“Planting and Watering” (1 Corinthians 3:1-9)

Paul returns to his confrontation of the Corinthians for their pattern of breaking into various factions around certain teachers and leaders. The passage in chapter one includes Peter/Cephas, who is not mentioned here, as well as a group who identified themselves only as “of Christ.”  We are merely guessing, but perhaps some of the following characteristics might give some idea as to how these various factions thought.

The first group that favored Paul probably liked his aggressive, type-A personality and style of getting straight to the point and doing things boldly. These were probably those who were the early-adapters to technology and iPhone applications. The git-r-done types.

The group that preferred Apollos was likely the highly-educated and sophisticated crowd. Apollos was the university dude. Surely his teaching was very deep and the crease in his trousers perfectly slick. Every word was well-spoken. He oozed classiness and gravitas.

Peter likely appealed to the blue-collar crowd – the Teamsters Union types in the transportation industries of trans-peninsular shipping. He was raw and rough, rugged and personable. Likely he also appealed to those who had a long-standing connection to the Old Testament Law – Peter coming from that tradition and having been a close associate with Jesus.

I’ll let you all sort out which of the three of these relate to the three primary teachers we’ve had here at TSF over the past decade. Maybe you’ll see Chris Wiles as the blue-collar Peter, Tim as the university dude, and me as the aggressive Apostle Paul!?!  (insert smiley face and other appropriate emojis)

And then there was a fourth group – the Christ Crowd. Probably this group was turned off by the antics of the other three factions, but due to their critical and condescending posture they inadvertently ended up having their own high-minded, erudite clique.

Whatever, it was a mess. And Paul essentially says to them: “you’ve got issues; repeat after me, ‘I’m a mess, you’re a mess.’”  Actually, here is what he specifically wrote …

1 Cor. 3:1 – 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?

What Paul is doing here is bringing to the front of their understanding that this issue of divisions among them is a spiritual one that does not speak well of their maturity. They should have been bigger and more advanced than to become bogged down by something so terribly silly as preferring one leader over another and becoming groupies.

They were still “worldly,” acting like the people around them rather than being different and living by the power of the Spirit … acting like mere infants in Christ. They thought they were so mature and that Paul had given them deep truth, when in fact, Paul had been actually rather basic. Just like a baby in our infant nursery is not ready yet for Texas Beef Brisket and would choke on it, they weren’t ready for deep doctrine (like what we’re going to have this summer with our series “The Dog Days of Deep Doctrine)!  What I’m saying is that they were not really ready to live life like Ezekiel Elliott plays football for the Cowboys!  (insert here his “feed me” video with a first down sign!)

Such quarreling was simply not the way they should be behaving. He calls it merely human, and they should be thinking and acting on a higher, spiritual plane.

To illustrate this, Paul brings these “iconic teachers” down to the appropriate earthly level so that the eternal gospel of life in Christ can be emphasized correctly…

1 Cor. 3:5 — What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.

After some years away from growing a garden, I grew a few things this past summer. I’m always amazed when that little packet of seeds that could fit in your shirt pocket grows an entire row of plants filled with fruit. And it really grew this past year!  Should I feel really proud of myself for planting those seeds?  For watering them? (not that anyone needed to do that in 2018!)  No, the miracle is that a little seed grows into a big plant.

And so it is with the seed of the gospel message. One person may plant it with a communication about the gospel and another water it by giving some further explanation about that truth, but the real miracle is when it takes root in the life of a person and they are united into the kingdom of light and life … even producing more fruit.

A couple of times in the last year I’ve had instances of people communicating with me about how they came to Christ during my time at the previous church in New Jersey … or that they grew in some way and are now serving in ministry. One of them who contacted me is a person I can barely even remember. Diana’s uncle passed away a couple of weeks ago at age 88, and I asked her about what she knew of when he and his wife came to faith. Diana reminded me that they did it in our house in Texas 40 years ago!  I had forgotten that.

See, it’s not about the messenger, it’s all about the message. Messengers come and go; the message is the eternal and timeless Word of God embodied in the gospel message of Christ’s work. All of us – not only the career types like Tim/Trent/me – have a job to know and communicate the gospel. Sometimes we have seeds in our hands, so we plant them. Sometimes we find ourselves with the bucket or hose, and we water the plants around us. We’ll be rewarded someday for that faithfulness.

Paul says explicitly here who we all are … we are co-workers … and he finishes the metaphor about agriculture before transitioning to a building metaphor that we’ll look at tomorrow …

1 Cor. 3:9 – For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Yes, we are in it together … in the big things and the small things, planting and watering. Just be faithful today with the next opportunity at hand to serve God.

Living Above the Mundane (1 Corinthians 3:1-9)

There is a great scene from the classic Civil War movie “Gettysburg.” It features one of the great Union heroes of the Civil War – a Colonel Chamberlain from Maine. Professor Chamberlain was a scholar and teacher at Bowdoin College. He left that job and his young family behind in order to fight for a cause for which he was willing to give his very life.

A group of disgruntled Maine veterans, having not received the pay they had been promised and having served their agreed-upon time, were refusing to continue to fight. Additionally they were being held as prisoners and deserters by the Federal Army. With a major battle confrontation pending, the entire group was delivered under guard to Colonel Chamberlain and his Maine regiment to be dealt with however the officer decided. On a hillside, Chamberlain gathers them together and speaks to them in such a way as to re-position in their thinking what was the nature of the cause for which they were at war.  Here is what he said to them…

We’re moving out in a few minutes and we’ll be moving all day… I want to take you men with me.  I’ve been told if you don’t come, I can shoot you.  Well, you know I’m not going to do that – maybe somebody else will, but I won’t … so that’s that.

Here’s the situation.  The whole Reb army is up that road waiting for us … so this is no time for an argument like this – I can tell you that!

We’re now well below half strength.  Whether you fight or not, that’s up to you.  Whether you come along or not… well… you’re coming. 

You know who we are and what we’re doing here.  But if you fight with us, there are a few things you should know.

This regiment was formed last summer in Maine.  There were a thousand of us then; there are less than 300 of us now.  All of us volunteered to fight for the Union, just as you did.  Some came mainly because we were bored at home and thought this would be fun.  Some came because we were ashamed not to.  Many of us came because it was the right thing to do.

All of us have seen men die.  This is a different kind of army.  If you look back through history you will see men fighting for pay, loot, women, land, power … cause a king leads them, or just because they like killing.

But we are here for something new.  This has not happened much in the history of the world.  We are an army out to set other men free!  America should be free ground – all of it – not divided by a line between slave states and free … all the way from here to the Pacific Ocean.  No man has to bow to any man born to royalty.  Here we judge you by what you do, not who your father was.  Here you can be something.  Here is the place to build a home.  It’s not land – there’s always more land – it’s the idea that we all have value – you and me.  What we’re fighting for, in the end … we’re fighting for each other.

Now that is a great speech! Chamberlain raised to a higher level of understanding the reason for which they fought. The purpose was a grand purpose… not just to win and get more gain… it was to set men free!

Why do we live? What is life about? It is so much more than merely existing, just living and dying. It is more than family and job and success. It could be said that it is about setting other men free – free of the bondage of sin. But even beyond that, it is all about knowing our creator God and being His partner in the grand story of the ages that He is writing.

When we grasp this concept, we have a renewed view of time and priorities. We look more at what around us is eternal. And what is that? God’s Word, and souls of men are all that is eternal… everything else burns in the end. And God’s story is about the fulfillment of His Word and will, and His plan to see the lost souls of millions redeemed out of slavery to sin and back to Himself. Don’t YOU feel a compulsion to be a part of that plan?

2COR 5:14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

1COR 3:1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as 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 men? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Don’t have a small mindset about life. Think big. Live above the mundane.