1 Mar 2004

First Corinthians 3: Foundation

Submitted by theshovel
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However, in spite of the mind we shared in Christ I was unable to communicate to you accordingly. The truth is, I had to speak to you as if your minds were underdeveloped. 1 2 Of course, I knew you wanted more, but I also knew the longing for more was stirred by those former delusions of higher reasoning. Believe me, I was not the one holding you back. Instead, you constrained me to connect everything I said to your fleshly logic before I could move on. And after all this time you still cannot get beyond your issues to hear what I would tell you.

Are you truly unaware of the source of your heated rivalries? Do you really not know why everything among you revolves around competition? Could it have anything to do with the fact that the fleshly mind causes you to regard yourselves only by what you are outwardly? For when you boast in men as you do - one associating himself with Paul, another with Apollos - aren't you identifying yourselves according to appearances?

What are Apollos and Paul to you? They are men who served you, men through whom you believed, men enabled by God. I may have planted the seed, and Apollos may have watered it, but the growing was all God's doing. What I'm saying is that since God causes the growth, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters can be considered as having anything to do with it, as if either one made it happen. 3

How do you rationalize the idea of competition between one who plants and one who waters? For even though each will receive benefits according to how he plays his own part, they are still one. As for myself and Apollos, we are God's co-workers; as for you, you are God's garden, his building. Now, God gave me the wisdom to perform as an architect so that I could lay a foundation for the building that you are. Others have come behind me to build upon that foundation, but I urge each who does so to take great care in how he builds upon it. The foundation, Jesus Christ, has already been laid. Anyone attempting to lay another cannot succeed.

Now regarding builders, some use quality materials while others use junk made to look good. However each man's work will become known for what it is, for the day of reckoning is coming when the storms test the quality of what each man built. If a builder's work stands firm upon the foundation he will be recognized accordingly. If any man's work is destroyed his reputation as a builder will suffer, but he will be delivered through the very thing that destroyed his work.

Don't you know who you are? You are God's dwelling ... his Spirit lives in you! And if you think any man will get away with ruining God's abode, think again, because God will ruin him. For the building of God - that's you - is his own protected possession.

Let no man fall for his own BS. If anyone among you supposes that true knowledge is based upon his IQ, let him become ignorant so that he may become wise. For the IQ of this world is ignorance to God. For it is written that God is "the one who traps the wise in the web of their own scheming"; and also, "The Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are worthless."

So give up the ridiculous attempts at making yourself look good by finding your identity in men. After all, everything that is really something is yours! And I mean everything: the men who serve you (whether Paul or Apollos or Peter), the world, life, death, that which exists and that which will exist. It's all yours. And you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

  • 1. Paul's comments to the Corinthian believers are tailored to fit specifically with their perceptions. Pulled out as general principles, as in the concept of "milk" versus "meat", will only make a mess of what he actually wrote ... and what they actually heard.

    Paul had addressed the spiritual appraisal of the spiritual man just previous to these comments about milk and solid food. The general consensus among the people was not that they were babies/immature, but that their natural understandings had somehow elevated them to be able to better understand God. It's perhaps a very similar thing to those who believe that a drug-induced state of mind is more in tune with God.

    Just this week (first week of August 2007) I had some correspondence with a woman who perceives that her intelligence gives her a better discernment regarding the things of God. She took great offense when I suggested that she thought too much of herself, her intellect, her bloodline (she is a Jew), her sensitivity.

    In this verse, Paul reflects back on the truth behind what really took place between their times together. He does it for a reason. That reason is intricately connected to their assumptions of wisdom, to their belief that they had partaken of God's truth in a way that corresponded to their own higher powers of reasoning. The arrogance of Greek wisdom had them viewing themselves accordingly, and they incorporated the stuff of God into that reasoning. They saw themselves as deep, as superior. Paul puts it all into perspective by likening their relationship as a mother who breast-feeds her babies, not as one spiritual giant among others chewing upon the deep things of God.

    Once again, if you read the whole of the two Corinthians letters together you cannot help but recognize the attitudes of superiority they held. They would not have come to these comments about being "babies in Christ" as some kind of statement as to the natural "process" of growing in Christ. It would have hit them right between the eyes of their delusion of higher reasoning capabilities through fleshly reasoning.

    To try to figure out what constitutes "milk" or "solid food" is mostly bogus, for its real understanding was connected to their intellectual-based delusion of superiority. "Milk" might be deemed as "deep" by believers who make their appraisal based on human reasoning; "meat" or "solid food" is whatever they are not actually chewing on.

    Now, to express this simple reality as concisely as possible is not as simple as it may seem, for it is not a matter of just getting an accurate translation of the original words (if we even have all the exact words, that is). It is a recapturing of the hand that fits the glove, the glass shoe that fits the foot. Consider a story you've read or a movie you've seen with a surprise ending. Once experienced, you can never go back and recapture the exact sensation (unless you have short-term memory loss). However, as long as you remember the experience and recall the reasons why it hit you as it did you will appreciate it is for what it was. Forget that and you won't understand that others may be going through exactly what you did.

  • 2. More random thoughts on the milk versus solid food contrast:
    Many of the Corinthian believers were obviously not satisfied with what Paul gave them. He gave them that which was easy to digest, he called it milk. They wanted more, but a "more" that fit into their former reasoning. They liked the feeling of power and prestige that came with knowledge. The idea of milk from his standpoint was most likely different than it was from theirs. He had to speak to them in view of their reasoning, and it held him back.

    Consider what he wrote at the end of the second letter concerning this very thing:
    2Co 11:17 What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.
    2Co 12:1 Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
    2Co 12:11 I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.

    While we might evaluate this presentation of "milk" - speaking as in foolishness - as something unspiritual, there is more to it. Consider:

    2Co 12:19 All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

    The milk Paul gave the Corinthians is understood by his speaking in Christ in such a way as to deal with their issues, all the while being constrained by the foolishness of their former wisdom. In other words, he spoke in Christ by making his own boastful comparisons. He would rather not have to do that, but he would use any means. He spoke only in the FORM of foolishness, for he was not trying to defend himself or to make himself look better in any way.

    While the Corinthians no doubt found a measure of freedom through Paul's message, their own former logic forced much of it to conform. Considering what he wrote in the second letter:

    2Co 1:12 For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.
    2Co 1:13 For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end;
    2Co 1:14 just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.

    They did in fact partially understand what Paul and Apollos had spoken to them. After Paul left, men rose up among them (or came in from outside) and offered their versions of the "deeper" understanding their former logic craved. It was all about comparisons and gaining superiority above others.

  • 3. Divisions: in reference to "planting and watering"

    Now other than the one verse where he included the names of Cephas and Christ (1:12), Paul figuratively applied what he wrote to himself and Apollos. His stated purpose was: "so that IN US you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other." His approach thwarted any opportunist in the group by giving him no place to conveniently launch into his own agenda.

    I suspect that numerous among the Corinthians impatiently waited for that right moment - just the mention of a name - only to realize that the opportunity passed them by. Some had schemed to go beyond ("exceed") what Paul had written in order to use it as a promotion of one above another, but Paul nipped that in the bud by writing as if it was all about himself and Apollos. Of course, there was far more to it than just silencing the opportunists. Paul used the conflict among them to highlight the night and day distinction between that which is of God and that which is of flesh, that which is permanent and that which is temporal.

    While it is true that many of them had believed through Paul and then later continued to learn through Apollos in his absence, Paul was using Apollos and himself to comment on the current trend of competition for importance and authority among the community of believers.

    For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
    (1 Corinthians 3:4-11)

    By figuratively applying these things to himself and Apollos, Paul placed this issue into perspective for the Corinthians. How so? By forcing a square peg in a round hole ... one that so obviously didn't fit. The very idea that Paul or Apollos could have been competitors in Christ was totally absurd. It smacked against everything Paul had ever said and everything they had known him to be. His applied presentation contrasted a hypothetical Paul and Apollos with the men they had known.

    But that was not the whole of it, for there was a flip side. You see, the Corinthians would have been mentally filling in the blanks with some very familiar names, which would have resulted in yet another contradiction. Just as the Corinthians would not have been able to picture Paul and Apollos as sect leaders, they most certainly would not have been able to imagine the unnamed rivals as being fellow workers cooperating with one another. Competition between the factions led by these men gave rise to the jealousy and strife that ran rampant throughout the group. Division defined these rivals. Whereas Paul depended upon God to cause the growth, the rivals depended upon man-made divisions, jealousy and strife to strengthen those they led.

Comments

" If any man's work is destroyed his reputation as a builder will suffer, but he will be delivered through the very thing that destroyed his work." Jim do you have good clarity on what Paul meant? I have always wondered if there was something in this passage that seems so off base. For if the ones who are building on the Corinthians are not those of the faith but, of the law, then how can they be delivered?[or is he merely suggesting a possibility?]
theshovel's picture

As Paul addressed those who could truly hear, I believe he spoke to believers who had gotten caught up in the fleshly circus fabricated by those who were not of faith. I also think we view any mentioned of being saved in the context of final judgment as in heaven vs. hell, rather than the sense of deliverance in which Paul wrote to these same people: For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 What if the day that reveals these things refers more to the personal crashes that each of these men will experience? Intense trials through which they are barely delivered or rescued by God? Jim :)

Wow these are fine points you made and stand on their own but, for the sake of understanding the whole, I wonder if I might ask about the below: "Now regarding BUILDERS, some use quality materials while others use junk made to LOOK good. However each man's work will become known for what it is, for the day of reckoning is coming when the storms test the quality of what each man built. If a builder's work stands firm upon the foundation he will be recognized accordingly. If any man's work is destroyed his reputation as a builder will suffer, but he will be delivered through the very thing that destroyed his work." Would this speak of those[the "builders"] who while under the spell of the circumcision were competing amongst one another to be seen as a somebody so that they began teaching those in the congregation/or groups things that were all from the realm of earthly wisdom?[ie: "the junk"] Also were these guys then[the builders] alive to God?[only deceived?] I just want to get the parties strait for the sake of matching up the main answer you gave me.[the who's- who]

"Don't you know who you are? You are God's dwelling ... his Spirit lives in you! And if you think any man will get away with ruining God's abode, think again, because God will ruin him. For the building of God - that's you - is his own protected possession." This has always been a tough one too. For if God was still in the 'destroying" business then we would all be in trouble. Then again if it were the Devil he is referring to, I guess that could make sense. I just don't see how this cooperates with the old man already being destroyed in Christ? Even "if" the law mongers were building on these guys the stuff of the law and destroying them in the process. Then again, the natural man can not understand God EVER...and that may be the source of my [former] confusions and conclusions that still want to hang on.
theshovel's picture

Once again, being brought to ruin can also refer to the range of trials we often have experienced in our foolish attempts to push our fleshly teachings among the saints. The main focus of this is seen in God's protection of the whole building, even if he has to take drastic measures in the process. Jim

JIm it sounds as though you may be thinking that the ones who were building[each man ought to be careful how he builds] were indeed believers. They were just building law on what was truly of God. Am I catching the sense that you see here?
theshovel's picture

Although I think he was addressing the believers among them who were caught up in such legal building, I also hear an all-encompassing suggestion that they would have picked up on regarding the instigators...a suggestion that Paul zeroed in on by the second letter, where he vividly described these men who had pulled them off simplicity in Christ.

In re reading the text in Corinthians, I was playing with the idea that the "he" in statements about 'suffering loss' but that "he" would be saved but like through fire, -that maybe the "he" was the building.[the Corinthians] I can see it both ways?

Ok yes you said: "What if the day that reveals these things refers more to the personal crashes that each of these men will experience? Intense trials through which they are barely delivered or rescued by God?"-Jim Now I realize that the direction I will go here is not directly connected to the teachers among the Corinthians who were saved only deceived but, nonetheless it does connect to not only this same type of "destruction" but, also the ongoing communication you and I have had regarding the destruction of the ungodly. Try these on for size: 2 Peter 2:13 Romans 1:27 Also do you remember the parable Jesus spoke of building a house on a solid foundation so that when the wind and storms come it would survive? I would think Paul would be referencing this in his letter to the Corinthians.[especially in the passage in question]Just an uneducated guess or more likely a intuitive realization of mine.

" If any man's work is destroyed his reputation as a builder will suffer, but he will be delivered through the very thing that destroyed his work."

Once again, being brought to ruin can also refer to the range of trials we often have experienced in our foolish attempts to push our fleshly teachings among the saints. The main focus of this is seen in God's protection of the whole building, even if he has to take drastic measures in the process. Jim   Lately, it seems that the sharing within the conversation resonates with clarity to what I sense in my spirit.   This statement you made here, Jim, is another one of those.  These drastic measures I'm seeing, yes, NOW, and indeed they have to be, for God's intent is to 'sum up everything in Christ, and whatever it takes this shall he do!  (oopsy daisy...I hope I didn't say too much. )  

Mary

"Christ in You, the Hope"

theshovel's picture

Never too much, my dear Mary. I enjoy reading whatever you have to add. :) Jim

i LOVE this McLady!   :)  thank you!  :) "... God's intent is to 'sum up everything in Christ', and whatever it takes this shall He do!" awesome!  very quotable!  ;) i love how it is encouraged here that the foundation of Paul's teaching was the gospel of Christ Himself ... no other and nothing other.  there were many then coming behind Paul, as there are many now to this very day and beyond, simply proclaiming, teaching and leading hearts and mind away from Christ with law, sin, death, flesh, vain philosophy, fear, guilt, shame, etc.  all things that simply will not and can not withstand any test of GOD.  the test of GOD always reveals and 'sums up' all things in Christ.  the truth of Christ Himself will always be left standing.  all else is simply burnt beyond ash!  it is proved to be the 'nothing' that it is.  :) we have only assurance, confidence and security in HIM as our Foundation!  :)  anything and anyone who seeks to kill, steal or destroy that is simply ... well ... polluting and wasting with waste! 

Sherri!  

Mary

"Christ in You, the Hope"

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