Even though the Corinthians had received the Spirit, they still chose to live like people who had not. They lived according to the ways of the world which led Paul to compare them to infants still drinking milk.
Paul says that he gave the Corinthians milk rather than solid food. When people are new in Christ burdening them with unwanted rituals and rules (Acts 15) will only result in them giving up and leaving the path to God. But after the initial acceptance of the Gospel (milk), we must grow more in Christ and start asking for solid food from Him. Some of us are rather satisfied with our initial transformation and keep testifying about that day in different crowds without actually having new experiences with God. In due course, this will result in separation from Christ as we are not eating according to what our spiritual bodies require.
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?1 Corinthians 3:3
Paul says that the congregation of the church in Corinth were still spiritual babies as they were still running after worldly things which led to jealousy and quarrelling among them. The more we run after worldly possessions, our minds will never be at rest, never be in a state to seek God or truly understand what He has to offer us. Remember that when Abram started his journey, he was of very little faith, a spiritual baby but by the end of the journey, Abraham had communion with God and God even revealed His plans to Abraham (Genesis 18:17).
Divisions over Leaders
When we start looking at our church leaders with worldly eyes and start judging them with the standards of this world, we are forgetting that Christ died for them also. Instead, we hold them to a different standard altogether in our minds. Some leaders are held on such a high platform that people keep them a step above even Christ, while some leaders are regarded on par with satan as their message seems blasphemous to them. This leads to divisions in the Church and more importantly divisions in the body of Christ, as people lose focus on the end goal and start finding faults in one another.
So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow1 Corinthians 3:7
Neither the one who planted our Church nor the one who runs it now has anything to do with our Spiritual growth but it is God working through them that helped us transform our lives. The people that God uses to bring us closer to Him should never be praised by us but we do need to thank God for sending these people into our lives.
So then, no more boasting about human leaders!1 Corinthians 3:21
True Servant of Christ
A true leader is humble (servant of Christ 1 Corinthians 4:1) as they know that it is not by their might or knowledge that they have so many followers rather it is by the Grace of God that they have been given a temporary charge of His sheep. It is the responsibility of human leaders to build with care, keeping God’s will as their spiritual compass when guiding their church. After all, they will have to answer to God on how they built on the foundation of Christ (His death on the cross), which materials they used (their teachings) and what was the result of their endeavours. Did they produce people connected to God or people connected to the world?
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.1 Corinthians 4:2
Do we need to prove our stance? God knows our heart and nothing is hidden from Him but humans cannot see the heart of a person. They need some physical proof to see that you are utilising the Gift of God in the right way. When we start a new job, our colleagues or superiors do not know about our quality of work and we strive to make a good impression during the first few months. The same drive is missing when it comes to proving our worth when we join the body of Christ. We cannot ask everyone to prove their loyalty to God or to a church but Paul is addressing those, who know very well what has been given to them, don’t want to change their ways but still are guiding their sheep on the wrong path.
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.1 Corinthians 4:5
We cannot judge a book by its cover and similarly we cannot judge anyone, as we do not know what is in a person’s heart. Only Jesus can expose the true intentions of the heart at the appointed time. Till then, it is wasteful to judge and speculate on someone’s spiritual health. Paul was being judged and criticised by the Corinthians to which his response, though seems somewhat boastful, was that he doesn’t even judge himself but is rather waiting for God’s judgement.
We all know our own hearts and have the basic self-awareness of the areas where we need to improve. A self-evaluation from time to time is needed to grow in any discipline. By not judging ourselves, we fall into the trap of the evil one and start becoming self-righteous and would soon develop arrogance like the Corinthians. Jesus asked us to judge what is right from wrong and even Paul asks us to do the same in several places in this same letter.
I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.1 Corinthians 10:15
Someone Must Decrease
The people were behaving like royalty as they thought that they had the spiritual freedom to do anything they desired. Everyone received the Spirit because of the Grace of God but their arrogance led them to believe that they deserved their Gift. Paul goes on a rant filled with sarcasm on how the true leaders of the church are perceived by their congregation, as fools, dishonoured, persecuted and brutally treated.
For Christ to increase, we need to decrease. However, some leaders are worried about their followers and disciples perceiving them as imperfect people that they put on a show in front of their congregations. Otherwise, people would stop imitating them and classify them as sinners like the rest of us. What they do not teach is that the only person we should be striving to imitate is Jesus.
All humans are weak and will fail eventually. King David is revered by many to the extent that he has been given a mulligan for his indiscretions. People hold mortals like King David to a higher standard and want to imitate his characteristics. In doing so we miss out on the real reason for their faithfulness, God. The indiscretions of David mentioned in the Bible are not the only sins he would have committed during his lifetime but we have convinced ourselves to believe that those are his only sins. Similarly, when pastors and leaders are regarded like David, people are often taken aback when they find out about their indiscretions. Whether it be our Bibles or our Netflix watchlists we look for heroes to fill our lives. While we are still milk-drinking believers it is good to keep our sights on achieving the standards of our leaders but as we grow in Christ our moral compass should be pointing towards Christ alone and not to any mere mortal from our Church or even from the Bible.
1 Corinthians 3:2 – Why do we need solid food, why can’t we drink milk forever?
1 Corinthians 3:4 – How are we divided over our leaders?
1 Corinthians 4:3 – Do we need to prove our faith?
1 Corinthians 4:3 – Should we Judge ourselves?
1 Corinthians 4:5 – Can we Judge our fellow believers?
1 Corinthians 4:16 – Should we imitate our Pastors and Church Leaders?