The church at Corinth had a lot of things going for it that promoted growth:
- Good location in a key city
- No other congregation there
- Established by an Apostle (credibility, sound teaching)
- Many talented people who possessed "spiritual gifts"
Even though it had these advantages, I don't think it was a growing church because it didn't seem to be practicing the things that make for church growth. Not only this, but as we read chapters 2-6 we notice that Paul lists ten things that they were doing that were actually killing the growth of the church.
Second Guessing God
Vs. 12-14 – Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
The very first and deadly attack that Satan tried, and continues to try today, is to make believers doubt – not the power or the person of God – but doubt that His word is His word or that it has authority (i.e. Eve, King Saul, even Jesus were tempted to disregard the word).
The basis of our personal and corporate growth as the church is directly related to our acceptance and obedience of God's word (Jesus said "Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded" - Matthew 28:20).
Being Big Babies
Vs. 3:1-3 – 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?
They had a good start but they refused to move on from that point.
Immaturity isn't just being "young" or new in Christ, it is the refusal to grow in one's faith. Some people have been in the church for twenty years but are not any different, don't do any more, don't give any more, or know any more than at first.
A church that doesn't grow dies. A Christian that doesn't grow dries up and blows away.
Vs. 4-9 – For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
Here Paul describes the ideal teamwork that goes on for the kingdom to grow. Each has a job, does a job, relies on each other to do the job, and gives God the glory for the final growth and results.
In Corinth they were jockeying for position, wanted glory, applause, power and control.
Someone once said, "You can accomplish anything if you don't care who gets the credit"; imagine what can be accomplished if everyone is anxious for God to get the credit!
Vs. 10 – According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.
In this section Paul warns that poor teaching is like poor workmanship in a building; eventually the lack of quality will show.
Hosea said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" Hosea 4:6.
Good Bible teaching will build the church, and poor teaching, from cradle roll to the pulpit, will destroy it. Teaching is an important responsibility and we need to understand that everybody's class or group is very important in the overall building of the church.
Tampering with the Temple
Vs. 16-17 – Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
These people were hard living types who abused their bodies with what they consumed (food and drink) as well as what they did (sex). The reason for this was that their Greek heritage taught them that what you did to your body didn't affect your soul (concept of Dualism).
Paul corrects this false notion by pointing out that the proper use of the body is to provide a dwelling place not only for the soul but also for the Holy Spirit of God. You can't grow as a Christian or a church if you constantly abuse and insult the Holy Spirit with bad treatment to His temple.
Over the Edge
Vs. 4:6 – For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.
Today, being on the edge or going over the edge is fashionable and applauded. We admire people who take risks.
When it comes to God's word, however, safety is the operative word. The key is to do exactly what it says, no more or less. The smallest incorrect variation from God's word can take us far away from God's will and purpose, and sometimes over the edge into disobedience and disbelief.
Poor Role Models
Vs. 14-16 – I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.
The Corinthian leaders were involved in a battle for prestige and power, and the disciples joined the fray. In the absence of good leadership models Paul offers himself as a pattern of Godliness, service and perseverance.
A group rarely rises above its leadership, and in the church this is true as well. Jesus is our Lord and ultimate leader, but human beings learn how to become like the Lord from those around them.
The church grows only in proportion to its leadership. If the leaders don't grow, neither will the church. One thing that kills church growth is the refusal of its leaders to grow. When the time for judgment arrives, they will be held accountable.
Vs. 5:1 – It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife.
There are many sins we struggle with each day but sexual sins are the most devastating. They hurt our own souls because they cause great shame and guilt. They hurt our families because they destroy relationships and friendships. They hurt the church because the effect of sexual sin often causes many to abandon Christ, both the guilty and those who are the victims.
Before you say yes to sexual temptation or sexual situations, ask yourself if the few minutes of pleasure will be worth all the broken lives, the tears and possibly your soul.
Vs. 6:9-11 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Some people know the word and the love of God, but ignore the terrible judgment that God promises those who disobey Him. Sometimes in the church we are careless with our faith, service, attendance and giving because we ignore the fact that God will reject lukewarm Christians as violently as He will the ones mentioned in this verse. Fear is not the best motivation to serve God, but it is a valid one and one that God will accept.
A church that ignores the fact that it will be judged becomes lazy and careless.
Vs. 19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
Paul says in Romans 1:21 that man's primary sin is that he did not glorify and thank God for what he had.
These Corinthians were so busy taking credit that they were missing the point that their purpose for being together was to glorify God, not each other.
A growing church is one where worship, both public and private, is filled with a sense of appreciation and joy for being disciples of Jesus Christ.
I suppose this chapter has some interest if we are looking at why the Corinthian church wasn't growing, but it takes on a much greater importance if we apply it to ourselves.
We need to ask ourselves if some of the things Paul spoke to them about could be re-directed towards ourselves if He were addressing our congregation instead of the Corinthians.