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The Fire & The Crown



1 Corinthians 3

The Fire & The Crown

Title: Believers, Rewards & the Fire
Summary: Let’s journey back to the City of Corinth for a quick visit. Corinth was a seaport city Paul entered in Acts 18 on his 2nd journey. He ministered for 18 months.
Sprawling along the thin isthmus joining the two halves of Ancient Greece was first Century Corinth. With the azure green waters and pure white sands of the Aegean Sea on both sides, it was a bustling commercial center in Greece, boasting world-famous sporting centers and hosting the Pan-Ionian Games.
This city afforded too many temptations for the fun-loving Corinthian Christians. The Apostle Paul had seen many wondrous conversions. He wrote to them, calling them saints, for so they were in Christ. But, lacking spiritual discipline they were slipping back into the evils they faced each day. Corinth was a city in ancient Greece known as Vanity Fair. It was a city of Materialism, Antagonism, Competition, Selfishness, Hatred, Sexual immorality.
In such a place a church was born. The tragedy was that instead of the church impacting Corinth, Corinth was eroding the church! One pastor called it ‘Reverse Evangelism”. The Corinthians’ perverse spirit had invaded the church. The Christians were: Carnal; Worldly; Indulgent; Selfish; Contentious; Vengeful; Proud; Compromising. They operated in the power of the flesh trying to do the work of God. So—Paul challenges fleshly Corinthian saints with the reality of the Bema Seat Judgment.


John Barnett here and welcome to our journey through the 52 Greatest Chapters of the Bible. As we’re going through today, you’ll need your resources. I’ll be referring to our study Bible. I’ll be referring to our journal and of course, we’ll be using our Bibles all the way through. We’re covering, as you see on the slide, 1 Corinthians 3 and as I worked on it this week, the same thing happened. I guess I’m going to perennially have to say to you that whatever chapter of the Bible I’m studying each week becomes my favorite. I have been immersed in 1 Corinthians 3 and because it’s 1 Corinthians 3 and we haven’t been in 1 Corinthians before; I just had the best time. I’ll show you what I’ve been doing.

We’re on week 36. What you’re seeing on the slide there that’s Corinth. I have at least one or two little video clips I’m going to experiment with. The last place we were in the land of the book was taking a group around Greece and we went to Turkey, and we did Israel. I found those clips on my telephone and it was so exciting as I was studying this week that I’ve thrown him in. Of course, that was just before COVID hit. We were traveling until March of 2020 and then got grounded by COVID.

We’re going to the city of Corinth. On this slide what you can see here is I’m standing down in what will be the Southern shops and that’s where the leather workers were. Remember what Paul was, in chapter 18 of Acts, verse 3 he worked with the leather workers. I’m standing down in the leatherworker shop. What you see right here through the trees, and you’ll see many pictures of this, is the temple of Apollo. Think about this. In Acts 18 when Paul got to Corinth that temple was 600 years old. Okay. This temple is on the top of this hill. There are some more modern fortifications built over the top of the temple that was on top of Acrocorinthus, this mountain here that you can see. Acro, high place, of Corinth and I’ll show you many pictures of the walkway up there and everything. I’m standing in Corinth as I take this picture. You’re standing with me now in this Bible study from where Paul was a leatherworker, looking at the ancient Apollo temple and looking up at the temptation source that troubled the church in Corinth.

We’re looking at Corinth, the Apostle Paul, the race, and the crown that we all want to win. We’re surveying the whole Bible. That’s what you’re doing whether you just joined us this week or you’ve been with us from the beginning since January. We’re in our 36th week so our ninth month of going through the Bible and we’ve gotten to 1 Corinthians 3. What we’re doing is summarizing all the doctrines, truths, events, background, backdrop, geography, history, and the theology of the whole Bible. We even allude to the truth that we need to learn from the Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. We’re constantly looking at the charts, the footnotes, the book introductions from our MacArthur Study Bible, and everything we find we’re writing down.

I’ll show you where I am. Let me turn the page here. We’re in 1 Corinthians 3 and this is in my journal. Remember, if you go to our Facebook page, you can get this how to do the Bible study and the chart and there are updated charts. I keep updating the charts of all of the different chapters and when we’re going to cover them as we look forward to finishing our survey of the 52 Greatest Chapters this year. This is our method, the devotional method. The devotional method emphasizes the reading through of whatever passage we’re covering daily, so reading 1 Corinthians 3. I’m sitting at a table much like I’m sitting across from you at a coffee shop, that’s what I’ve done for years, discipling small groups of people.

Before we became full-time missionaries I had 10 small groups of professionals, of men that were in various walks of life. I had active duty police officers. I have retired police officers. I had young businessmen. All of them were in their late thirties, early forties. I had another group that were coaches and faculty at Western Michigan University. All of these different groups that I went through this with usually met at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning once a week for a whole year. That’s the format. In my mind, I am seeing this camera that I see my reflection and I can see myself there. I am looking at you like you’re sitting across the table, and you have your Bible. I’m introducing this chapter or this passage for us to spend studying this week. We each make a title and I’ve typed out everything that’s in my journal. Everything that’s in my journal I will show you because I put it on slides so that instead of turning it around, like I do at the table and showing it to you, I’m showing it to you on the screen.

You write a title for the passage we’re studying, then you look for lessons, as many as you can find. For some of you, this is overwhelming. You just do it once and spend a little bit of time. That’s great. Whatever you do, just interact with the word. If you’re working on it like me all week long, I write a new title each time I read the passage if I see some new insight. Then I look for lessons. I’ll show you those truths, doctrines, but I do it in my own words. It’s what I’m finding from the word of God. After I’ve prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to open my mind and open my eyes to behold wonderful things from the word of God, I write them down. I use other resources like the MacArthur Study Bible, the Blue Letter Bible, anything you find. Then I write an application prayer, and I’ll share that with you at the end, where I ask God to change me. Most people find verses they share with other people. Before you share them with other people. Ask God to bring that truth alive in your life. That makes your sharing much more powerful. Okay.

This is where we are, week 36, 1 Corinthians 3. I wrote eternal rewards. The first time I went through this, let’s see what I wrote. The time I was in my journal here, I wrote down Romans 5:3 building with fireproof materials. That’s what struck my heart the time I wrote it into the journal. Next time we’re going to look at 1 Corinthians 7, God’s plans for biblical marriage. I was thinking about that today. I’m going to talk about God’s plans for husbands, for wives, for the time you’re looking forward to getting married. God’s purpose in marriage is going to be an exciting time. Then we’re going to go the next week to something very critical in 11, 12, 13, 14 of 1 Corinthians. Communion. People do not study the Lord’s supper or communion very often. Chastening, the biblical doctrine of chastening and spiritual gifts. Wow. Then chapter 15 is amazing, but we’ll be covering that in the weeks ahead.

Corinth, see this slide, this is a little different view of what we started with. There’s that temple of Apollo again. I’m standing in the Roman forum. That was the marketplace, the Agora, the forum. It was the heart of the city. These people, do you see those people standing right there? They’re standing on the Cardo, like the word cardiac, heart. The Cardo was the name of the main north-south road that bisected the city. Then there was an east-west road called the Decumanus. It made a road going this way and a road going this way. The north-south was the Cardo, the east-west was the Decumanus. They’re down there standing on the Cardo so we’re looking at that. It’s called the Lechaion Road. The Great Springs of Peirene is down there. The temple of Apollo, I’m standing in the forum, and just off camera here to the left is the Bema seat that Paul talks about in chapter 18 of Acts.

Corinth was a vital spot in God’s New Testament plan. Remember God planned the New Testament for us to have all things that pertain to life and godliness, for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction, and righteousness. He inspired the New Testament writers to write the 27 books. Within the 27, 29 chapters are in 1 and 2 Corinthians so there are 27 New Testament books. Two of them are 1 and 2 Corinthians, which makes 29 chapters out of the total count. More than 10% of the New Testament are Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians. Look at this, they’re written to Corinth, to the Corinthians, but there are 16 more chapters of the book of Romans written from Corinth. I’m standing right here in the forum, but Paul was there all the time. He was somewhere around where I’m standing when he would sit as the Holy Spirit came on him and he would write the book of Romans. He didn’t write the book of Corinthians from Corinth. He wrote it to Corinth. He wrote Romans from Corinth. Altogether Corinth covers 45 New Testament chapters, 29 written to it, 16 written from it. That’s just unbelievable. That’s almost a fifth of the whole New Testament is from right here. That’s why I said Corinth was vital in God’s plan for the New Testament.

I’m going to experiment and let’s see how this goes. I want to take you on what I found on my iPhone. I’m going to play it off my iPhone. I’m going to lean forward so this microphone I’m wearing picks up the audio and let’s see if this works. What you’re looking at here, and I talk about in the video, is the Acrocorinthus up here. This highest point, the flat top mountain right there. This is the bema. The Romans called it the rostra. It was the official forum of the government headquarters. Every major city had this government station. Corinth was so big this forum rostra was almost a city block long. The middle of it is right here. It went that way, and it went this way if you put arrows here. Right here is where the governor or the pro-counselor, whoever was in charge of their government, would come out and stand up there on top of this platform to announce things, to deliver judgment, or whatever. Let me get all this writing off of the screen so that it doesn’t block what you’re going to see.

Let me give you a 360 narration. Here we go. We’re standing right in the center of the city of Corinth. The Acrocorinthus is the Bema seat, that raised platform, the temple of Apollo right behind this big pine tree. Then the monumental two-mile-long road there and the Springs of Peirene. What’s significant about Corinth is how important it was to God. Paul wrote two very long epistles, 29 chapters to this place. From where I’m standing, maybe from the commercial area over there by that pine tree or in the area between where we are and the temple of Apollo. The Apostle Paul wrote the singularly most important epistle in the Bible, the book to the Romans. You can see that temple of Apollo just making its way in appearance from behind that tree. Do you understand Paul was here and he wrote Romans from this largest, most commercial city of the ancient world involved in this area of commerce? Paul wrote that epistle, those 16 chapters of what happened here. You see the book of Romans is not theoretical. Right here, where we’re standing God began to grow saints that came to Christ and were transformed. Corinth is a miracle that there’s even a church in this place. What a blessing to see it.

It worked. I didn’t know if it would work playing that audio from my phone, but that’s your on-the-ground view of Corinth. Let me take you through the life of Paul. Remember, as I work through every chapter or every passage, I do the background. I read whatever it says in the book introduction. 1 Corinthians has all those points in the MacArthur Study Bible. Then I sketch and draw and take notes. Nowhere near what I’m expecting of you.

People in my Bible study over the last five years have been at every level. I’ve had some, I think they were writing their encyclopedias. I had others whose notes were just a little tiny three-by-five card, and that’s great too. This is not a contest to see who can write the most or find the most or draw the most. It’s each of us learning from the scriptures, the sanctifying truth, about how God can make us more useful. That was His whole plan in Corinth. That’s what I’m going to show you.

Here’s the lifetime of Paul if we take everything from all your resources, your study Bible and everything. Paul was born somewhere around 4 BC. He was saved somewhere around the crucifixion of Christ between 30 and 33 AD and scholars aren’t sure. Probably he was saved a few years after the birth of Christ because of Acts 9, there has to be time for him to be doing all that persecution. Paul was saved… if Christ was crucified in 30 AD, and he was violently persecuting the Church for three years. That’s just an estimation by most of the New Testament scholars. In Acts 9, when Paul is saved in his third year after Christ’s crucifixion, we start reading about him in the middle of the book of Acts. Acts starts with the Ascension of Christ AD 30. Paul shows up right about here 10% in AD 33 and it covers all the way through, not to his martyrdom, but to him going to Rome in 67. That’s the life of Paul from 4 BC to 67 AD. Right here, this is what the book of Acts covers. That’s what this little chart is supposed to show.

Let me show you the stages of his life. In the book of Acts chapter 2, I showed you this too, but we’re going to emphasize something different. Paul was saved in 33, trained by the Lord in Arabia, he went to Tarsus his hometown. Then he goes from there when Barnabas invites him to Antioch, and he’s discipled. Look at this. This is staggering to think about. Paul trained for 14 years. See that? From his salvation to his first missionary journey, from 33 to 47, is 14 years of training to serve for 10 years. That’s completely the opposite of how we think of things. Paul’s first missionary journey, Acts 13 and 14 covers it. Then, his second missionary journey, which I’ll show you a map of where he’s in Corinth. Then, from his third missionary journey, he writes 1 and 2 Corinthians. He’s back in Corinth on that third journey where he writes the book of Romans, which is monumental. Then, he’s captured in Jerusalem, goes to prison, and Caesarea, he’s sent to Rome, still staying in prison. Luke writes the book of Luke and Acts while Paul’s in prison and Paul writes the four prison epistles. After 10 full years of ministry, he starts 10 more years of hard alone suffering, mostly in prison, ending in his martyrdom, after he wrote the pastoral epistles.

Here’s a map of Paul’s missionary journeys. His first journey starts up here in Antioch, where he’s with Barnabas. He sails to Barnabas’ home area, Salamis and Paphos, then he sails up here to Perga into the inland of what we would call Turkey or Asia minor. Then to Pisidia and Antioch, to Iconium, to Lystra, to Derbe. Remember Paul is stoned there, then he comes back around and heads back and the first missionary journey is done as they go to Antioch and report and then come down to Jerusalem. That’s a summary of Acts 13 and 14.

This is the journey we’re looking at because we want to get to Corinth here. Paul leaves from Jerusalem being sent out through his training church in Antioch. He goes back around visiting the churches from his first missionary journey. He wants to go this way and the Lord says, no, don’t go to Bithynia. He sees this vision of this person calling to him from what we would see is Europe, Philippi so he sails to the port of Neapolis, goes to Philippi and Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and gets to Corinth. By the time we’re in chapter 18, Paul has gone to Corinth, and he goes through Ephesus and then sails back to Jerusalem. That’s his second missionary journey in Acts 15 to 18 from AD 50 to 52.

His third journey leaves from Antioch where he’s sent out from what we’d called his home church. That’s where he was discipled. He swings through Asia minor, goes to Ephesus, goes from Ephesus back up here to see the churches of his second missionary journey. Then he goes to Corinth and then goes back to Miletus to see the Ephesians elders and sails home in time for the feast. Of course, he’s captured in Jerusalem after visiting Corinth there and writing his letters. Then Paul goes from prison and Caesarea right here, sails all the way this way. This is where he gets in the storm and crashes then shipwrecks here in Malta. Then finally makes it to Rome where he stands before Caesar. That’s from Caesarea to Rome. Then of course we know he’s released and then captured again and executed.

Let’s do a quick overview of the book of 1 Corinthians and again, use your study Bible. This would be how most study Bibles would outline the book of 1 Corinthians. The first six chapters are all the schisms and problems. The whole book is Paul answering a series of questions, addressing problems, addressing questions. The divisions are wrong. Then the other problems they were having Paul replies to on marriage, meat offered to idols, the Lord’s table we’re going to cover, etcetera. He gets through that section then he goes into an extensive discussion about spiritual gifts, which we’re going to cover next week. Then the next week we’re going to talk about the resurrection, of course, chapter 16 is his closing chapter and personal messages to different individuals.

This is what Corinth looked like in the time of Paul. I showed you that video from my phone looking around the city, but after the archaeologist at all the excavations finished this is what they came up with. Just to orient you, this is the temple of Apollo. Remember it was 600 years old when Paul got there on his second missionary journey. This is an ancient temple to the God Apollo, which was right there parked on the forum. This is the main, what we would call the Southern Steaua. This is the Northern Steaua. This is the main square of the forum area. Remember that rostra I told you that’s a city block long? It’s this whole structure here. It’s 500 feet long and right in the middle, right there is the Bema seat that I will show you again and I’ve shown you already. What you’ve seen in that 360-degree video I just showed you was me standing right here by that fountain. This is the Lechaion road, the Cardo road, that hit the Decumanus. The east-west road hit the north-south road right there by the Bema seat and by that temple of Apollo.

Some other things you’ll see in other parts, this is the Odeon right here. You say, Odeon, what is Odeon? Ode, like a song, that’s a music hall. Music was so big in the Roman world. Look at that huge structure they had. It was just for music, concerts, and singing. Then this is the theater when they had plays and public speaking and things like that. The Odeon, the theater, the temple of Apollo, the Bema seat right there, this big square is the Roman forum. That’s where you are.

Over here on this slide, this says you are here right when you’re standing right here. There’s so much more. Corinth that was around you. This was a huge city. They haven’t excavated hardly any of the city, just small portions of it. It was such a large, magnificent city. Again, from where we’re standing right now this road right here is where the leather shops were. Remember I’ll take you back there. That’s down in this area right here down the shop area along this Lechaion road. Here we are in these shops. This is the temple of Apollo. Right here, you can’t see it, but it’s the Bema seat and this is that Acrocorinthus. Here are the leather shops where Paul worked. Remember right down here, Paul worked as a tentmaker the Bible says. Actually, the Greek word is a leatherworker. One thing that leather workers made were tents. They’re a little different than your pop-up tent or whatever because the travel in the ancient world was on these open exposed roads. One thing that was a specialty was a little personal tent. We would call it an umbrella that was like this, but it shielded you as you walked from the sun and the rain. Also, it extended out so you could sleep wound up in your cloak by night. It was a specialty item. We don’t know if Paul made big tents for a campout or if he made these personal tents or if he had another specialty, but he worked in one of these shops.

Each of these little squares here is a shop. Most likely he slept on the upper floor that wasn’t at street level, that was his lodging up above. Down below is where he worked and sold what he worked on and see that’s right here below the forum area. This is the forum area with that temple and the Acrocorinthus in the distance. This is me sitting there when we were there last time. I love to sit there and look at the temple that Paul would have seen and think about how that grieved his heart. We already know in chapter 17, he was in Athens, and looking at all those temples and idols and altars it grieved his heart. Paul was grieved that God was not magnified in Corinth. He spent 18 months here, a little less than two years, here in the shadow of that temple preaching the Gospel, the life-changing Gospel.

I already showed you what your study Bible would say that the book of 1 Corinthians is about. As I went through and wrote my notes, I wrote this, Paul wrote to the Corinthians about six choices that they should make to please God. I’m applying what I read because I read it through every day. If you read this book every day, now you only have to read chapter 3, but I read the whole book because I wanted to get chapter 3 in context. Plus, I know we’re going to do chapters 7 and 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 so I thought I might as well just get ahead in my reading.

I just have to confess, I looked so forward to waking up this morning. I did it again. I tell you this, every time. I got out of bed, it was 5:30 am or something. It was still dark. I stood there in my little circle. I looked up, I said, Lord, I’m surrendering to You today and I can’t wait to hear Your voice when I read Your word. I made my oatmeal, my coffee, I went outside this place where we’re staying because it has this little fire pit. It had a wood fire, and it was 48 degrees outside. I sat by that fire and I read, and underlined, and marked, and took notes, and worked on my verses. It was the highlight of my day, why? Hearing the voice of God, feeling Him communing with my heart, assuring me through His Spirit that I belong to Him. I’m called by Him. I’m useful to Him. He’s guiding my life. That’s what Bible study is all about.

Let me show you what I found. We should avoid all spiritual rivalry. We even have this today. People with their denominations and people with their favorite teachers and people with their mega-churches and everything. Paul said avoid spiritual rivalry. Rejoice that God is using so many different people for His glorious plan of bringing a harvest out of this dark world, in which we live. Pursue spiritual wisdom, that’s chapter 2, which says that we should want this wisdom that God gives us. Oh, this is our chapter, earn spiritual rewards. That’s the motivator. Learn to have spiritual responses to all of life’s questions and problems. We’re going to cover that, especially when we’re in chapter 11. Use your spiritual gifts.

Did you know, all of us are gifted? There are only two kinds of spiritual gifts. Peter, in 1 Peter 4, says there are two basic groups of spiritual gifts. Speaking gifts, speaking, encouraging words, speaking teaching words, speaking guiding words. The other type of gifts are serving gifts, so speaking and serving. The serving gifts are the gift of helps. The people that always help everyone in the church. The gift of giving money. The gifts of all of the administrative gifts, all of those are helps. Speaking and serving Peter said, some people have both, some people are speaking servants. Other people just speak all the time, the evangelist and those that are praying for people and traveling around encouraging people. Then the vast number of people in the church are the quiet ones that hardly say anything. They don’t have an emphasis on speaking gifts, but they’re serving behind the scenes. They’re always there serving and setting up and taking down and cleaning and cooking and doing whatever needs to be done. Helping in the youth ministry, and helping in the nursery, and helping with the hospital visits, and all those serving and speaking, and blending. Use your gift. We’re all gifted. We’re like spiritual snowflakes and God wants to use us. Then, live in hope. We’re going to see that when we’re in chapter 15. The last time we were in Corinth, it was March, and look at these poppies. Those are so beautiful and that is the temple of Apollo. Okay.

I’m going to show you my Bible and what I found in chapter 3 so look over here at my Bible. I use two Bibles in this study. The one that I hold up here is far more marked and then this one is a little less marked. It’s one that I’m still working on, but I wrote up here let’s see, on the beach at Caesarea Maritima. I was reading 1 Corinthians 3 when I was at Caesarea Maritima on the last Holy Land group tour. I said I want to build my life for Christ. Why? Look what it says here, I’m in verse 5. “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” That’s verse 6. I thought that was very important. We work together with all the other believers. Some are planting, some are watering, but it’s God that brings the increase. Verse 9, you “are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” I like that, the repetition of God’s.

Verse 10, now this is what struck me. That’s why up here I was reading this in Caesarea, and that’s really what I’m going to emphasize this time that we’re together. Verse 10, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.” Then Paul starts talking about how our Christian life is much like us building with building materials. What he says, look in verse 11, the foundation is Christ. Verse 12, if anyone builds on the foundation, you have six choices, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble. Why does it matter? Because whatever we build with our life, what does it mean to build? Our works are like little buildings that we’re making. What we do with our time, what we do with our words, what we do with our giftedness. We’re building little objects.

I remember my kids used to play with Legos, and before Legos, they were using Lincoln logs. They would show me their creations and they would show me all these things. They would set them up and they would just imagine and talk about it. Think about today, your words and your actions and your thoughts and all that you did, it made something. Either it was for yourself or the Lord. When I was a youth pastor, we used to always chant this as a youth group, only two choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self. All-day long with my building materials, see what they are? The gold, silver, and precious stones are eternal things that will last in this illustration of the Lord’s giving. It’s what makes it through the fire is what He’s getting at. Wood, hay, and straw don’t make it through the fire and look what happens. “Each one’s work will become clear.” “It will be revealed by fire,” verse 13 “and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.” Here’s how we get our rewards. “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Let’s talk about that. Back to the slides, that was my Bible. Here’s what I wrote in my journal. We’re in week 36, 1 Corinthians 3, believers rewarded in the fire. This time that I typed, I had a different title than the one in my journal and the one that’s on the schedule. After working all week long this is my summary. Let’s journey back to the city of Corinth for a quick visit. Corinth was a Seaport city that Paul entered in Acts 18 on his second missionary journey. He ministered there for about a year and a half. It sprawled along the thin isthmus. Here was the Adriatic Sea and here was the Tyrrhenian Sea and this little piece of land right here, the isthmus, joined mainland Greece with the Peloponnese. It’s a narrow strip that joins the two halves of ancient Greece. The azure waters and the Aegean Sea on both sides. It was a bustling commercial center in Greece. It boasted the world-famous Pan-Ionian games and those fed into the Olympic games. The city afforded too many temptations for the fun-loving Corinthian Christians.

The Apostle Paul had seen many wonderful conversions. Remember I told you when we were standing there in the forum area in that wrap-around look at the city that God did a miracle there. The book of Romans, the power of God unto salvation, anyone who believes had happened, wonderous conversions. He wrote to them calling them saints. You notice that in chapter 1, Paul says to the saints. Saints were people alive in the 1st century who were born again Christians. If you’re saved today, you’re a Saint, I’m a Saint. When I used to pastor local churches, I would call people there St. This or Saint That to remind them that’s what God sees us as. Look at this because that’s what we are in Christ. We’re saints. Look at this, lacking spiritual discipline, they were slipping back into the evils that they faced every day. Corinth was a city in ancient Greece, known as vanity fair. It was the city of materialism, antagonism, competition, selfishness, hatred, and sexual immorality.

In such a place a church was born. The tragedy was instead of the church impacting Corinth, Corinth was eroding the church. One pastor calls it reverse evangelism. The Corinthians’ perverse spirit had invaded the church. You know what? That’s why the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians are so important to us today. It’s happening again. It’s like the world is seeping in and corroding and taking away the spiritual power and hunger of the church neutralizing us. The Christians were, and this is what Paul describes them as in 1 Corinthians, carnal, worldly, indulgent, selfish, contentious, vengeful. Remember in chapter 6 they’re suing each other in court. Wow. Proud and compromising. They were operating in the power of the flesh. They did that trying to do the work of God. How does Paul challenge these fleshly saints? He talks to them about not the rostra, the Bema seat of Rome, but the Bema seat of Christ where our lives are going to go through that check by Jesus Christ.

Here are the lessons I found. The first lesson is the first four verses. Beware of spiritual immaturity, which means acting fleshly, living like a lost person. When we live and act and talk and behave like unsaved people like we were before Christ, we are being what Paul calls sarkodosin, acting like the flesh. Believers are fleshly babies in Christ when they’re carnal. They don’t feed themselves. They need cleaning. Just think of a baby that has to be spoon-fed and their diaper changed. That’s how the people in Corinth were spiritually. They think about how to protect themselves because they feel helpless. There’s no maturity, all they want is to be fed, cared for, and all that. Paul talks about the symptoms in verse 2 of a carnal Christian. First, is their appetite. They can only eat milk. They survive, but they don’t eat the food they need to exercise and grow. Paul keeps feeding them milk and they avoid the growth foods, the doctrine.

Verse 3, the symptoms of carnality are the attitudes of envy and strife, and divisions. Living merely human lives instead of living a Christ-like life. Remember, if you’ve been with us in weeks past, this is when I lean across the table at Panera and start talking and applying and asking questions. I’m going to do that in just a second, but let me get through this list. The carnal identity with groups other than identifying with Christ. I’m of Paul, I’m of Apollos. I’m of Peter. They had their gurus and heroes, instead of saying Christ is feeding me through His word. I’m a part of the local church. I respect the great teacher’s Apollos and the great apostles, Paul and Peter, but Christ is my anchor.

Then, verses 5 to 9. Life is for building things by our actions and time. God wants to bless us as we build. God wants us to be a servant. God works within us. Verses 8 to 10, our job is to plant and water. God is the one that makes it increase. He keeps track of our work, what we’re building. Then I already read this to you, all the choices in our life, other than the sin that’s removed by the justifying death of Christ, go into our shopping cart. Our cart is placed on the conveyor belt like at Walmart when you put your stuff on the belt. It goes to the cashier, which happens to be Jesus Christ. He’s cashing us out. Our life goes on the conveyor belt, and it goes through the fire. Remember what it says in verse 13? “Each one’s work,” 1 Corinthians 3:13 “will become clear; for the Day will declare because it will be revealed by fire.” It goes through the fire at Christ’s feet and only what’s done for Christ will last. He is our foundation for all that will last in life. We choose the building materials.

Verse 13. We get tested by fire .14 and 15, if we obey God’s way, we have gold and silver and gems that last forever. Everything that’s not done for Christ, we suffer loss. That’s a very sobering verse. “If anyone’s work,” verse 15 “is burned, he will suffer loss.” Then God says, we’re His temples. Did you see that in verse 16? “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Then verses 18 to 23, God wants us to walk humbly.

Think about what it means to be a shopping cart. Life is like being issued a shopping cart at Walmart, and we can put anything we want in our shopping cart. We go through life and we invest our time and our resources, our talents, our money, and we throw stuff into our cart. What the Bible says is that we should be putting only fireproof materials into our cart, things that won’t burn up. What am I talking about? For example, watching television. Did you know, you can learn a million things on television with all the hundreds of cable channels? You can watch cooking shows, you can watch building shows, you can take classes, you can do sporting events, you can get mystery and travel and drama. Is there anything sinful about watching television or videos or movies or playing games? No, there’s not. Unless you’re looking at witchcraft, which God says don’t look at. Unless we’re looking at gratuitous bloodshed, all this murder and mayhem, and horror stuff. Unless we’re looking at immorality, God says, do not be involved with pornographos. You know that word, pornography.

Do you know what porneia means? Fornication. It’s the Greek word for fornication. Don’t look at fornication graphically revealed. What is that? Pornography originally was writing. They would write out pornographic stories. Then it became pornographic paintings. They find those all over the Greek and Roman world and in other cultures, the pornographic paintings. Then it was acted out in the theaters in the plays. People would go to pornographos theater, where they did immoral things on the stage. Do you know what it’s become in our time? You watch the fornication graphically shown in movies. All of this adultery, having an affair and all that stuff is pornographos. God says, don’t look at pornography. Don’t look at nudity. Don’t look at sexual sins. Don’t look at people committing adultery or fornication. Don’t watch that. When we do that part of our life is burned up. It’s good for nothing. It’s forgiven because Jesus has forgiven all my sins past, present, and future, but it’s wasted. Live for what’s fireproof is what He’s saying.

Here are some things that we have to measure every day. Our media. When you listen to music, is it more than we listen to God? Some people are addicted to music. There was an article this week in the British paper saying that the Chinese have found out that there are Chinese young people that are addicted to music. They said it’s just as much of an addiction as a substance, they can’t stop listening to music. I thought that was fascinating. Are you addicted to music or the voice of God? How about your money? Do you trust your wealth and job more than the God who gives us life and strength to work? See that’s building with gold, silver, and precious stones or wood, hay, and stubble. We shouldn’t be living for our job and not for God. We’re supposed to eat so that we might go to work, and we work so that we can eat. The purpose of life is not eating and working, but “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,” 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “do all to the glory of God.” That’s when you get gold, silver, and precious stone building materials. When you go to work, when you go to school, when you live life with no one watching, with everyone watching, for the glory of God, what pleases Him?

How about our appearance? That’s a temptation. Some people are more concerned about their clothes and what they look like than what God sees and their spiritual condition. How about our status? We sacrifice to have things and pleasures and experiences that often aren’t pleasing God. Often, they’re posted on Facebook and photographed on Instagram. It shows not living for pleasing God, but just pleasing self. How about our personal agenda? We sacrifice the eternal, our time with God, His Church, and His Word and minister for Him, for the temporal. Our schedules are filled with sports recreation, and we don’t have time for God. I meet so many people that say, I just don’t have time. I don’t have time to go to church, I don’t have time to read the Bible. We all have 168 hours a week. This is when I lean over the table and say, are you spending time with God, His Church, His Word, serving Him, or not? It’s a choice we make.

Possessions. Are you more excited about going shopping and acquiring more beautiful things than standing before God at His throne? That’s what we saw when we were back in the sermon on the Mount. Do you remember that? Don’t labor for your treasures on Earth, Matthew 6:19-21 says. How about sacrifice? What do you sacrifice for? Are you more committed to school? Going or supporting your school, your job, sports events, then to God, His word? Are you sacrificing for Christ and His Church? “I beseech you therefore,” remember what Romans 12 says, “by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies,” your life, “a living sacrifice…to God.” Are you more fearful to exercise, beautify, and take care of your physical body than to nurture your spiritual soul? Remember what God says? God says that He looks at the imperishable Internal us more than the external. Why do we spend all our time on the external when God is looking to see what we’re cultivating on the inside?

How about your communications? Are you more connected with your friends on Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest than you are connected to the One who bought you with His own blood? Revelation 3 says He stands at the door and knocks every day, waiting for us to come and dine with Him in His word and that’s what 1 Corinthians 3 reminds us. Crowns are what we earn from our choices. What are you building your life on? The foundation of Christ? Are you building it on the temporal or the eternal? Are you building it on what pleases God or are you going along pleasing yourself and all those around us? What crowns will you have to cast at Jesus’ feet? That’s what Revelation says. When we get to Heaven and we fall before Christ, we take off the symbol of our earthly life distilled down into that crown, what we did for Jesus Christ. We cast it at His feet saying, I lived my life for You. It was You that saved me. It’s You that empowered me. It’s You that bought me at a price. This is what I did for You with my life. What are you going to give to Christ? What are you going to offer Him when you bow before Him around His throne on the glassy sea when we’re all assembled in Heaven? That’s the metaphor.

Take your Bible. I want to show you the first verse of the fourth chapter. If you look over here at my Bible, I’ll read it to you. It says, “Let a man so consider us, as servants.” Do you see how I circled that word servants? The divisions of the chapters don’t come around until later so we’re looking at the verses that come between chapter 3 and chapter 4 markers. This verse 1 of chapter 4 is connected to this whole talk about building materials and who we’re going to serve with our life. This is Paul’s testimony so I can’t let it go by. It’s part of the whole discussion. Let me show you. “Let a man so consider us.” He says, when you want to understand my life when you want to understand Paul, I am a servant. I looked up the word and it’s right there. I wrote it. Can you see that? Huperetes. Look back at the slide. It’s easy to see there because I typed it out right here as the word huperetes. That’s the word in verse one. You know it in English as a galley slave, but right here in Corinth, can you see these stones here? See them, right here. They’re all around. This paved road is called the Diolkos. It went right on the outskirts of Corinth. It crossed the Roman road, the Egnatian Way. When the Apostle Paul walked the Roman road, the Egnatian Way, he would walk across this road called the Diolkos.

Do you know what it was? It was a tramway where galley slaves would drag their galley boats across the isthmus. Remember the isthmus that you saw on those maps? The narrow strip of land that was between the Aegean Sea was called the Adriatic Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was the two parts, the Saronic Gulf, and all the different areas of water. It was the water surrounding Greece. There was this huge Peloponnese and the huge mainland. They had to sail for three days all the way around it, or in just a very few hours, drag their boat on this little narrow strip of land. They built this tramway, and they dragged the boats across. That’s what Paul had in mind and what he said is his testimony.

He chose to live, in 1 Corinthians 4:1, as a servant, huperetes, of Christ. What is that? There are eight different words in the Greek language for servants or slaves, eight different words. Diakonos, deacons, that’s a servant that serves like a waiter. Then there are Leitourgos, those are people that work in the temple. Then there were the therapons, that came into English therapists. They were slaves that helped people, like massage therapists and all kinds of therapists. There were all different types of slaves. Do you know what the lowest slave was? They were the disposable batteries, slaves. They were called huperetes. Do you see what they did? Right here they are in this boat. They were chained down to the boats called galley boats, triremes. See, three levels of paddling. There was the lower level, the mid-level, and the upper level. They had three levels of paddles. These were the Roman warships. They would take these galley slaves like Ben-Hur, do you remember Ben-Hur, Charlton Heston? He was chained there in the galley slave boat as a trireme is one of these huperetes. Paul said, I to Christ, am a huperetes. What did that mean?

The galley slaves rowed to the captain’s beat. The captain up here would say faster. He told them what to do. They rowed together so their paddles wouldn’t hit each other. They had to trust the captain because they were underneath and couldn’t see where they were going. Isn’t that interesting? That’s such a picture of the Christian life, that we submit to the Lord as captain of our life. We are sensitive to the other servants around us. We trust God, where He’s taking us, and that He’s going to provide for us. Galley slaves were chained down for life. That’s Romans 12:1-2. We’re dedicated for life; we’re committed as the Lord’s surrendered servants. By the way, a galley slave, when he was down there he was never seen. It gives you a whole new perspective on Paul’s ministry. Paul said I’m not here to be seen. I’m not here for everybody to see me on the stage. I want Christ on the stage. I’m just down there doing what He wants me to do. I’m paddling along, serving Him. I want a humble life. Paul said, how do I please the Lord? How do I have this life that doesn’t get burnt up? By making a daily choice to serve as His bondslave.

This is the Diolkos. I took another video clip on my camera, listen to it really quick. The Apostle Paul drew from the imagery of the Roman empire to make many very clear applications. Probably for me, this is the clearest one. When Paul described what he was, as well as what the description of David was in the Old Testament, the man after God’s own heart, he uses the Greek word huperetes. A huperetes was an under rower, a galley slave, someone who lived their life chained down to a boat and were like a disposable part of the boat. When they ran out, they threw them in the sea. They were dead. Paul said I’m like one of those under rowers who would have dragged their ships on this, the Diolkos, this tramway that I’m walking down with the Corinthian Gulf in front of us. This is where the galley slaves dragged their boat overland to save three days of sailing. This Diolkos is still here today as a reminder of the under rowers and a reminder that Paul said an under rower rows to the captain’s beat. Rowed to the captain’s beat, rowed together, trusted the captain, chained for life. When working, they were never seen. Wow. For me, that crystallizes how I build my life. With the building materials of gold, silver, and precious stones that last forever. I do it for His glory, not to be seen, but for Christ who is my life to be the One that transforms people’s lives.

Here’s another thing I had to show you. When you’re in Corinth, it’s another one of those proofs of the Bible. It says in Romans 16:23 and 2 Timothy 4:20, there was this fellow named Erastus and actually, he’s called the city treasurer. The word for him meant he was in charge of dispensing Corinth’s public funds. If you ever walk in the city and look down at the sidewalk, have you ever noticed that sidewalk cement? If they’re made of cement they are stamped with the name of the company that did it, or look at the manhole covers that are out in the middle of the street, if you don’t get run over, look down at one, they’re stamped with who made it. This is the entrance to that theater; do you remember the model of Corinth? I showed you the Odeon and the theater. This is the entryway and look, what’s right here in the main stone that you have to walk over as you’re going into the theater, Erastus. There he is. He was a faithful witness in the workplace. He’s the only big wig we know of in Corinth that had gotten saved. Remember Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1, not many mighty, not many nobles are called. He was one. He was wealthy. He was political. He was powerful, but he was faithful to the Lord. In the street stones of Corinth, there’s a reminder that real people lived there with real problems 2000 years ago. The same God that saved them, transformed them, is working on us today.

Here’s another thing. Corinth was full of shops like these and the Agora that I showed you as Acts 18:3 reminds us. It says he stayed with them and worked as a tentmaker. These are the tentmaker, leather shops. All the craftsmen guilds were here in this area and hard work pleases the Lord. That’s what Paul said. That you labor with your own hands. Hard work pleases the Lord.

Here’s another one. This one is amazing. This is the road that goes up to the Acrocorinthus right here. See this road? It went right up there. There was a temple to Aphrodite up there and it was the main temple of Corinth. Probably more revered than the Apollo temple and do you know what it was to? It was immoral. If you went up there, you could worship the gods through fornication, the goddess of love. You know what? In the shadows of Corinth’s temples, God had the Apostle Paul write 1 Corinthians 6:18. Remember what it says? Flee sexual immorality, abstain, run away from it. Paul told Timothy to flee youthful lusts. What a picture. Look at this. We’re looking at the road where at night, at sundown, at quitting time, at 5:00 PM, all of these temple prostitutes, male and female who did that work as their offering to the gods, that was their duty, came down this road into town and earned their living by prostitution. Every day a thousand male and female prostitutes came down that road entered the city of Corinth looking like the devil for who they could devour. What an amazing reminder.

The rostra or the bema, it says in Acts 18:12 the judgment Bema seat. We must all appear before that judgment seat and there it will matter whether or not we pleased the Lord. See the sign, bema right there. Here is that raised Acrocorinthus, the high place. Here is the judgment seat where Gallio sat during Paul’s time. It’s a picture of the future where we’re going to be in front of that with Christ up there. He’s going to ask us what we did with our life.

Here’s my application prayer, and I know this has been a long and full lesson with clips and drawings and maps and everything. Here’s what I wrote down after reading this chapter each day. I’ll pray it with you. If we were in a small group, I would ask you to read yours out loud. I’m going to ask you to do that in just a second, but let me read mine to you by way of this camera. Lord, I want to be spiritual and not fleshly. I want to eat Your Word. I want You to change my attitude. I want to surrender more and more of my time to You. Help me build and plant for You. Trusting any increase into Your hands. Help me to build with eternal materials so I can give You an offering from my life. I am Your temple, like verses 16 and 17 say. I want You to fill me, use me, cleanse me, guide me for Your glory. Let me invest in Your planting and watering because I want to live for You. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen. I hope that when you get done with this chapter, you’ll have a distilled down prayer of application where you’re asking God to do those things from this chapter in your life.

Really quickly, two challenges. Find someone you can share your findings and application prayer with this week. A coworker, someone that lives with you, your wife if you’re married, your husband if you’re married, your children if you’re married and have a family, your coworkers if you’re a student. Start a small group in school, this fall start a small group. That’s what I started at Haslett High School in Haslett, Michigan. I asked the principal, I said, can we use the Latin room? It’s open when we’re all there before classes start. Can we have a Bible study at lunchtime? We had an early morning prayer meeting there and we ate our lunches together. In high school at Haslett and all I did is what I’m doing with you right now. I was doing that back in the 70’s in my high school. Find someone you can share your findings with. Did you know, from our Bible study in high school, two of the amazing football players and big shots in school started coming to our Bible study? They would just sit in the back row and kind of observe. Finally, both of them got saved that year of that Bible study in Haslett. One of them became a pastor in the Northern peninsula of Michigan. One of them became a pastor in the lower peninsula of Michigan and both of them are still faithfully serving God to this day, sharing God’s word. Some people will just be interested, and they’re not saved yet. You can lead them to Christ. Others will be encouraged.

Secondly, pray for us. About a week from this week, we’re leaving for Europe and then to Asia and we’re going to be teaching for two months. I’ll be posting on our Facebook page, the 52 Greatest Chapters, and you can pray for us. I’ll tell you how we’re doing. We’re going to go and teach; I’m going to be teaching for two months on the life of Paul and his epistles. It’s going to be thrilling. I can’t wait to tell you more about it, but God bless you as you go through 1 Corinthians chapter 3 this week. God bless you in His word and especially as you apply it to your life by prayer. See you next week.


Check Out All The Sermons In The Series

You can find all the sermons and short clips from this series, 52 Greatest Chapters In The Bible here

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Dr. Barnett has curated an Amazon page with a large collection of resources he uses in his study of God’s Word. You can check it out here.