Babes in Christ
When a person commits his first sin, corruption enters into his heart. Moving from the state and innocence of childhood, the individual has now become what the scripture calls "a natural man," one who is "in the flesh" and whose interests are earthy. During this period of time — and to some degree "prepped" by earlier childhood experiences or poor training — weaknesses of the flesh become entrenched in this "slave of sin." And when he hears the gospel and, as a repentant believer, willing to obey it, he becomes a new creature in Christ. The problem is that these same weaknesses remain entrenched in the habits of the newly immersed saint, and it is going to take some "renewing of the mind" to root those out and replace them with new habits. Thus when Paul writes to the church at Corinth, trying to defend his apostleship and help the brethren straighten out some internal situations, he has to help them understand that they still have a ways to go to be able to put the proper appraisal on spiritual matters, and to be able to recognize fleshly behavior when they see it.
- Not to spiritual men - The philosophies and "wisdom" of the world are dangerous. Paul, for example, warned the church at Colossae, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Colossians 2:9). "Captive" is a strong word, and illustrates the spiritual subterfuge of these appeals to the minds of men. The church at Corinth was also being victimized by these holdovers from Greek philosophy, and as a result much schismatic activity was taking place in the church. "And I, brethren," notes Paul, "could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ" (I Corinthians 3:1). Having earlier made the point that the natural man, the man of flesh, does not put the proper appraisal on spiritual concerns, the apostle now charges that these brethren in Corinth are men of flesh and not able to apprehend the things he would really like to say. In the process he brings forth a metaphor, calling the saints "babes in Christ."
- Milk rather than meat - Having properly described the members of the congregation, Paul can now begin to talk in language they can understand. "I gave you milk to drink," he affirms, "rather than solid food, for you were not yet able to receive it" (I Corinthians 3:2). Some in the congregation had already begun pushing themselves forward as leaders of factions, and of course would have to represent themselves as being wise and mature and able to guide the other sheep along the way. The apostle and the Holy Spirit undercut these would be church leaders by pointing out that they had only gotten the basics — the milk — of Christianity rather than the stuff of substance that truly mature saints can digest. "Indeed," he says, "even now you are not yet able [to receive the meat], for you are still fleshly." Men of flesh are not fitted to lead members of the flock in a spiritual direction.
- Walking like mere men - The proof of their fleshliness and babyhood in Christ was evident in their conduct, to one who like the apostle Paul could appraise actions from a spiritual perspective. "For since there is jealousy and strife among you," he queries, "are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?" (I Corinthians 3:3). Jealousy and strife are just as much deeds of the flesh as adultery and drunkenness, and will send a person to hell just as rapidly. These people in Corinth needed to pay careful attention to the apostle’s analysis, and repent where necessary.
The scripture encourages all brethren to move past the "babes in Christ" stage, and to grow up in aspects into Christ. Deeds of the flesh are to be laid aside, and the new nature of Christ is to be put on, so that the saints really are a new race that walks according to Christ rather than according to man!
What Are Apollos and Paul?
The natural man is schismatic or factious because of the corruption in his heart. For this polarization to occur on a congregational scale, someone has to be regarded as the leader of each faction or group. The propagandists for polarization will often use the name of someone not directly associated with their splinter in order to give their factiousness the color of legitimacy. This it was in Corinth; Paul had earlier noted that "each one is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ " None of the above — Paul, Apollos, Peter, or Christ — were trying to cause divisions within the body of Christ in the province of Achaia. But their names were being used by those driven by strife and jealousy as a vehicle to cover their real agenda.
- Jealousy and strife - Men and women often have selfish motives if they have not subjugated themselves wholly to Christ. While some are brash, bold, and bullying in their attempts to get their own way, others are subtle and are willing to work patiently behind the scenes to push their agendas through. The more open individuals have to be dealt with openly; for those who work subtly, the congregation has to be educated so that it can see what is going on. "You are still fleshly," was Paul’s inspired analysis of the church at Corinth. "For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?" Jealousy, while being one of those "unseen" sins, is one of the most destructive forces on this planet. It blinds those saints caught in its vise to the priorities and perspective of Christ, and turns every situation into one that the jealous individual tries to use for his own gain. The result, of course, is every type of strife imaginable!
- Mere men - "The natural man," Paul had stated, "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God." The apostle is trying to help solve some problems inside the congregation at Corinth, but he knows that, unless the saints there can be moved over to being spiritual rather than fleshly, he is wasting his efforts. Those "men of flesh" had thus used the names of particularly of Paul and Apollos to put the stamp of legitimacy on their schismatic efforts. "For," reasoned the apostle, "when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?" (I Corinthians 3:4). True saints, by contrast, do their part to put to death the old man of sin, and to walk as truly spiritual people in "newness of life" as members of a new and chosen race.
- Servants - This brings up the question: "What then is Apollos? And what is Paul?" (I Corinthians 3:5). Paul’s credentials as an apostle of Jesus Christ were well established. Apollos, as recorded in the book of Acts, had been a powerful exponent of the Old Testament scriptures from Alexandria, Egypt, and had the difference between John’s immersion and immersion in Jesus’ name clarified for him by Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus. Because that worthy couple’s connection to Corinth, Apollos came into Achaia and worked effectively for a period of time before moving on. His name would thus be one that some of the schismatics would use for their gain. But what were Paul and Apollos, really? "Servants," states the apostle, "through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one." Servants! Just servants! So why would their names be thrown about? Thinking individuals know that the names of servants can’t give the stamp of legitimacy to anything.
The battles for the souls of men sooner or later become wars of words. Those who have covert agendas use carefully chosen words to sell their ideas, cloak their plans with acceptability, and persuade others to join their factions. It takes "combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words" to expose this darkness, and turn the disciples back to following Christ.
God Causes the Growth
God is worthy, and will receive the glory and honor due Him through Jesus Christ. And while man must work, for example, to provide sustenance for himself and his family, he must realize that God has established the huge foundation on which man can do his small part in raising and harvesting crops. "The kingdom of God," said Jesus, "is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows — how, he himself does not know" (Mark 4:26,27). While man may increasingly understand the chemistry of such growth, he will never have the capacity to know how life itself was injected onto the chemistry. Only God knows, and only God can do that. "The soil," Jesus added, "produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come" (Mark 4;28,29). The farmer can plant, water, protect, and harvest, but he cannot cause the growth. No matter how you slice it, man must still thank God for his daily bread. God is worthy, and will receive the glory and honor due Him through Jesus Christ!
- Paul and Apollos - The apostle Paul is working with the church at Corinth in an effort to get them to see that their splitting into factions and playing their particular celebrity name game was nonsensical and destructive. The value of Paul and Apollos was that they were servants of the Lord, and through them the Corinthians were able to become Christians, "even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one." If the Lord hadn’t given these people the opportunity, they wouldn’t have been able to hear the word of the gospel, and therefore wouldn’t have been able to be saved. God gets the honor and glory.
- Planting and watering - While the Father grants the overall moisture for plant growth, man still generally carries out the details of planting and irrigation. Wheat grass can grow wild on the plain, but yields are much higher if it is planted in carefully prepared soil, nurtured along the way, weeded and ready for harvest. The same is true for the harvest of souls. "I planted," says Paul in his metaphor, "Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth" (I Corinthians 3:6). Those two men obviously did their part, and worked hard in so doing. "So then," is Paul’s reality comment, "neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth" (I Corinthians 3:7). If neither Paul, who planted the congregation, nor Apollos, who "watered" it and took it to the next stage of growth, were anything, how much less are any of these unnamed fleshy promoters of strife and factions?
- Same goal - The planters and waterers of material crops have the same goal: to reap a harvest. The same was true of Paul and Apollos as each accomplished his work in Corinth and Cenchrea; they wanted a bountiful harvest of souls whose names would truly be written in the Lamb’s book of life. "Now he who plants and he who waters are one," Paul comments, "but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor" (I Corinthians 3:8). The Owner of the field and the crop will reward each planter and each waterer accordingly; but He is the One who rightly receives credit for the harvest.
When Paul wrote to the church at Rome, he also gave them a good perspective, pointing out that "grace was given me from God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles … that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sancitified by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:15,16). The great God is the One who gave someone like Paul his ability to do what he did, who sanctified his work, and who granted the increase. "We are," he says, referring to himself and Apollos, "God’s fellow workers."
Laying the Foundation
The apostle Paul was trying to maintain a difficult balance in his working with the congregation at Corinth. He has to defend his apostleship and thus his doctrine, he has to defend his authority but make certain that God is honored, and he has to accomplish his purpose but be sure that Jesus Christ glorified remains the focus. "I determined to know nothing among you," he had stated earlier, "except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." What is Apollos in comparison to Christ? What is Paul, when likened to the Lord Jesus? If the members of the Corinthians congregation could focus on Christ, then the other issues would basically disappear. "We are God’s fellow workers," is the apostle’s affirmation. "You," says he to the church, "are God’s field," referring to the planting and watering. But now, he is ready to change the metaphor. You are, he adds, "God’s building" (I Corinthians 3:9).
- A wise master builder - Having moved from "babes in Christ" to "planting and watering" in God’s field, the apostle is now using the metaphor of a building to paint his next picture. "According to the grace of God which was given me," he notes as he carefully ensures God’s being credited on the large scale, "as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it" (I Corinthians 3:10). The apostle is also making sure that the brethren know that he himself is a skilled workman, using the guilds’ terminology of apprentice to journeyman to master. He is a master builder, and the lesser brethren need to acknowledge that experience and give him the proper deference. Any of the Johnny-come-lately’s would have less experience and would be building upon a foundation painstakingly and properly laid. "But let each man be careful," exhorts the apostle, "how he builds upon it."
- The only true foundation - Referring to the confessional truth that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God," the Lord Himself said, "Upon this rock I will build My church" (Matthew 16:18). If that is how Jesus would build, then that is how his trusted servant Paul would build. "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). There are all kinds of denominations built on something other than the true Jesus, while claiming to be established on Christ. As the apostle Paul pointed out in his later epistle to the Corinthians, "For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully" (II Corinthians 11:4). The apostle, of course, is excoriating them for putting up with twisted teaching and preaching — which uses the terms "Jesus," "Holy Spirit," and "gospel," but which in fact is false doctrine — and he is pointing out that their acceptance of such perversion would send their souls to the darkest hell. The true foundation for the church can only be laid on the Jesus revealed in the scriptures: the Jesus who is to be believed, and the Jesus whose gospel is to be obeyed.
Paul was a wise master builder, and painstakingly laid the foundation for the church in Corinth. "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ," was part of his foundational perspective. "My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," he further stated, "that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." He knew what kind of foundation he needed to set in place so that the future congregation would be able to withstand the storms of false teachers, highly visible immorality, betrayal from within, and people with a power-position agenda. He wanted that foundation, as one capable of laying it by the grace of the Almighty God, to be one which would serve as a base for reaching the many people in Corinth and the surrounding area who would turn to the Lord. And he put it down, solid and square! Now, what will those who follow do …?
Builder - Take Care!
The work of the master craftsman is often slow and challenging. The master has, like an architect, to see the whole building in his mind before he lays the first block. He has to construct his foundation with extreme care, so that it will carry the weight of the whole building, so that the base be "true" or "square" in order that all the future angles will be also be exactly right, and so that the building will not shift or come apart. Such a craftsman was the apostle Paul, when it came to laying the foundation of local congregations. "As a wise master builder I laid a foundation," he calmly noted, stating the fact without arrogance or bragging. The honest concern of Paul, then, is for the future building of the congregation based on the foundation which he laid.
- Next builders - Paul spent about a year and half in Corinth before he moved on. After laboring so intensely on the foundation, he did not want those who followed to mess up or destroy the work which he began. "I laid the foundation," he remarked, "and another is building upon it." Then comes the warning: "But let each man be careful how he builds upon it" (I Corinthians 3:10). Satan, the dark lord disguised as an angel of light is at work to confuse and destroy, and the eternity of hundreds and thousands of souls is at stake!
- Cheaply, or with care - Builders have a choice; they can build cheaply and quickly, or they can construct with care something that will last. "Now if any man builds upon the foundation," intones the apostle, "with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident" (I Corinthians 3:12,13). Like two of the three little pigs, some of the builders in Corinth would build of wood, hay or straw; their work would go up quickly, but would come down just as fast in the face of spiritual wolves. Those who would build of "gold, silver, precious stones" would be engaging in much more labor intensive work, educating the brethren and building conviction in them.
- Fiery trials - The warfare in the spiritual realm is intense and violent. Because this warfare is in the realm of the unseen, God uses the physical warfare of Israel’s taking the promised land to communicate the nature of what is happening where demonic and angelic forces collide, and how intense is the battle for the souls of men. The builders, then, who would follow Paul and Apollos in the continuing work on the church at Corinth, were informed that their work would be tested. "Each man’s work will become evident," stated the experienced builder, "for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work." Waves of spiritual warfare would sweep through the congregation, and that which was built of "wood, hay, straw" would be gone in the fire, while that work which was of "gold, silver, precious stones" would stand the test of that fire.
If a man wants to build his house cheaply, and it burns in the first blaze that gets slightly out of control, there is no eternal loss. But in the case of these laborers in Corinth, the building blocks are the precious, eternal souls of the sons of men. If the teaching was shallow, and full conviction about the apostles’ doctrine was not established in the brethren, these people spiritually would not survive the fiery trials that would test their faith. They would end up burning in hell forever, and Paul was conscious of the horribleness of that loss. But if the teaching were solid and intensive, the disciples would be able to stand the tests to their faith, would be saved for all eternity, and thus the work of the builder who followed Paul and Apollos would stand. "Let each man be careful" how he builds upon the foundation of Jesus Christ!
Rewards for the Builders
The joy of Jesus Christ is centered around those with whom He will spend eternity. He had glory before He came to earth, but He did not have a bride. It was the thought of the prospective bride that powered Him through the agony of His humiliation, beatings, and crucifixion, as the writer of Hebrews noted, "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). "You," stated the apostle Paul concerning the church in Thessalonica, "are our glory and joy" (I Thessalonians 2:20). The true laborers in the gospel, who follow in the footsteps of Jesus and Paul, have as their reward and joy the eternal fellowship of those whom they have taught and influenced regarding the word of God.
- After the fire - The fires of persecution, false teaching, and temptation periodically sweep through each congregation. In the aftermath of each conflagration, a check on the spiritual building of the local congregation will reveal that some of that which was wood, hay, or straw is permanently gone; the fire of the "day" has taken it out. That which was more carefully trained as gold, silver, or precious stones is still standing. "If any man’s work which he has built [upon Paul’s foundation] remains," encourages the apostle, "he shall receive a reward" (I Corinthians 3:14). The great reward is seeing those for whom he labored faithful to the Lord, and extending the gospel of salvation to others. "I have no greater joy than this," is the reaffirmation of the apostle John, "to hear of my children walking in the truth" (III John 4). By contrast, the apostle Paul noted, "If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire" (I Corinthians 3:16). What loss! The disciple-maker who takes his work seriously, who knows the eternal value of each person, and who sees the "fire" destroy one of those precious souls, feels the loss intently. Maybe he was inexperienced, and built too cheaply. Perhaps he wanted more numbers more quickly, and learned too late that it’s the number that survive the "fire" that counts. At least this individual himself will be saved, even though suffering the loss of those for whom he labored.
- Destructive elements - There are those who build carefully, there are those who build cheaply, and there are those who destroy! "Do you not know that you are a temple of God," charges the apostle to the destroyers, calling the congregation in Corinth that temple, "and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" This is the collective "you"; "you" plural is the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells in the description here. "If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him," animadverts the apostle, "for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are" (I Corinthians 3:16,17). There were those inside the congregation who were incorporating Greek philosophy and pagan pride into the doctrines they were teaching and the influence they were peddling. In the midst of the tremendous spiritual warfare, these errors would destroy the church at Corinth. And the apostle is emphatic — if anyone destroys the local congregation, God will destroy him!
Those who carefully taught their disciples to observe all that Jesus commanded would be rewarded by God for those disciples who stood the test of the probing and exposing "fire." Those who watched their disciples crumple under the flames would suffer loss, but they themselves would be saved. But those who destroyed would themselves be destroyed. All who preach and teach must remember that ultimately they are answerable to God, and they will answer! "We are God’s workers," was Paul’s earlier comment, in regard directly to Apollos and himself. "Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor." God is the One who judges, and God is the One who rewards. "Let each man be careful how he builds!"
The Temple of the Holy Spirit
God is Spirit, and as such He does not inhabit temples made with human hands. "Heaven is My throne," was the martyr Stephen’s quote from Isaiah, "and earth is the footstool of My feet; what kind of house will you build for Me?" is the challenge. Man cannot build a temple for the Lord that is adequate, so He is building one for Himself, using the most precious materials He ever created as His building blocks. The sound of the hammer or of the axe will not be heard during the construction of His temple; much finer means are used for the shaping and tooling of His stones.
- The temple as a whole - What the scripture calls the church or the kingdom also constitutes the temple of God. The apostle Paul explained it thusly to the congregation at Ephesus, noting that the church was being built "upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:20-22). All Christians everywhere make up this habitation of the Spirit of God, and therefore it is defined as the temple of the Holy Spirit. "We are the temple of the living God," Paul stated later to the Corinthian brethren, "just as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ " (II Corinthians 6:16).
- The local congregation - The spirit realm is not so limited as the physical realm. The physical realm has distinct boundaries, and no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. But in the spirit realm, for example, Jesus can be both on the throne in heaven and at the same time dwelling in the hearts of all the faithful. In the spirit realm, then, the temple of the living God can be both the church as a whole, but also can be the local congregation. To all the brethren in Corinth, Paul writes, "Do you [plural] not know that you [plural] are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you [plural]?" The congregation together constituted one temple, and together they constituted one dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. This concept would help the congregation see how important it would be for them to be of the same mind and the same judgment, and how God would destroy anyone who attempted to destroy this holy temple called the local congregation!
- The individual Christian - The saint himself is a temple of the Holy Spirit. When a person is immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. This indwelling Spirit is the determining factor as to whether or not the individual belongs to Christ, which is the meaning of the word Christian. The apostle Paul would later ask the congregation in Corinth if they knew that each Christian was also a temple of the Lord. "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit," he writes, using the singular form for you, "who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" (I Corinthians 6:19).
A major point is that the temple of God — be it the church as a whole, or the local congregation, or the individual saint — is holy!!! How could the Holy Spirit live in an unholy temple? The words from the Old Testament law, and quoted by Peter, still have the ringing power of the ages: "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (I Peter 1:16). "If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are!"
Let no Man Deceive Himself
All things are carried out in the sight of God. "Night," said the sweet Psalmist of Israel, "is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You" (Psalm 139:12). "And there is no creature hidden from His sight," comments Hebrews’ author, "but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13). Every conversation has His listening ears, and every plan has His full attention. Within the auspices of the church of the living God, then, each saint must be continually cognizant of the presence of the All Knowing, and conduct himself accordingly.
- Watch the back door - The apostle cut the legs off of the Greek philosophers who might try to try a frontal approach to combining Greek philosophy with some semblance of the gospel of Christ. "When I came to you, brethren," he recalls, "I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God." Their faith would not be based on the reasoning processes of the Greeks; rather it would be based on the testimony of eyewitnesses such as Paul, upon the ability of these eyewitnesses to back their testimony with signs and miracles from the Holy Spirit, and with Old Testament prophecies. So the prideful and the powerful would try to come through the back door in sprinkling the poison of Greek thought into the pure sustenance of the gospel of Christ. "Let no man deceive himself," is Paul’s injunction." If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise" (I Corinthians 3:18). The warning here is severe; Paul had just stated that anyone who would destroy the temple of God would be destroyed, and it is clear that anyone trying to bring the wisdom of the age into the church of the living God was trying to do just that. Nothing would escape the eye of Him who never sleeps.
- Foolishness before God - Christ and the teachings connected with Him are the solution to all of mankind’s spiritual problems. The wisdom of the world proposes other solutions, with the long-term destruction which attends such wisdom. The apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit signify that any individual "wise in this age" needs to start at zero in Christ, and learn everything new again. "For," he says, "the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God." If it is foolishness, why would anyone put value on it? "For it is written," adds the apostle, " ‘He is the One who catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.’ " (I Corinthians 3:19,20). Why would the wisdom of this world say that people are born homosexuals, rather than its being their choice of a perverted lifestyle? Why would the wisdom of the world say that drunkenness ("alcoholism") is a sickness rather than a conscious series of decisions? Why would the wisdom of the world say that it is better to live together rather than be married? Why would the wisdom of the world be clueless about how to raise children? The world has a hidden agenda of destruction of the human race, and the Lord knows about it. "He catches the wise in their craftiness." The Lord knows that advice of the world’s experts is not going to have the proper spiritual perspective. "The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless."
In the church of the living God, earthly wisdom has to be laid aside. Those who refuse to do so are still trying to please men, and starting to destroy the temple of God. "So then let no one boast in men" (I Corinthians 3:21). "Learn Christ," is the exhortation!
The Exalted Saint
There is no need for the saint to be overly impressed by the credentials offered by the world. "The whole world," is the scripture’s analysis, "lies in the power of the evil one" (I John 5:19). And one of the evil one’s most powerful tools is deception, pretending to be something other than what he is. "Even Satan," intones the apostle Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthian brethren, "disguises himself as an angel of light" (II Corinthians 11:14). The world, then, presents itself as enlightened, when in fact it is in darkness. The philosophers and professors of the world post their credentials on their walls, and position themselves in places of prominence in order to pretend that their "knowledge" is of value. "They are from the world," is the perspective of the apostle John. "Therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them" (I John 4:5). The disciple of Christ must therefore recognize that much of the spiritual warfare around him is a war over ideas and ideals. The devil and the forces of darkness have the worldly resources necessary to paint themselves as liberators when they are in fact oppressors; they picture themselves as having the solutions when they have fomented the problems. "Woe," says Lord, "to those who call evil ‘good,’ and good ‘evil’; who substitute darkness for light, and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20). There is absolutely no need for the saint to be overly impressed by the credentials offered by the world! "So then let no one boast in man."
- The saints’ status - The bankers of the world are the world’s biggest thieves, and they are in the process of placing all the property and people on this planet in their possession. But Jesus queried, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). The financiers have set up the world’s educational institutions, have exalted their academic spokesmen, and enshrined their worldviews of evolution and secular humanism. But "the wisdom of the world is foolishness before God," was Paul’s earlier statement in this letter. The faithful follower of Christ needs to recognize who he is, even though he may appear poor and out-of-date by the world’s standards. "For all things belong to you," is the Holy Spirit’s assurance (I Corinthians 3:21). Now who can really match that????
- The saints’ possessions - "Everyone," said Jesus, "who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life" (Matthew 19:29). The child of God may not possess deed and title, but if he needs the use those for the Lord’s work, those will be his to use. But it is not just earthly-type "stuff" that is owned by the saint; it includes great teachers of the word, and all the spiritual blessings. "All things belong to you," was the statement, "whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you" (I Corinthians 3:22). That is an impressive list!
- Who’s who? - The saint, then, is placed in an awesome position, and there is no one of the world who should impress or intimidate him. But the Christian must remember what his new name means; "and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God" (I Corinthians 3:23). The believer must remember that he is still subservient to Christ and the Father.
If the saints in Corinth could be strengthened and made more confident in who they were, and see the superiority of the teaching they had received, they would be able to stand united against the forces of deception working inside the congregation. Paul’s purpose, then, in writing this letter, would be accomplished!