And I, brothers and sisters, could not speak to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to consume it. But even now you are still not able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For SINCE THERE IS JEALOUSY AND STRIFE AMONG YOU, ARE YOU NOT FLESHLY, and are you not acting like ordinary human beings?4 For when one person says, “I am with Paul,” and another, “I am with Apollos,” ARE YOU NOT ACTING LIKE ORDINARY HUMAN BEINGS? 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now the one who plants and the one who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; YOU ARE GOD’S HUSBANDRY, God’s building. (1Cor3:1-9)
The Church at Corinth’s immaturity and carnality was especially reflected in their factionalism. But the language Paul uses to chide them is significant in the context of some of my comments concerning Paul’s letter to the Romans. The jealously and strife resulting from the church’s infighting showed that they were “fleshly” as opposed to spiritual. For here is the genuine dichotomy: not that at a cosmic level material is bad and spirit is good (Manichaeism) but as a result of the Fall, at the anthropological level the (material) part of man procreated from our parents has one set of laws and instincts whilst the spirit/soul given to us by God at birth has another: “For I delight in God’s law in my innermost being but I see a DIFFERENT LAW in my bodily members waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin that is in my bodily members” (Rom7:22-23).
Man by nature tends to be dominated by the desires of the flesh; the Christian is intended to put to death the deeds of the body and be led by the spirit (Rom8:13). Regrettably, that was not the case with many Corinthian Christians of Paul’s day. But note how he chides them: “You are acting like ordinary human beings!” (vv3,4). But aren’t Christians mere human beings: “an assembly of justified sinners” as I once would have depicted the Church? Not according to Paul: “God has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust”. And as hinted at by Paul in the previous chapter, that is just the start: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not entered the human heart – all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1Cor2:9)
Such mysteries are examples of the “solid food” that Paul recognized the Corinthians in their current state could not digest (v2). They were acting like spiritual pygmies; like natural humans devoid of the Holy Spirit’s energies. They needed to remember that they were “God’s husbandry” (Greek: γεώργιον – v9) which speaks of the idea of a field that is being cultivated. Whilst by no means the sole recipients of God’s love or benevolent intentions, the context of the Church within divine providence is that she is “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION so as to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light” (cf. 1Pet2:9).