1 Corinthians 3 – Spiritual Maturity Vs. Spiritual Immaturity

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Spiritual Maturity Versus Spiritual Immaturity; The Need To End Their Divisions And Unite Around All The Leaders; Leaders Need To Be Careful To Have Messiah-Centered Ministries

There are levels of spiritual maturity. Messiah’s followers should desire to be spiritually mature, not immature. The Rabbi lets the Corinthians know that they were spiritually immature when he had been with them, and their condition hadn’t changed. Several years after he left them, they were still spiritually immature. Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Messiah. Many of the members of Messiah’s Community in Corinth were still spiritual infants. The Rabbi knew this because he knew they were worldly. He knew they were acting like people who were part of a fallen world which is dominated by people with their old nature.

Their spiritual immaturity prevented Paul from teaching them everything he would have liked to teach them. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. Spiritual immaturity prevent us from being able to understand the Word of God at a deeper level; prevents us from becoming serious students of the Word of God.

The evidence that they were spiritually immature and acting like the people of the world who are dominated by the old nature? They had formed factions. They were supporting one leader in the community but not the others. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? There is so much division in the world. The world is divided by nationality, skin color, religion, ideology, politics, language, geography, economic status. The world is divided when people support one leader, but attack another leader who is equally qualified. They overlook the faults of the one they support and amplify the faults of those they don’t support. The Corinthians were acting like that. They were acting like people dominated by their old nature. They were acting like people who are still part of a fallen world.

They needed to understand that they needed to support all of the leaders in Messiah’s Community, not just one of them. What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants … They must support all of the leaders because all of them are God’s servants. If God chooses someone to be His servant, we must support that servant, not look for opportunities to undermine him. To attack a servant is to attack the one he serves, and who wants to attack God?

They must support all of the leaders because God has given each one of a task. 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. The Lord assigns different leaders different tasks. Some are tasked with teaching; some with leading; some with counseling; some with evangelism. You don’t undermine a leader because you don’t value the task he has been assigned as much as you value the task another has been assigned. You appreciate each leader for tasks God has assigned to him. If you don’t, you are attacking the One who assigned him his tasks, and who wants to attack God?

They must support all of the leaders because the Lord uses multiple leaders who have been given multiple tasks to accomplish His purposes. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. No one leader can do everything. Each one can only do so much. One will be appointed by God for one task, and one for another task. God assigns and coordinates the tasks of His various servants, so that their combined efforts produces the desired results. Therefore God gets the credit for the results, not people. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

And, if God gets the praise the results, His servants do not get criticized for the lack of results. If God gives someone the task of sowing, but not reaping, so that the one who is sowing does not see many visible results, he is not to be criticized. He is to be supported; encouraged. If God gives someone the task of watering, so that the one who is watering but not reaping does not see many visible results, he is not to be criticized. He is to be supported; encouraged. And if God gives someone the task of reaping, after the long and hard work of sowing and watering has been done, God, who sent the sower, waterer and reaper, is the one who gets the praise for the reaping – not the reaper.

Some men may be tasked by God to labor their entire lives in a gospel-resistant community or a small community, and see few visible results. Some men may be tasked by God to work in a gospel-receptive community, or a large community, and see many results. Does the man tasked with the gospel-receptive or larger community deserve more praise than the other? Does the man tasked with the gospel-resistant or smaller community deserve less praise? No. God will judge them both on the basis of their faithfulness to the task He assigned to each one.

The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. It is the degree of faithfulness to the God-assigned task, not the numbers, not the outward results, that is the basis of the reward given.

God, and the leaders He appoints, work together. Therefore all the leaders are to be supported. For we are co-workers in God’s service.

Leaders work with God. The Rabbi compares the work they do, the people they are working on, to a field or a building. You are God’s field, God’s building. Messiah’s Community is like a field. I know a little about working in a field. A lot of work and various tasks need to be done to produce a crop. Messiah’s Community is like a building. A lot of work and various tasks need to be done to build a building. The leaders are to work hard at their various tasks, and all of them are to supported and encouraged.

God gave Paul a special task in Corinth. His assignment was starting the Community there. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder. Paul was graced by God for this task. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder. Paul was equipped by God for this task. Paul was appointed by God for this task. Paul was faithful to God who appointed him for this task.

Messiah’s Community in Corinth was like a building that was in the process of being built. If Messiah’s Community was like a building, then Paul was like a wise builder who laid the foundation. He started the community. He gave it a good beginning. He built with wisdom. He proclaimed the true message. He taught them well. He modeled for them what the life of a servant of Messiah should be like.

Paul started the community. He proclaimed the Good News and taught the new believers for a year and a half. He did a great job. But then it was time for him to go elsewhere, to other God-appointed tasks; and it was the task of other leaders to continue building the community. Paul warns those leaders that they should be careful to do a good job. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.

Just as there are degrees of spiritual maturity, there are qualities of ministries. There are those who build with care. And there are those who build with less care. What is the difference between those who build with care, and those who do not build with care? Those who build with care focus on foundational truth. Those who do not build with care lose sight of foundational truth. What is foundational truth? Messiah Yeshua. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Messiah Yeshua. Paul is teaching us that we need Messiah-centered ministries. Messiah-centered ministries have Messiah-centered preaching and teaching. Messiah-centered ministries that have Messiah-centered preaching and teaching produce Messiah-centered lives which are solid and enduring. Messiah-centered lives produce Messiah-centered communities which are stable and blessed.

We proclaim the Good News – about Messiah. We teach people – focusing on Messiah. Who He is. What He did. What He taught. How He lived. His perfect life. His victory over temptation. His atoning death. His resurrection. His ascension. His authority now as the Lord of Heaven and Earth. The giving of His Spirit. The empowering of His Spirit. The need for living like Messiah until He returns. The need to carry on His mission of world evangelism until He returns.

Messiah is the foundation. We need to hear the Good news about Messiah to be saved. After we are saved, we continue to build or lives on the foundation. Messiah continues to be the focus of our preaching and teaching and living.

There are those in ministry who will build with care, focusing on Messiah. There are those in ministry who will not build with care. They will experience different outcomes. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.

If anyone builds on this foundation (again, the foundation is Messiah) using gold, silver, costly stones – those are rare, valuable, enduring materials. This person’s ministry is focused on Messiah.

If anyone builds on this foundation using wood, hay or straw – these materials are not valuable and not enduring – their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. There will be a Day of Judgment. When the sons and daughters of God appear before the Lord, our spiritual leaders will be judged. They and their ministries will be judged. The Messiahness or the Messiahlessness of their lives will be analyzed. Did they focus on Messiah? Did they tell others the Good News about Messiah? Was their teaching Messiah-centered? Did their lives reflect Messiah? Did they lose sight of Messiah. Did they focus on other things – a social gospel; a prosperity gospel; a political gospel? Was Messiah crowded out; diminished; de-emphasized?

Those who had careful ministries will receive a reward. Those who had careless ministries will have no reward. Those who had careless ministries will still be saved, but are compared to a man who manages to barely escape from a building on fire before it burns down. He has his life, but has lost the building and everything in it. He will still have eternal life, but he will lose any honors and rewards that are given to leaders for faithful service.

While not all of us are spiritual leaders, like all leaders, we all serve God. All of us are tasked by God to proclaim the Good News. All of us can teach some truth. All of us are responsible to do something to build Messiah’s Community. All of us have a life to live which is to honor Messiah. This should motivate each one of us to have a Messiah-centered Gospel proclamation; to have Messiah-centered teaching; to have Messiah-centered living.

Paul compared himself to a wise builder. He compared the Corinthians to a building. Paul expand the comparison. The building was a special kind of building, and because it was special, it needed to be treated in a special way. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? The temple was a very special building. The temple was the place on Earth where the presence of God was most powerfully manifested. Messiah’s followers are now God’s temple. The Spirit of God is living in us, in living beings made in the image of God, in a greater way than the Spirit of God had been living in the temple in Jerusalem.

This spiritual dwelling place of God; this community of people in whom the Spirit of God lives, is very special. It is very holy. It is exceedingly precious to God. Anyone who destroys that community will be destroyed by God. If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. This is a warning to the enemies of the Gospel, who persecute Messiah’s Community from without. This is a warning to false teachers who corrupt the truth from within. This is a warning to spiritual leaders, who harm the Community by careless teaching and living. And, this is a warning to us, who can harm Messiah’s Community in our own ways.

Be committed to Messiah’s Community! Build it up. Don’t tear it down! Don’t do anything to hurt it. Don’t destroy it by attacking God-ordained spiritual leaders; by immoral living; by worldly, old-natured living; by careless, Christless Christianity; by Messiahless living.

The way the world works is that the smart people choose a man to support, and they back him and undermine his opponents, who may be very similar to him. If the leader they support rises, they rise with him. And then they can brag about how they were smarter than everyone else because they chose the winner. We need to be different. Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. We can’t be like the smart people of the world who support one leader but attack others who are similar. Their actions may work for them, and it may seem like they have acted wisely, but they haven’t. That’s not God’s way of doing things. God doesn’t want us to act that way. God’s ways are different from the world’s ways. God’s ways are wiser than the world’s ways.

As he does so often, the Rabbi reinforces his teaching with a quote from the Word of God; in this case, two quotes, the first one from the fifth chapter of Job, and the second one from Psalm 94. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

We need to think and act differently from the world. We need to value things differently from the world. In Messiah’s Community, we don’t choose, support and praise one leader and criticize the others. So then, no more boasting about human leaders!

Another reason why we support all the God-ordained leaders in Messiah’s Community – because we own all things – including our spiritual leaders. All things are yours. It is God’s will to make us His sons and daughter. It is God’s will to make us His heirs. It is God’s will to give us all things. Everything and everyone belongs to us.

All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are of Messiah, and Messiah is of God. We give nice things to the ones we love. God the Father is superior to God the Son. God the Father loves the Son and it pleases the Father to give His Son all things. Messiah the Son is superior to us and loves us and it pleases Him to give us all things.

We have been given all things, not just things like mansions in heaven, and great rewards, but also things like the world. The world if a gift from God to us. It helps accomplish God’s purposes for us. God has given us all things, not just a great inheritance, but things like life and death and the present and the future. Life and death and the present and the future all help us, serve us, advance us, benefit us, bless us.

God has given us all things, including people, including the greatest spiritual leaders like the apostle Paul and Apollos, the great Messianic Jewish teacher, and the great Simon Peter. God-ordained leaders serve us, help us, bless us. We are part of them and they are part of us. We have a claim on them and they have a claim on us. We belong to them and they belong to us.

If something that is valuable and benefits you, belongs to you, you appreciate it. You treat it well. You speak well of it. So, if all of the spiritual leaders in Messiah’s Community belong to us, why would we undermine, unfairly criticize or attack any of them? We treasure them. We protect them. We care for them.

The Corinthians needed to be to end their divisions and unite around all the leaders.

Let’s pray:

Lord, many of us are spiritually immature. Bring us from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity.

Lord, if the Corinthian community was divided, Your people today are we are a hundred times more divided. Help us end our divisions and come together in unity and love.

Lord, help us not follow the world’s ways or the world’s wisdom. Help us know and follow Your ways and Your wisdom.

Lord, Paul’s life and ministry were focused on Messiah. Help our lives and service to be focused on Messiah – our proclamation of the Good News; the things we teach people; how we live.

By | 2017-05-09T01:29:52+00:00 April 29th, 2017|Categories: Commentaries by Rabbi Loren, Sermons by Rabbi Loren|Tags: , |Comments Off on 1 Corinthians 3 – Spiritual Maturity Vs. Spiritual Immaturity

About the Author:

Rabbi Loren Jacobs is the senior rabbi and founder of “Congregation Shema Yisrael” (which means “Hear O Israel”). Congregation Shema Yisrael is a Messianic synagogue which was started in 1986 when Rabbi Loren and his wife Martha moved to Michigan to proclaim the Good News about the Messiah to the Jewish people living in the metro Detroit area. Rabbi Loren was raised in a Jewish home in the Chicago area, and became a Messianic Jew in 1975. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute’s Jewish Studies program in 1979 and received a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Literature from Northeastern Bible College in New Jersey in 1986. His wife Martha is a fifth generation Messianic Jew, which is quite unusual. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.