Order in the Body of Christ
1 Cor. 3:3-9 – “for you are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
The church is a Divine Institution with a set order for everyone who is a part of it. In the New Testament we have the Divine arrangement set forth so that we do not have to fuss over our particular place in it. In the text; 1 Cor. 3 we have some material that tells us that the church (i.e. its members) all have their place. In this text Paul is disappointed in the membership of the Corinthian congregation because they apparently misunderstood the role of the teachers, the hearers, and the relationship of each to God and to each other (verses 3-4). The failure to understand the role of teachers and their mission by the congregation had caused division in the congregation. The division might be referred to as cliques; each clique claiming allegiance to a specific teacher. Paul says of this division that it displays carnality (i.e. “fleshly things” – not understanding properly spiritual things – From – A Critical Lexicon and Concordance by E.W. Bullinger – pages 134-135 – def. #2) on the part of those involved in these cliques. Indeed, cliques in the congregation are a detriment to progress and soundness; this is true because the various cliques spend their time competing with each other for prominence when they ought to be promoting Jesus Christ and His Church. There are times when it seems that within our brotherhood the most important thing to some is to make sure that there is some kind of issue that brethren can fuss over when they all should be fussing about the lack of progress in the local church. Was it not Jesus who told us to “seek the kingdom of God first” in our list of things for disciples to do (cf. Matt 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.“)?
In verse 5 – Paul tells those that were following a particular man that all men are just men, that each Christian regardless of his position, age, personality, etc. were all servants of God. Paul encourages them to disband these cliques and all together serve the Lord Jesus Christ as a single unit (i.e. to the congregation in Corinth he is encouraging unity under one Head – i.e. Jesus Christ) cf. Col. 1:18-19 -“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; (KJV)”
In verse 6-8 Paul instructs those that he has referred to as carnal minded to understand the role of teachers. Paul says that teachers are to sow the good seed (i.e. “the Word of God” – Luke 8:5-11). Paul clearly understood that those that know the truth will be free from sin and schism (John 8:32; John 17:17). Paul is careful to show the roll of the teacher (i.e. preacher. elders, or otherwise) as all equals in a project for Christ to teach everyone the truth of the gospel (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:2). Paul continues in verse 8 saying that the key figure in the conversion of the sinner is not man but that the increase will be the result of Christ efforts (i.e. He will give the increase).
In verse 9 Paul concludes this context with a call to unity of purpose and understanding; “or we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”