Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 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 Corinthiansthree, verses one through four. But I, brothers, could not addressyou as spiritual people, but as people of the Flesh, as infants inChrist. I Fed you with milk, not solid food, for you werenot ready for it, and even now you are, you are not yetready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousyand strife among you, are not? Are you not of the flesh andbehaving only in a human way? For when one says I follow Paul andanother I follow a police, are you not being nearly human? May Godbless his word to us. You may be seated. Have you ever beenin a situation where you left the room for a moment and you came backin and there was a fight? Parents? Have you ever been in a situationwhere you left the room for a moment and you came back in andthere was a fight kids? Have you ever been in a situation where youleft the room for a moment and you came back in and all of asudden there was a fight. You said. What happened here? I was gonefor thirty seconds and everything's falling apart. One Minute I asked you to foldthe laundry and next thing everybody's at each other's throats. Where did thiscome from? Where did this even happen? Something similar to that was happening inCorinth. Men of God had come to proclaim the Gospel, and indeedthey did that. They came to build up the church. They were servantsand messengers sharing the light of Christ with these gentiles. They came, inthe 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'swhat others did. And then Paul moved on, Paul moved away, andthen 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 ChapterOne, verse eleven, he says it has been reported to me by chloe'speople that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean isthat each one of you says I follow Paul, I follow a police orI follow Sephas or I follow Christ, Paul says, why am I hearingabout these things? What's going on? Instead of imitating Paul, instead ofimitating 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. Paulover here, Apollos over here. They were choosing teams, they were aligningthemselves and fighting, but there was never any competition. That's what Paul saysin verse thirteen. Is Christ divided? The answer is, of course not. Imagine if half your body decided to align with your right hand and halfof 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, butthen it would be scary if it was serious, and ultimately it would bedeadly. This is what's happening in the body of Christ. It's dividing upagainst itself in a ways that it was never intended for. The body ofChrist is not a competitive market place. It's not sports teams or armies atwar, the body of Christ as well, a body men, to be unifiedand unified in Christ. And yet here are the Corinthians saying I followup, Paul, I follow a police and it's getting scary. If itcontinues on, it could even be deadly. And so Paul, after getting thestir disturbed, disturbing report from Chloe, writes this letter and he appeals tothem in love. He calls them brothers, but he does want tohumble them in their pride. He tells them that all this jealousy and strifeare not marks of advancing and spiritual maturity. It's just the opposite, that strifeand jealousy within the body of Christ, battling it out against itself, isimmaturity, its worldliness being brought into the body of Christ. In worldlyterms, it might look like they were progressing as one faction is gaining influenceand authority over another faction. In the eyes of Christ, to put itin 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 isaddressing here. And Chapter Three. It's what he's been addressing really since chapterone, 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 goodfor us to hear us here today. It's good for us to to hearthis because we need to be reminded of these things, just like they needto be reminded of them. As long as we're in the world. Weneed to be on guard against jealousy, against strife and the unspiritual divisions withinthe church. And so that we might be on guard, so that wemight hear this warning and lesson, let's pay attention to what Paul says herein these in these verses. The first thing to note is that Paul istalking to Christians. He's talking to Christians. That's important to say because it's maybea 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 impressthis point, that he is talking to them as Christians. How do weknow? Well, first, he calls them brothers, and he does thatnot because they are his members of his biological family, but of his spiritualfamily. We also know that in after one, verse two, he writesthis letter to the church to whom he's now speaking, and he says tothe Church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus,called to be saints together. In Chapter One, verse thirty, hesays you are he says you are in Christ Jesus, who became to USwisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. In Chapter Three, thechapter 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 spiritof our God. So very clearly, multiple times in this book alone,we see how Paul identifies them and marks them out as Christians, fellow brothersand sisters in Christ. So what's going on then? What is Paul sayingabout them, if he's not saying that they aren't Christians? What is hesaying? Well, Paul begins by talking about the past. Right, hetalks. You use these past tense verbs, he says, but I, brothers, could not. This is in the past, could not address youas 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 spiritualpeople. Now some people, as I've said, say this because they didn'thave the spirit, but clearly they did. So why does Paul say it inthis way? I think Paul's addressing them in this way because he's speakingto them according to their own vision of themselves. In other words, he'snot talking about them as those who are either regenerate or unregenerate. He UsesBabes 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 theway that they thought about themselves. They were spiritual, that is,born of the Holy Spirit, but they thought of themselves as spiritual. Theywere proud, they were advancing, they were claiming apostles as their teachers,they were following these men, they were emphasizing that point and pointing that outto others. There was a lot of clamoring about wisdom, about place inthe church, about authority and and and a position within the church and inall of this. They thought they were being, quote, spiritual. Paulsays, I couldn't address you as spiritual people, as truly spiritual as thosewho 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 stillpeople of the flesh, and the proof is your Babes in Christ acting infleshy ways. The proof is that I fed you with milk and not withfood. Now, what does Paul mean by this? Well, he's notsaying that he gave them a half portion of Christ. He's not saying thathe gave them a little bit of Jesus a here and a little bit ofJesus there, but not all of Jesus. He's just saying he gave Jesus tothem in a simpler form. Milk is nourishing. It's intended to feedthe 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 simplygave them Christ in a simple form. And so, because he gave themto 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 yetspiritual people. You hadn't yet grown up and matured into the things of thespirit, although you were born of the spirit. So, if I couldput it really simply, Paul is talking to them as Christians, but he'stalking to Christians who are not acting like Christians. Have you ever known anyonelike that? Have you ever been someone like that? Clearly this is acategory that exists on Paul addresses it here and we've experienced at ourselves. Butthough 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, hispacipices specific concern is not that they once needed milk, but that they stillneed milk. Notice what he says. I Fed you with milk, notwith solid food, for you were not ready for it, and even nowyou are not yet ready. Of course they needed milk when they were Babesin 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 babyfor needing milk. That's what how babies advance to solid foods is by gettingwhat 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 forit, that they weren't ready for it, and then when he hears this reportsome time later, they're still not ready for it. Now I don'twant you to be confused about this image, because scripture does speak positively about thisbaby's and milk kind of image in terms of spirituality. The thing toremember here is, and I'll give you some verses along those lines, isthat one image can be used in multiple ways. Right, you could usea plant, for example, to it to make an analogy for one thingand 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. Ifwe do, we end up confused. So, for example, first Peterto too says like newborn infants long for the purest spiritual milk that you maygrow up into salvation. Right. Paul's not saying don't pay attention to whatPeter said. He's talking about something else altogether. We should always be likeinfants, and remember Jesus tells us if we to receive the children of theKingdom of God, we need to be as children. The image is herein 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'ssomething we grow into. But Paul is making a different point, though withthe same image. He's talking about them being spiritual babies who need to growup. So it's important to keep them just in different categories and in yourminds, 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 thatas Christians we are called to grow up, we are called to grow and tomature again. First, Peter to too says that when we drink thepure 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 andSave Your Jesus Christ, Paul says, in Second Corinthians three hundred and eighteen, and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of God, arebeing transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory from toanother. And First Corinthians Fourteen twenty, Paul writes, brothers, do notbe children in your thinking, be infants in evil, but in your thinkingbe mature. And again Paul and a...

...fusions for fourteen, he gives toUS apostles and prophets of angelist teachers, so that we may no longer bechildren tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind ofdoctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness, in deceitful schemes. That's why Paulcame. Paul came to to bring this effect about, to help themto 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 staylike babies in the sense that we're always dependent, we're always in need andwe want the pure spiritual milk of God's word, but we don't want tobe like babies and stay like babies and that we never mature and never maturein the Lord, never grow. What does maturity look like? In arecent book called the Vine and the Trellis, the authors summarize maturity, I think, into three helpful, memorizable categories. They talk about conviction, character andcapabilities. 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 truthand 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 alsoacting like his children, being like his children, that it's having those trueseep down into our hearts that cause us then to act accordingly. There's convictionand there's character and there's also capability. Maturity is putting ourselves in the nervousof God and in the service of others and growing in it, in worshipand hospitality and mercy, and these are things that we make progress in whilewe 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 growingin my conviction and my knowledge of the faith and the depth of itin 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 usethe 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 mightlove him and love others, and when that takes root in our heart itflows out into action. We know what that feels right. You know whatit feels like when somebody is truly loving, generous, and there's forgiveness, listening, helping, patience, kindness, long suffering. Indeed, Paul willspend some time talking all about how love looks in chapter thirteen and other chaptersin this book. And when that comes, when we cut, when we knowthe love of Christ, but when we separate ourselves from Christ, andwhen we put ourselves at the center, what happens? Strife and jealousy,divisions, when it's all about me, what I want right now, myhopes, my fears, my frustrations, I need it right now, thenwe get these kinds of divisions. Calvin says that they were undervaluing the apostleand his preaching and were prepared more to listen and pay attention to the subtleand showy ways of other teachers or looking...

...only for Paul to be to bea fancy speaker. And then, and and then, in not only treatinghim 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 aproblem with the apostles and the other teachers, but there were problems with the Lord'ssupper, problems with making other people stumble and difficult ethical situations, fightingabout spiritual gifts. It's just one thing after another after another. When weread about all these problems in the Corinthian church, it's a little bit easyto 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 ofour own pride to look at struggling brothers and sisters, even from long ago, and to mock them, shake our heads at them? What does thatsay about our own hearts? What does that say about us? And whatabout our brothers and sisters that are alive today in our own congregation and anotherchurches? Do we love them as we ought, or do we puff ourselvesup over them? Do we even doing it spiritual things, calling ourselves spiritualwall at the very moment exhibiting great amount, great amounts of pride? This isnot to say that there's no difference between right doctrine or wrong doctrine,or right practice and wrong practice. There is, of course, differences betweenthese things and we ought to make those distinctions if we are to hold fastto 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 believeand be evicted about the grace that we have received in Christ. It's perhapsthe most ironic thing in the world for a Christian who is experienced the graceof the Lord not to show that grace a to others. Christian had USthinking the other night, from God's word, about the servant who was forgiven somuch. Let me ask you, did that servant in Jesus's parable there? Did He know that he was forgiven? I suppose so. Right. Hehad been forgiven a lot. He seemed to be. There's no sensethat 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 thisother man and demands so in such a strong way, so little, atleast 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 usto grow, not just in one part of the Christian life but in allof the Christian life. God's desire for us is just like your parents desirefor you. They wanted you to grow up, and God desires the same. Now, in pointing out these things and in intentionally calling us all tohumble ourselves a little bit, and maybe even a lot, I don't wantto overly wound you were overly depress you either. We need to be warnedand 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 theGospel 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 selfcenteredness, when we struggle with envy, when we struggle with jealousy, whenwe find ourselves getting in fights all the time, getting in arguments all thetime, it's because of the Gospel that we have hope. It's because ofwhat 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 yetand 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 theLord for forgiveness and for sanctification. We love these things sting. It hurtsto think about the divisions within the body of Christ. It hurts to thinkabout the ways in which we ourselves have caused them. But the Lord causesthe sting. He prods us to drive us to the cross. He doesit so that our pride might be homeled, so that we might see how muchwe need him and not ourselves. You see, it's his work ofsanctification 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 lookto Christ, who went to the cross for us, who didn't grasp andhold 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 crossand died for our sins. When we think about those things, when wethink 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 oursins when the Lord forgives them, when we think about how this Gospel comesinto our lives and takes people who are once clamoring and fighting and always strugglingand striving against one another to make it to the top. And then theLord comes and says, I give you everything. You don't need to dothat anymore, you don't need to fight, you don't need to claw, youdon't need to clamor, I will take care of you. Every hairin your head is numbered. You are so valuable to me, so soprecious to me, that my own son has died for you. When wecome 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 arein our hearts. He works in US and reminds us that we don't haveto clamor anymore, we don't have to fight anymore, we don't have toprove ourselves anymore, because we have all that we need in Christ. Andas we begin to realize those things, as we begin to believe those things, to put faith in those promises, we will grow. One of thegood things about the Gospel. Well, the greatest things about the Gospel isit's not all up to us. When the Lord chooses us and him eachblocks 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. Heworks in us, even as he is doing in you this morning. Sotrust him, put all your trust in him, and he will care foryou and care for the whole body,...

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

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