Community Group Study Guide — God Given Growth
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Everyone who enters the kingdom of God does so as a little child. You can be 8 or 80 years old and you still come to Christ as a child. It is why the scripture uses the image of maturity and growing up. We all start out as spiritual infants who are in a process of growing in Christ and living out the new life he has purchased for us as mature believers. It is why you can be in Christ but still wrestle with sin or divide over opinions or struggle to love someone. Yet, it is also why you will hopefully look back over your life and see how the Lord has grown your faith and obedience to his word. Paul focuses on christian maturity by once again bringing up the issues the Corinthians had with division and celebrity worship. Their division and celebritizing of individuals was a sign that they were still infants in Christ and they needed to learn how God grows his church and that each of these celebrities they’ve put on a pedestal are just servants- of God living out the role that God has for them.
First, God has designed us to grow.
Look at 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. Paul describes the natural human process of growth. When babies cry for food and are given milk we know that is natural and sometimes the cry of a newborn can actually be cute. However, if an adult cries for food, we know something is not right and it is no longer a cute sound. Paul uses this image to point out the situation the Corinthians were in, they were doing things that may be natural for people who are new or young in their faith, but they’re remaining stagnant where God designed them for deeper maturity. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 that the church is designed to build itself up in love so that each person can be presented to God in maturity as they grow up in Christ. Paul connects the Corinthians’ divisions to their lack of desire to walk in the newness of life that Christ purchased for them by saying when you live in jealousy and strife “are you not merely being human?” If we look back at the end of chapter 2 we are reminded of the alternative that God offers, the mind of Christ or living as a spiritual person by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).
This idea of maturing in Christ is really good news because it means that the outcome of your relationship with God will be dramatically improved from your beginning. You can start off your walk with Christ by having some sins fall away rather quickly and having some measure of love for God, and you can expect that as you walk with Jesus those things will continue to grow. Walking in the flesh can lead to stagnation or even regression in our maturity and that is what we see with the Corinthians as they struggled with quarrels and division and continued to walk as infants in Christ. Fighting with other believers and seeking out opportunities to divide is a mark of immaturity, not maturity. As we mature in Christ we will grow in our ability to fight sin, our godly affections will deepen, and you will know God and love others more and more. God has designed each of us to grow and the Holy Spirit is given to us to assure this will happen. God desires that we walk as “spiritual people” and not in the flesh, so this means we will put for grace driven effort but the deep promise we cling to is that God desires this in us more than we ever possibly could.
Second, leaders whom they celebritized are merely servants of God for their growth.
The irony of all their pride and division is that neither Paul, Apollos or Cephas would want to be put on a pedestal or made a celebrity and they’d recoil at the division in the church. Paul corrects their sin by showing them what is really happening behind the scenes, namely that God is at work for their growth.
Paul uses the image of a field that is being prepared for harvest. The field is ready to go for planting and along came Paul to plant the seed of the gospel and shortly after Apollos watered the seed. What they could not see, similarly to what we cannot really see in agriculture, is how the growth actually took place. God used secret and hidden means to grow them up in Christ that would not be apparent to the human eye. Notice that in verse 5 he does not say “who is Apollos, Paul?” rather “what is Apollos, Paul?” He wants to get beyond their personalities and see what function they’re playing in God’s big plan. They are servants, God gives the growth. Any mature and godly Christian leader you talk to will admit this and if they do not you should find a different leader to follow.
Each of these servants were assigned by God and they each had a different function in the growth of the church. These leaders were called by God into partnership with his mission, but God is the one behind the growth. Paul planted the seeds that became the Corinthian church and he lovingly handed the church off to Apollos who watered, but who authored the maturity? God did (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). Paul never saw Apollos as a rival, in fact it seems that Paul even directed him to go serve the Corinthian church (Acts 19:1, 1 Corinthians 16:12). Both realized that they served the bigger picture of what God was authoring in this church and were dependent on God to move and to mature the Corinthians. Moreover, Paul says that the one who plants and water are “one”, meaning they are unified in a common objective, to equip the saints and to build up the church of Christ in love.
Take a good look at your life in Christ right now. Has there been growth and maturity from when you first began walking with Jesus? Are there areas in your life right now where you are “merely being human” instead of walking by the Spirit? The Corinthians thought they were being spiritual but Paul is trying to help them come to their senses and see that their quarreling and dividing over lesser things was something that needed to die. We too can deceive ourselves and if the Holy Spirit convicts you in an area where you are lacking Christian maturity, the best thing you can do is repent and seek support from brothers and sisters and Christ and the Holy Spirit. God joyfully desires for you to mature and be built up in the faith.
God has designed his followers to grow in their Christlikeness which is spiritual maturity. The Corinthian church was filled with jealousy and rivalry and showing that they lacked maturity in Christ. Paul reminds them of God’s desire for their growth and he shows them how God has sent these servants to help that growth happen, but ultimately it comes from God.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 and Ephesians 4:11-16
Based on the scripture, study guide and sermon, how would you describe the process of spiritual maturity in Christ?
What are some of the roadblock we can experience in this growth into Christian maturity?
The Corinthian church was dealing with strife and jealousy. How is that a sign of immaturity? How does Paul correct their perspective on these Christian teachers and their divisions?
How does this passage help us understand our role in the maturity of younger believers in our lives?