Wednesday, 23 April 2014
…for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 1 Corinthians 3:3
This verse explains the comments of the preceding verse very clearly. Paul just stated, “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.” He notes that they “are still carnal” which indicates that though they are saved, they are immature believers who are living in the flesh more than under the influence of the Spirit. To explain what he means, he then provides three specific examples of their carnality:
1) There is envy. When someone possess something that another desires in an unhealthy way, it causes them to resent the one who possesses that thing – be it a physical attribute such as beauty, strength, hair color, etc., or be it a tangible possession, such as jewelry, clothing, etc. It can also involve positions of power, social standing, and so on. Whatever leads one to be envious of another is unhealthy and this will surely lead to strife. In the case of the church, envy can lead to a whole host of problems which includes both of the other two examples Paul mentions.
2) Strife. This involves in-fighting and contention. It is an outward demonstration of people unwilling to live in harmony with each other. Proverbs speaks about strife in great detail. One example is the cause of it –
“A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends.” Proverbs 16:28
Another proverb shows it’s effect, but also provides a remedy –
“The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.” Proverbs 17:14
Studying strife in the book of proverbs is a recommended tool for churches such as those at Corinth who are still living in a carnal manner.
3) Divisions. Paul spoke in chapter 1 about some of the divisions he was aware of at Corinth. Thus, his note to them about being carnal is supported by what he has already said. Divisions, if not resolved, will naturally lead to people quitting the church, completely separating the church into smaller bodies, or a host of other sad situations. It takes care, prayer, and wisdom to overcome them.
Because of these things occurring right there in the church, it demonstrated that they weren’t living by the Spirit. And so Paul asks rhetorically, “are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” The answer is “Yes.” Instead of living in the Spirit and relying on the wisdom of God, they were living in the flesh and failing to pursue what was right and appropriate for holy living within the body.
Life application: Are you spending your time and energy within the church as a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Paul identifies those things which are disruptive and then he explains how to properly conduct oneself. Without reading and applying his epistles to our lives, we will inevitably find ourselves being a part of the problem.
Lord Jesus… You are the Head of the church and You have given us the Bible to understand how to responsibly conduct ourselves within it. Help me Lord to apply what You have given us so that I will be a part of what is good and right, rather than a part of the problems which arise. Help me to be discerning in all matters of right faith and practice Lord. Thank You for hearing me. Amen.