2020-08-23 – 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 – The Carnal Christian
August 23, 2020

2020-08-23 – 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 – The Carnal Christian

Passage: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23

Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Corinthians | 2020-08-23 – 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 – The Carnal Christian  (Concert)
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us.

Do you remember conversing with a child or young person in the past about a very complicated subject? Where you had to consider how you were going to explain something in a way that they might have a chance of understanding. There are many sensitive subjects that a parent, guardian or teacher will naturally have to repackage so that the child can learn appropriately for their age, grade or maturity level. Funny thing is, at my age, I see my children now doing the same thing for me sometimes. Maybe in dealing with a recent buzz word, slang, trend, or even technology. I hope you will agree that it is natural and expected that we all should consider what we say so that it can be received and understood by the intended listener. That same dynamic is what we will witness in scripture today.

Please turn now to 1 Corinthians 3:1, page 1012 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God.   Prayer..

Last week we read from chapters 1 and 2 of this letter Saint Paul had written to the Corinthian church. He said “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power”. Today we are going to see another reason why Paul spoke just the basics of his faith. We are going to talk today about The Carnal Christian. Starting in verse 1, Paul wrote:

1For my part, brothers and sisters, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, since you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, 3 because you are still worldly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not worldly and behaving like mere humans? 4 For whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not acting like mere humans?

Again last week we talked about how Paul used Spiritual Wisdom when he spoke to that young church family in Corinth. They were mostly Gentiles and so they didn’t understand much of the Jewish faith practices or background. Paul chose to let the Holy Spirit guide him in presenting the simple Gospel message to them so they might be saved. In this first paragraph today, we see that Paul calls them “babies in Christ”, therefore he had to talk to them using simple concepts and words that they might understand. Paul couldn’t use our “Christianese” language since they were not familiar with our terms.

Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of words we use in our Christian circles that many people struggle to understand? Our English language in itself is one of the most difficult languages to comprehend, even for us who were born here. We use words like Its vs it’s, Piece vs. Peace, Advice vs. Advise, Lose vs Loose, which are just a few examples that most all of us struggle with let alone a foreigner. Then we also have our Christianese words like Fellowship, Anointed, Hallelujah, Tithe, Communion, Holy Spirit, Sanctified, Saved, Salvation, Gospel, born again, and Evangelical, for instance that many Americans even don’t understand. Paul is mindful of his communication and we should be as well when we are conversing with others. In 1 Cor 9 Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some”, and that should be our goal as well.

In this first paragraph, Paul was also saying that the Corinth believers were not growing in their faith walk yet. He was referring back to their disunity and their worldly ways that was preventing them from growing in their faith. Some were trying to divide up the church based upon which church leader they chose to align with. Verse 5 here further illuminates that situation.

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So, then, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building.


Paul and Apollos were God’s servants and coworkers in Christ. They were not in competition with each other but partners in a common venture, and teammates working for a common task. And while their work was very important, it was all subordinate to the role of God who provided the increase. Paul was trying to get them to better understand that he and Apollos were blessed to be given the privilege of sharing the Gospel, starting churches and leading others to Christ. The glory belongs to God alone. That was true then and it is true now.

We also in this church now have two pastors, praise the Lord. Jeremiah and I work as a team to share the Gospel and give glory to God. But we are not alone in that effort. If you just look at the back of your bulletins, you can see we have trustees, team leaders, a deacon and many other servants that want to be part of the mission God has placed on our wonderful church. Not one of those positions is more important than another. We are all servants under the authority of Christ. This church is the Bride of Christ and He entrusts us to take care of her and His mission. Just like Paul wrote in those last sentences, “For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building”. Paul continues at verse 10:

10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one is to be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire.

Paul had served in that Corinth church plant for some eighteen months. He was the one who laid that first foundation, but it is God who was the General Contractor. Paul is saying here that our work for God and this church should be of excellent quality. Paul wrote more about that in his letter to the Colossians, 3:23. He said “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving”.

I also appreciate Paul’s words here to the Corinthians at verse 15, “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire”. I heard this explained once meaning that although they were Christians, they were yet young Christians. And although they were going to heaven when they die, their tails would be smoking as they were yet still wallowing in their sinful ways. That is not God’s will brothers and sisters.

Finally Paul’s last verses in this chapter 3 deal with the fact that as Christians, we have he Holy Spirit counselor guiding us and our actions. In that we should be growing in our faith and maturing in our actions. Verse 16 says:

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and that is what you are. 18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool so that he can become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, since it is written, He catches the wise in their craftiness; 20 and again, The Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are futile. 21 So let no one boast in human leaders, for everything is yours— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come—everything is yours, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Everyone say to your neighbor with me “The Lord Knows”. That’s right, King David wrote in Psalm 121:8, “The LORD will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore”. And Jesus himself said before He was put up on the cross in John 14, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you”.

So the Lord knows these Corinthian believers, and He knows you and I as well. Paul knew that these First Corinthian believers were not living up to their Christian potential. Because of their sin, they were not growing in their faith walk. Paul calls them “Carnal Christians” and “Babies in Christ” not yet able to eat meat, but instead only drinking milk. They had received the Holy Spirit, but their lives were still being controlled much by their old nature.

That word Carnal in the Greek is sarkikos (sar-kee-kos’) and it is used 15 times in the Bible. It latterly means “fleshly”. These Corinthian Christians were still thinking and acting out “fleshly” instead of spiritually. That is something we all will struggle with going forward. The world, satan and our flesh constantly pulls at our character and causes us to backslide even at times. That is another reason Jesus gave us this church family, so that we can help each other stay on course.

In Ephesians 4, Paul spells out pretty clearly what and how we are to live as Born-Again Christ followers. I will encourage you to read through that whole chapter on your own, but in Ephesians 4:22 Paul asks for believers, “to put off your old [“fleshly”] self”, “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to give up so that you might gain in Christ’s economy? That is what Jesus is asking of you today.

There is a hymn called Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus that comes to mind. It has a familiar refrain, maybe you can sing it with me now, “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”.

My prayer is that each of you, unlike these First Corinthian believers, are growing mightily in your faith. That you are putting away your old “fleshly” self and embracing more and more your true Born Again identity. Make this Christian faith journey real in your life brothers and sisters, and in that I promise you, you will surely be blessed.

Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation..

We are going to sing one verse of Amazing Grace, if you would like to accept God’s calling on your life today, then I ask that you consider coming forward as we sing this song.

Baptism (Celsey, Clarissa, Heidi)


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