Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany (February 12, 2017)
- First reading
- Second reading
1 Corinthians 3:1-9 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.
I think this week’s passage is a great time to remind each one of us that as we look at the Epistles, we are “looking over the shoulder” of the writer. We need to remember that these are letters written mainly by Paul to various churches. I think it is also important to remember that Paul did not write these letters with chapters and verses and subject headings. All of these were added quite arbitrarily at a much later date. The reason that is that Paul is now picking back up on the thought from earlier in the letter. Remember, people were saying that “I follow Apollos” or “I follow Paul.” Paul was saying that we don’t follow anyone but Christ. To put it in a more modern context – I am a Wesleyan pastor. For the most part, and I have been teaching about Wesleyan history and doctrine over the past few weeks, the Wesleyans follow the teachings of John Wesley – but we also follow many of the teachings of the historical and traditional church. The argument that Paul was making can be used today. While I am a Wesleyan, I am also a follower of Christ. I would much rather you know me as a follower of Christ than a follower of Wesley. Paul said, “For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News!
I echo Paul’s words – Christ called me to preach the Good News – which brings us to chapter three and Paul chastises the church at Corinth because they are immature believers. Paul believes that they should be much further along in their walk with Christ. It appears that they are following human teachings rather than God and yet these humans are teaching and preaching the Good News. They just have their favorites. I suppose we have the same thing today. Look at the turn over that happens in churches when a beloved pastor leaves – look what happens when a pastor steps on toes.
Paul says “Enough. You are still being controlled by the sinful nature.” Many years ago, we would have called that the carnal nature. Paul goes on to say that these believers in Corinth are no better than the world – they are doing the same thing. Almost as if they are following a famous sports persona, ect a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.
Paul tells us that’s not the way it works in God’s economy. He reminds the believers that himself and Apollos are God’s servants – God used them so that the believers in Corinth could hear the Good News. Paul tells us that one of them did part of the work and another reaped the harvest of that work, and still another planted that work. Each one of these servants had a part in the gospel coming to Corinth.
I think of it this way. Pam and I are part of a long line of pastors who have served here at McCrae Brook. We are part of the legacy of the Kingdom at this local church. Who knows who will reap what has been planted and watered. Sometimes we never know this side of the Kingdom. After all we just need to plant, water, and reap – it is God that does the growing. Those who plant, water, and reap are partners together with the One that grows. All of the workers – not just the reapers will be rewarded. That is great news, because there are many times in our ministry where we have planted or watered and others have reaped the harvest and there are times that others have planted and watered and we have reaped the harvest. There is no sense in getting territorial about it, for we are all workers in God’s field – partners in the harvest of souls.
So let’s continue to preach the Good News and work God’s fields!