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    Oct 02, 2011

    A House Divided

    Passage: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23

    Preacher: John Repsold

    Series: Life Together--First Corinthians

    Category: Christian Walk

    Keywords: church, division, spiritual immaturity, maturity, unity


    This message looks at how every person in the body of Christ is either building or destroying the most important thing on earth today, the church. God is passionate about His church. Spiritual maturity or immaturity will determine whether our investment in God's Kingdom and the church lasts or blows away.


    A House Divided

    I Corinthians 3

    October 3, 2011

    Intro:  I thought I’d begin this morning’s message on a little lighter note.  We’re into chapter 3 of I Corinthians.  It’s a chapter in which the Apostle Paul takes the whole church in the city of Corinth to task about how they are handling life together as a church.  For the second time in 3 chapters, he goes after the problem of a divided “house” or church. 

          What the Corinthians saw as no big deal, Paul saw as not only stunting their spiritual development but potentially destroying individuals and the church itself.

          One of our family’s favorite pastimes a year or two ago was to watch a number of old seasons of “Tool Time.” In one of the episodes entitled “A House Divided,” Tim Taylor, the host of Tool Time, and his trusty side-kick, Al Boreland, are helping their buddy Vinney repair his aunt’s house while she is away.  We pick it up after they’ve just filmed fixing the gas leak in the furnace and are about ready to go home. 

    [Season 4, Disc 3, Episode 1; time 9:41-11:15.]

    It’s possible to do a lot of damage to a house without intending to.

    It’s also possible to do a lot of damage to a church without intending to.  I think that’s probably what happens in most churches with most disagreements and divisions—people really believe they are doing the right things when, in fact, they are doing great damage to God’s family, the church.

    So let’s jump into this text and see what the issues were facing the Corinthians and what God might want to drive home with us today as a result.

    I Corinthians 3:1-23

    If you were with us last week, you remember that Paul was talking about what has to happen for God’s people to experience God’s heart and spiritual life.  He talked about the need for spiritual wisdom instead of human/cultural savvy and then he addressed life in the Holy Spirit verse the life of people without the Holy Spirit. 

          But here in chapter 3, Paul is going to contrast 2 types of Christians.  Both have the Holy Spirit.  Both are part of God’s people, His church.  But one is still pretty much operating off of the old “operating system” of the worldly mindset while the other has grown into the mindset of Jesus Christ and is living in a different reality in their relationships with others in the church and the world. 

    3:1 begins with Paul recapping the nature of a year and a half of ministry he had with the Corinthians when he founded the church there. 

    “I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly—mere infants in  Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” 

          All he is talking about is in the past tense.  I think it’s reasonable to assume that Paul saw his first year and a half of ministry as one in which he was continually working on the basics of the Christian faith with them.  He doesn’t specify what the basics are.  I’m guessing it may have been basic things about salvation in Christ, about faith, about repentance, forgiveness, baptism, living life in the Spirit rather than the flesh, etc. 

          Whatever it was, Paul didn’t consider the Corinthian church to have gotten any farther than the baby-food stage.  In fact, at the time of writing (about 1.5-2 years later), he still considers them stuck in infancy when he says in 3:3, “You are still worldly” or as the NKJV says, “carnal.”

    How would you feel if the person who led you to saving faith in Jesus Christ spoke to you that way?  How long would you stay in a church where the founding pastor got up 3 years into the church life and started talking about how infantile your behavior was, how worldly you were thinking and acting? 

    We’re not used to direct rebukes in our culture, are we?  Certainly not in the church.  We may expect some of it in the workplace…or at school…or in the home.  But NOT the church!  People in America go to church to feel better about life, not to be told they are acting like a bunch of babies!  In fact, I’m pretty sure that if Paul showed up in most American churches, half the people would be getting up and walking out in the middle of the message because they’d be “offended.”  The other half would probably not come back the next Sunday.

    Paul was not driven by the things that drive the American church.  He was driven by a dominating desire to see God’s people grow up, get healthy and become mature.  He wasn’t about getting the largest “church” in the area…or seeing the giving grow…or building a new and bigger building.  He was passionate about people growing UP in Christ which meant they would be experiencing life as Christ would.

    APP:  It makes me wonder if some of the problem with the immaturity of the American church is that we are not used to having people in our lives who will speak the truth about our spiritual development when we need it. 

    Q:  Who is in your life who will speak to you about areas of immaturity?  I’m not talking about people who just like to control you or tell you everything wrong they see with your life.  I’ve had people like that in my life in the church and every time I met with them I came away feeling discouraged, beat up and depressed.

          What I’m talking about is the kind of spiritual mentor or guide or “director” who will lovingly speak truth into your life about things they may see that are out of line or balance.  Those relationships can be difficult to find, but they are invaluable when you are willing to open yourself up to them.

    ILL:  My relationship with the other staff here at Mosaic—we couldn’t be more different.  There was a period in the first year and a half of ministry here where I wondered if we were going to be able to work together.  They were confronting some issues in my own life that I wasn’t really very aware of.  They weren’t very flattering either! J  At the risk of me discounting or rejecting their assessments, the pressed in and called things what they were in some of my patterns and habits.  I’m forever indebted to Eric and Charlie for lovingly yet firmly pointing out some things.  Had I had men like them 10 years earlier in my life…and had I been willing to hear it at the time…I may not have made some of the mistakes I’ve made in ministry in the last decade. 

    SO…who’s doing this in your life?  How closely in touch with them are you?  How regularly? How honestly?

    If you don’t have someone, why not?  Have you not given a handful of other wise, godly people the permission to speak into your life that way?  Are you too unsure and insecure to engage in that level of relationship?  Do you simply not know who to go to or what to do when you do? 

          How about asking some respected mature brothers or sisters what they would recommend you do?  Most of us don’t do much growing in isolation.

    Now, we all know what the characteristics of a little baby are, right?  [Have them give the marks of an infant.]

    Now, if I ask you, “What are the characteristics of someone who is a spiritual infant, what would you say?” [Feedback.]

    Paul goes on here to give us a few characteristics on his list of spiritually infantile people.  Frankly, it surprises me what he picks. 

    Vs. 3“You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?”

    Why is it that God’s people through the ages have made a regular habit of dividing themselves from each other over differences God says are a sign of spiritual immaturity.

    • “I’m a Calvinists,” says one person while another says, “No, I’m an Arminian.”  Paul would say, “Who is Calvin and who is Arminias?”  Aren’t they just men who taught different sides of the same truth in Scripture?
    • “I’m a Baptist.”  “I’m a Presbyterian.”  “Oh, I’m non-denominational.  I just follow the Bible.” 
    • I hear people say, “Oh, I love pastor so-and-so’s sermons.  He’s such an amazing communicator.”  Or, “he’s got such a great sense of humor,” or “he’s an amazing story-teller,” or “his teaching is SO meaty.” 

    Paul was really very serious about the immaturity that comes among the people of God who allow themselves to become partitioned-off or to not be concerned with their connectedness to the whole Body of Christ.  Sure, we can have preferences and enjoy certain ministries or people.  But when we lose love for the WHOLE body of Christ because we just want to hunker down with our little group of people who think the same, talk the same, worship the same, act the same and sometimes smell the same, we’ve stepped back into spiritual infancy.  (Paul said it, not me!)

    Rather than looking to other human beings, be they great Christian leaders or not, Paul has a better idea.

    Read 3:5-9

    5 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 has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

    Now here Paul is introducing a variety of metaphors for the church.  How many can you identify?

    • Servants
    • Gardners/farmers
    • Farm hands & construction workers
    • Fields
    • Buildings

    ILL:  Most of you know that I love to garden, whether it’s raising vegetables, fruits or flowers.  In fact, when I was trying to decide on a career as a young adult, I came very close to majoring in agronomy at WSU and becoming either a farmer or a horticulturalist of some sort. 

          Every gardener likes to see the fruit of their labors, whether it’s a beautiful rose or a beautiful rhubarb plant.  When people come to our house to visit, they usually remark about the flowers or the beautiful garden by saying, “So, who is the gardener around here?” 

          Sandy usually says, “Oh, that’s John’s green thumb.”  But truth be told, it’s usually a family project.  I may choose which plants to put in or when to roto-till and fertilize.  But just about everyone in the family gets in on the act—helping plant, weed, fertilize, pick, can…and eat. 

          But who does THE MOST AMAZING work in gardening?  In our people-centered culture, we think all about the gardener.  But Paul says we’re missing the boat.  It should be all about GOD who makes it grow!  What’s so amazing about sticking a seed in the dirt?  What’s so wonderful about spraying water on it?  What’s so neat about pulling weeds so it can grow?  Pretty much anyone can do that. 

          But make a seed germinate?  That’s miraculous.

          Teach it how to push up through hard, crusty dirt?  Good luck.

          Show it how to either become a vine or a bush, bear big orange pumpkins or little red raspberries?  That is what God specializes in. 

    JOKE:  Reminds me of the story about God being challenged by the evolutionary biologist that he could develop the right environment for life on earth too.  So God accepted the challenge and they both went to work.  The scientist started scooping up some dirt to create the right environment for living organisms to which God said, “Hey, what do you think you are doing?  God make your own dirt!” 

    Well, when it comes to the church, God should be the one getting ALL the attention.  We tend to look at this church or that ministry and say, “Isn’t so-and-so wonderful?  Isn’t she an amazing Bible teacher?  Isn’t he a marvelous evangelist?”  Paul says, “What are you talking about?  It shouldn’t be about the people who you love and appreciate in the church.  It must be about God who makes it all happen.”  We don’t focus on or thank God nearly enough for anything wonderful we might see or appreciate about any Christian church or ministry. 

    Notice what vs. 8 says.  8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose….”  The NKJV simply says “are one.”  I think the NIV gets the sense of it better on this one. 

          But just what is that “one purpose” for which Paul & Apollos worked together?  What is that one purpose for which all the Christian leaders in a city work?  Or all the leaders of a church? 

    [Wait for answers.]

    Is it not the productivity of “the field”?

    Isn’t it the building up of the “building” or “house”? 

    Just what is that? 

    It is the same thing Jesus has “called” every one of us to.  Remember the discussion about our “calling” in chapter 1?  We were “called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1:9).  It is to “make disciples,” as Jesus said in Mt. 28:18-20.  It is to “grow up in all things into…Christ” as Paul said in Eph. 4:15. 

    If becoming more and more like Jesus were really the only goal of every church, wouldn’t it be possible to really experience a level of spiritual unity unseen in the world today?  It’s when other things like theology or style or leadership or buildings or budgets or a whole lot of other junk comes into people’s expectations about “church” that we fragment, fracture and lose our way.  It’s when we make a lot of other things our priority in the church rather than simply becoming fruitful in our relationship with Christ that we leave one group of saints for another or get disillusioned with this group of saints and become enamored with another.

    APP:  What are you really looking for when you “come to church”?  Nice worship?  A good sermon?  Friendly people?  Dynamic ministry?  People who pursue you? 

          You can have all that…and not find Christ.  You can have an emotional or intellectual or relational experience among a group of people…and never grow in Christ to be more like Christ. 

          I think every time we get together with God’s people, be it at a church service like this or over coffee during the week or in a small group at school or work or home, we must be looking for more of Jesus, not more of other people or other things. 

    Now, vss. 10-15 speak to every one of us about what we are doing to build the church.  Too often I’ve read this passage and just thought, “Well, I sure hope I’m building my life with the right sorts of things—the right motives, the right actions, the right goals and objectives, the right spiritual focus.” 

          But this passage isn’t about how you’re living your life in isolation from me or the rest of the church.  It’s really all about THE CHURCH.  The metaphor here is of a building.  Paul calls himself a “master builder” who laid the foundation which was teaching about Christ that led them to faith in Jesus. 

          A building must have the right foundation if it is to survive. It must be deep enough and solid enough and structurally sound enough to support all the superstructure of the building.  Paul reminds us that Jesus Christ is the only adequate foundation for a life in this world.  

          But then he moves to what others are adding on top of that saving faith in Jesus.  Some are adding things that build value into the church, value into the lives of people seeking to grow in Christ.   Some are not adding what will last for eternity.  They may be adding things that initially or currently look great, but if they don’t stand the fiery test of the coming Day of judgment, they don’t build this “building” of the Church. 

    The admonition of vs. 10 is for everyone:  “But each one should be careful how he builds…12)If any man builds on this foundation using….his work will be shown for what it is.” 

          This goes directly back to our “calling” issue.  We are “called” into fellowship with Jesus Christ.  Everything we do and everything we seek to do in other’s lives should be to move us into deeper, richer, more mature fellowship with Jesus. 

    • If you wait tables, everything you do is to be about helping you and the people you serve fellowship with Jesus.
    • If you teach in a school or university, everything you do is to move people closer to Jesus. 
    • If you are raising kids at home or working a 9-5 job downtown, God’s call on your life and mine is to do what will build up the church of God. 
    • Every relationship in life is, whether we realize it or not, something given to us to build up the household of God.

    It’s all about Jesus—His church, His field, His glory. 

    APP:  So, what are you building Jesus’ church with?  Is your job, your family, your finances, your house, your car, your relationship all about what you want out of them…or is it about what Christ wants to do in them? 

          What is the impact on the life of God’s people?  Have you come to the place of maturity spiritually where you are no longer a baby caught up with your own needs but are now a hard working spiritual adult who is making life all about helping others to grow up strong in Christ? 

    That’s when life changes from being served to serving, from being taught to teaching, from being given much to giving much.  It’s when church becomes, not about getting what I want but giving what God wants.  That’s the difference between spiritual infants and spiritually mature, between spiritual milk and spiritual meat. It isn’t what you can process in your head (the fine points of theology); it’s what you can experience in your life (the character of Jesus). 

    Jesus doesn’t just want to impact 2 hours of your entire week.  He wants to transform 168 hours a week in such a way that life become all about building His house, His family, His “church.” 

    That’s why people who say, “I don’t need the church to worship God,” are right…and wrong…at the same time.  Sure, you can worship God alone.  But you can’t “build” the most important thing to God in the world today and for centuries “alone.”  You can’t be involved in laboring for what lasts…the Church of Jesus Christ…alone.  If you want to be mature in Christ, if you want to experience a life of real value, lasting value, it must involve you building up the Church in some meaningful way. 

          And I think Paul is also saying here that it must involve planting or watering in some way the Gospel of Christ into the soil of other people’s lives.  That’s not a ministry for just the evangelists in the church…or the pastors…or the teachers and leaders.  It’s for everyone!   

    APP:  That’s why at Mosaic we stress serving.  It’s your opportunity to actually be involved building the “house of God,” the Church. 

    That’s why we have chosen to minister downtown:  there are more needs and people needing Jesus here than in any other part of our city.

    That’s why we’re offering the training and fellowship opportunities we do:

    • We need more people who can and will handle the Word of God well and step up to leading a Bible study in one of the residence buildings in this downtown core.  So I’m teaching a class starting tomorrow on how to accurately and fruitfully study God’s word.  Then next quarter I teach about how to teach it in a meaningful way.
    • That’s why Pat Menke will be leading a group called Search for Freedom which will help participants move on in their spiritual growth past personal habit and addictive issues that are holding you bondage, be it to others expectations or your own or behaviors and substances.  This is a perfect study for any of you considering helping Harold Coleman launch the new downtown recovery ministry just down the street at First Covenant.
    • That is why Cheryl & Daniel are leading a group that will be looking at poverty and how to really help rather than hurt others with our best attempts.  They’ll be dealing with concepts that I have found changing my heart and mind about everything from how we do ministry downtown to what we are doing in Nicaragua.  If you’re heart is at all moved about helping people who are in a less-advantaged socio-economic place than you are, this class is a must for you.  And it is my hope and prayer that every one of us at Mosaic will be growing in that aspect of the heart of God.  (Push A Hand Up ministry starting Thursday & Saturday.)

    CLOSE:  Jill Briscoe, the wife of pastor, speaker and author Stuart Briscoe, talks about the church in terms that Jesus uses when he calls us the Bride of Christ.  She invites her readers to imagine that they are at a church wedding.  The guests have been seated.  The families of the bride and groom are in the front rows. The bridal party has all walked down the aisle and taken their places at the front.  The minister is there standing next to the joyful groom.

          The music changes to begin the wedding march and all the guests stand to turn and gaze at the bride coming through the door at the back of the church. 

          But instead of seeing a beautiful bride in a one-of-a-kind stunning wedding dress, the guests gasp as they see the bride.  She’s got a black eye, her dress is ripped and torn, her face is scratched and she’s limping.  Her nose is bleeding and it’s staining her beautiful dress.  And then she smiles a big, toothless smile.  She’s even lost her front teeth. 

          The bride of Christ, the church—she’s been fighting…again!

    Paul closes this section by reminding us that the Church is something very special to God. 

    We can destroy it by our actions. 

    We can add to it value and beauty that will last forever by our actions.

    Or we can tack on some very tacky, temporary and transient things that will only look good here but will turn to ash in eternity.

    To the one who destroys God’s bride, God’s temple, God says he will destroy that person.

    To the one who adds value and beauty by growing God’s family, God says their work will survive into all eternity.

    And to the one who knows Christ but does not orient their life around Christ or building His temple, God’s people, the Church, they will be saved yet suffer the loss of what could have given great glory to Christ—their life. 

    Which will it be for you?