The primary passage of interest for us this week is found in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, a Scripture we will especially look at and comment upon tomorrow. But for this week, let us take that whole 3rd chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and study it again with its five natural paragraph breaks, as this will set the broader context for us.
Our “Rooted” theme this week is to talk about the role of teaching in the growth process of the seed of God’s Word being planted, tended and brought along to fruition in the lives of people.
The immediate risk we run is that folks will look at this passage and theme and say, “Well, there’s a Scripture that is for Randy, Chris and Tim … hope it speaks to them.”
But our point this week is to say that we all have a role to play in the process of seeing God’s Word rooted and growing, not only in ourselves, but in the lives of others.
The church in Corinth is well-known to us all for a variety of problems that form a list of topics for the Apostle Paul to address with them in this first letter. He begins in chapter 1 by diving right into a problem that has been reported to him …
… that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
The feeling we get is almost as if it is primary season for a political party. Many of you have heard me talk and write about my five-year foray into the political world. Though there were worthy, valuable and honorable elements to that involvement, the major problem I saw (and that drove me crazy and ultimately out the door) was that there was never a true party unity. At every state convention, there were some offices up for election. And so there were always people campaigning for this or that position, replete with buttons and stickers and posters, etc. It was a continual context of division as groups had their favorite.
And that is what was happening in Corinth. Some folks liked the energy of Paul, or the university scholarship of Apollos, or the working-man’s populism of Peter … while some others saw themselves as more spiritual (at least in their own minds), forming a divisive group under the name of Christ.
What this did was essentially demonstrate that they were not rooted and bearing the good fruit of the spirit. And Paul clearly addresses the core issues …
3 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
At the end of the preceding chapter, Paul spoke to them of teaching about the “deep things of God” and about “spiritual realities.” It was stuff that was to be spiritually discerned … beyond the understanding of basic natural conversation of this world. But the Corinthians were not really ready for this; they were not plugged into (or rooted) in such a way as to be nourished by this sort of teaching and instruction.
Surely we have all had experiences where we are around some folks who are talking about a topic upon which we are well-informed, being so perhaps because it is in our career field or in some area of special interest and study. And these folks, not knowing how much you know about the subject are talking in your presence like they are an expert on the topic. You can tell that they really see themselves as having a deep understanding, but the actual shallowness of their knowledge is abundantly obvious to you while being oblivious to them. It is sort of sad, as often you have to just smile and choke down the corrections you would like to give them.
Paul was tired of being polite and letting the Corinthians only think they were so advanced and fruitful in their knowledge and experience of truly deep spiritual realities. The Apostle rather bluntly drops the truth upon them. The party spirit that divided them was in fact evidence that they were “merely human.”
That doesn’t sound so bad to be “merely human” does it? It is a common phrase to hear someone say, “After all, I’m just human!”
Being truly rooted in Christ and mature in faith and knowledge does not make one super-human. But it does establish a broad understanding of timeless truth that transcends the “mere” viewpoint of the natural man. That ordinary viewpoint is that we live, we die, and in between we fight for our personal ascendance in a sort of battle known as the survival of the fittest. Being rooted in Christ yields a viewpoint that transcends this world and connects a person to eternal realities and the Creator God. And a result of such spiritual knowledge should be a different way of living with one another.
So why be a “mere” anything when you can be a special something through rootedness in Christ?