God Through Us – 1 Corinthians 3:1-8
The fourth message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
God Through Us
1 Corinthians 3.5-15
This is our 4th message in 1 Corinthians and I want to you to see that Paul has built momentum through the first 2 chapters coming to the passage that we will look at this morning. Let me review very quickly to give you a feeling of the direction of the letter so far…
God desires to sanctify Even Us. (1:1-9)
God wants to do this great work in All of Us. (1:10-31)
To do this He needs help from None of Us. (2:1-3:4)
He has graciously chosen to work Through Us. (3:5-10)
Today we’ll be looking at the fact that God has graciously chosen to work through us, and what an honor it is that we have this opportunity to serve in God’s kingdom work.
Dilbert Cartoonist Scott Adams has said that the reason his comic strip has such a resonance with people who find themselves in the maze of corporate America is because he knows what it is like to spend all day in a cubicle working on stuff that you know will be absolutely abandoned in the next reorganization of the company.
Paul says, the workers are not important but the work is very important.
Paul’s point is that he, Apollos, and Peter were nothing but instruments in the hands of God.
Who is Paul? Who is Apollos? But ministers…
The word for “ministers” in verse 5 is diakonos from which we get our word, deacon.
Throughout the gospels, it is translated “servant.” When Jesus said whoever is greatest among you will be the greatest servant, he said “greatest diakonos.” Servants yes, but unimportant, no.
We are mere servants who work on the greatest project of all time, the kingdom of God. (v.5)
“By whom you believed”
I’m merely a laborer who is blessed to work on the greatest project of al time, the kingdom of God.
Some of us get to do work that we enjoy. Some of us do work that we do not enjoy, but we know that we are working for a larger purpose such as providing for our families, etc.
Some of us are blessed to do work that we can take pride in.
Some of us do work that is monotonous and tiresome and starts over every morning.
I believe within us there is a desire to do work that matters, there couldn’t be greater work than what Paul mentions here. He is attempting to downplay the role that he and apollos played, but even in downplaying their role, he must give a nod to the fact that this is important work.
The workers weren’t important, but the work was incredibly important.
If you wish to do work that matters, to make an impact, to make a difference, get involved in the work of God. Get involved in the kingdom of God. This is long-lasting and enduring work. It lasts into eternity.
Mark Dever: Then there’s the famous story about a young man called Luke Short who once heard John Flavel preach in Portsmouth in England. Shortly afterwards, he left for New England, and as a 100-year-old man, he was out ploughing his field one day, and sat down and remembered that sermon from 85 years ago, and was convicted of his sins and converted right there. Isn’t that an amazing story? It should give us renewed confidence in the preaching of the gospel.
We are mere servants who were given a specific calling in the Kingdom of God (v.6)
Neither Paul or Apollos caused the growth, but they each had a specific role in the work that God was doing. God sent Paul to plant the seed there, after that he had Apollos develop the work that had been started.
The main point here is that God is the one that gave the growth, and we’ll get to that in a second, but notice that there were different functions or uses for Paul and Apollos that God was using.
There’s a difference between planting and watering.
An important difference.
Get them out of order or leave either one out and you’re only going to get a crop through miraculous intervention.
EACH of us has an important role to play in the kingdom of God.
Each of us has been given a calling.
God has blessed us here at Faith Church and we’ve been so thankful to have many baptisms and to see people coming to the Lord, and we’ve rejoiced to reach our largest amount of people to date this past Easter-But I wholeheartedly believe that there is so much more that we could be doing, that we should be doing to cultivate the kingdom of God here in this city, but we are short on laborers. We are short on people planting and watering.
Jesus looked up one day and saw crowds of people that needs Spiritual Guidance and he was moved to tears. He said to the disciples, pray that God would send laborers into the harvest. Friends, right here in our city there is much kingdom work to do and we need laborers for the harvest…
The story is told that an old man was city on his porch one morning watching as two county workers worked their way down his street.
The truck would pull, the passenger would get out and work hard to dig a hole then he would get back in the truck.
After about 10 minutes the driver would get out and fill the hole.
Then they would pull forward and the passenger would get and dig a hole. Then he’d get back in the truck and the driver would get out and fill the hole.
When the truck pulled up and the passenger got out and started to dig the third hole, the old man couldn’t stand it any longer.
He said, what are you doing!? Why are you guys digging holes just to fill them back up?
“Oh!” the man said, “I’m sure it looks funny but the guy who plants the trees is sick today!”
There is a place for all of us in the work of the Kingdom of God and there is some ground that isn’t getting planted because you’re not showing up. There are some seeds that aren’t getting watered because you’re not involved.
God needs none of us to accomplish His work but He has chosen to work through us and you are missing out if you’re not involved in this eternal work…
We are mere servants who trust God to bring growth to the Kingdom of God.
Paul and Apollos worked hard and did their part, but they trusted God to do his part.
I want you to see something pretty incredible. Turn over to Acts 18.
In Acts 18 we read about Paul being in Corinth.
Things were progressing slowly, Corinth was a really broken city, the people in the Synagogue didn’t want to listen to Paul.
Paul hasn’t had any luck with the religious people in Corinth so now he’s looking to try and reach the sexually immoral skeptics of the Corinthian Greeks…
I imagine that Paul was thinking,
Corinth is probably just a waste of time.
Corinth is just too messed up. Even the Jews here do not want to listen to me…
God said, Paul do not be afraid and do not quit because I have much people in this city.
Paul you look around and see a challenge, I see a field ripe for gospel transformation.
Neil Cole writing about this passage in Acts 18 said,
Jesus helped Paul to see the wealth around him. These future leaders are not in the kingdom of light…yet. Our greatest hero for tomorrow’s harvest woke up this morning with a hangover in the wrong person’s bed.He or she is ready for transformation, and looking for it. Churches are not accustomed to seeing the lost and broken around them as a resource. We suffer poverty in a sea of wealth.
God said, Paul don’t you quit because I have many people that I will transform in this city. Don’t you quit. Keep planting. I’ll give the increase. There is a wonderful peace that comes from this realization…
God is a work and his work is beyond me. It does not rest on me, rather I’m blessed to play a part and watch as the seeds I have planted to be watered by my fellow workers, and then rejoice as God gives the increase.
I want you to look up to the top of Acts 18 in verse 1& 2…
It was in Corinth that Paul met Aquilla and Priscilla.
Aquila and Priscilla would pop up again and again throughout the New Testament. Holding churches in their home, mentoring Apollos, encouraging Paul… Corinth was a debased and broken city, which meant it was perfect for an incredible work of God and filled with people in need of transformation.
Out of obscurity and brokenness God develops his most faithful servants.
In the midst of broken Corinth, God raised up Aquila & Priscilla.
In the midst of broken Corinth, God sharpened Apollos.
In the midst of broken Corinth, God called Sosthenes.
Our community is debased and broken and Godless, which means it is prime real estate for a great work of God and it is full of people that God can transform.
Prior to Burl Cain taking the position as warden in 1995, Angola had the reputation of being “the bloodiest prison in America.”
The American Bar Association had referred to conditions in the prison as “medieval, squalid, and horrifying.” One report on Angola estimated that 25 percent of the prison population was in some sort of coercive sexual relationship.
Warden Cain approached the New Orleans Baptist Seminary and asked if they would be willing to facilitate a Bible class at Angola. That Bible class eventually developed into a full-fledged seminary program, complete with study of Greek and Hebrew, as well as a Bachelor’s of Ministry program, graduating 40-50 inmates every year.
The changes brought about as a result of the introduction of this original Bible class are nothing short of amazing. Violent events have been reduced about 85 percent since the first Bible study.
About 400 inmates now attend worship services every week, representing over 30 different “congregations.”
Other programs have also developed. A hospice program was established to care for dying inmates. (Most inmates in Angola are serving life sentences, and will ultimately die inside the prison walls.) The Returning Hearts program brings together inmates and their children once a year, mending relationships and serving as encouragement to father and child alike.
Those inmates serving God through mentoring their fellow inmates can be added to this list. In such a unlikely setting as a maximum-security prison, these men are creating disciples, and preparing those disciples to take the Gospel to a world most of the mentors will never again see.
Today we are saying farewell to the Alvises….
Did you know that we didn’t order them from a church leader catalog? We didn’t pick them at the Bible Bookstore or in a church supply warehouse…
They were ordinary people from Illinois who moved to Evansville for work… and they weren’t faithful followers of Christ. After their oldest daughter was born Linda started attending church without Darrel… She finally convinced him to come along and God did a great work in their lives…
You know what my PLAN is… My plan is that 25 years from now I’ll be the gray haired man in the video speaking of some of you broken down sinners and speak of how faithful you have been to the work of God…
It’s not a dream, it’s a plan because the God who did it in Corinth, the God who did it in Darrel and Linda, He’s the God we worship today.
He can take some of you ordinary people and place you in a field to plant and water so that you can rejoice as He gives the increase.