1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 21
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|Spiritual babies are cute when they are babies, but they are not supposed to remain that way. We are birthed into the kingdom. We come in as new‑born babes in Jesus Christ. Then there is the growth process and the stages that God wants to take us through, one day to conform us even into the image of Christ Jesus. And to refuse to grow, to make a choice and say, “I am not going to do what you tell me, God. I am not going to grow,” that is sin.|
1 Corinthians 3:13
Have I told you lately about my granddaughter, little Holly? I don’t think I have. She is just the cutest little thing. I know that every grandparent thinks this about their grandchild, but I just want to tell you, mine is the prettiest who has ever been born. We are having so much fun watching her grow up and learning those little words. She is trying to say Poppy. She hasn’t been able to say that too good. She gets Nana and Mama and Daddy, but she hasn’t gotten mine down right yet. But she is so precious. She is running and walking and just having the best time seeing everything afresh.
Today she came over, and she had a brand new dress on. Boy, she was something else. She was walking around in our kitchen so proud of that dress, just acting prissy. I mean, it is just so much fun. I love watching them grow up. No parent or grandparent in their right mind wants a child to remain a child. The very fact that they are born begins to give you the anticipation, expectation that they are going to grow, that they are going to change, that they are going to be different. Every stage in my own children’s lives has been just as wonderful as the other, if not even better. And now that they are our friends and are adults and have their own life, it is just even another dimension of it. They grow and grow and grow.
It is a tragic thing when you see a child’s mind in a 20year old person. Some people have had to suffer with that. It is a very tragic thing. But the same thing is true in the spiritual life. When you get saved, when you put your faith into Jesus, it doesn’t stop, it starts. There is a process that begins. We are birthed into the kingdom. We come in as newborn babes in Jesus Christ. Then there is the growth process and the stages that God wants to take us through, one day to conform us even into the image of Christ Jesus. And to refuse to grow, to make a choice and say, “I am not going to do what you tell me, God. I am not going to grow,” that is sin.
This is the problem we are dealing with at Corinth. Spiritual babies. Spiritual babies are cute when they are babies, but they are not supposed to remain that way. We must remember that when we become a believer, the body of sin is still there. I don’t know why it is that we tend to forget that. Romans 6:6 tells us, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with.” That word is katargeo. Kata is an intensive and usually means to cease something, but not to cease to exist. It is still there. He has shifted the power of sin into neutral by putting His Spirit into our life. Therefore, He has delivered me from the penalty of sin by dying for me. Now He has delivered me from the power of sin by coming to live in my life. And as I learn to yield to Him, as I learn to surrender to Him, I can walk in more and more victory that He has already given me in Himself. I can no longer be in the flesh, Romans says, but I can be after the flesh.
A baby is one who chooses to continue to want to be after the flesh. What happens is, you refuse the growth process. You impair your spiritual growth. So spiritual babies can be a good term, but spiritual babies can be a bad term.
Since 1:10 Paul has been dealing with the biggest symptom of a spiritual baby and that is attaching yourselves to people, to preachers with the message, rather than attaching yourself to Christ and living in the depth of your relationship to Him. Babies have to cling to somebody they can see, don’t they? They just have to have somebody around them to remind them that God really is alive.
When my daughter was little she was so precious. My wife Diana was in the room with her one night, and she was just learning about God and things like that. She looked at Diana and said, “Mama, is Jesus in this room?” Diana said, “Why sure He is in this room, honey. He is everywhere.” She said, “Well, I don’t mean to be mean, but would you tell Him to leave. He is scaring me. It is okay if you stay, but tell Him that He has to go. He is bothering me.”
Now that is a baby. But you see, when you grow in the depth of your relationship to Him, you don’t need to attach yourself to people because you have the Holy Spirit of God living in you. That has been the message we have preached for years: live in the fullness of your faith. Understand that Christ is in you and you are complete in Him and He is your sufficiency. But when you refuse to do that, when I refuse to do that, when I refuse to say yes to Him, then what happens is I am stunting my growth. I am getting in the way of what God is trying to do in my life. Yes, He is in me to will and to work. Yes, He started the work and He will continue it and perfect it until that day. But remember, we can also get in the way. God works those things into His marvelous plan. He is still there, but we are still spiritual babies by the way that we behave.
Well, that is the problem in Corinth. Look at 3:1-3. Let’s read the whole context and we will come back and address it. Verse 1 says, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”
There is a time to be a babe in Christ
There are three things that I want to show you in this text. First of all, and it is so critical to understand this, there is a time to be a babe. It is okay. There is a time to be a babe in Christ. He says, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ.” When he says “could not,” that is aorist indicative. He seems to be pointing back to a time in the past when he was with them and he could not speak to them as unto spiritual men. He obviously is pointing back to the time when he was there, when they were first birthed into the kingdom because of the preaching of himself and then later on Apollos and others. But he is pointing back. He said, “When I was with you at that time, I could not speak to you as unto spiritual men.”
We know the history of that. Acts 18 covers the account of Paul going to Corinth. I learned something when I was in Corinth. I learned that when he went to Corinth, he went there for the Isthmian Games. You may ask, “Well, why would he do that? Is he a runner? Did he just like games?” No. But the situation was that many, many people would come into the area for the Isthmian Games which was held over by the Temple of Poseidon. When they did this, they would stay in tents. Guess what? Paul was a tentmaker. Paul was a businessman. Paul never asked for offerings from people. He made his own living. He was a tentmaker. That is where he got with Priscilla and Aquila. For a year and a half he stayed with them up until the games. That probably financed his ministry for quite a while. So he was there with them.
Well, when Timothy and Silas came down and joined him, it wasn’t long until many of them devoted themselves fully to ministry and many people believed. Many people were saved. They were babies. They would come into the door now of salvation. So he says, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men [you weren’t there yet] but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ.” They had just entered the door of salvation. The process had just begun. They had not yet learned to be dominated by the Spirit of God. They were still fleshly minded.
Now, the word there for “men of flesh” is sarkinos. I know that means a lot to you, but sometimes I need to bring this out because these words help you so much in understanding what the text is saying. Sarkikos is the word used in verses 3 and 4. You say, what is the difference in sarkinos and sarkikos? Well, they are both adjectives. Sarkinos, in verse 1, comes from the word sarkikos, and sometimes it is translated just that way. However, I see a difference in sarkinos in verse 1 and sarkikos in verses 3 and 4. Now, don’t let me lose you. I am just trying to show you something here. It is like a black and white TV becoming a color set. Sarkinos has the idea of the attitude of a baby, whereas sarkikos has more of the action of a baby. One is the attitude, one is the activity or the action of the child. He begins to describe that in verses 3 and 4. He says, “You still have a fleshly attitude.”
Now, have you ever seen a little, bitty baby? I mean, it is the perfect picture here. Even though I love little Holly, and she is the prettiest thing, and she can’t even say Poppy right now, I want to tell you, her world revolves around her. Have you ever noticed that about a child? When a baby is born, it is fleshly minded. I mean it is whatever concerns “me”. I want food and I want it now. And I don’t want to do that. And when you pick her up, put me down. When you put her down, pick me up. I mean, it is constant, me, me, me. There is a fleshly something about a newborn child that is also a part of a brand new babe in Christ. He hasn’t learned yet to die to the flesh. He hasn’t learned yet to be dominated by the Spirit. So, they are still fleshly. They are men of flesh. The word sarkinos or sarkikos simply means they are fleshly minded.
Then he goes on, I think, and describes it. He says, “as to babes in Christ.” The word for “babes” is nepios. It is the word that means an infant, a helpless and unlearned child who has no ability to speak intelligently, one who is not mature. He has all that is needed but does not know how to use it. And so Paul says there was a time when I was with you that I could not speak to you as unto spiritual men because you were still fleshly, you were babes in Christ. There is a time to be a baby in Christ. When you are first born into the kingdom, don’t think that you are going to jump ten miles down the road in your growth. It is going to be a slow growth. It is a process. There is a time to be a babe in Christ. Paul had grounded them in the faith. He is not saying that. But he says, “I could not speak to you as to spiritual men.”
Look back in 2:35, and you will see what he taught them. “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” Even though they were babies, Paul still grounded them in the faith in the time that he spent with them. There is a time to be a babe in Christ.
This is why you don’t take a person who is brand new in the kingdom of God and make them a leader in the church. That is why you don’t want a novice to be an elder. You want somebody who has walked down the road, somebody who has grown up in their faith, somebody who has become spiritual, dominated by the Spirit of God, has learned to deal with their flesh. But there is a time to be a babe in Christ.
There is a thirst which a babe in Christ has
The second thing I want you to see in this text is not only that, but there is a thirst which a baby in Christ has. He says that in verse 2. He says, “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.” Now the analogy here is tremendous.
When Holly was a few months old, she was over at the house. I was eating some french fries or something and I really wanted to give one to her. But I was reminded, now wait a minute now, she can’t chew anything. You don’t give a piece of steak or something you have to chew to a baby. You give them milk. They can receive that. No chewing to it. It is easy. It is palatable. It goes right down. But you don’t give them solid food. They don’t even have teeth yet. Those are going to come in later on.
Now in the spiritual life, you are born with everything you need, you just don’t know how to use it. But they don’t have all the essential things here, so you don’t give them solid food, you give them milk. He said, “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food [Now that is aorist active indicative and he is pointing back to the time when he taught them. It was the milk of the Word, not the solid things of the Word. Why was that? He says] for you were not yet able to receive it.” The word “able” is the word dunamai. It means you didn’t have the ability to receive it. The word “not” is the word ou, which means not in any way, shape or form.
The word “receive” is not in the text but it is implied. You were not able to handle it. Therefore, when I was with you, you were a babe and you were thirsty and I gave you something to drink. I gave you milk, but I couldn’t give you solid food. The word for “solid food” there is broma, anything that you chew. It doesn’t have to necessarily be meat. It can be anything that you have to chew. He said, “I couldn’t give that to you.”
Now let’s make sure we understand something. It doesn’t mean that Paul taught them one thing then and taught them something else later on. No, he always taught the whole counsel of the Word of God. But he didn’t go into the depth and to the detail with them at that time with what he taught them because they couldn’t handle it. They were brand new babies. He stayed on the surface. It was the same teaching, he just didn’t have the freedom to go as deep as he would like to go with it.
Let me give you an example of that. Somebody might be describing the atonement and what happened to them. They say, “You know, let me give you my answer, Jesus died for my sins.” Well, that is fine. That is good. That is milk. That is right off the top. But somebody else who has grown a little bit might say, “Well, let me talk about my atonement. Let’s talk about justification. Let’s talk about sanctification. Let’s talk about substitution. Let’s talk about propitiation.” The guy who is over here says, “Do what?” You see, one can go a little deeper than the other. One has to drink the milk, but the other one can eat the solid food.
So Paul says, “When I was with you I didn’t sacrifice any of the teaching of the Word of God. But at the same time I couldn’t give you the solid food. I had to give you the milk. You couldn’t go beyond where you were. There is a thirst to a baby and I fed that thirst.”
I think Hebrews 5 gives us an insight into what this solid food refers to. Some say Paul wrote Hebrews, but we don’t know that. We do see a lot of Pauline theology in it. It is interesting though. What if he did write it? What if we get to heaven and we find out that Paul did write the book of Hebrews? Let’s just say he might have. Okay? Well, if he did, then this is real interesting because he is explaining something here that he wrote in Corinthians. Let’s just look and see what the solid food is. He says in Hebrews 5:13, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.”
Now what in the world is “the word of righteousness”? Well, it has to refer to the walk of faith by the believer. Romans says that righteousness comes by faith and the righteous walk by faith. He is not accustomed to handling the word of righteousness. That is the solid food.
You have a brand new baby in Christ. He hasn’t got a clue what he has gotten himself into yet. I mean, he knows he is surrendered to Christ and he knows that Christ has come to live in him, but he has got a lot to learn now what all of that means. By the way, it is never a goal that we surrender everything to Christ. We surrendered everything to Christ when you bowed before Him at salvation. We are working from that, not towards it. And so more and more we are understanding what this commitment means. We are growing in it and are learning to use and handle the word of righteousness.
I’ll never forget the day Diana and I got married. When Diana got ready to walk down the aisle, she had forgotten her shoes, so she sent her brotherinlaw, George, to go get the shoes. He brings back a heel and a flat. Come on, George, let’s get with the program. If you are going to bring heels back, bring heels. If you are going to bring flats, bring flats, but at least bring the same shoe. He brings one heel and one flat. Well, Diana should have just kicked her shoes off and come down bare footed. You know, with those big dresses, you can’t tell if they have shoes on or not. But Diana put them on. That is the way she is. She is so loyal. She came down like a hopeless cripple, walking on a heel and a flat.
Think about a wedding. Who really remembers anything? I mean, seriously. How many bride and grooms really remember anything of the wedding? Usually the guests get a lot out of it, but the bride and groom are not going to remember it. But I want to tell you something. About two years down the road when the bills are coming in and the baby is squalling and all that kind of stuff, all of a sudden that boy who made that commitment that day should have paid attention because what he committed to he is beginning to understand and he is growing in his understanding of what he did when he walked down that aisle, you see.
It is the same way in Christianity. When you come to Christ, there is only so much you can comprehend, but you give all that you understand to Him and He comes to live in you. You have a lot of growing to do to realize what that commitment that day really means for all of eternity. You get in the Word of God, the word of righteousness, and that is what gets you to grow.
You move away from the emotional realm of the unintelligible and the feelings and all that kind of garbage that was going on in Corinth and you move into the depths and the reality of the intelligent, reasonable walk with God. You don’t have to hear something spoken, something you can’t understand. You want to hear God speak to your spirit through His Word and you want to grasp that and bow to it and die to self and walk on into the depths of what God has for you. That is the growth that God has planned for your life. So, there was a thirst. This solid food, that he couldn’t feed them with at that time, is something they are going to have to have.
I am so thankful that little Holly has teeth now. That is so much fun watching those teeth coming in. It is the cutest little thing. But it is fun now because she is already able to eat things that are solid because she is growing up. She is growing up. Isn’t that great!
I want to tell you there are Christians all over this world who ought to have a big sign over their church, “Adult nursery, Shhhh!!!” There are people who won’t grow up. There are people who attach themselves to a preacher or attach themselves to a person and they are emotionally wrecked because they don’t know how to live in the fullness of what God has given to them. They won’t grow. They have impaired their growth, you see. Solid food has to do with the word of righteousness. If I am studying this correctly, evidently the gospel, the simple gospel message, is just the ABC’s, is just the milk of the word. That same gospel has a depth to it that you can’t know when you first get saved, but you will know as you grow along.
I do a lot of meetings, and when I go into some meetings, they want to preach on evangelism. I am concerned about people getting saved. But I want to tell you my biggest burden is not seeing them get saved. Once they get saved, send them to me and let me teach them. That is where my burden is. But they want me to preach on evangelism all the time. Do you know why they want evangelism all the time? Because they are little, bitty babies and they can’t stand the solid meat of the Word. Do you know why? Because it is going to take them to the cross. When you start growing, you have growing pains that go along with it and you are going to have to deal with pain and pressure and people.
But they don’t want that. Let’s go back to the milk. It was more fun. It is like a 15 year old walking around with a baby bottle trying to suck on that bottle. That is how stupid it is for people not to want to grow in their faith. Yet, that is what we have in Corinth. Believers who had it all in Christ and were still babies in Christ. They would not grow. They wouldn’t do it. They wouldn’t let the solid food get into their life, even though it was their command to do that.
The tragedy of a baby in Christ
Well, there is a time to be a baby and there is a thirst to a baby. It is for milk. It is not a hunger for food yet. It is a thirst because milk is something that quenches that thirst. But the third thing I want you to see is there is a tragedy of a baby in Christ. You see, that baby can be good and that baby can be bad. Look at what he says here. These believers were once brand new in the faith, babes in Christ. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is, they are still babies in Christ. In verse 2 we read, “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.” Now look, he changes tenses. “Indeed, even now you are not yet able.” Do you see the difference here? Paul says, “When I was with you before, I couldn’t give you the solid food, because you were a baby. But now I am with you and you are still a baby and I still can’t take you into the solid things of the Word of God.”
Growth is not only commanded by God, it is enabled by His Spirit living in us. When a believer lives a life that is not growing in the Lord, I want to tell you, that is sin before God. You are impairing what God the Spirit began in your life by your refusal to surrender to the Word of God.
Let’s go back to the context of Hebrews 5:1213. This is important, I think, to understand what Paul is talking about here. There was a group of people in Hebrews who weren’t growing either. They impaired their own growth. They had intentionally chosen not to grow from that point on. Hebrews 5:12 says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Now, “you have come to need milk” is the perfect active indicative. The perfect tense means that something has happened here that has caused you to be in the state that you are in. What in the world happened? Something happened in these people’s lives. Of course, we know that Hebrews was written to those who were scattered about because of persecution.
Several things were going on at that time. At that time, to be a Jew and to practice Judaism was no problem, but to be a Jew and practice Christianity was a problem. They said, “Hey, we are Jewish anyway, let’s just practice Judaism.” That is why the author of Hebrews wrote and said, “What are you doing? You can’t walk away. Christ is greater than the prophets. He is greater than the angels. He is greater than all these other things.” That was part of the problem. Somewhere they made a choice not to grow, not to go on in their faith.
Look at Hebrews 5:13. He says, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.” The word “not accustomed” is the word apeiros, which means without skill in handling the word of righteousness. There is no skill there. You have done nothing to build this skill. If you have a skill, you know that doesn’t happen overnight. You build that skill. You have got to do something to train yourself in it. It says here in verse 13 that you have no skill in handling the word of righteousness. It doesn’t seem to be a question of not knowing to do it. It seems to be a question of doing it. They have chosen not to and for that reason they have gone back to the milk instead of solid food.
Look at verse 14. He says, “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Now this is a very, very important verse here: “Who because of practice.” The word is hexis, which means the practice or exercise of something. They had all the equipment that was necessary. You know, if you want to prove this point, take your right arm and tie it behind your back for about three months. You are going to find you are going to lose the use of it. There is no exercising of it. That is like people who get into Bible study groups. You know that is a big thing these days, to get into a Bible study group. Hey, but if you get in and learn what to do and you don’t do it, it hasn’t done you a bit of good. And what has happened is, you have impaired your own growth by your refusal to do what you know to do. There is no exercising of the skill, no exercising of what God has taught you.
Then it says, “they have their senses trained.” The word “trained” there is the word we get the word gymnasium from. Have you ever seen something that is trained? You know, you train your children not to go out and play in the road. You know training takes time. You say, “Children, don’t you go out and play in the road.” Okay, Mama, okay, Daddy. Are they taught? Yeah, they are taught. They know exactly what you are talking about. You turn them loose and what do they do? Go out in the road, every time! So what do you do to train them? You go out and get them, paddle them on the backside and say, “Don’t do that again.” Well, the next day you tell them, “Don’t go out and play in the road.” Okay, Mama and Daddy. And you look away and what do they do? Go right back in the road. So what do you do? You bring them back in, paddle them again. The third day, the fourth day, the fifth day, the sixth day. What are you doing? You are training them. You have to do this over and over and over again. Well, what happens? One day you forget to tell them and you think, “Oh no, I didn’t tell them. No telling where they have gone this time.” You look outside, and they are in the yard. Well, bless their hearts. They have been trained. They were taught the first day, but now they have been trained. They have these senses trained unto righteousness.
When some people hear the message of the Christ-life they think there is no activity in it at all for the individual. That is crazy. I am responsible for discipline and determination in my own life, to be diligent. There are certain things that I have to do, and if I am willing to do those things and train my senses unto righteousness, then they are going to line up and the growth process is taking on. Then I am going to start learning the joy of walking in the fullness of God, in the fullness of His Spirit. But if I am not willing to do that, then I have made a choice to go right back to drinking that milk again. Put that bottle in your mouth. That is the way people act in churches all over the country today. They don’t want to grow. They don’t want to deal with their flesh. That is the problem with Corinth.
Well, he goes on to say “to discern good and evil.” They are clearly able to discern. And the word for “good” is kalos, that which is inherently good, and the word for “evil” is kakos, which is inherently bad. God gives us that ability and the more we grow, the more we are in the Word, the more we are practicing and exercising our senses and having them trained to righteousness, the more we are able to see a fine line between that which is good and that which is evil.
Well, now we have a better understanding of the solid food versus the milk. In 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul says, “for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” Now here he is going to show you the symptoms of a person who refuses to grow in that which God has given to him. He has chosen to go back and be a baby and drink the milk. What is the biggest symptom? It is the symptom of jealousy and strife. The word “fleshly” again is sarkikos. You are fleshly acting.
Here are the two symptoms. When you see jealousy and strife together, almost every time they will be hooked together. They are strange bed fellows. Jealousy is that inward thing that you have and strife is the outward manifestation of it. The two work together. Almost every time you find them in Scripture, they are joined together. Jealousy, or the word zelos, really can be a good thing. It can be a person like me or you and we see somebody else and we see something good in that person and are motivated to have that same good worked out in our own life. This person blesses us, and so therefore, we want that quality in our own life. The Holy Spirit of God can enable you to have that. You can be zealous for that, and something inside of you is motivating you towards that. There is nothing wrong with the word. It can be a very good word, but it is not good here.
I have several friends who are just wonderful at dropping little notes at the right time, just jotting a note to somebody. I have asked God many times for that quality in my own life. I want to be zealous to have that in my own life. Somebody will say, “Well, you don’t have that gift.” Oh baloney, the Holy Spirit of God lives in you and that is something you can develop and train and have worked out in your life. So you can be zealous for something like that. I really long to have that in my own life because I really do care, but sometimes it doesn’t come out that way and I want people to know that I care.
Well, there is nothing wrong with that. But when it goes and degenerates and becomes the fleshly kind he is talking about here, it is when you seek to not only covet that desire, but now you want to rob that person of it. You are angry with that person because they have it and you don’t and therefore, you become contentious and filled with strife. The two things work right together.
The Texus Receptus adds another word that the New American Standard doesn’t pick up on – the word “divisions.” Now I want to tell you something, folks. Remember babies only think of themselves. Babies are jealous and full of strife. You put a bunch of babies in a room, put a bunch of toys out on the floor and before long there is going to be the biggest fight you have ever seen in your life. One baby gets a toy and the other one says, “You can’t have that toy. I want that toy.” He will go grab that toy away from the other one and before you know it, they are spitting and hollering and crying and clawing and everything else going on there.
That is the way it is in churches when people refuse to grow in respect to their salvation, when all they want is milk. “Tell me about how to be saved.” That is all they want to hear. They don’t want to hear the solid teaching of the word of righteousness. They are selfish and are always thinking of their own ideas, opinions and flesh. As a result, they are contentious and jealous and bring great division in the body of Christ.
Now folks, understand we just nailed about every church in America, including ours, when people refuse to grow in respect to their salvation. They won’t take off that garment of malice so they can grow as a new born babe who really longs for that milk so they can grow with that same kind of attitude and say, “God, take me deeper into the things that you have for me.”
Let me ask you a question. How long have you been saved? 20 years? 10 years? 5? Only you know when you got saved and where you are now, but let’s just say somehow there was a way we could have a roll call where you are in your spiritual growth on a graph would pop up on a screen. Would it be embarrassing for you? Where are you in your spiritual growth? Are you allowing the word of righteousness, the solid food, to take you deeper into faith, or, are you camping out with the milk and satisfied with it because you just don’t want the pain of the growth that goes along with the growth?
That is just what happened at Corinth. Paul takes it ingenuously and ties it right back to his context. What does it mean to act like mere men? He said, “and are you not walking like mere men?” And the word for “mere men” there is the word anthropos, basic humanity. That is all he is saying. Are you acting like people who don’t even have Christ in their life? Why are you doing that?
Then he shows them what it is like to act that way. Look in verse 4. He ties it right back to his context. He has never left this context from all the way back in verse 10 of chapter 1. Verse 4 reads, “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” Do you realize all that jealousy and all that strife and all that division is camped around attaching yourself to a preacher? Isn’t that incredible?
When I went as pastor to one church, the pastor before me was a great visitor. He visited everybody. I mean, constantly, everybody. He visited shut-ins every single day of the week. Well, I came in, and I am of a little different cut than he was. He never studied, and therefore, all he ever taught the people was milk. I don’t know when I have ever been to church that had less doctrine than these people had. All they could tell you about the atonement was that Jesus died for your sins. That is all they could tell you. You could ask them about justification or sanctification and they would say, “I am sorry, but I have never had that before. The medicine cured me.” They wouldn’t even know what you were talking about.
The way I loved the people was not knock their door down and be in their home all the time. The way I loved them was to spend time in the Word of God and feed the people when I got into the pulpit. But, oh, a holy war broke out. I won’t name the pastor who was there before me because he was a great man. His gifts were in different areas. He wasn’t gifted in equipping the people. Maybe he wasn’t called to be in that position. I don’t know. But they said, “I am of him, because you know what, he really showed me that he really loved me. He was always there when I needed him.” Others would say, “Oh no, I am of Brother Wayne because I want to tell you, I have never gotten into the Word like I have gotten into the Word under this preacher. I am really of him.” I told Diana one time I believe I could start a fight staying in bed. I hadn’t done a thing. All I did was go in and start teaching the people and all of a sudden, factions began to grow in our church. What is wrong with my church? They are spiritual babies, that is what is wrong with them. They won’t grow up and they won’t get in the Word of God.
Folks, this was Corinth. This is the whole problem. He doesn’t stop dealing with them. Listen, studying the book of 1 Corinthians is like studying the pathological behavior of a child who won’t quit, who absolutely is just going to be consistent all along. That is what it is like. I had a doctor over at St. Luke’s Hospital in Thessalonica tell me, “I have studied textbooks on pathology. But I am telling you, you study 1 Corinthians and the habitual patterns of these immature babies in Christ are incredible if you will just look at it one by one as he deals with them in the book.” Why? Because they won’t grow up. They like that gospel, son. Teach me how to be saved all over again. I just love it. But don’t tell me how to live, Brother, because I am not willing to deal with the rottenness of my flesh.
That is Corinth. There is a time to be a baby, folks, and it is wonderful. There is a thirst to being a baby, but there is a tragedy to being a baby if you refuse to come out of that nursery and grow in the solid food of the Word of God. I mean, these people are sick. They don’t understand they have all of God they will ever have. They haven’t learned to live in light of all that He wants to do in their life. Then they can stand on their own two feet. Nobody has to stand with them. They are complete in Christ Jesus.
The book of Psalms says He is in front of us, He is behind us, He is beneath us, He is above us. The New Covenant teaches He lives in me. Now what else do I need? Do I need people running around that I can get the appreciation from or can I stand on my own two feet in the fullness and the sufficiency of what Christ has offered to me?
You can’t get inside of Paul’s mind but you can hear him think when he says, “For one says ‘I am of Paul’ and another says ‘I am of Apollos.’” You know who Apollos was, don’t you? He was the preacher who followed Paul. You can almost hear him speak to the exact scenario I gave you a moment ago. “Some of you are walking around saying, ‘I like Paul because he is so easy to understand. I mean, he just challenges my mind. I don’t like Apollos. He is not anything like the Apostle Paul.’” Then some of them weren’t benefited by Paul’s ministry and when Apollos came along they loved him. Maybe he was more simpleminded. Maybe he was more practical. “I like Apollos, boy. I just really like Apollos. I am of him. I am of him. I am of him.”
Paul is saying, “Good grief, man, wake up. Stop attaching yourself to preachers and grow up. Come out of the nursery and live in the fullness of what God offers to you and the sufficiency of what He wants to be in your life.”
I guess over the door of Corinth you could put that sign, “Quiet, Spiritual Nursery,” especially for the adults in that church. He is not going to finish with them here. He has got some more things to say to them. But the first thing he shows them is the very symptom of attaching yourselves to men.
Isn’t that the day we are living in, folks? Isn’t that the day we are living in? They will fight you, but not because of what the Scripture says. Think about the book of Revelation. You really can’t preach the book of Revelation to people in today’s time. And I want to tell you why. Because they have already got their minds made up as to what they think it says. And if you cross that, they have just shut you off. They don’t care what the Scriptures say because the tapes they listened to didn’t put it that way, and they are just not going to agree with you.
So Paul says to the church of Corinth, “Grow up. You can’t stay spiritual babies. Have you own faith. Stand on your own two feet.” Don’t believe it because Wayne says it. Check it out and make sure it is what God says. Train your senses in the word of righteousness and walk in the sufficiency of Christ. That is what growing in Christ is all about. Then you can know what the solid food is compared to the milk.