Summary. A community divided will not stand. Nations, cities, churches, and families are all communities. When they are divided, they crumble. In our times, it appears communities – even some churches – are doing more crumbling than standing. Christ’s church . . . his people should lead in shaping a culture of unity.
In this text, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth. He had first preached here during his second missionary journey. Paul is concerned because this church community is showing evidence that it is not maturing. And the primary evidence that Paul points to is neither noble acts or deep theological thoughts – Paul is concerned with how this community treats one another. Their failure to work together is his best evidence of their failure to mature. We must do the same self assessment with ourselves and within our communities of family and church. Paul remind us that although we play a part in all that occurs, it is God who has and is the power. It is God who provides – often using our labor – the increase and growth in the lives of others. Remembering that it is in God’s hands, not ours, will (1) decrease jealousy and division, (2) mature our faith, and (3) strengthen our communities.
Immature Faith in the Past (v1-2). God used Paul to plant this Christian community at Corinth. He was able to speak with them both warmly and firmly. Unfortunately, the church – rather than advancing has found itself mired in division. He begins by laying foundation, reminding them of their relationship, his message and their youthfulness in Christ.
- Do you agree with Paul that we are like spiritual babes at the beginning of our faith journey? Why do you feel this way?
- Are we supposed grow in our faith? (Remember the sermon on Building our Faith from 2 Peter 1:5-11)?
- What are some ways your faith has grown/matured since you first accepted Christ?
Immature Faith in the Present (v2). The people might have been with Paul when he described their past but maybe not so much at the end of verse 2. He challenges them directly.
- What does Paul say at the end of verse 2 to let the church know that its faith is still immature?
- How do you think they might have responded? How do we respond when we are confronted – by others – with our immaturity or need to grow?
Evidence of Immaturity (v3-4). Paul is speaking a bit of a rough word to his people. He is calling them immature children. Whatever causes him to reach this conclusion must be significant for him to speak so strongly.
- What is the evidence of spiritual immaturity that Paul sees in the people in verse 3? Verse 4??
- Do we ever see these things (jealousy, strife, quarreling, division) among people in the church? What are some examples?
Significance of the Immaturity. Paul’s emphasis on how we treat one another cannot be overemphasized. How we love God and wow we treat one another are the cornerstones of our faith. What do the following verses have to say about this:
- 1 John 4:20. How can say you love God . . .
- Matthew 22:36-39. Two great commandments. How we treat one another.
- Galatians 2:11-13. Importance to Paul of unity and working together.
God is the Power (5-7). Often jealousy and division exist because we spend too much time concerned about what other people do and not enough time focused on improving ourselves. In these final verses, Paul emphasizes how foolishness this is. We are only servants . . . doing work as assigned by God. And, although our work is important and we do our part, it is ultimately God that provides the increase. How can these truths (we are only servants, God provides the increase) help us – as followers of Christ – to (1) have a more mature faith & (2) build stronger communities (in home, church & community)?
Dr. King often spoke of “the Beloved Community.” We have an opportunity to be shapers, molders, and modelers of how the beloved community should look. In fact, it is our charge. Let us be intentional in maturing in our faith, loving one another, and growing relationships. “They shall know us by our love.” John 13:35