Ephesians 4:4-6, One hope of your calling: Eternal Reward, 1Co 3:1-17, part 5.

Class Outline:

Thursday January 28, 2021


1CO 3:1-4

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men?


The Corinthians, though so changed by their position in Christ, continued to live as if they had no horizon beyond the merely human.


1CO 3:5

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.


The Lord gave “opportunity to each one,” but as he goes on to say, they work together in a corporate ministry.


Then Paul puts forth the image of the field and the fellow laborer (vv. 6-9).


Whether a minister is anything depends upon whether they play the subsidiary role assigned by God as agents to facilitate God’s work, not their own projects. The image is the people of God as a field and the agricultural laborers perform tasks that make for conditions of maximum growth, but they are not sources of growth.


1CO 3:6

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.


I planted, Apollos watered are both aorists (past events completed), but “causing the growth” is imperfect (went on doing and still is).


A fruitful ministry is the work of God in the life or lives of those who submit to the subsidiary role of God’s servant doing only God’s will.


And we don’t have to know how far we have come or how much we have grown. No one actually looks at themselves growing. It only after it has happened, quite unconsciously, that we look back over years and notice that we have grown. So if it seems sometimes like you are not growing at all, you are more of a wilting plant or a building that is about to collapse, take heart. God is at work in you to do and to will all His good pleasure. In all of history, what has ever engaged God’s energy and purpose is the deliverance of the human soul.


1CO 4:3-4

I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.


Leaving ourselves to God’s will and work as we obey Him and do what He tells us to do, we are free from occupation with self and can then look to others. We must reach back and pull up to us the weaker and more immature believers by truth and grace and love. Rather than resigning to do nothing in the crumbling world, we have the mind of Christ, so loving the world that we seek and offer salvation to the lost, whether the unbeliever or the unknowing or carnal believer. We don’t lord it over them, but in humility and gentleness, becoming all things to all men so that we may win some.


In this passage, 1CO 9:19-23, everything is for the gospel, and therefore, for others.


1CO 9:19-23

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. 20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.


“Free” is the first word in the Greek sentence of vs. 19, and so emphasizes it as a keynote. Free was what the Corinthians claimed to be as they separated themselves from the word and will of God.


Paul will tell them what freedom is - to spontaneously do the will of God without any hindrance from self or the world.


Though free from all people, we are voluntarily slaves to them because our top desire is the success of the gospel.


Some think that the Bible condones slavery. In the generally accepted sense, it does not. In this sense, it certainly does.


The call is to accommodation and flexibility without sin or compromise to the truth. Being in Christ transcends all cultural allegiances. This also applies to the body of Christ, since Christians come from varied backgrounds and cultures.


“Those without law,” would refer to Gentiles and not lawless criminals.


Paul would not become criminal for the gospel. He guards this statement carefully, so that none would suspect him of lawlessness, by stating, “being… under the law of Christ.” In this, Paul is referring to the customs of the Gentile as opposed to the Jew, but again, not in sinfulness.


“To the weak I became weak,” is controversial, as we would expect. But we must remember that Paul is teaching the Corinthians about love and accommodation from Paul’s own experience with unbelievers, “by all means save some.” So, this is not a reference to the believer with a weak conscience, though the spirit of what Paul is saying would apply to everyone. “I became weak” would not refer to a weak conscience since we are called to freedom and strength. Paul is using, as an example, his own dealings with unbelievers in order to emphasize a point.


We are not to also become weak in conscience when seeking to help the believer who suffers so. We must be sure to know that Paul is writing in this paragraph about his dealings with unbelievers so that we do not create any falsehood.


The weak he is referring to here are likely the unbelieving slave or vulnerable socially and economically - the outcasts, poor, and limited.


All are weak in reference to certain categories of sin. We do not become like that to help them. But Paul’s point in this paragraph is that we must seek to help them in any way we can. And, as an example, Paul says, “To the poor and the slave and the outcast (the weak in the world), I became as them so as not to call attention to their plight, but to draw their attention to the gospel.”


Paul didn’t bring attention to their poverty of slavery or unfair treatment. He didn’t promise them social or governmental programs to lift them out of poverty or emancipate them. He actually became like them and gave them the only thing that could set them free and make them rich - the gospel.


1CO 9:23

And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.


Sharing in the gospel is to enjoy the fellowship of giving life to others, for that is what the gospel does.


A person may find the material blessing of sharing in a company or business, being a shareholder. A person may also find the spiritual blessing of sharing in the gospel that saves men and unites them to Christ as branches to the vine.


Partaker is the Greek koinonia which Paul uses also for sharing in the sufferings of Christ in PHI 3:10.


This paragraph is a rhetorical climax to the preceding argument, that our calling is far above any right to substance, and that we must sacrifice the substance if our claim to it would in any way hinder the gospel.


Love sets bounds to Christian freedom. We are not concerned with dramatic success by worldly standpoint, but by concern for the weak and the needy spiritually.


1CO 9:14-18

So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things that it may be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.


And so, for this reason, Paul is all things to all men for the sake of the gospel.


Faith is demanded. Some days, the laying aside of what you may rightfully do for the sake of another’s benefit may seem quite easy. On other days it feels like climbing Everest. Faith is the ability to hold on to what you have already believed as true, and that, in spite of your changing moods. Our moods, a branch of our emotional makeup, will change. Moods will rise up within you that will make even Christianity itself seem improbable. Faith is the ability to tell your moods were to get off and to continue to hold on to the truth of the matter. Such faith takes practice in learning and applying the truth to life. We have to really go for the Christ-life at its heavenly height so that we will discover how much we depend upon God for it. We must find out how weak we really are so that we consciously depend upon God every moment while we simultaneously willingly reach ahead to do His will.


1CO 3:6

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.


He recapitulates and reiterates the same point in the next line.


1CO 3:7

So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.


God alone causes growth in persons and churches; never the ministers who make for the conditions of growth.


It’s not that the ministers are unimportant. The calling upon their ministering is to create the optimum conditions for growth.


In contrast to the Corinthians placing each of their teachers in different categories and evaluating them, Paul says that they are one.


All of God’s ministers are one - all do the work of God’s will and purpose.


1CO 3:8-9

Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.


The Greek leaves open the question of whether “are one” refers to status (no difference between Paul and Apollos) or purpose (both have a common task). Still, it is all one who does the planting and the watering. All are one in the work and in submission to God’s one will and purpose. This truth excludes any sense of rivalry, competition, or ranking.


Here we find our first instance of “reward” in this passage. Paul’s point is not immediately obvious. The possibilities are:


“His own reward.” ??

1) Ministers are responsible to God alone who rewards.

2) Each minister will witness the growth of his flock.

3) A minister will not see his impact and will have to wait for the judgment seat of Christ.


1) Paul and Apollos are responsible to God alone who rewards their obedience. God will also supply all of their needs as “fellow workers belonging to God.”


2) The ineffective, shallow, prayerless minister may never see the reward of men and women in his church coming to Christ or growing to maturity. However, the authentic servant-minister to God will see this and it will be the greatest reward he could receive.


3) Trying to determine the extent of impact of any ministry (personal or church) is impossible and therefore pointless and likely misleading. Only when we stand at the judgment seat of Christ will the verdict truly come in.


One or all could be in view in the passage. There is certainly truth to them all.


What is revealed is that whatever good any of us do, if it survives the judging eye of Christ, it will remain and accompany us into eternity.


Each one will take his own good, as judged so by Christ, with him into heaven and it will remain forever.


1CO 3:14

If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.


1CO 4:3-4

I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.