Healthy Church: Spiritual Maturity

March 21, 2023

Speaker: Michael Dennis

Audio Download

Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 3:16-4:7

This morning we are going to be in 1 Corinthians 3.  If you don’t have a bible you can grab one at the back and if you are a guest this morning we invite you to take our devotional with you as a gift.

1 Corinthians is 16 chapters and the last half of 1 Corinthians gets into the practical areas of the local church in Austin, TX, which makes the first half so important because the first half of 1 Corinthians is essentially the Corinthians wondering if they should listen to what Paul has to say to them.  Does that make sense?

Have you ever been in one of those contexts where people aren’t sure if they should listen to what you have to say?  I have been in meetings with other pastors around the city in Austin, speaking into struggles in our city in Austin and sometimes I have this feeling like, “Should we even listen to what you have to say?”

When you parent children you definitely have moments where you feel like they are thinking, “Should we even listen to you?”  Perhaps we have had extended family or friendships where you are speaking in their life and they make it clear that they could care less what you have to say?

In our passage this morning we are going to see God’s Word pointing us back to Jesus.  When we are speaking into people’s lives we aren’t speaking our agendas but we are simply pointing them to Jesus.  Let’s look at verses 16:

1 Corinthians 3:16, “16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

1 Corinthians is written by the Apostle Paul.  The Apostle Paul’s life has been radically transformed through faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and as a result the Apostle Paul has proclaimed the name of Jesus throughout the Corinthian city so that other men, women and children have come to faith in Jesus and a new church is started.  You with me?

In verse 16 the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian church, “You are a temple of God.”  Do you see that?  It’s even a stronger response because Paul kicks off with, “Do you not know you are a temple of God?”

Temples are places of worship and the Corinthian people had tons of temples.  Temples of Aphrodite, Apollos, Poseidon, temples of healing, temples of fertility, temples of Egyptian culture, Roman culture, Greek culture, so that a temple wasn’t just a historical marker that people visited on vacation.

Temples were known to be the place where the deity dwelled.  It was the deity’s home.  It was the place to encounter the supernatural, so that temples were filled with reverence and awe.

In fact, the word “temple” in the original language isn’t building or complex but sanctuary, so that when the Apostle Paul uses that word “temple” in verse 16 he is putting emphasis “when you are in Christ” the holy of holies dwells inside you.  Did you know that church family in north central Austin?

Every person who expresses faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection becomes a temple, a dwelling place for the holy of holies.  Did you know that?  Through faith in Jesus the Holy Spirit comes to live inside you, empowers you, comforts you, teaches you, and indwells you for eternity.  Did you know that?

Through faith in Jesus our sins are forgiven.  We are made clean.  We are clothed in the righteousness of God, so that the Spirit of God takes up residency in our bodies.  The Holy Spirit is with you in Algebra class.  The Holy Spirit is with you at work.  The Holy Spirit is with you when you are sleeping.  The Holy Spirit is with you while you are playing video games.  The Holy Spirit is with you when you are willingly disobeying God and doing what you want to do.

In those moments we are grieving the Holy Spirit, so that He hasn’t left in that moment but instead of leading you He is convicting you because in Christ, our bodies become holy temples unto the Lord.  Isn’t that encouraging?

When you are in Christ, you don’t have to get on a plane to go to a place to get close to the Lord.  But instead, the Lord has come to you.  You don’t have to try to do things to get close to God but Jesus has done things to get close to you, “do you not know you are a temple of God?”

This is what makes our time together on Sunday morning so powerful because we aren’t just attending a meeting.  We aren’t just singing some songs and listening to a person on a stage.  The “you” in verse 16 is plural, so that when we come together on Sunday morning we are the gathered saints.  We are a supernatural force!

It’s why people just start clapping in worship.  Its why people have tears come to their eyes on Sunday morning.  It’s why it’s common for the Lord to speak to us through the gathering of His people.  It’s why we don’t want to casually walk in on Sunday morning but we want to be in preparation for what the Lord is going to do in us and through us as church family in north Austin.  Look at verse 17:

1 Corinthians 3:17, “17 If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.”

Verse 17 is a little confusing but the word “destroys” in the original language would be better understood as “defiled.”  In the context of the Corinthian church they are being highly influenced by their Corinthian culture, so that they are quarrelling with one another, dividing with one another and competing with one another like they would in the Corinthian culture.

In our passage last Sunday, the Apostle Paul is describing the follower of Jesus as a servant in Christ who plants seeds, water seeds, and builds buildings.  It is all metaphorical language for the new purpose we have in Christ.

In verse 17 we are “defiling the temple of God” when we neglect that new purpose we have in Christ.  Does that make sense?  We are “defiling the temple of God” when we try to marry the values of our culture with the values of God’s Word.

We are “defiling the temple of God” when we get distracted from our new purpose in Christ and chase the things of this world.  We are “defiling the temple of God” when we worship with our lips but not with our heart and mind.  Does that make sense?

It’s possible that some of us are a little nervous when we see the phrase “God will destroy that person” but it simply means the Lord will bring correction.  It means He will not allow His purposes to be thwarted, because the new identity we have in Christ, that is who you are.

Later the Apostle Paul will write, “You are no longer your own.  You have been bought for a price, therefore, live for Christ!”  Look at verses 18-19:

1 Corinthians 3:18-19, “18 Take care that no one deceives himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the sight of God. For it is written: “He is the one who catches the wise by their craftiness”

Remember, the Corinthian church was struggling, “Should we even listen to what Paul has to say?”  They were elevating other philosophical leaders in the community.  They were elevating other spiritual leaders in the community, so much so that they are quarreling and fighting with one another, therefore, the Apostle Paul is trying to center them back on Jesus.

This is why the phrase “in this age” is highlighted for us this morning.  The phrase “in this age” is critical to understanding the heart of our passage this morning, because the phrase “in this age” is referencing the wisdom of the day.

The Corinthian culture is similar to our culture today. They elevated education.  They esteemed wealth and position.  These are the types of people we should listen to and take direction from.  Not this mumbling nobody named Paul!

Therefore, the Apostle Paul writes, “Take care that no one deceives you.”  Take care that you don’t marry Corinthian values with God’s Word.  Take care that you don’t defile the temple of God.

A Tik-Tok trend is great but we don’t want to actually build our lives on Tik-Tok trends, right?  An interest in politics is important.  We can’t stick our heads in the sand but at the same time we aren’t here for the glory of the United States.

It’s great to have romantic relationships in Austin, launch a career in Austin, buy a home in Austin, raise children in Austin, or being with people who have a similar ethnicity in Austin or nationality in Austin but those areas of our life are not our primary purpose in life.

We don’t place those secondary issues at the center of our life and when we do we are “defiling the temple of God.”  We are distracting ourselves from our true purpose in Christ.  We are being deceived.  Look at verses 21-23:

1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are useless.”21 So then, no one is to be boasting in people. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”

Again, remember, the Corinthian church was struggling, “Should we even listen to what Paul has to say?”  Therefore, the Apostle Paul reminds them in verse 21, “Nobody is boasting in people, but we boast in Christ, because you belong to Christ.”  Isn’t that good?

There’s so much tribalism in our culture today trying to tell us which tribe we belong.  You belong to this sexual identity.  That’s who you are!  You belong to this ethnicity.  You belong to this political party.  You belong to this career track.  Child please!  When you are in Christ, you belong to Christ!  You’re indwelled with the Spirit of God.  You’re a holy temple of God.  You belong to Christ!

Perhaps you are thinking, “What does that mean?”  Look at verse 21.  All things belong to Christ, you belong to Christ, therefore, all things belong to you.  Sit in that!  Paul elaborates in verse 22, “Paul belongs to you.  Apollos belongs to you.  Peter belongs to you.  The world belongs to you.  Life belongs to you.  Death belongs to you.  Things in the present belong to you.  Things to come belong to you, because you belong to Christ!”

Jesus is God in the flesh.  Jesus is eternal.  Jesus is the visible of the invisible.  All things are by Jesus, through Jesus, for Jesus, and through faith in Jesus He has wed Himself to you, so that there’s nothing happening in this world or in your life outside of what Jesus wants to happen in your life.  We could just meditate on that for the rest of our time!

There’s no army making a move for a World War 3 without Jesus allowing it to happen.  There’s no natural disaster that escapes His notice.  There’s no president, king, governor, mayor, or student council president holding a position of authority that He doesn’t want to have, therefore, why are we taking cues from someone with a PhD from whoop-de-dee?  Why are we listening to someone who wrote a book or spoke on a podcast?  You belong to Christ!

Some of you know our family went through a CPS Investigation this last month for allegations of child abuse and I will tell you, “When a detective with APD calls you and introduces themselves as so and so with Child Abuse” it gets your attention.

But this passage this week was so sweet to my soul as I was being tossed with insecurity, fear, worry, anxiety and God’s Word reminding me, “Oh Michael, you belong to Christ!”

As a parent there have been moments in the life of my children were people have tried to take advantage of them, make fun of them, pick on them, call them names and there is this swelling in me as an earthly father, “Who did what to you?”  Don’t they know who you belong to?

Now if an earthly father can be filled with such protection at the slightest insult of his children, then how much more the Lord for those who are His? Look at chapter 4, verses 1-2:

1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “1 This is the way any person is to regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” 

In verses 1-2 the Apostle Paul begins to pivot as to why the Corinthian people should listen to the apostles.  You can scan down to verse 6 to see the Corinthian people were impressed with themselves and what they had to offer but the Apostle Paul keeps bringing them back to Jesus.

First, in verse 1 we see the apostles were not just servants but they were servants of Christ.  The apostles weren’t pushing people toward their own agenda.  The apostles were a people who had seen the resurrected Jesus, sent out by the resurrected Jesus, and point people to the “mysteries of God.”

The “mysteries of God” is a reference to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  It’s the gospel.  The gospel is referenced throughout the Old Testament through promises, foreshadows, imagery, types over and over and over so that the gospel is a mystery but now through Jesus the mystery of God has been made known.

This is why we can trust God’s Word today.  We aren’t reading a spiritual document of one person about the supernatural qualities of life.  We are reading 40 different authors, over 1500 years, three different language, three different continents that all point toward one central message, “faith alone in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.”  That’s the message of every apostle.  That’s the message of every letter to every church, “Faith alone in Jesus.”

That’s why the Apostle Paul describes the apostles as “stewards.”  A “steward” is the one who keeps track of the property on behalf of the owner until he returns, so that the apostles aren’t influencers or spiritual gurus.  The apostles are stewarding the message, “Faith alone in Jesus.”  Look at verse 3:

1 Corinthians 4:3-4, “3 But to me it is an insignificant matter that I would be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself; however I am not vindicated by this, but the one who examines me is the Lord. 

Do you see the Apostle Paul pointing the Corinthian church to Jesus over and over?  The Apostle Paul could have said, “You should listen to me because of my accomplishments, my education, my morality.”  How many of us can say, “I am not aware of anything against myself?”

But instead the Apostle Paul points them to Jesus as the one who examines every heart and every soul.  Sure, Paul would love the adoration of the people but instead Paul’s security is in Jesus.

In a day when we are so consumed with others opinions.  In a day when we are living for every like, follow or comment.  In a day when we are evaluated by everything we do or say, we see God’s Word pointing us back to the only evaluation that matters.  It’s Jesus.

Listen to me, the very fact that we judge ourselves when we make mistakes and we judge others is evidence that deeply imbedded in humanity is the need for a judge and Jesus is the only One who is able to judge rightly.

Jesus is the only One who lived a perfect life.  Jesus is the only One who isn’t bias in His judgment.  Jesus is the only One who calls us guilty and then lays down His life at the cross to take our guilt upon Himself.

Jesus is the only One who conquers that guilt in the resurrection, so that all who call on His name are wed to Him so that His death is your death and His resurrection is your resurrection.  That’s the gospel!  Look at verse 5:

1 Corinthians 4:5, “5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of human hearts; and then praise will come to each person from God.”

These verses can create some confusion.  There is a place for judgment in this life.  If we see someone committing pedophilia then we make a judgment call. There are times we need to call right and wrong accordingly.

But in the Corinthian culture they were comparing themselves to one another.  They were giving special treatment to some and not to others and some of those people were living one way in public and another way in private, so that the Apostle Paul says, “Don’t waste your time.”

Those things that are hidden will come to light.  We point people to Jesus.  Some will listen.  Some will ignore.  Don’t get distracted.  Look to Jesus.  Trust in Him.  Look at verses 6-7:

1 Corinthians 4:6-7, “6 Now these things, brothers and sisters, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos on your account, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. 7 For who considers you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

In these closing words the Apostle Paul drives them back to their identity in Jesus, therefore, might we do the same.  Are we centering our lives on Jesus?  Are we living as a people who are the temple of God?  Are we turning from the wisdom of this age to trust in the Lord?  Are we anchoring our souls is in the eternal truth, “You belong to Christ!”

Practically, are we reading God’s Word every day?  Are we gathering with the saints?  Are quieting our hearts in prayer?  Are you singing to the Lord whole heartedly?  Are we inviting others to know Jesus and trust in Jesus?  Are we waiting on the Lord when He doesn’t move when we want or where we want?  Are we putting Jesus first in all things?

No doubt, if we are honest, our answer to many of those questions would be “no” therefore, our response this morning is to turn to Jesus, confess those areas of our life, receive His forgiveness and ask for His help.

As we close, we are going to celebrate communion.  In the letter to the Corinthians there is an admonition that we would not participate in communion casually.  If we have offense with someone in the room, we would reconcile with a brother or sister before we come forward.  If we are wondering toward sin, we would repent and reconcile with the Lord before we come forward.  Therefore, let us not treat this time casually.

Let us confess to the Lord where we have gone through the motions, where the world has crept into our soul, so that we might align our heart with His heart and then you come forward as you feel led.

I am going to leave some questions for us to reflect on during communion.  Please take time to do so.  If you have yet to trust in Jesus we ask you to hold off but if you have, then come forward.  Our elders will be at the front.  You dip the cracker in the juice.  And celebrate that you belong to Christ!

Passage:  1 Corinthians 3:16-4:7, “Spiritual Maturity.”

Reflect:  Are we centering our lives on Jesus?  Are we living as a people who are the temple of God?  Are we turning from the wisdom of this age to trust in the Lord?  Are we anchoring our souls is in the eternal truth, “You belong to Christ!”

Repentance:  Turn to Jesus.  Confess to Jesus.  Receive His forgiveness.  Ask for His help.

Rejoice:  You belong to Christ!