Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 10 months ago

The Kids Are Fighting


Rev. Christopher Chelpka

In standing, if you're able, and turn with me to first Corinthians chapter three. First Corinthians chapter three, I'll be reading the first four verses of this chapter this morning. First Corinthians three, verses one through four. But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the Flesh, as infants in Christ. I Fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it, and even now you are, you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are not? Are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says I follow Paul and another I follow a police, are you not being nearly human? May God bless his word to us. You may be seated. Have you ever been in a situation where you left the room for a moment and you came back in and there was a fight? Parents? Have you ever been in a situation where you left the room for a moment and you came back in and there was a fight kids? Have you ever been in a situation where you left the room for a moment and you came back in and all of a sudden there was a fight. You said. What happened here? I was gone for thirty seconds and everything's falling apart. One Minute I asked you to fold the laundry and next thing everybody's at each other's throats. Where did this come from? Where did this even happen? Something similar to that was happening in Corinth. Men of God had come to proclaim the Gospel, and indeed they did that. They came to build up the church. They were servants and messengers sharing the light of Christ with these gentiles. They came, in the truth of Christ, to build up the Church in the love of Christ. And that's what Paul did and that's what a Paul has did and that's what others did. And then Paul moved on, Paul moved away, and then he gets this report. He gets a report. In Chapter One, he mentions it in verse twelve that Chloe's people come to him. Or Chapter One, verse eleven, he says it has been reported to me by chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says I follow Paul, I follow a police or I follow Sephas or I follow Christ, Paul says, why am I hearing about these things? What's going on? Instead of imitating Paul, instead of imitating his fellow ministers in their love, in their doctrine, the Corinthians, as we've considered before, we're treating these men like public speaking rock stars, like social media influencers, and then dividing up in factions underneath banners. Paul over here, Apollos over here. They were choosing teams, they were aligning themselves and fighting, but there was never any competition. That's what Paul says in verse thirteen. Is Christ divided? The answer is, of course not. Imagine if half your body decided to align with your right hand and half of the other half of your body decide... align with your left hand, and then they were going to vigorously fight against each other until one one right. It would be maybe funny at first to see you punching yourself, but then it would be scary if it was serious, and ultimately it would be deadly. This is what's happening in the body of Christ. It's dividing up against itself in a ways that it was never intended for. The body of Christ is not a competitive market place. It's not sports teams or armies at war, the body of Christ as well, a body men, to be unified and unified in Christ. And yet here are the Corinthians saying I follow up, Paul, I follow a police and it's getting scary. If it continues on, it could even be deadly. And so Paul, after getting the stir disturbed, disturbing report from Chloe, writes this letter and he appeals to them in love. He calls them brothers, but he does want to humble them in their pride. He tells them that all this jealousy and strife are not marks of advancing and spiritual maturity. It's just the opposite, that strife and jealousy within the body of Christ, battling it out against itself, is immaturity, its worldliness being brought into the body of Christ. In worldly terms, it might look like they were progressing as one faction is gaining influence and authority over another faction. In the eyes of Christ, to put it in a term we might use, they're all acting like a bunch of babies. They're being immature her their fighting and quarreling, and that's what Paul is addressing here. And Chapter Three. It's what he's been addressing really since chapter one, and he brings this concern up after talking about some other things. He brings this concern up again about who's following who, and this is good for us to hear us here today. It's good for us to to hear this because we need to be reminded of these things, just like they need to be reminded of them. As long as we're in the world. We need to be on guard against jealousy, against strife and the unspiritual divisions within the church. And so that we might be on guard, so that we might hear this warning and lesson, let's pay attention to what Paul says here in these in these verses. The first thing to note is that Paul is talking to Christians. He's talking to Christians. That's important to say because it's maybe a little bit confusing the way he describes them as people of the flesh. Is he saying they're Christians? Are Not? I want to really impress this point, that he is talking to them as Christians. How do we know? Well, first, he calls them brothers, and he does that not because they are his members of his biological family, but of his spiritual family. We also know that in after one, verse two, he writes this letter to the church to whom he's now speaking, and he says to the Church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together. In Chapter One, verse thirty, he says you are he says you are in Christ Jesus, who became to US wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. In Chapter Three, the chapter that were in verse twenty three, he says, and you are Christ's. In chapter six, he says you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the...

Lord Jesus Christ and by the spirit of our God. So very clearly, multiple times in this book alone, we see how Paul identifies them and marks them out as Christians, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. So what's going on then? What is Paul saying about them, if he's not saying that they aren't Christians? What is he saying? Well, Paul begins by talking about the past. Right, he talks. You use these past tense verbs, he says, but I, brothers, could not. This is in the past, could not address you as spiritual people. He is explaining that when he first came to Corinth, though, they were Babes in Christ. He couldn't address them yet as spiritual people. Now some people, as I've said, say this because they didn't have the spirit, but clearly they did. So why does Paul say it in this way? I think Paul's addressing them in this way because he's speaking to them according to their own vision of themselves. In other words, he's not talking about them as those who are either regenerate or unregenerate. He Uses Babes of Christ and brother those sorts of things to talk about their their regeneration. But when he says the word spiritual, he's using it in the in the way that they thought about themselves. They were spiritual, that is, born of the Holy Spirit, but they thought of themselves as spiritual. They were proud, they were advancing, they were claiming apostles as their teachers, they were following these men, they were emphasizing that point and pointing that out to others. There was a lot of clamoring about wisdom, about place in the church, about authority and and and a position within the church and in all of this. They thought they were being, quote, spiritual. Paul says, I couldn't address you as spiritual people, as truly spiritual as those who act as Christ did, because you weren't, you're still not spiritual. You are people of the flesh. As infants in Christ they were puffed up, and Paul is saying, when I came to you, you were still people of the flesh, and the proof is your Babes in Christ acting in fleshy ways. The proof is that I fed you with milk and not with food. Now, what does Paul mean by this? Well, he's not saying that he gave them a half portion of Christ. He's not saying that he gave them a little bit of Jesus a here and a little bit of Jesus there, but not all of Jesus. He's just saying he gave Jesus to them in a simpler form. Milk is nourishing. It's intended to feed the baby, to help it to grow. It's not poison, it's not partial. He gave them what they needed, but he gave them in a simply gave them Christ in a simple form. And so, because he gave them to the gave them in the simple form. This way, he's saying, you see what I mean, you weren't that impressive. You weren't yet spiritual people. You hadn't yet grown up and matured into the things of the spirit, although you were born of the spirit. So, if I could put it really simply, Paul is talking to them as Christians, but he's talking to Christians who are not acting like Christians. Have you ever known anyone like that? Have you ever been someone like that? Clearly this is a category that exists on Paul addresses it here and we've experienced at ourselves. But though it's something that exists as a category, that exists Christians not acting like Christians, but Christians doing fleshly things and...

...going after the way of the flesh, that doesn't mean it's good. Notice Paul's specific concern, however, his pacipices specific concern is not that they once needed milk, but that they still need milk. Notice what he says. I Fed you with milk, not with solid food, for you were not ready for it, and even now you are not yet ready. Of course they needed milk when they were Babes in Christ when they had come to them in this church was just forming, when they needed to hear the word of God and they needed to grow up. That's what babies need. Babies need milk. No one falls a baby for needing milk. That's what how babies advance to solid foods is by getting what they need. But the problem is is that the Corinthians were not advancing, the Corinthians were not growing. Paul is saying that they're not ready for it, that they weren't ready for it, and then when he hears this report some time later, they're still not ready for it. Now I don't want you to be confused about this image, because scripture does speak positively about this baby's and milk kind of image in terms of spirituality. The thing to remember here is, and I'll give you some verses along those lines, is that one image can be used in multiple ways. Right, you could use a plant, for example, to it to make an analogy for one thing and for another thing, and it's the same thing with babies and milk. The scriptures do that. So we don't want to conflate these images. If we do, we end up confused. So, for example, first Peter to too says like newborn infants long for the purest spiritual milk that you may grow up into salvation. Right. Paul's not saying don't pay attention to what Peter said. He's talking about something else altogether. We should always be like infants, and remember Jesus tells us if we to receive the children of the Kingdom of God, we need to be as children. The image is here in Peter and with Jesus's words, are images of longing, of trusting, of sense of dependence, and that's something we never grow out of, that's something we grow into. But Paul is making a different point, though with the same image. He's talking about them being spiritual babies who need to grow up. So it's important to keep them just in different categories and in your minds, various members of the church. We're quite impressed with them themselves, but Paul was not impressed with them, the Lord was not impressed with them. In essence, they were acting like babies, and this reminds us that as Christians we are called to grow up, we are called to grow and to mature again. First, Peter to too says that when we drink the pure spiritual milk of the word of God, we do it so that we may, he says, grow up into salvation. In Second Peter Three eighteen, Peter Rights, but grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Save Your Jesus Christ, Paul says, in Second Corinthians three hundred and eighteen, and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of God, are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory from to another. And First Corinthians Fourteen twenty, Paul writes, brothers, do not be children in your thinking, be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. And again Paul and a...

...fusions for fourteen, he gives to US apostles and prophets of angelist teachers, so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness, in deceitful schemes. That's why Paul came. Paul came to to bring this effect about, to help them to grow. So we want to be Childi we want to be like babies, and we don't want to stay like babies. We always want to stay like babies in the sense that we're always dependent, we're always in need and we want the pure spiritual milk of God's word, but we don't want to be like babies and stay like babies and that we never mature and never mature in the Lord, never grow. What does maturity look like? In a recent book called the Vine and the Trellis, the authors summarize maturity, I think, into three helpful, memorizable categories. They talk about conviction, character and capabilities. Maturity is knowing what we believe and why we believe it. It's not being blown arount by every wind of doctrine. It's knowing the truth and being solid in it. But maturity isn't just knowledge, it's also character. It's not just having theological knowledge, knowledge of God, but it's also acting like his children, being like his children, that it's having those true seep down into our hearts that cause us then to act accordingly. There's conviction and there's character and there's also capability. Maturity is putting ourselves in the nervous of God and in the service of others and growing in it, in worship and hospitality and mercy, and these are things that we make progress in while we are here on earth, and so it's worth asking from time to time, am I growing? Because this is a goal. This is a goal, Paul States, for this church. He wants them to be growing, and so it's right for us to ask, am I growing? Am I growing in my conviction and my knowledge of the faith and the depth of it in my heart? Am I growing in my character and integrity and in Godliness? Am I growing in my capabilities, my ability to serve and to use the things that God has given me as a good steward and as his child? Here the Corinthians are not growing, and Paul describes one way that looks. It looks like jealousy and strife. Christ loved US first that we might love him and love others, and when that takes root in our heart it flows out into action. We know what that feels right. You know what it feels like when somebody is truly loving, generous, and there's forgiveness, listening, helping, patience, kindness, long suffering. Indeed, Paul will spend some time talking all about how love looks in chapter thirteen and other chapters in this book. And when that comes, when we cut, when we know the love of Christ, but when we separate ourselves from Christ, and when we put ourselves at the center, what happens? Strife and jealousy, divisions, when it's all about me, what I want right now, my hopes, my fears, my frustrations, I need it right now, then we get these kinds of divisions. Calvin says that they were undervaluing the apostle and his preaching and were prepared more to listen and pay attention to the subtle and showy ways of other teachers or looking...

...only for Paul to be to be a fancy speaker. And then, and and then, in not only treating him poorly and treating the doctrine of Christ poorly, they then treated others poorly. We see in Corinthian in the Corinthian letters, that that wasn't just a problem with the apostles and the other teachers, but there were problems with the Lord's supper, problems with making other people stumble and difficult ethical situations, fighting about spiritual gifts. It's just one thing after another after another. When we read about all these problems in the Corinthian church, it's a little bit easy to shake our heads and judge. Wells Corinthians, man what a mess. Glad I didn't belong to that church. But isn't that just a sign of our own pride to look at struggling brothers and sisters, even from long ago, and to mock them, shake our heads at them? What does that say about our own hearts? What does that say about us? And what about our brothers and sisters that are alive today in our own congregation and another churches? Do we love them as we ought, or do we puff ourselves up over them? Do we even doing it spiritual things, calling ourselves spiritual wall at the very moment exhibiting great amount, great amounts of pride? This is not to say that there's no difference between right doctrine or wrong doctrine, or right practice and wrong practice. There is, of course, differences between these things and we ought to make those distinctions if we are to hold fast to Christ. But when does good doctrine or good practice excuse bad behavior? Never, is the answer to that. It never does. In fact, a failure to show humility really shows a failure to truly understand and truly believe and be evicted about the grace that we have received in Christ. It's perhaps the most ironic thing in the world for a Christian who is experienced the grace of the Lord not to show that grace a to others. Christian had US thinking the other night, from God's word, about the servant who was forgiven so much. Let me ask you, did that servant in Jesus's parable there? Did He know that he was forgiven? I suppose so. Right. He had been forgiven a lot. He seemed to be. There's no sense that he wasn't aware of it, but that knowledge remained in his head. It didn't penetrate into his heart, and so that's why he goes to this other man and demands so in such a strong way, so little, at least comparatively, and that's what immaturity looks like. Maturity is sort of starting, it's sort of knowing, it's having a beginning, but not moving forward, not flowering, not coming into the thing that we are called to be. And that's what God's desire for us is, beloved. He wants us to grow, not just in one part of the Christian life but in all of the Christian life. God's desire for us is just like your parents desire for you. They wanted you to grow up, and God desires the same. Now, in pointing out these things and in intentionally calling us all to humble ourselves a little bit, and maybe even a lot, I don't want to overly wound you were overly depress you either. We need to be warned and we need to be on guard against complacency and self centeredness. It's true, they seep in, they attack our hearts, they hold fast to us, and these things don't align with the Gospel. But it's because of the Gospel that we also don't have to despair.

It's because of the Gospel that, even when we feel we are so controlled by it, by our self centeredness, when we struggle with envy, when we struggle with jealousy, when we find ourselves getting in fights all the time, getting in arguments all the time, it's because of the Gospel that we have hope. It's because of what God has done for us and his work, his spirits work in us, that we have hope. None of us have advanced to perfect maturity yet and none of us will until the Lord returns. But in this life, as we are humbled and reminded about these things, we also turn to the Lord for forgiveness and for sanctification. We love these things sting. It hurts to think about the divisions within the body of Christ. It hurts to think about the ways in which we ourselves have caused them. But the Lord causes the sting. He prods us to drive us to the cross. He does it so that our pride might be homeled, so that we might see how much we need him and not ourselves. You see, it's his work of sanctification in us. He wants to show you how much you need Christ, so that you might cling to Christ and not yourself. And when we look to Christ, who went to the cross for us, who didn't grasp and hold on to the glory of God or try to claw after it any way, but simply submitted himself out of love for us and went to a cross and died for our sins. When we think about those things, when we think about what he's overcome, when we think about like that servant should have, how much we've been forgiven, how big and broad God's love is, how vast, he said, how vast the separation is between us and our sins when the Lord forgives them, when we think about how this Gospel comes into our lives and takes people who are once clamoring and fighting and always struggling and striving against one another to make it to the top. And then the Lord comes and says, I give you everything. You don't need to do that anymore, you don't need to fight, you don't need to claw, you don't need to clamor, I will take care of you. Every hair in your head is numbered. You are so valuable to me, so so precious to me, that my own son has died for you. When we come to remember those things, beloved, and we come to believe those things, the Lord begins to dissipate the feelings of strife and self centeredness that are in our hearts. He works in US and reminds us that we don't have to clamor anymore, we don't have to fight anymore, we don't have to prove ourselves anymore, because we have all that we need in Christ. And as we begin to realize those things, as we begin to believe those things, to put faith in those promises, we will grow. One of the good things about the Gospel. Well, the greatest things about the Gospel is it's not all up to us. When the Lord chooses us and him each blocks us out of all of this misery in which we've thrown ourselves into. He doesn't just set us loose and say well, figure it out. He works in us, even as he is doing in you this morning. So trust him, put all your trust in him, and he will care for you and care for the whole body,...

...bringing healing and rest. Let's pray that God would do that and that we would accept these things, receive them by faith our.

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