Commentary on Paul’s Letters to the Corinthian Church
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Ideal for those getting acquainted with our thought process at Ammi Ruhama Community.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
But I, brothers,[a] 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 is 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.1 Corinthians 3:1-9 English Standard Version
The Through Thread
Paul asserts, if there was any question about where the Corinthians were on the spectrum of being naturally or spiritually minded, that they are in fact quite naturally minded; unobservant of spiritual things and, as a result, full of jealousy and strife, pitting Peter, Apollos and Paul against one another by claiming to hold exclusively to any one of their teachings as being distinct from another. Today we might say that they believed that they had distinct truth claims on the gospel of Christ. Paul’s point here is that they only saw their respective words, analogies and arguments for the gospel and not the through-thread of the Spirit of God which joins them all together. He uses the example of being a labourer in God’s field or a builder of God’s building.
From Simple Seeds and Stones
Paul relates his work in the gospel to sowing seeds or laying a foundation. Seeds were sown by broadcasting them which is literally walking for absolute miles back and forth casting the same seeds over a large area. Foundations were laid by digging a hole and dropping massive stones into the hole and surrounding them with smaller stones to fall between them to give a solid base to build on later. Both of these are rather boring, laborious jobs that rely on seeing the bigger picture to see the significance of what would otherwise seem to be busy work. Paul says that while putting seeds or stones in the ground might seem like simple work, it is this work that allows for others to come along and add water that activates the seed when the sun hits the soil around it allowing it to become a more complex fruit bearing plant. In the same way putting stones in the ground prepares the way for the more complicated work of building the walls, hanging doors or setting a roof on top. They are all the same work, for the same person and so are all connected. The point is that from the simple seed of the gospel comes the fruit of the life of one controlled by the Spirit, and from the foundation that is Christ comes a building made of precious stones–both themes Paul will return to later in the letter.
Fulfilling the Assignment
Paul’s use of, ‘assignment,’ is not as permanent as it might sound. In the same way that his later use of, ‘gift,’ of the Spirit is not a once for all time gifting but rather a living manifestation of the Spirit of God. In the same way, our, ‘assignments,’ (some call them vocations) from God are less like homework or employment and more like listening to and obeying the voice of His Spirit. Too often we think of a “call into ministry,” as being a lifelong commitment to one job within the body in the same way that we think that, having once manifested the gift of administration, the Spirit won’t manifest Himself in us in other capacity and that, that’s our life’s purpose. What happens is that God uses us in some way, either to speak or to teach or to call people to Himself and it feels so good to be used by Spirit of God in any capacity that we attempt to reproduce the environment in which it happened. I felt this same pull after inviting a homeless man into my garden to live for a week. We walked very closely together for that week as we discussed spiritual things and worked on procuring more stable living conditions for him. I felt afterwards that God must want me to start a homeless ministry, but when I prayed and searched the scriptures for confirmation God asked me to let my experience of being used by the Spirit be what it was and to let it go and to continue to listen to His voice instead. He told me that if I went forward with starting a homeless ministry that it would be a hinderance to other’s responsibility to invite the homeless into their homes and feed them their food and walk with them for the week that He calls them to do that. My assignment had been completed; I listened and obeyed and was shown the state of the body of Christ as a result.
Paul had been assigned to sow seeds in Corinth. He did a bit of watering and harvesting while he was there as well as he attests, but his main assignment was to plant the pure seed of the gospel in their hearts and then leave it to the work of another whose assignment had been to water the seeds of the gospel. Paul generally allowed others to water and harvest, he took special interest in a few who he personally raised to full reproducing maturity in Christ but allowed the rest of the body to raise one another up to full reproducing maturity. He did not allow himself to be side tracked with the task of being the one to whom everyone outsourced their assignments–and neither should we. We all have our own listening and obeying to be getting on with, and only the Spirit knows our next respective assignments.