1 Corinthians 3:1-4 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? NKJV
Paul finished up chapter 2 of this epistle or letter defining to these Corinthian believers the complete contrast in the “natural man” verses the “spiritual man” wanting to get them to see the newness of life (Romans 6:4) that should be evident and present in their lives every day, totally different from what they were before they heard the gospel and encountered our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul began this epistle or letter expressing his sadness and disappointment over news that had come to him about their behavior, this is what Paul said, 1 Corinthians 1:11-12 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” NKJV It would not be an out of order question for someone to ask, “Why didn’t Paul express his rebuke of their quarreling behavior immediately in the beginning of the letter?” Paul (under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit) took a pause to instead expound to them what real wisdom looks like from God’s perspective and to command them to place all of their exaltation and glory in our Lord Jesus Christ alone and to finally make known to them what true “spiritual wisdom” is and to get them to not only see themselves as “spiritual men and women”, but more importantly to paint a clear picture to them of what they should be by now in Christ allowing His Mind “dwelling in them” to control their thoughts and actions among each other.
After Paul has finished laying this all out for them in very clear language, he now turns back to the conflicts, clicks, and carnality that he has been informed exist among them. Paul was hoping by now to write a letter to them that did not require his correction of matters he felt he taught them clearly during the year and a half he stayed their teaching them the Word of God (Acts 18:11). Paul was disappointed to hear of these factions amongst them which amounted to blatant sectarianism. Sectarianism is defined as a narrow-minded adherence to a particular sect, party or denomination. Obviously these were the days of the Churches infancy in terms of relative short time since our Lord Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension back to Heaven. Even though this letter is supposed to have been written around A.D. 96 which would make the establishment of this church over 60 years removed from our Lord’s Ascension, there is nothing recorded in Holy Scripture that indicates any denominations being formed because these early Apostles (including Paul) squashed these sort of divisions and separations quickly for the very purpose of preventing what we see today. Today it is very hard, if not impossible, to look at the visible church and discern which ones are being led and taught by the Apostles doctrine (Acts 2:42).
Paul rebuked them by calling them “carnal” and “babes in Christ” and they knew it was a rebuke because they perceived themselves to be “spiritually mature” because they individually and collectively as a church body did not “come behind in no gift” instead they were above many others in the endowment of “spiritual gifts” bestowed upon them at their new birth and they took this as the sign, symbol, or statement of their “spiritual maturity.” Paul rebuked them for three specific things he list here describing their behavior with one another and the three were envying, strife, and divisions. The first English word envying Paul uses is translated by the Greek word zelos which means to be hot or zealous in an unfavorable sense, and contentious rivalry and jealousy. It is the pagan carnal man or woman that regularly acts in a contentious way with others in politics, about social issues, and on the job striving and seeking after the temporal pleasures of this earthly world which is fading away, but it should not be so with the redeemed children of God, instead it should be as it was in the beginning as documented for us by Dr. Luke with these words, Acts 2:44-45 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. NKJV
The second English word strife Paul uses is translated by the Greek word eris which means a quarrel or angry disputes or disagreements and wrangling or intense and loud arguments and contentions and finally variance or discords that cause a split in a group. Paul could see the course or road these Corinthians were headed down and it would serve no eternal purpose and surely not honor our Lord Jesus Christ and bring glory to His Name. Paul certainly was determined, dogmatic, and driven to stop sectarianism before it even had the chance to take root and grow. Paul would surely be heart-broken to see what has taken place today with so many different denominations that it is like a puzzle box with hundreds of pieces and not even a picture on the box. Paul used every grace from our Lord Jesus Christ as he was energized by the Holy Spirit to turn around these believers and lead them back to the foot of the Cross in repentance. The third English word divisions Paul used is translated from the Greek word dichostasia which means disunion or separation and dissension and sedition that resisted authority and caused disruption. Paul categorized them as “behaving as mere men” in contrast to the clear definition of a “spiritual man” Paul defined for them in 1 Corinthians 2. Paul wanted them to see clearly that instead of them being the “spiritual men” they should have been after these many years had gone by, that they were acting like the men they were before they met Christ which certainly should not have been their condition. Paul wants them to know that it is not about him or Cephas or Apollos, but always and only about our Lord Jesus Christ.
“In all our relations with our fellow-men, Christ’s followers must realize their obligations as members of one great family, with One God. A man may be in Christ, truly regenerate and forgiven for his past sins, and yet be carnal; that is, according to Romans 7:18, he may be ruled by me, I, self. The marks of this inward disposition are set out here. He is a babe who needs to be fed with milk, little and often, because unable to digest solid food. He is a sectarian, throwing contempt on those who do not belong to his own school of thought. He allows himself to be infected with jealousy and strife. Let us test our Christian life by these symptoms. Where are we? And if we are conscious that self has become enthroned as the governing motive of life, let us not rest till Christ takes its place.” F. B. Meyer
“Contentions and quarrels about religion are sad evidences of remaining carnality. True religion makes men peaceable and not contentious. Factious spirits act upon human principles, not upon principles of true religion; they are guided by their own pride and passions, and not by the rules of Christianity: Do you not walk as men? Note, It is to be lamented that many who should walk as Christians, that is, above the common rate of men, do indeed walk as men, live and act too much like other men.” Matthew Henry
“Spiritual maturity is never measured by ones spiritual gift or gifts, but it is measured by the manner that spiritual gift is used, to build up or tear down. If a person thinks himself to be spiritual and he or she only causes contentions, disputes, and arguments, then that person is acting like the “mere men or women” void of union with our Lord Jesus Christ and needs to repent.” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…