5:22-23, etc.). Only what God does through us as we let Him fill our lives will have eternal reward and go on into His kingdom (Heb. 12:28-29, etc.). God’s Word here shows us both the work itself and even the motive behind the work will be tested to see “what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:12-13; 4:5, etc.). “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:14-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; Luke 19:11-27; Gal. 6:9-10; 2 Tim. 2:11-13, etc.). May we take His Word to heart turning from anything that might blind us today of these heavenly truths so we can see heavenly things (1 John 1:9; 2 John 8; 1 Cor. 9:24-10:14, etc.).