1 Corinthians 3:1-23
We live in an era where terms like postmodern-truth, post-truth and fake news are widely brandished in the media. These and other such contemporary slogans highlight the blurred distinction between truth and lies in our everyday lives. A problem that’s been around since Eden. And it was no different in Paul’s day, in fact the church at Corinth was exchanging the truth of Christ’s message of love and church unity with the lies of celebrity culture (idolising certain preachers) and acclaim. Sound familiar?
Paul tackles this problem head on by spotlighting three categories of people:
1) Natural men – who have no spiritual life and cannot understand spiritual (biblical) truths for they are foolishness to them (2:14)
2) Spiritual men (3:1) also termed mature men (2:6) – who are controlled by Holy Spirit and who value and receive spiritual (biblical) truth.
3) Infants in Christ (3:1) – who have, but are not very well acquainted with, the Holy Spirit (3:16) and who behave as still of the flesh (3:3) giving in to patterns of jealousy and strife.
Can you see yourself as lying within one of these categories? It’s obvious where Paul finds the Corinthian Church; he points out the fact that he had to address them as infants in Christ (v.1) who could only receive the milk he gave rather than solid food.
What is this milk and solid food that Paul spoke of? We find clues to what Paul refers to as “milk” in the first two chapters wherein Paul comments on numerous occasions about the starting point of spiritual life – the message of the cross and the resurrected Christ who “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1:30). This they received; hence he addresses them not as infants of natural men but as infants of Christ.
As for solid food, we have to go back to the preceding chapter which elaborates about spiritual men. Here we find Paul sharing about all believers in Christ receiving the Spirit of God – “that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (2:12). Solid foods are the spiritual things freely given to us by God. This includes every spiritual blessing poured out on us as a result of our being in Christ and having the counsel of the Holy Spirit to help us interpret and action biblical truth.
Paul weaves together a story-line that to many will sound similar to that unfolding in the lives of many Christians today. Christians at Corinth had started out right, in receiving forgiveness of their sins by way of faith in Christ’s sacrifice, but, as demonstrated by their sinful patterns of strife and jealousy, they had been unable to move forwards with understanding the language (or spiritual thoughts) of God (see 2:9-13), because they had not worked on their relationship with the Holy Spirit whom Christ gifted them by virtue of his sacrifice on the cross. They exchanged the truth of their identity for lies which produced bad fruit. Hence Paul’s levelling against them – “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you?” It can be all too easy to escape from this baseline truth. And as we should do of ourselves, the Corinthians were tasked with having to do a health check on their Holy Spirit “Relationometer”.
Paul makes it clear that as Christians we are to be more than merely human. We are to know ourselves as one with God and be led by the thoughts of God, consequently basing our lives and everything we do upon Christ Jesus (v.11). This lifestyle will be rewarded by God (v.14). And importantly there’s a warning for Christians who live in a conflicting manner – their works when tested in the day of judgement will be discarded. They will enter into everlasting life, but as one who has lost many rewards or “as through fire” which strips everything bare.
Let’s be stirred by Paul’s letter today to reflect on, and rejoice in, the incredible gift of being a temple that houses God the Holy Spirit, as a believer in Christ. Is there any unhelpful pattern in your life that you sense God wants to deal with? Be blessed in knowing that as a believer of Jesus you have access to the mind of Christ that enables you to live a godly life through the Holy Spirit at work in you. Press into asking for clarity and application of spiritual truths as you go about your day and as you read the Bible.