Reminded of Derek Binghams introduction to Daniel when he observed that God does not give prophesy simply to satisfy our intellectual curiosity about the future, but with prophetic revelation God has moral and spiritual goals in mind.
1 John 3:1ff : ‘and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifiers himself even as he is pure’
2 Peter 3:11 – Edward Blum, ‘Peter makes the impending disintegration of the universe the ground for a personal challenge to his readers.’
Christ is coming back
Gods wrath is about to be poured out on a Christ rejecting world
The heaven and earth will be dissolved
A new heaven and earth are to be ushered in
So what does all of this mean?
Be careful what you are watching on the Tele
Be wary of what you are browsing on the Internet
This truth seems to come to the fore here in 1 Corinthians chapter 4, in a negative sense, namely a wrong understanding of future events results in wrong behaviour.
The Corinthians appear to be suffering from a wrong view of the kingdom.
1. Problem of the Kingdom (4:6)
2. Proof of the Kingdom (4:7-14)
3. Power of the Kingdom (4:15-21)
1. Problem of the Kingdom
Problems seem to have arisen due to a wrong appreciation of the Kingdom of God.
That now is the time to reign and rule; ‘now ye are full, now ye are rich’ (4:8)
How did this problem arise?
We will discover in chapter 15 that they also have a wrong view of the Resurrection, that there are some among them who deny the resurrection.
It may well be that these 2 issues are not disconnected.
The OT spoke very clearly of a coming Kingdom when Messiah will reign physically and visibly upon the earth with His administrative centre at Jerusalem
With Christ we have Messiah, God’s anointed one; We recall from our studies in Hebrews for example that Christ is; ‘King of Righteousness’ and ‘King of Peace’ (Heb 7:1-2, 15-23).
So if we have the King, do we not then have the Kingdom.
Again in Hebrews chp 1:8
Rev 19:16 “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”
The Lord and the apostles certainly speak of the spiritual or mystery aspect to the presence of His Kingdom on earth; that is that:
all who are saved enter into this Kingdom (John 3:5)
The Kingdom of God is ‘within you’ (Luke 17:21)
“The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom 14:17)
So all who bow to the rule of Christ in their lives are part of His spiritual Kingdom.
This is however a most unsatisfactory fulfilment of those literal OT prophecies and hardly does justice to Christs titles of “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords” ; that His Kingdom reigns over a world which is on the most part in a state of outward rebellion.
So there will be a future, literal outward Kingdom which will fulfil those OT prophecies and NT expectations.
When will that be?
Does the present age of Church testimony and world rebellion just merge imperceptibly with the future Kingdom or is there a specific event or set of events which divide this present time from the future Kingdom?
If you were to ask me for those specific events which trigger the beginning of that transition I would identify 3 concurrent events:
1 – The return of Christ
2 – The Resurrection of the dead in Christ
3 – The removal, by rapture of the believers form the world.
It is these 3 events which pave the way for the pouring out of Gods wrath on a world which rejects His Son, His Spirit and His Gospel.
These 3 events separate this present time from the future day of tribulation and wrath which paves the way for the binding of Satan for 1000 years and the establishment of Gods Kingdom under Christ.
What is interesting is that when you come to 1 Corinthians we find that there is a group of believers who deny this resurrection (1 Co15:12ff).
More than this in 1 Co 15:23ff Paul makes the connection between:
1 – The Resurrection of believers (15:18-23)
2 – The Return of Christ (15:23)
3 – The Rule of the Kingdom (15:24ff)
These believers then in denying the physical bodily resurrection of believers not only undermine the fundamentals of the Gospel (1Co15:17ff) but it also fundamentally alters their view of the Kingdom; for them there is no transition the present merges imperceptibly into the future.
This all may sound a bit complicated, a bit tenuous, but in fact it has been a not infrequent teaching over the years; so much so, it even has a name: ‘post millenialism’.
Satisfaction : “full” : ‘korenmoi’ : to have enough (4:8)
Prosperity: “rich” : ‘plouteo’ : to be rich (4:8)
Authority: “reign as kings” : ‘basileuo’ : to reign, rule, be king (4:8)
They were as a consequence accustomed to:
Fighting for their rights (6:1ff)
Self confidence in their new found knowledge (8:1ff)
Standing on a few toes / breaking a few eggs to get what they wanted (8:11ff)
Playing a prominent part in Corinthian society (8:10; 10:19-21)
Awareness of place, position and status (1 Co 11:21ff)
Using their gifts and abilities to claim position and place (1 Co12:15-18)
Used to being heard and making their views known (14:26-32)
They were reigning as Kings in their own Kingdom!
This was a gospel for winners!
This was a gospel with prosperity!
But this was not the Kingdom of God (4:20)
So long as I am doing alright
So long as my fellowship is doing alright then all is ok!
Proof of the Kingdom
But here is a different view of being a king (4:9ff) – A King in Gods Kingdom.
compare Matthew chp 5 and 1 Corinthians chapter 4:
Noah hid his drunkenness, Moses hid an angry outburst and a violent murder, Achan hid some stolen clothes and a few hot slabs of gold till they cooled off, and David hid his adultery. Who could find out? What harm would it cause anyone else? In the privacy of their own homes. In the darkness of the night. In the scheming secrecy of plans opaque to the outside world? Who could know? It was a powerful amnesia that affected the godly and God fearing that rendered them senseless to the omnipresence of God. He saw. That was enough. That was all that mattered. This alone moves the tide from which breaks the waves of judgment and consequence. Irrespective of what mortal sees with dieing eye, and perceives with a conscience of clouded cataracts, He sees with penetrating moral purity and with unflinching righteous repercussions.
For service to endure and for it to stand with God it must be dependent upon Him, obedient to His every command. He is the oversman and we the under rower (1 Corinthians 4:1). “Just to trust and obey, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus.” Such a service performed for God can only be truly assessed by God, an assessment which will weigh both motives seen and unseen, and with it all of those sins, even the secret sins.
Taken from, a new message preached from 1 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 1 to 6, by Stewart Gillespie:
The Builders (v9)
The Building (v9, 16)
The Building Materials (v12)
2. Place in the Building Programme (v9)
“we are labourers together with God”
Just labourers! Ours is not the role of the ‘architect’ (v10); ours is just to obey the simple instructions to perform the labour’s.
We don’t have the overall plan or drawings, just to obey and to act in faith.
3. Person on whom the Building is founded (v11)
This building must be built consistent with the foundations therefore:
Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) – Therefore there is no room for error nor lies; “44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own:for he is a liar, and the father of it. ” (John 8:44)
“God is Spirit” – all that is founded on Christ must be spiritual, materialism has no place (cf. 1 Corinthians chp 6).
“Holy, harmless, undefiled” – no room for sin on this foundation (cf. 1 Corinthians chps 5 to 10)!
With so much care and concern going into this building, what is the purpose of it?
5. Purpose of the Building (v16)
Is it self evident?
Sometimes the more self evident the question the more surprising the answer!
Not going to Dwell on what the temple is not, but by considering what it is we may well be lead to acknowledge what it is not:
It is not:
A social organisation
A welfare organisation
A political organisation
I mention briefly what it is not because sometimes the church, the temple becomes modified in order to focus it’s vision / purpose on what it is not.
5. The Purpose of the Building:
The Pattern of the Tabernacle
The Paradox of the Temple
Present Reality of the Church
Purpose fulfilled in Revelation
Pattern of the Tabernacle
“let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 29:45-46)
Paradox of the Temple
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee how much less this house that I have built? ” (1 Kings 8:27)
Present and Personal Reality in the Church
” where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20)
“I will declare thy name unto my brother in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee” (Heb 2:12)
“God is in you of a truth” (1 Co14:25)
Purpose Fulfilled in Revelation
The Temple of God is primarily for God to Dwell (3:16)
A truth it would seem easily forgotten (3:16) : “know ye not”
It ought not to have been forgotten
It was the big lesson
How easily we forget
The Temple was for the Presence of God and not for the profit of men; “a house of merchandise”
The Sabbath was for Man and not man for the Sabbath
God looks not on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.
They had forgotten that they were the temple of God.
If God is present amongst us what should we find?
How about: God?
Evidence of the presence of God?
There is little point in claiming where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name here am I in the midst of them, if there isn’t the slightest evidence of it!
What evidence ought I to be able to see?
1. God reflected in His people
2. God revealed in His Word
3. God realised in prayer
We ought to be touched by and able to see the reality of those symbols:
Gold – Righteousness – seen practically amongst His people. More than just an outward form of Righteousness, more than just a ticking of the box righteousness, more than the righteousness of the Pharisee (Matthew chapter 23), none of the sin of chapters 5 to 10!
Silver – People transformed by Redemption – Reflection of Christ; “if any man be in Christ he is a new creation. ‘ Ought to be the evidence of a people who have left Egypt, sin and slavery behind and who have a higher agenda, a people heading to the promised land, people with vision and with Glory, people saved and redeemed and in dwelt by the Spirit of God and marked by the fruit of Gods Spirit. There ought to be the tangible evidence of people in dwelt by the Spirit of God: Galatians 5:22 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance:against such there is no law.” A tangible sense of this is possible.
Precious Stones – a different way of thinking? There ought to be evidence of the wisdom of Christ in our thinking, and of the mind of Christ in us (1 Corinthians 2:16). There ought to be evidence of a people living with an eye on eternity (3:13ff). Living and labouring not just for the here and now but for the future and forever.
God Revealed in His Word
If the temple existed primarily for the presence of God, then the practical benefit of that presence for God’s people lay in the provision of God for His people which flowed from that presence.
The temple and tabernacle contained the symbols of that provision:
Lamp – to give light for the way
Loaf – to sustain and feed His people
Priest – with his intercessor ministry for the people, who would bear the care of Gods people on his breastplate of judgment and carry their names on his shoulder.
The temple was a place where as a consequence of Gods presence with them, the needs of Gods people were met. This was not the primary purpose of course of the temple or the tabernacle but it was an inevitable consequence of having Gods presence amongst them. The primary purpose in bringing Gods people out of Egypt was not that God might give them bread from heaven but that they might ‘worship Me.’
It would be very strange if the NT temple for the Living God had less of a provision for God’s people than the OT tent!
Wherever we find the presence of God in the OT, His Presence has a purpose, He is present to:
Bethel – Genesis 28:11ff – The House of God; God is present and God reveals His purpose and communicates to Jacob, on this occasion by means of a dream (Gen 28:12); and with a predictive word of prophecy (28:13-15).
Mount Since – Exodus 4:27 – The Mountain of God (Ex 19:3ff,9,19;20:1ff) – God speaks.
Tabernacle (Ex40:34ff) – God spoke; “The Lord called unto Moses and spoke unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation saying…” (Lev 1:1). God speaks from this tabernacle at times with devastating consequences (Number 16:20ff) – Korah, Dathan and Abiram. God revealed His mind from the tabernacle (Number 27:21).
Temple – 1 Kings 9:1ff – The Lord appears to Solomon the second time and “The Lord said unto him…”
So too then the expectation for God to Speak and to reveal Himself to His people in this new spiritual Temple at Corinth. Not just to keep alive and to repeat what we believe to be true but to have real living communication from God Himself (1 Co 14:23-25).
Reality of Prayer
The dominant theme in the dedication of the temple of Solomon: 1 Kings 8:29-30, 33, 35, 42, 44-45, 48-49; 8:54.
In each of the sections some practical lessons to learn:
Feeding on the Meat
Paul desires that they should be feeding on meat and not on milk
Paul had good meat for them (3:1)
There was no famine in the land here, as there had been in the days of Naomi and Elimelech and in the days of Elisha and siege of Samaria.
The AVAILABILITY of food was determined by the ABILITY to receive that food.
What hinders that appetite for Christ, that ability to receive the meat is carnality manifesting itself in schism.
We note that the apostle holds us accountable for cutting off / dividing / withdrawing from fellowship because of offence (3:3)
Some made a definite decision to:
hold on to bitterness
Offence caused, which there was no doubt at Corinth is not an excuse which gives a a God endorsed right to spend the rest of our spiritual life as a victim; ‘she said that to you, he did that to you? Well just you go in the huff for the next 25 years and I’ll richly bless you.’ A text by which many sadly live their lives!
The true heart of Christ towards His body is a heart which will not:
So in the 1st section we note:
Cause of the schism
Content of the meat
That content is defined in 2:6-7
This is the wisdom section: the meat is the, ‘hidden wisdom of God in mystery’
‘The foreordained determinative purpose of God for His creation Christ, which has as its goal the Glory of His Son and consequently the blessing of His people. Such Wisdom was at one time concealed, to be revealed supernaturally at the time of its fulfilment.’
The above definition emphasises:
‘of God’ – the origin of this mystery wisdom is God rather than man
‘foreordained’ – built into the foundation of the world (1Co2:7)
‘determinative’ – theses are not a collection of random, disconnected secrets but rather part of one coherent plan with a purpose (Eph 1:9-10)
‘for His creation’ – Gods overarching plan and purpose for the created order (1 Co2:7; Eph1:10)
‘Glory of His Son’ – Eph 1:10-12
‘blessing of His people’ – 1 Co 2:7,9
‘revealed at their fulfilment’ – not an arbitrary hiding and revelation of Divine secrets but Divine purpose, revealed as it is worked out in time in the purpose of God (1 Co2:8; 1 Tim 3:16; Gal 4:4)
This Mystery Wisdom of God includes:
1. The Mystery of Israel in Unbelief (Rom 11:25)
2. The Gospel of Gods Grace in Christ (Rom 16:25; Eph 6:19)
3. The Mystery of the Rapture (1 Co 15:51)
4. The Mystery of Gods Will in gathering all things together in Christ (Eph 1:9)
5. The Mystery of Christ – bringing in of the Gentiles in one body (Eph 3:4-5, 8-11)
6. The Mystery of the union of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32)
7. The Mystery of Christ in you the Hope of Glory (Col 1:26-29; 2:2)
8. The Mystery of Christ (Col 4:3)
9. The Mystery of the 7 Stars (Rev 1:20)
10. The Mystery of God (Rev 10:7)
11. The Mystery of Iniquity (2Thess 2:7)
12. The Mystery of the Faith (1 Tim 3:9)
13. The Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim 3:16)
14. The Mystery of Babylon the Great (Rev 17:7)
2. Serving (3:5)
We noted the ‘but ministers’ of Jesus Christ
Rebekah – carried some water
Widow of Zarephath – who gathered some sticks
David – who carried some cheese
Little maid – who served in the home
Each ‘but ministry’ led men to worship.
3. Building on the Foundations
i. Picture of Building
ii. People involved in the building
iii. Person on whom the building is founded
iv. Principles of Building
v. Purpose of Building
I. Picture of Building
Perhaps worth clarifying a small potential point of confusion before we proceed any further, here as elsewhere (eg Romans 7:1ff) the apostle makes fairly free use of metaphors.
Paul sticks with a metaphor and follows it through only so long as it serves his purpose.
When the metaphor ceases to fulfill it’s purpose he swaps the metaphor around.
As a results we find that the believer is at various times:
1. The builder (3:9ff), or perhaps builders labourers, rather than the master builder or architect (1 Co3:10). We don’t design, we don’t direct, we just labour.
2. The building (3:9, 16)
And let us not make the mistake of following through the metaphor to its logical conclusion; that if we are the building then the individual stones must be individual believers, as Peter uses the metaphor in 1 Peter 2; for here whilst the believers are the building (3:16), the material used to build it is distinct from the builders (3:15)
II. People involved in the building
“we are labourers” (3:9)
Not ours to know the master plan but ours to move in faith
III. Person on whom the building is founded
Note in the building, issues of:
These are materials consistent with the foundation; “which is Jesus Christ” (v11)
Whatever we build in to the church needs to be consistent and compatible with Christ. So for example:
i. Jesus Christ is the “truth” (Jo 14:6)
Therefore error / lies are not compatible with the foundation and would be in the category of; ‘wood, hay and stubble.’
ii. “God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth”
Materialism is thus incompatible with the foundation
“Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.” Willow Creek Church
iii. Christ is “holy, harmless, undefiled”
Immorality and sin are incompatible with the foundations
Note not only the issue of:
The consequences of making a mistake
It is possible to build, to build big, to build with wood, hay and stubble
Everything may have the appearance of progress and prosperity, but ultimately it will crumble, and it may be too late to do anything about it!
IV. Principles of Building
“take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (3:10)
looking to build with:
“gold, silver, precious stones” (3:13)
Can we be any more specific about what constitutes:
First mentioned with possible ‘moral’ overtones in Gen 2:12; “the gold of that land is good”
Many of the items of the tabernacle and later the temple were made of gold and of pure gold:
Ark of the Covenant overlaid with pure gold (Ex 25:10ff; 37:1ff)
Mercy Seat made of pure gold (Ex25:17; 37:6)
Cherubim made of gold (Ex 25:18; 37:7ff)
Table of Shewbread made of pure gold (Ex 25:24l 37:10ff)
Lampstand made of pure gold (Ex 25:31; 37:17,22ff)
Breastplate of judgment was held by pure gold chains (Ex 28:22ff)
Plate for the mitre made of pure gold; “holiness to the Lord” (Ex28:34ff)
Altar of incense – overlaid with pure gold (Ex 30:1ff; 37:25ff)
The tabernacle and the temple in their construction bring together’ ‘gold, silver and precious stones,’ (Ex 31:1-5; 35:32-33; 1 Chron 29:2,7-8)
Gold was likewise used extensively in the construction of the temple:
The oracle was overlaid with pure gold (1Kings 6:20)
The house was covered with pure gold (1 Kings 6:21)
Doors overlaid with gold (1Kings 6:32)
Cherubim overlaid with gold (1Kings 6:28)
Altar of Gold (7:48)
Table of Gold (1 Kings 7:48)
Lampstands of pure gold (1Kings 7:49)
Gold was one of the substances that could abide the fire and thus could go through the fire to be purified (Num31:22ff) – not difficult to envisage a moral metaphor from it therefore.
Gold linked to righteousness comes out in the poetic books:
Gold is contrasted with iniquity (Job 22:23-24)
The trials of life purify Job so that he comes forth as gold (Job 23:10)
Psalm 19:10 – “The judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether, more to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold”
Psalm 45:9 – The queen stands in gold of Ophir, cf the Righteousness of the Saints (Rev 19:7-8) – “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints”
Psalm 119:27 – “I love thy commandments above gold”
Proverbs 8:17-20 – “Righteousness and gold”
Gold would point to the need for RIGHTEOUSNESS; cf 1 Co chps 5 to 10
Associated with Redemption: Exodus 38:25 – half shekel of the sanctuary, Lev 5:15; Numb 3:46 – all the firstborn redeemed with 5 shekels
Precious stones – often linked with wisdom in the OT:
Job 28:1, 12, 18: “The price of wisdom is above rubies”
Prov 8:11: “Wisdom is better than rubies”
Linked with Solomon; 1 Kings 10:2,10,11; 2Chron 9:1
Present on the Crown, crowning the head of the King; 2 Sam 12:30; 1 Chron 20
Christ – Isaiah 28:16
Wisdom of the King of Tyrus (Lucifer): “Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.” (Ezek 28:13)
Precious stones – linked with Wisdom – consider 1 Corinthians chps 1 to 4
Dreams can easily become a sycophantic refuge for the apathetic and hypocritical. The ‘good old days’ of Gods blessing can be safely left there, in the past and with it past passions, past power and past progress. The Corinthians, perhaps not uniquely amongst Christians were happy to place men on a pedestal and praise those who had been a help to them in previous days. They lived their Christian life in the dreams of Joel 2:28. What God had done in the lives of others in days gone by was not the issue. Of primary concern to the apostle Paul was what was hindering the work of God in their life in the here and now. Carnality had eaten cancer like into their spiritual life. They were divided by schism, petty jealousies and compromised by the pursuit of personal lusts. For their dreams of others in the past to become a vision for their own future, repentance from their schismatic sins was required and once that had been acted upon, what was wrong with a little Service?
We noted last time the significance of the sin of schism.
That despite the many sins of Corinth:
Moral (chps 5-6)
Material (chp 6)
Marital (chp 7)
Meat offered to idols (chps 8 to 10)
Meetings (chps 10 to 14)
Miracle of Resurrection (chp 15)
Money (chp 16)
That it is schism which is identified as both the:
Of their failure to thrive and lack of spiritual appetite (3:3)
We noted that this was due to the:
Cause of Schism – the flesh, carnality
Character of schism – looks at people and fails to see the Person of Christ who is the real source of spiritual food and growth and maturity
Consequence of schism – it cuts us off from the very people who may be a help to us.
What could motivate believers to work together like seeing the blessing of fellowship with the fruitfulness of that fellowship flowing out.
The irony of the situation at Corinth is exposed in 3:6 – the secret of Paul and Apollos success lay in their fellowship with one another
Principles of service:
The Position of the Servant:
“who then is Paul? ”
What about position and place?
No Prime Minister here.
The servant loses his reputation in that of his Lord and masters.
We are unable to really see Paul and Apollos in their service because they hide behind Christ, they point to Christ
Like John the Baptist of old – just a voice crying in the wilderness
Paul is ‘just a servant’
There are lots of ‘just servants’ in the Word of God.
Have you noticed them?
Possibly not!!! They do it very well!
Rebekah was just carrying some water for Eliezers camels when she stumbled into her destiny as the mother of a nation of Gods chosen earthly people, just a servant carrying water!
David was just a message boy carrying some cheeses, and parched corn to his brothers in the valley of Elah, when he was drafted into Gods destiny to slay Goliath and deliver a Kingdom and claim a Princess for his bride.
Widow of Zarephath was just collecting a few sticks when she was met by Elijah, and had her life and that of her family was miraculously preserved, and she became a type of Gods future dealings in grace with the gentiles and the recipient of the Grace of resurrection in her home! She was just out collecting some sticks.
The little Hebrew maid was just serving in her masters home in Assyria when she became the missing link between Naaman the leper and the prophet Elisha.
Ezra the scribe spent his time, very impractically, just studying his Bible, when he was identified by Artaxerxes as the ideal candidate to add content and substance to the newly constructed temple in Jerusalem.
Don’t despise a little Service!
Some are too big to:
Carry some water – What Rebekah did when she stumbled into her destiny as the mother of a nation of Gods chosen people.
Deliver some cheese – That kind of a service is a stepping stone to slaying a giant, delivering a Kingdom and claiming a Princess as a bride!
Pick up a few sticks – That is what you pick up before God reaches into you heart and raises your son from the dead
Serve in the home – The kind of cleaning task that precedes the cleansing of the leper
Nehemiah was just bearing the cup to the King when he was called to
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Purpose of the Servant
So what’s wrong with a little Service then?
I’ll tell you what, it’s ‘little’
I want big!
The service may be little indeed but notice that all of these ‘little’ services have something in common; they encourage and produce faith in a great God!
To carry a little water? – Genesis 24
“And the man bowed down his head and worshipped the Lord”
That’s quite a result from carrying a little water.
To deliver a few messages (1Samuel 17)
“That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam 17:46)
“all this assembly shall know that the Lord safety not with sword and spear for the battle is the Lords” (1 Sam 17:47)
To pick up a few sticks (1 Kings 17)
“And the woman said to Elijah now by this I know that thou art a man of God and the word of the Lord in the mouth is truth. ” (1 Kings 17:24)
To do a little house work: (2 Kings 5:15)
” Behold now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel. ”
Not bad for a little below the minimum wage service in Nathan household (2 Kings 5:2)
All of these small Acts of service have something in common; they all draw out praise and worship to the Lord, they all bring Glory to the Lord.
No praise for a great servant!
That’s what 1 Co 3:5 is about
Maybe sometimes that can be a problem!
Maybe I want to be the greatest water carrier in the whole of history?
Maybe I want someone to say, look at the way that boy picks up the sticks, you’ve never seen a stick picker upper like that stick picker upper!
That’s not what service is about, it’s about pointing others and drawing others to Christ.
Purpose of the servant is not thus to:
Keep the camels happy
Build a big roaring fire with the sticks
Leave his brothers well fed and content
Have the cleanest house in Syria
This all may sound a touch absurd but how easy is it to very off on the purposes of God and get side tracked with issues that don’t really matter?
For Gods work to become dominated by entertaining carnal Christians, maintaining buildings, sustaining service and services?
Easy to miss the point: “by whom ye believed” (3:5)
Provision of the Lord (3:5)
There is a plan
Pieces of the jigsaw for which we are individually fitted
God is in control, giving to each sovereignly and bringing together the plan.
“as the Lord gave” (3:5)
“God gave” (3:6)
“God that giveth” (3:7)
There is a theme here!!
God gave – Just as in Salvation, so in Service, it is of Grace!
Productivity of Service
Let us avoid 2 errors:
The mistake of trying to do everything
The mistake of endeavouring to do nothing
There is diversity in service
It can be just as disastrous to undertake a service we are not fitted for (cf. King Uzziah and his attempt to do priestly service) as it can be to fail to undertake a service we are fitted for!
Gods fits His servants for complementary service
So often the Lord will bring 2 men (or more) together to do His will and accomplish His service:
Moses and Joshua
David and Solomon
Zerubabel and Ezra
Peter and Paul
The Word of God is full of such great partnerships, not by accident but by design.
Could God not have used just 1 man to accomplish His tasks from beginning to end?
Surely with the calibre of men at His disposal that should have been feasible?
Moses and Joshua
David and Solomon
Zerubabel and Ezra
Peter and Paul
If all that was done for God’s Glory was achieved by His Spirit; “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zech 4:6). Then surely the servant becomes an object of Gods Grace rather than a means to assisting the Lord.
Was Moses not sufficiently in touch with God to bring the people into the land : “whom God spoke to face to face”
Was David not close enough to Gods heart? “a man after Gods own heart”
Did Ezra not know his bible well enough?
Did Paul lack understanding of Divine truth?
Why split these tasks?
God certainly in Grace uses the diverse talents and gifts He gives to His distinctive servants.
Brought up in the palace by Pharaohs daughter (Heb 11:24)
Educated in the wisdom of Egypt (Acts 7:22)
He had access to Pharaoh
He knew how the Egyptian mind worked
He understand their language, learning, culture and protocols
Who better to go in before Pharaoh than one brought up in a royal Egyptian household?
Who better qualified to lead the people out of Egypt than one who had left Egypt himself?
Mind you it would be hard to lead the people of God out of Egypt if you were still living there in heart or in body yourself.
Who more suitable to bring the people into the land than one of only 2 faithful men who had already been into the land to spy it out?
The qualification for leadership; “be strong and of good courage” (Josh 1:6); “be thou strong and very courageous” (Josh 1:7) is a qualification already shown by Joshua as one of 2 faithful spies who endeavoured to inspire the people to take the land, (Numbers 14:6-9)
Mind you it would be hard to inspire the people of God to go where we have never been, nor where we do not go ourselves.
God used a man to lead people out of what he had already left himself.
God used a man to lead people into where he had already been himself.
I don’t believe that was a coincidence.
Will we ever Lead anyone out of a world we are not prepared to leave ourselves?
Will will ever Lead anyone into blessings we have never come into ourselves?
Not because of any harsh nor arbitrary rules regarding this imposed by God but simply because leading is that; leading!!!
All of this was too much for one man.
David and Solomon
David laid out the resources for the temple (1 Chronicles 17:4; 22:2-4)
It was given to Solomon to do the building
David with his conquests was ideally placed to gather wealth from subjugated people
Not only was WEALTH needed for this temple but there was a need for someone who understood pi – WISDOM (2 Chronicles 4:2)
Nehemiah and Ezra:
Who better to start the building work at Jerusalem than a man who has Cyrus the emperor as his contact and who has the confidence of the throne? Here is the man who can muster the resources to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Interestingly a glimpse into the answer to a question recently asked of me and one which the OT is not written to specifically address; ‘what about the gentile / non Jewish nations in the OT days, did God have any dealings with them?’
Yes He did:
Rahab the Harlot
Ruth the Moabitess
Widow of Zarephath
Nathan the Leper
Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar
Daniel and Belshazzer
Daniel and Darius
Nehemiah and Cyrus
Jonah and Nineveh
Ezra and Zerubabel
Ezra was no Mason nor joiner nor builder
Ezra was a scribe, who had spent his time studying the Word of God:
“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord to do it and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. ” (Ezra 7:10)
Ezra knew his bible
Ezra had wisdom (Ezra 7:25)
Zerubabel and Joshua built the temple – CONSTRUCTION
Ezra brought content to the building – CONTENT
Zerubabel and Jeshua built the STRUCTURE of the temple
Ezra brought SUBSTANCE to the temple
When we come to serve let us not feel that we must do it all ourselves
Moses and Joshua
David and Solomon
Zerubabel and Ezra
Peter and Paul
For a sin almost so completely sanitised with the pseudo-spiritual bleach of self righteous sanctification, 1 Corinthians chapter 3 will drag it above the moral high ground and into the darkness of selfish, jealous carnality. Cutting ourselves off from other Christians, we have often been told is not only acceptable behaviour but the holiness of Gods people and the preservation of the true church demands it. If anyone could have found justification for the cutting off of other Christians it was the apostle Paul. The chasm was deep which separated him from the Corinthians; morally, spiritually and ecclesiastically, and yet rather than separating himself from their fellowship, he labours to stress that they are his “brothers” (1 Co 3:10) and that they all belong to Christ (1 Co 3:23). The true cause of schism gives it its lethal character; not in the circumstances which precipitate the division but in the carnal attitudes of the men who caused it.
As a job application it was destined to leave the apostle Paul well off of the interview short-list, yet chapter 2 opens with a self appraisal which leaves the reader in no doubt as to Pauls short comings. He wasn’t big on wisdom, speaking wasn’t his strong point, he lacked self confidence and felt his weakness. Despite all of this the mission at Corinth had been a rip roaring success! It always had been the case that when God chose a man suitable for His service He had rejected anyone too proud to acquiesce to His omnipotence. God always sought a servant willing to become a channel clean enough, through which blessing might flow to others; and that blessing was GREAT!