Thursday, April 9, 2015

1 Corinthians 3:1-4

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?

Vs. 1-2 The Apostle Paul having justified God's Wisdom and how He disseminates it through those whom He chooses, now says of his sharing it with the Corinthians that he could not speak to them as he wanted to speak to them as to "spiritual people". For though they were born-again Christians they were for the most part immature in their faith and lives. So the Apostle Paul had to address them as carnal people, as babes In Christ (vs. 1). So there is some irony here in that the Corinthians though thinking themselves to be "wise" and "mature" Christians, yet in reality were only acting and living as carnal believers. Carnal here meaning worldly, fleshly, base etc., that is living by this world's ways, and or being led by their own fleshes impulses and desires. Thus the fruits of the Spirit were being set aside for their carnal nature's wants and desires. Not exactly what you would call being spiritual, or being mature, in ones faith. And so it was for that reason the Apostle Paul says in verse two that he fed them with milk and not with solid food; which again is just a metaphor for his holding back the deep truths of God's Word from them, because of their immaturity and carnality (also see Heb 5:11-14). Indeed Paul says because of their immaturity and carnality they were not able to receive it, even saying at the time of his writing to them, they were still not able to receive it. And so 1 Corinthians though containing some deep spiritual truths throughout, will do so within the context of addressing the pressing issues that needed to be addressed amongst them first. 

Vs. 3-4 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?

As evidence of their immaturity and carnality the Apostle Paul now asks them, " For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" vs. 3
And so it is that the Apostle Paul mentions three things that had him describing the Corinthians as carnal: envy, strife, divisions. Now this he did not to shame them, but to enlighten them to their wrong behavior and attitudes. For neither envy, nor strife, nor divisions is the mark of Christian maturity, either amongst them, or amongst us. Now looking at the word translated envy, it is defined by Louw-Nida here as having "a particularly strong feeling of resentment and jealousy against someone." LN 88.162 
Now this envy likely came from the importance that they themselves had placed upon the one through whom they had believed the Gospel (vs. 4). Yet it has never been the one through whom one believes the Gospel that matters, as the Apostle will affirm in verses five to seven. Rather it is the One to whom the Gospel testifies too as being the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and ones faith in Him, crucified and risen from the dead, that is what matters, to personally receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 1:12). And so whether they believed through the Apostle Paul, or Apollos', or somebody else's preaching the Gospel to them, ultimately does not matter. For believing through one or the other does not make either the Corinthians (or any of us) any more spiritual, or any less spiritual, because of the one through whom they (or we) believe the Gospel, and thus received Christ into our hearts and lives. Now the Apostle Paul also says there was strife amongst the Corinthians, which Louw-Nida says mostly refers to as: ‘always saying bad things about one another’ or ‘never having a good word to say to one another.’ LN. 39.22 And so sadly we are getting a pretty clear picture of the carnality and immaturity that was then amongst them. Believers were not being supportive of each other as they should've been, instead they were living in envy and strife towards one another. Which does not make for an atmosphere where peace and unity and love could flourish.
Finally the Apostle Paul says that there were divisions amongst them. Now divisiveness (like envy and strife) is never the work of the Holy Spirit, in either a believers life, or in a church assembly. For those things are only works of the sinful nature (see Gal. 5:19-21), that must be repented of (Rev 3:19). And so thankfully the Apostle Paul will tactfully and patiently guide the Corinthians through that process, so that the Corinthians, and all who heed his Spirit given instructions will by the grace of God receive, and ultimately be, all that Christ intends that we should receive and be as His people.

Scripture Quotations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Additional Resources Consulted 
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 759). New York: United Bible Societies.

Word Studies 
Vs. 1 carnal
Vs. 3 envy, strife 

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