17 minutes to read
If you have a Bible and I hope you or somebody around you does. You can look at it with me. Let me invite you to open with me to 1 Corinthians 3. We are going to be in a variety of different places that I will reference in Scripture but I want to start here in 1 Corinthians 3. While you are turning there. I want to say how grateful I am to be part of this gathering. I wish I was there in person. I have had the opportunity to spend a good amount of time in India and also in other parts of India. I praise God for you as pastors and leaders and church planters and followers of Christ; brother and sister in Christ in India.
I have heard much about God’s grace specifically in this group and that’s why I have been looking forward to having the opportunity to be able to hopefully encourage you with God’s word but I just want you to know I thank God when I remember you. I pray for God’s grace in and through you for the spread of his glory and his gospel there where you are in India and then and far beyond where you are among the nations. So, before we dive into the word I want to pray for you for our time together and I just want to know how thankful for the privilege of joining together with you this way and let you know how much I wish I was there with you in person. So, let’s pray.
Oh! God, I thank you for this way for us to gather and hear from you in your word. I pray for every single person who is part of this gathering. I pray that they would know even right now in a fresh way the depth of your love for them. What it means to be your child to know you as the father. We praise you as the one true God. Overall God of gods, Lord of lords, and King of kings. We praise you, Jesus as the one who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead, victory over the grave who gives us eternal life and we thank you God and we thank you for saving us from our sins. God, we thank you for delivering us from the Judgement we deserve. Bringing us into your family and then for calling us to lead in your Church. We don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve to be standing where I am right now. None of us deserve to be where we are right now. We’re only here by your grace and so we praise you. I praise you for your grace and we pray that you would help us by your grace even now. God, I pray that you would help me to be an instrument in your hands to encourage my family in India and you help us all including myself in the next few to hear from you about what it means to love and lead and serve and shepherd your church. So, teach us by your Holy Spirit now. We don’t want to do anything in the next few minutes. I don’t want to speak. We don’t want to listen in the flesh. We want to listen. I want to speak in the power of your Spirit. So lead us by your spirit. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen!
Okay, So I want us to read through the whole chapter 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul is talking about the Church and there are three different pictures that Paul uses of the Church in this Chapter. So, I want you to as I read try to listen out for three different pictures or images that Paul gives of the Church and then that will lead us into the first couple of verses in 1 Corinthians 4 then based on that what I want to do so the topic I was asked to speak on was spiritual disciplines of a Church so based on what we read in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, I want to encourage you with twelve spiritual disciplines of a Biblical Church. So, twelve spiritual disciplines of a Biblical Church each one of these Spiritual disciplines we could spend many hours talking about. We don’t have time for that during this session. So we are going to hit them pretty quickly. But I hope they will provide a foundation for you as you think about the church you’re part of. You think about the health of that church to be able to say what this spiritual discipline looks like in our Church. How are we doing? Are we healthy? When it comes to this spiritual discipline or not. So, let’s start there with the 1 Corinthians 3:1. Again look for three differences between the Church and what Paul writes in this chapter.
1 Corinthians 3:1-23
1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there are jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos, "are you not being merely human? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he will be saved, but only as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," 20 and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
Okay, so did you see it? Three pictures of the Church. Paul is talking here about who the Church is. What the Church is and in verse 5 he starts using imagery of a field and workers, in verse 9 he says we are God’s fellow workers. Then he says “ You” and here he is speaking to the church. Paul says you are God’s field. So there is the first picture - the Church is God’s field, that is a picture that’s common in Scripture even when you think about Jesus’ teaching about the sower and the seed as the sower throws the seed on the ground and the seed grows up and bears fruit and there is no explanation for it because God is the one who gives the growth that’s what Paul is saying here. Paul does this, Apollos does that but it’s God who grows the Church like plants in a field. So that’s one picture of the Church as a field that God is bringing fruit in.
That leads to the second picture in verse 9 you are God’s field which God is building and that is the picture he talks about from verse 9 through verse 15. And I love the way Paul talks about his role here as a church planter he says he is like a skilled master builder. He is laying a foundation for the church in Christ. Thinking about it like this is what we do in church planting. We are a master building. This is what we do as pastors: we are building the church. Now obviously we know from the language Jesus uses in Matthew 16 He is the one who builds His church. That’s what Paul is talking about here God is the one who gives the growth. At the same time there is a sense in which we might say we are building the church as Church planters and Pastors this is what Paul said - I laid the foundation somebody else is building upon it and using that imagery he says be careful how you build because one day it going to become clear whether or not what you’ve built will stand.
This is a very sobering passage because building the church is extremely serious work. The Bible is saying here not just to the Church at Corinth in the first century but to you and me right now in this gathering. God is saying through his word be wise according to my words in the way you build my Church. Because how you build my Church will have an effect on what people think about the church, what people think about me, and whether or not people will be able to stand in eternity. Paul is saying here better build the church well on a firm foundation because eternity is going to show whether or not what you’ve built can stand the test of fire. If any of the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up he will suffer a loss this is verse 14 and 15 though he will be saved only as through fire. So, building the church pastoring and planting the church this is no casual task that you and I have been called to do. Or we're just free to do it however we want. Now, this is a serious task that we must do according to God’s word, and while our salvation is secure. In this sense, we don't fear the Day of Judgment because we have trusted in Jesus. The reality is one day God is going to judge how you and I have built His church. That reality should cause all of us to tremble. The church is God’s building and He has called us to be builders in it.
That leads to the third picture, the Church is God’s temple according to verse 16, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you if anyone destroys God’s temple God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.” What a powerful picture, the church is the dwelling place of God. The temple is the place in the Old Testament where God’s Spirit and glory dwelled among his people then when Jesus died on the cross the curtain of the temple was torn. The way was made open for people through faith in Jesus to come into relationship with God which is why we read in 1 Corinthians 6 the Bible teaches that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God’s spirit and his glory dwell in you and me in our bodies.
But here in 1 Corinthians 3, the Bible is teaching that it's not just our bodies individually that God’s Spirit dwells rather in his church also which is gathered together. This is where the presence and the glory of God are manifested in a powerful way. So, that means our work as pastors and church planters and leaders in the church will reflect the world, the glory and the presence of God among His people. Don't miss what God is saying to us here, He's telling us to work hard to build His church according to His word because he intends for his glory to be put on display in the work we are doing as the church and the churches we plant and in the churches we pastor. God desires his glory to be displayed in India, in metro Washington DC. How does he display his glory? Through churches that are filled with his Spirit. Through churches, that is his field, his building, his temple. All of this means we must build God’s church according to God’s word. We must build God’s church according to his word in a way that will stand on the Day of Judgment.
So, how do we do this? And that's what leads into. I’ll just say, well, we could keep studying 1 Corinthians. This is such a great book but I just want to read the first two verses of 1 Corinthians 4. Because Paul then writes this is how one should regard us. When he talks about us there, he's talking about himself and Apollos and other leaders in the church and other planters and pastors of the church. This is how one should regard us and he gives two descriptions one as servants of Christ. That's, it's a great word that he uses there for servants. It's a word that would have been used in the first century to describe what's called an under rower on a boat.
So, picture the lowest galley of slaves on a boat and they're out in the water. Their only job is to do whatever the captain of the ship says to do. When the captain says row they start rowing. When the captain says stop they stop and the captain says row this way they row this way. When the captain says row that way they just do whatever the captain says. Paul says that's who I am as a pastor. That's who I am as a church planter. I’m an under rower and a boat Jesus is my captain. I just do whatever he tells me to do. This is who you and I are. We are under rower. We are the servants of Jesus Christ. Whatever he says, do it. We do not have the right to build the church to lead the church according to our thoughts and our ideas and our opinions. No, we do whatever Jesus says to do in His word.
We're servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. That phrase the mysteries of God is a common phrase that Paul uses to talk about the gospel, the mystery of Christ. Who is in us. Who has died for us. Who saves us from all the nations. So basically, it's a picture of being a steward of the gospel. The good news of God’s love in Christ for all the nations. You and I have been given this gospel to steward like the picture it reviews. Where you are there in India, you have been given the greatest news in the world to steward it. Imagine it, this way in the middle of this pandemic. Imagine that you have a cure to COVID. You have a cure for this disease. You have been given that cure to steward it. So, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to just keep it to yourself? Make sure that your family has it and then just stop there. No, you are going to do everything you can to get that cure to as many people as possible because you want to be a good steward of this gift. That has been given to you. This is where I just want to remind us. We have been given a greater gift than a cure to COVID.
We've been given the gospel of Jesus Christ to make his grace and his salvation. Not just salvation from disease, salvation from sin, salvation from eternal death to make this good news known to the ends of the earth. We are stewards of the eternal cure. That's found in Christ. So, this is who we are servants of Christ; stewards of the gospel. So, then verse 2, moreover, it is required of stewards. So, what is required of us as servants of Christ and stewards of the gospel? What is required of you according to God? They should be found faithful. One word in 1 Corinthians 4:2 that God says I require this of you and me as pastors, as church planters, as leaders in the church. God requires us not to be creative or innovative or people who come up with all kinds of new great ideas that no one else has ever thought of. Not that we are popular with a lot of people like us. No, God has required one thing of us that we be faithful to Him. Paul says after this he says no one else is my judge. I'm not living for this person or that person. I’m not living for you or anybody else as my judge. I’m not even my judge. I live for one judge. Jesus, my only aim is to be faithful before him. So, I encourage you even as I’m encouraging myself right now in a fresh way based on this text. As pastors, planters, and leaders in the church God’s field, God’s building, and God’s temple what is required of us? It is that we faithfully build his church according to his word.
So, how do we do that? How do or how can we be faithful? And this is where I want to offer you 12 spiritual disciplines. As I mentioned earlier we could study God’s word for hours with each one of these but I’m going to hit them quickly and just mention different passages where we see these spiritual disciplines in the church. And I offer these to you in hopes that if we as pastors and planters and leaders in the church would give ourselves to these 12 disciplines in a church. We would be faithful before God.
This article is the first one of the three-part article series of the transcript of the Session 1 preached by David Platt in Online AIPC 2020 Conference held on Sep 15-17, 2020.