1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ~ 20130721 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
07/21 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 Stop Short-changing Yourself! Boast Only in God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130721_1cor3_21-23.mp3
18 Μηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω· εἴ τις δοκεῖ σοφὸς εἶναι ἐν ὑμῖν ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, μωρὸς γενέσθω, ἵνα γένηται σοφός, 19 ἡ γὰρ σοφία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου μωρία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ἐστιν· γέγραπται γάρ· Ὁ δρασσόμενος τοὺς σοφοὺς ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτῶν· 20 καὶ πάλιν· Κύριος γινώσκει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς τῶν σοφῶν ὅτι εἰσὶν μάταιοι. 21 ὥστε μηδεὶς καυχάσθω ἐν ἀνθρώποις· πάντα γὰρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν, 22 εἴτε Παῦλος εἴτε Ἀπολλῶς εἴτε Κηφᾶς εἴτε κόσμος εἴτε ζωὴ εἴτε θάνατος εἴτε ἐνεστῶτα εἴτε μέλλοντα, πάντα ὑμῶν, 23 ὑμεῖς δὲ Χριστοῦ, Χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ.
1Cor 3 [ESV2011]
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
There is a problem in the church in Corinth. There are divisions. There is disunity. There is quarreling. There is a party spirit. Each one has their own favorite leader. Some follow Paul. Some follow Apollos. Some Cephas. Some, who think themselves above all the rest and beyond the need for any human teacher, claim to follow only Christ. The believers in Corinth are enamored with wisdom. They want to be thought wise, to be admired by the world. They want to be following the right leader. Paul has pointed out that the wisdom of the world is worthless with God, and God uses that which the world considers foolishness to shame the wise. He warns of the danger of being self-deceived, and he comes back around to this issue of true wisdom at the end of chapter 3 and applies it to the foolishness of pitting one godly gifted leader over against another.
Boast Only in the Lord
This is a clear statement. No more boasting in men. In verse 18 he says 'stop deceiving yourself'; here he says 'stop boasting in men'. This picks up a theme from the end of chapter 1 (v.26-31). God chose in a specific way and for a specific purpose. Not many wise, noble or powerful were chosen; instead, God chose the foolish, weak, low and despised, the nothings, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. No one can say 'God chose me because I am wise, I am powerful, I am something' No, I have nothing to boast in. All boasting must always only be boasting in the Lord. We have no legitimate grounds for boasting in ourselves. Here Paul applies this to prominent leadership in the church. If no believer can boast in himself, then no Christian leader has legitimate grounds to boast in himself, and so we should not boast in them either. Paul proudly wears his title of first place in 1 Timothy 1:15; first or foremost, or chief of sinners. Paul reveled in the fact that he had been shown mercy, that God's unmerited grace had overflowed toward him. In Philippians 3 Paul lists his natural reasons for boasting, and concludes that it was all worthless and less than nothing. In chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, Paul claims to be last and least of all the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because he persecuted the church of God. But God's grace is not related to what we deserve. None of us, not even the most gifted and prominent leader in the church, has any valid ground for boasting in self. The only boasting that is legitimate is boasting in the sheer undeserved unearned overwhelming grace of God.
Do Not Short-Change Yourself
The reason Paul gives here for not boasting in men is stunning. He doesn't again highlight the negative, that there is nothing in any leader worthy of boasting in. Rather, he points us to the positive with this staggering statement: 'all things are yours'. That is hugely comprehensive. 'All things are yours'. Why would anyone ever limit themselves to one thing when everything belongs to you? If all the trees in the garden are yours, why would you limit yourself to eating from just one tree? Boasting in one gifted teacher over against all others cuts you off from the blessings intended by God to be yours from all of them. To limit oneself to only follow Paul or Apollos or Cephas would be to miss out on much of the benefit God meant to be yours. But this statement goes far beyond teachers. All things means all things, as the apostle will elaborate in three sets of opposing pairs to specify that he really does mean all things. He starts by pointing to these three gifted teachers over against the world; then life and death; then the present and the future; both sides of each equation belong to the believer.
Christian Teachers and the World
We can understand that all Christian teachers belong to the church. They have been given by God to the church. In Ephesians 4, Paul says
All the differing roles in ministry are gifts from God to his body the church. All the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers belong to the church. They have been given to the church for her good. Jesus invited his followers to pray:
It is the Lord who sends laborers. It is his harvest. It is his field. As Paul has said earlier in this chapter:
It is the Lord who assigns the different laborers to carry out different roles in his field. God gives the growth, and he employs various servants as implements to bring about that growth. To limit yourself to only one favorite worker or school of thought would be to refuse so much that God is giving to you for your good. Paul and Apollos and Cephas are all yours in Christ!
But it doesn't stop with gifted Christian leaders. The world is yours. This is the world Paul says in Romans 12:2 that we are not to be conformed to. Jesus says we are not of this world but were chosen out of the world. This is the world that hates us because we don't belong to it (Jn.15:19; 17:14-16). This is the world that Jesus promises:
The world, this world that hates us and brings us tribulation belongs to us. Just as God gave us gifted leaders for our good, so God gives us this hostile world for our good. God even gives us the tribulation in this world for our good. Romans 5 tells us:
Even the worst things in this world are given to us by our good God for our benefit. Jesus has overcome the world, and now the world belongs to us and everything in it serves us for our good.
Life and Death
He goes on to say that life and death belong to us. Our life, according to James, is 'a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes' (4:14). So much of our energy is spent grasping to hold on to our precious life and living in the constant fear of losing it. But in Christ, life and death are ours! Jesus said 'I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly' (Jn.10:10). Life is ours! So we can release our grip on life and focus on living it for the honor of Christ. As Paul contemplates his own life and death in Philippians, he says:
Paul is freed to live with full courage for the glory of Christ. Jesus has so saturated his existence, that he can say 'to live is Christ'. He goes on:
Death, the final foe, the last enemy, has been decisively defeated at the cross. Now we can say with confidence 'to die is gain; to depart and be with Christ ...is far better'. In Christ, life is ours and death is ours.
The Present and The Future
The present and the future are ours in Christ Jesus. The urgent tyranny of the present often feels like it will crush us, and the future looms unknown and uncertain just past the horizon.
Jesus invites us to come in simple dependence and childlike trust and say 'give us this day our daily bread' (Mt.6:11). He says:
The God who is sovereign over every human event, who turns the hearts of kings like water in his hands (Prov.21:1), at whose word things that are not leap into existence, at whose voice the wind and the waves are silenced, will work every present circumstance, every future event for our good and his glory. In Christ, the present and the future belong to us and will serve us for our good.
All things work together for my good. Every Christian leader, the whole unbelieving world, my life, in sickness or in health, my death, every present circumstance, every future hardship, every future victory, all things are mine. They belong to me and they will serve me for my eternal good.
God is for me, working every single thing together for my good. God is for me. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Even tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword are my servants sent by the hand of a loving God to do me good. Not one thing in the whole universe can separate me from God's sovereign resolve to do me good.
I Belong to Christ
This is not true of every person. Romans is clear that all things work together for good only for those who love God, only for those who are called according to his purpose. Here, Paul makes it clear that all things belong only to those who belong to Christ. In the same way that everything is mine, all things belong to me, everything exists to serve me for my good, so I belong to Jesus, I am owned by him, I exist to serve him for his good.
Peter tells us:
Around the throne in heaven we see Jesus being worshiped:
We were purchased by Christ on the cross. We are now owned by Jesus. We have become the property of God almighty. Because you belong to Christ, all things now belong to you. All things exist to serve you for your good, as you exist to serve Jesus. Since all things were created by Jesus and for Jesus, (Col.1:16; Rom.11:36), as we live lives to serve and worship Jesus, all things serve us to that end.
If today you do not belong to Jesus, then you need to surrender to the King. Jesus paid for you with his blood. Acknowledge that you are a slave of sin and need to be ransomed. There is nothing you can contribute. Simply trust Jesus, receive the free gift he purchased for you.
Christ is God's
As we exist to serve Jesus and bring glory to Jesus, so our Lord Christ eternally exists to serve and glorify his Father. There is within the triune God both absolute equality and mutual adoration and glad submission. The Son is equal to the Father in every way, fully divine, sharing the same nature and existence with his Father, and yet the Son willingly subjects himself to the authority of the Father. Jesus said “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn.8:29). Jesus said “I honor my Father” and “it is my Father who glorifies me” (Jn.8:49, 54).
Just as Jesus lived totally surrendered to his Father, always doing the things that are pleasing to him, honoring him in everything, so we who belong to Christ should honor Jesus, living lives totally surrendered to him, gladly submitting to his will in everything. And in sheer amazement, we will realize that “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom.8:32). We will find our boast only in the cross, where infinite love was demonstrated, and where we were given all things in Christ Jesus.