1 Corinthians 3: Only One Foundation

Growing in Christ

We’re called not only to know Christ but also to grow in Him.

Paul was concerned that the Corinthians were still “infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). They apparently knew Christ, but they were not growing in Him. Paul’s concern over this reveals an important truth: If the gospel has penetrated our hearts in a real way, it will change us. We will not continue acting and thinking as we once did, but our minds will be transformed so that we act according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.

We have a choice how we will invest our time, talent, and treasure. These will all perish, but it is possible to leverage them by investing them in the two things that will endure—the Word of God and people. In this way we can build on the foundation of Christ and not on the sinking sand of the things of the world (1 Corinthians 3:11–15).

It’s Only About One Person

The Corinthians displayed their spiritual immaturity by orienting themselves around human personalities. “One says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos’” (1 Corinthians 3:4).

It is good to follow the lead of sound teachers, but there is a danger when we center ourselves around that person. If we do not dig into the Word ourselves and become people of the Word, rather than people of a merely human teacher, we quickly forget that our faith is only about one person—the Lord Jesus Christ. Our pastors and spiritual leaders are servants of the one Lord, just as each one of us should be (1 Corinthians 3:5).

As servants of Christ, then, we must not become people-pleasers in our effort to bring people to Christ. It is Jesus Himself that people need, and so we must elevate Him alone as the center of all things. We have nothing to offer; Christ has everything. Our task is to be agents of grace in this world who point people to this one Source of life.

Evangelism is a Process

As we do this, it is easy to become discouraged when we do not see quantifiable results. But Paul goes on to remind us that evangelism is a process. In an agricultural metaphor, he tells us that God might use one person to prepare the ground, another to plant the seed of the gospel, yet another to cultivate the ground as the seed takes root, and finally one to reap the harvest of a transformed life. Yet it is God alone who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6–7). By His grace, He invites us to participate in the process of bringing people to Himself.

This means that each step of the process of evangelism is equally vital and equally utilized by God. Therefore, we should not become discouraged if we do not see results. We may be preparing the ground for others to plant. Likewise, we should not become puffed up when we do see a harvest since we are not the ones who change hearts. Instead, both the preparer of the ground and the harvester should glorify God. “Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

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