Lesson 21: "I Have Feed You With Milk" (I Corinthians 3:2)
I Corinthians 2:6-16, 3:1-23
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #21. Welcome again! In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul greeted them as Christians and then immediately scolded them for their division and their worldly wisdom. This lesson begins in ch. 2:6. Let's read the rest of chapter two, Verse 6-16, are you ready? "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared far them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."
Please re-read this several times. Paul starts off, in v.6 "howbeit", i.e. nevertheless or in opposition to what has already been said. Thus Paul begins here to say the very converse of the thought Paul summarized back in v.5, i.e. "That your faith should NOT stand in the wisdom of men..." In opposition to that thought, Paul begins to show how our faith SHOULD STAND and how faith in Christ is not foolishness; as the Greeks supposed. When Paul says "we" in v.6, he is talking about the apostles, or in other words spiritually inspired men. Thus, Paul includes himself as an apostle. You'll remember he put that thought in the very first verse and we have said already there is another chapter largely devoted to his apostleship later in this book. Verses 6-7-8 here is one sentence. Paul says they, i.e. the apostles, spoke wisdom among them that are perfect, i.e. the apostles communicated as though the ones they spoke to were full-grown, that is to say: a spiritually mature person. In other words, any person that is less than spiritually mature will have difficulty comprehending. Back in 1:30, Paul said "Christ Jesus... is made unto us wisdom..." The wisdom in Christ Jesus is the kind of wisdom Paul HERE has reference to, that he and the other apostles thus spoke. So, he says they spoke wisdom to the fully mature. Then he adds, this is not wisdom in the sense the world considers wisdom and especially the princes or ruler of that age and time. In other words those that the Corinthians were trying to impress. Thus, you see, in that sense: the wisdom that Paul spoke WAS mysterious. Therefore, to such people the wisdom in Christ was - - hidden wisdom. If the rulers and princes of this world had understood such things they would not have crucified Jesus, the Lord of glory (end of v.8); thus, Paul leads us to see how far off such thinking really was (and is). In v.9, Paul quotes from the Old Testament (Isa. 64:4) to show that this had been prophesied for centuries. The difference between so-called worldly wisdom and the wisdom in Jesus is as different as night is from day. Isaiah said that from the beginning of the world; man has never comprehended what God has prepared for man. No eye has seen it, no ear has ever heard it; so, there's just no way for man to understand it. When our eyes pick up an image and our ear picks up sound; that signal is transmitted to the heart of man, i.e. the thinking process of man through his nervous system. Thus, v.9, you see, it has never entered into the heart of man, just what God has prepared for those that love Him; but, God did reveal such to the apostles. Look at verse 9, "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit," i.e. by God's Holy Spirit. In that manner, the apostles were informed of the deep things of God (end of v.10). What we know and the Corinthians knew was a mere communication of those things from the apostles. The thought in v. 11 is evidently this: one human being does not know what another human being is thinking. Your thoughts are private, unless you communicate them in some way. In a similar way, no man can know or comprehend that which is in the realm of God. If your neighbor, who knows you well, can't read your thoughts; how can you read God's thoughts? His thoughts are higher than our thoughts as the heavens are higher than the earth. In v.l 2, Paul said "Now we have received." Who is we? The apostles. What did the apostles received, "the Spirit [capital letter] which is of God; that we [i.e. the apostles] might know the things that are freely given to us of God." Then, v.l 3 is a very interesting verse. V.l3 says "which things also we speak." That is, the apostles understood and spoke of the inner things of God. Now notice, "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." The most interesting thing is, when you examine it close, that the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the very words that they spoke (take a look at it!) or what is sometimes called verbal inspiration. "The natural man" does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. This is foolishness to the natural man. The natural man cannot know these things because they are spiritually discerned (v.l4). Those that were given such spiritual insight were given the ability to make judgments and decisions also. Therefore, those that do not posses such insight; obviously, cannot judge or evaluate those that do (v.l 5). Paul declared at the end of v.l 6, the apostles had the mind of Christ, i.e. they have the very thoughts of Christ or in other words their thoughts were Christ's thoughts.
Alright, I think we are ready to read ch. 3 (23 verses). Let's read the whole chapter. This chapter is a little easier and flaws a little smoother than the material we just covered. Beginning in 3:1, let's read. "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth there on. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build up on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man' s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God: for it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men: for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's."
O.K. if you back up to the beginning of the chapter; let's do a quick overview. Jesus told the twelve (John 15:15) "all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." In the next chapter, John 16:13, Jesus told them [i.e. the apostles] the Spirit would guide them into all truth. Paul said back in ch.2:13, "Which things also we speak." So, faith cometh by hearing (Rom. 10:17). Thus, for the Corinthians to develop spiritually; they must listen to the Spirit through spiritually discerned men. Paul said in 3:1, they were disregarding that which was spiritual and feeding upon the carnal, i.e. fleshly. In other words, they were substituting worldly wisdom for the wisdom Christ Jesus. As a result they were not maturing spiritually; or to use Paul's word back in 2:6 they were not being perfected in the spirit. Thus, Paul metaphorically described them as babes in Christ (end of v. 1). They were barely spiritually alive and they were not developing any spiritual muscle; because, they were not feeding upon the necessary heavier spiritual food. Their attention was given to "envying, and strife, and divisions..." (v.3). One was saying, "I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos" (v.4), and this was the sort of thing that kept them in the carnal arena, walking as men, instead of walking in Christ. Thus, they were not exercising their spiritual muscle, you see. In v.5, Paul said that he and Apollos were mere ministers (do you see that word?), i.e. servant gardeners if you will. Do you remember Jesus' parable of the sower? The seed is the word of God, Luke 8:11. The germ of spiritual life is in the seed. A man can sow that seed, a man can rise night and day, watch and nurture and water and fertilize and encourage that process, Mark 4:27; but, he can't make it happen. In Mark 4:28 Jesus said, "the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself." to other words, the basic process depends upon the spiritual soil called the human heart of the individual Christian. Even the apostles could not alter that process other than to sow, nurture, feed and irrigate, i.e. give a little environmental assistance, where it was accepted. Growth comes through the word, you see. If one does not imbibe the spiritual word, not even the apostles could do it for them. God giveth the increase, verse 6. You can't make a Christian with a hypodermic needle; I don't care how you package the seed. That word has to go in either through the eyes or the ears to get to the human heart where that word may (or may not) germinate. It depends upon the person, not upon which brotherhood school the sower to. Even then, one must continue feeding upon spiritual food, which is simply more of that word, that enters the human heart by that same hearing process. The Hebrew writer said, "ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye out to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles..." (Heb. 5:11-12). You get the idea? We have to keep processing spiritual food, to keep our spiritual muscles in operation. Now, look at v.7, Paul said, SO THEN [now, here's the conclusion], "So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth [anything]" So, Paul said, it doesn't depend upon Paul and Apollos. It depended upon the individual Christians at Corinth. Paul could provide them with some spiritual food; but they had to eat it and digest it and metabolize it and assimilate it and make it part of them in the natural spiritual growth process. You see. Is there message here for us? You better believe it my friend. Now, dig into verse 8 pretty deep. You see, the spiritual growth process doesn't depend upon the teacher so much as it depends upon the individual; we have said. But, the teacher (here called a laborer) is going to be rewarded "according to his own labor." All of us are teachers, whether we want to accept that or not. Jesus said in John 15:8, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." So the rewards will be handed out on the basis of our work; not upon how many Christians you teach. Now, does that teach salvation by works? Works are necessary; you can't conclude any thing else; it all came about by God's grace. God provided the system, so in that sense, we are saved by grace. You see. Thus, if we teach and baptize 10,000 we still must give God the glory. The same Paul that wrote these verses emphasized grace also. Paul emphasized grace at the end of almost every epistle. So, it takes both. Which is most important, works or grace? I'll leave that one to the theologians.
The idea in v.9, is that Paul and Apollos were fellows workers with each other and they were fellow workers under God. In the same metaphorical way; the church at Corinth was God's husbandry or God's garden. Or in v. 10, Paul says another way of illustrating this is to describe the church as God's building. You see, everyone knew about gardens and buildings. Jesus Christ is the foundation of that metaphorical building (v.ll). Paul laid the foundation at Corinth, in that Paul taught them about Christ. As the congregation at Corinth (or any place else) grows spiritually; they are building upon that foundation. Every Christian has a part in erecting that building which ultimately metaphorically will become a "temple of God." (v. 17). "But let every man take heed how he buildeth..." (end of v.10). Now, in v. 12-13-14-15, Paul carries his building illustration a step further. Do you remember, the reward is according to the labor? (v.8). Look for the word "work(s)" in v.12—15. V.I4 says, "If any man's work abide... he shall receive a reward." The idea of gold, silver, hay, stubble, etc.; has to do with quality, you see. The quality will be tested. It will be tested by fire, v. 13,15. That is, there will be rigorous testing. You may labor much in teaching and encouraging others, (i.e. the fruit of your labor). Yet, that person you teach may be lost. You won't be responsible for that, if you work. Our reward depends upon our "own labor." (v.8). That which endures at the judgment depends upon the quality of the hearer, not upon the laborer who helped recruit and shape that rafter, or that nail, or that shingle into place. You see, emphasis is upon the quality of the heart. We'll get back to this in lesson # 22. Have a good day!