“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. . . .For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying (G2205 = Jealousy), and strife (G2054= contentions ), and divisions (G1370= dissension, division, sedition ), 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? . . . Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. 1 Corinthians. 3:1-23
This bible verse is often misinterpreted. When reading it, at simple view, it may seem to some like Paul is saying division among Christian denominations is carnal. Some go as far as to accuse their brethren of being carnal just because they expose false doctrines or false teachers, not realizing they are the ones acting in a carnal way. Others even say that Peter (Cephas) is the founder of the Catholic church & for that reason we should accept this denomination as part of the body, otherwise it would mean we are carnal.
But Peter was not the founder of the Catholic Church, nor the first pope nor the rock. He was named pope by the Vatican hundreds of years after the apostle Peter had passed away. Moreover the Catholic church doesn’t teach the same doctrine that the apostle Peter taught. . .but this is another topic for another time. Let us study a little more about the bible verse above.
We cannot emphasize enough how important is to study & read the bible in context, taking verses out of context causes confusion & division among believers, it does much harm to the gospel & to the body of Christ. Taking verses out of context means we are not rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim.2:15), it shows we need to study the bible more deeply (specially before becoming teachers of the Word), it also may indicate spiritual immaturity.
It is normal for young believers to be carnal or fleshly. Spiritual maturity doesn’t happen over night, it requires time, it requires submitting to the Holy Spirit and knowledge of the Word of God. However Paul’s admonition reveals that he felt the believers at Corinth should have grown but they had failed to do so, they were still walking in the flesh.
The apostle Paul was writing his concerns to the church of Corinth after hearing there were divisions & strife (carnality or works of the flesh) among them.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance (G2054= contentions ) emulations (G2205= Jealousy), wrath, strife, seditions (G1370= dissension, division, sedition ), heresies (G137), envyings (G5355), murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:16-20
We notice in this verse of Galatians about work of the flesh, that the apostle Paul used exactly 3 of the sames words he said to the Corinthians. Divisions, Jealousy and strife are not the only signs of fleshiness, but these were some of the most evident among the Corinthians.
The fruits we should look in the church, mainly in teachers & leaders are the fruit of the Spirit, not how big their ministry is, or how many people they reach, nor how many books they wrote, etc. Instead, how much they love the sheep, are they protecting them from false doctrines, serving even the least of them, or are they using them for personal gain? are they following Christ example?
The spiritual man is led by the Holy Spirit and will manifest the Fruit of the Spirit, and the main one is love. 1 Cor. 13
The Corinthians probably thought of themselves as spiritual people, but their strifes showed that they were in fact fleshly. The problems they were having in their human relationships showed there was something wrong in their relationship with God also. It was evidence of carnality, of a fleshly way of thinking and living.
We humans have a tendency to make idols. In idolatry we put something or someone, usually a gift from God, in a place of value that takes the first place owed to God alone, the gift Giver.
What caused the strife & dissensions among the Corinthians?
They were following men, leaders, teachers. It seams they were getting too attached to the person through whom they came to believe in Christ, or may be some were looking for the most anointed or the greatest teacher to follow him.
. . .that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Cor. 1: 10-13
They got their eyes off the Lord and on the Lord’s servants, and this led to competition. This behavior of following men is common in many Christian churches today, it’s known as ‘Cult of Personality’. Followers of men identify themselves with their leaders rather than with God. In this case they even said I’m of. . . like they belonged to them.
Paul calls these carnal Christians brethren, (they are not unsaved/natural man like 1 Cor. 2:14) but they are not behaving like spiritual Christians either, rather they are behaving like carnal people- that is, fleshly -people, like immature Christians or babes in Christ.
We know Paul was apostle to the gentiles & Peter apostle to the Jews (Gal. 2:7) but one in Christ, & they where great teachers of the Word of God, but we may not know that Apollos was also a great teacher, specially among the converted Jews:
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. Acts 18: 24-28
Apollos was a converted Jew who worked for the Lord, mainly in Ephesus and the province of Achaia which capital was Corinth. It is understandable that some may liked his teachings, he was eloquent & mighty in the Scriptures, but the problem was when many were taking this favoritism to a point where it was causing division among members of the same church.
The division in Corinth that Paul addressed (1 Cor. 3) was NOT DOCTRINAL, all of these teachers mentioned were teaching the same doctrine, the same gospel, the same Lord Jesus. They didn’t have different denominations, for that reason is not talking about unity among denominations. Besides accepting a different doctrine would be a contradiction and there are not contradictions in the Word of God, there is only lack of information on our part or we are taking verses out of context.
Teachers & doctrines (teachings) go together, hand in hand. That’s the reason the bible warn us about false prophets & teachers, because of their false doctrines. How can God tells us in His Word to avoid them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine we learned (Romans 16:17-18), or tell us heresies are works of the flesh, to later tells us we are carnal/fleshy if we avoid them? that would be a terrible contradiction, it wouldn’t make any sense. For this & many other verses we find in the bible, we know God want us to teach & guard sound doctrine.
“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. … This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.“ Titus 1:10-14
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse (G1294= distort, corrupt ) things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears”. Acts 20: 29-31
Sound doctrine is teaching that agrees with the Bible. Here are some more bible verses that emphasize that we should continue or hold fast to the same doctrine of the apostles, which is simply what Jesus taught them:
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim. 1:13
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. 1 Tim. 4:16
For a bishop (G1985=overseer) must be blameless, as the steward of God. . . holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. Titus 1:9
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. 2 John 1:9-11
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep (G2722= hold fast, retained) in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, 1 Cor. 15
The church should defend sound doctrine:: “exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3)
“..that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— Ephesians 4:14-16
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. speaking lies in hypocrisy” 1 Tim. 4:1-2
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers (G1249 = servants) by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” vs. 5. – We don’t belong to any men, nor to the ministers or servants through whom we came to believe in Christ. They brought Jesus gospel to us. They are just laborers through whom we believed, not on whom we believed. No man should glory in men. We belong to Christ alone.
“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, 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 labour. For we are labourers together with God”. vs 6-9.
We are one body, a team work. We might think Paul would be more kind to his own “fans/followers”, but instead of letting their praise get to his flesh, Paul denounced fleshy followers and diminished himself & exalts God. That’s what a true man of God would do, point people to God & not to himself.
This is also a lesson for us, the contemporary Church: Christians must always center their loyalty, their love and devotion upon Jesus Christ and His word, not on individuals. No leader is to be the focus of Christian fellowship. How can we call ourselves Christians if we don’t follow Christ or His Word but rather follow men? Our advise…let no man glory in men, do not follow men Mark 7:6-7 but the son of God, invite Jesus Christ into your life, accept Him as your Saviour, your Lord, study His Word and follow Him.