Series on I Corinthians, II The Message of the Gospel, D Following, Text: 3:1-9, Title: Field of Dreams

Introduction

It is certainly appropriate for us to ask who were the Christians in the church in Corinth following? They were not following Jesus who said, If any man will come after me let him deny himself take up his cross and follow me, and who said to His disciples, Follow me and i will make you fishers of men. They lacked both the dedicated self-sacrifice and the vision for the lost that Jesus commanded, because they were following men and not God. The prophet Isaiah says of the servant of the Lord, Jesus, in 53:2 He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. he was despised and rejected by men. You can't say that of preachers. There's always something that draws men to men. It may be stature, appearance, education, eloquence, manners or a hundred other things, but you can never say there is nothing that makes us desire them. There is a real and present temptation to follow men, and when we do we miss what it means to follow the Lord. Hebrews 12 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross. No man can do for you what Jesus does, as the hymn writer says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus look full in his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” Paul deals with this problem by focusing first on the conflict, then on the carnality and finally on the commitment.

I The Conflict

In verses 5-8, with irrefutable logic, the Apostle explains why the conflict among the Corinthians over men was foolish. 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. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. The ministers, he chooses himself and Apollos as those with whom the Corinthians were best acquainted, were appointed by God and are accountable to God, but in themselves they are nothing. He says it clearly in verse 7, only God can make their labors fruitful. In the seasons for gardening people dig, compost, lime, fertilize, seed, plant, water, and weed. My Father in Law does all of this and then one of the main topics of conversation is why the garden isn’t growing as it should. I never have the answers, because if God doesn't make it grow all of that labor is useless. It means nothing unless God gives the increase. Since Christians’ personalities differ we often find that we are prone to dislike aspects of a leader’s personality. However, we are called to honor them and obey them in the Lord. The pitfall is that sometimes we allow our dislikes to interfere with loving and obeying. The Corinthians variously said I follow Paul, Apollos, Peter, and the self righteous claimed Jesus. in Acts 18 Apollos is described as a learned man, versed in the Old Testament, one who taught about Jesus accurately and confounded the Jews with the scriptures. He taught in Ephesus before Corinth. Paul followed his ministry in Ephesus. There is no doubt Paul and Apollos were of one mind. There was also unanimity between Peter and Paul. Peter defends Paul’s ministry at the apostolic council in Acts 15 and later refers to him fondly in his second letter. All these leaders knew one another as faithful fellow servants, but they also knew that God sovereignly dispenses his grace and truth. And so the conflict was foolish, because, as the miracle of life brings fruit to your garden, so the miracle of God's grace brings blessing to your life and not the men who preach and teach.

II The Carnality

This leads us to ask, why then do we follow men? The answer in verses 1-4 is that it is our sinful human nature, Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly-mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? Paul refers to them as being immature, infants, able to digest only the milk and not the solid food of his teaching. He uses the word fleshly or carnal as opposed to spiritual. There's been a lot of confusion over this statement. On the one hand it is certainly wrong to suggest that there are two classes of Christians, spiritual and carnal, as if one could be saved by God's grace and then simply ignore the cost of following Christ. No one who does that has a right to assure himself that he is a true believer. We are to give diligence to make our calling and election sure. On the other hand Christians are often dominated by their sinful natures. Paul addressed the Corinthians in the most glowing terms, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, enriched in knowledge and confirmed to be blameless in the last day, and yet here they were dominated by the flesh. There are so many unrealistic expectations for the Christian life. Stop and look at the Bible. When Abraham got scared and lied about Sarah being his wife. When Moses got angry at God's people and was not allowed to enter the promised land. When David sinned with Bathsheba or when he numbered the people, didn't their sinful natures have the upper hand? And how about Peter who denied knowing Jesus. Later he had a vision from the Lord that the gospel was equally for the Gentiles as well as the Jews and he ate with the Gentiles, but when Paul came to Antioch he found Peter eating at the kosher table. He had given into his fears of the Jewish believers who were insisting on observing Jewish rites. Paul rebuked him. Didn't his sinful nature have the upper hand? Paul says if any man is in Christ he is a new creation, he also says i am carnal, sold under sin, and he teaches us that the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. In this struggle it is often that the flesh will dominate our behavior. The Scripture says, As newborn babes desire the sincere -pure- unadulterated milk of the word. We need to live in a spirit of repentance and we will not get this from men. We get it from Jesus. We get it as the author of Hebrews tells us from fixing our eyes on Him, and from considering Him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that we will not grow weary or lose heart. We are carnal and we need to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.

III The Commitment

Whose field are we anyway? Paul tells us in verse 9, For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. Who owns this sacred plot we call the Church? To whom do we belong? Not to Paul, not Apollos, not to Peter, or to any man, for we are God's field and the men are just workers. They do not own the field. I called this sermon field of dreams. Obviously I am not talking about fantasy here, but there was a film which was a fantasy about a farmer who built a baseball field in the middle of Iowa. It was his field of dreams. All of his friends told him what a fool he was, but he followed his dream in spite of them and was rewarded as the great players of the game came out of the past and played on his field. He didn't follow the men he followed his dream. In the Bible there's a man like this, but it’s not a fantasy, it’s true. His name was Noah, and he didn't build a baseball field in the middle of Iowa corn, he built an ark in the middle of dry land. They mocked him but by his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. He didn't get there by following men. he knew who owned the field.


Conclusion

In the end, all of life is a question of stewardship and lordship. We are the servants, Christ is the Lord. What matters is not your church or your teachers, or your party. What matters is your commitment to Christ and heeding his words. He said, He who would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. You have to be as devoted to that as the fool who built the field of dreams. Notice Paul’s irony in this same letter in 4:10. He says, We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are so wise. Proverbs 28:26 tells us that, He who trusts in himself is a fool. That is what the Corinthians were doing. In the end it was not their opinion that counted, but God’s. One of the bishops attending Vatican II later shared with a few colleagues a note from his personal journal: "Wisdom everywhere, courage nowhere. Dear Lord, we are dying of prudence." Remember Chapter 1:20-25, Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.