1 Corinthians 3:1-23 Seek to align yourself with God, not with men
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” 21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers who are embroiled in strife and divisions. He urged them to align themselves with God, not with human leaders. He asserted that each must conduct their ministry and career with divine wisdom, not by worldly wisdom. In so doing, their life’s work may stand the test of fire. Today’s devotion teaches believers to align themselves with God and not with men. By seeking wisdom as their mainstay, they may receive power and authority to succeed in all their endeavours.
For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
God’s wisdom is revealed not only in the saving power of the cross but also in the society of believers. Regrettably, Paul could not speak to the Corinthian believers as spiritual but as fleshly in their thoughts and motives of the heart. As evident by their bipartisan and divisive behaviour when they associated themselves with certain prominent leaders: “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos”. Paul condemned such behaviour and clarified the principles of work and christian leadership.
Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
Paul and Apollos are not divided but interdependent in their roles with regards to the kingdom’s work. It is in fact God who ultimately caused the work of both ministers to bear fruit. The motive behind these Corinthian believers was far from noble for they were self-serving. They created divisions along known leaders in order to garner followers after themselves. Paul asserted that such behaviour held no benefit because it is God who judges and rewards according to his own labour. Paul and Apollo were fellow workers who were accountable to God tasked to harvest God’s field and to build God’s building. And the building is erected on none other than the foundation of Jesus Christ. Since, the foundation is Christ, the building must be constructed according to God’s divine design, which is His wisdom.
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident
Therefore, Paul warned believers to be careful as to how they build on this foundation of Christ. The building materials mentioned are in the order from the most valuable, gold, to the least, straw. The value of these material corresponds to the kind of wisdom that ministers or believers employ to construct their building. Precious materials corresponds to divine wisdom and the common materials corresponds to worldly wisdom.
The quality of the material that were used for construction will be revealed through fire at the appointed time. Buildings that were built with precious materials will endure and those that were built with common materials will consequently be destroyed. The fire here depicts economic turmoils and other elements that threatens the wellbeing of the ministry, career or business. The verdict of destruction is set for the ministries, businesses and careers that were wrought out of worldly wisdom. Paul wanted the work of believers to stand the test of time and to receive an eternal reward. In the same breath, he let out a warning that those who built with worldly wisdom would subject themselves to eternal danger.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.
Paul asserted that those who think that they were wise must think again. The ”wise” employs worldly wisdom to exalt themselves above others and even above God. They use their human abilities to dominate others. Worldly wisdom says, “I am smarter, stronger, faster and better than everyone.” The wisdom of this world sought to achieve self-fulfilment at the expense of others. Those that build their careers and ministry using worldly wisdom will have their life’s work destroyed in a moment. However, divine wisdom is not self-seeking… it seeks to make the world a better and a more godly place. Such will see their life’s work endure and leave a legacy, the end of which is a glorious reception in heaven.
Seek to align yourself with God, not with men
The Corinthian believers seek to align themselves with known leaders, namely Paul and Apollos. And that breeds all kinds of strife and divisions. But when people align themselves with God and with the truth, there will be peace and unity of vision. When one align himself with a certain leader, he depends on that leader for protection and provision. But when one aligns himself with God, he depends on God for all things. No doubt, God uses leaders as channels of divine wisdom, authority and provision.
However, some leaders require their employees to be “loyal” to them, which translates into wholehearted support for their courses even when their agendas are questionable. Such followers yield unquestioningly to their leader’s wishes in exchange for security under his reign. Towards such a leader, one should not align himself. But even with Paul and Apollos, who despite being honourable men, asserted that all should be aligned unequivocally with God.
Nevertheless, leaders who align themselves with God, who give their lives to serve the people must be honoured as men and women of God. For they serve as models of how believers ought to conduct their lives.
Seek divine wisdom, not power
The Corinthian believers were fleshly, and practitioners of worldly wisdom. Worldly wisdom seeks to acquire power without divine wisdom. The crafty uses fear and greed to manipulate and to dominate. Those who build their houses by employing earthly wisdom, manipulation and threats are described by Paul as foolish. For there will come a time when their businesses and establishments crumble like a house of cards.
However, those who seek to do all things according to divine wisdom has no fear of sudden catastrophe. For God grants them authority over the angels who guards them from all evil. The psalmist says,
9 For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:9-11
Divine wisdom grants all who seek her divine power to do God’s will. Daniel, the prophet of Israel and chief advisor in the Babylonian courts, served under four kings (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus) without having to seek power. For power was given to him by virtue of his wisdom (see Daniel 5:12). Divine power has its foundations in divine wisdom; it does not stand by itself. The psalmist celebrates the king’s majestic victories because he walks in the cause of truth and righteousness,
3 Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
4 And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things. Psalm 45:3-4
The words that carry connotations of power are: sword, O Mighty One, victoriously and Your right hand. The words that relate with wisdom are: cause of truth, meekness, righteousness, and teach. In the above verses, we see power as having girded itself in divine wisdom.
Always involve others in your endeavours and share the rewards
Paul says, ”Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” Here, Paul asserts that God alone is the rewarder of man’s work. And no man can obtain a reward that does not come from God. James says, ”Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” James 1:17. Because God is just and does not overlook our efforts, we can rest be assured that He will reward the deserving in good time. Therefore, we are at liberty to share the fruits of our labours without feeling jealous. James said,
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behaviour his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. James 3:13-16
James brands jealousy and selfish ambition as diametrically opposed to divine wisdom. The fruit of divine wisdom is the propensity to rejoice without feeling jealous when good things happen to other people. Selfish ambition secretly hopes for misfortune to befall another so that he may become preeminent. Such arrogance is evidence of his imminent fall. But divine wisdom seeks to bring out the best of another and exalt them to a rightful place. Because people experience growth, they attribute their fortunes to wise leadership to whom they offer their loyalty out of gratitude.
Make peace the foundation of your endeavours
The unmistakable mark of divine wisdom is righteousness which denotes divine approval and favour. James said,
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18
Righteousness is the fruit that comes from the seed of peace. And peace comprises purity, sound reasoning, mercy, steadfastness and sincerity. Peace is the state of relationships founded on divine wisdom. The opposite of peace is disorder and every evil thing which builds itself on earthly, natural and demonic kind of wisdom.
Therefore, if we want God’s approval and favour in our family, community and company, we must sow the seed of peace… to practice purity of heart, gentleness, sound reasoning, mercy and steadfastness and sincerity.
Are you accustomed to pleasing your leaders in order to ingratiate yourself to them? Discerning leaders are not impressed by such tactics. But those who can stand by their virtues, wisdom and abilities are given due credit.
Are you overly concerned about acquiring power and leverage? And you would scheme, and politick in order to enter into the boss’s good books? Leaders delegate authority to those who are wise and who possess insights to solve difficult problems. Therefore, power is not the goal, but wisdom is.
Are you secure in yourself, having no fear that others may overtake you? As God has called you to this role, He will surely equip you with the ability to excel in your job. Hence, there is no fear when you place your trust in God. And we are at liberty to bring out the best in others without the fear of being sidelined.
Are you accustomed to speaking ill of another without being aware of it? You may be subconsciously pitting one against another so that you may be seen as good. While others are busy battling it out, you are free to carry out your schemes without being noticed. This subconscious behaviour is fleshly, natural and demonic. Stop your gossiping before calamity comes upon you. But rather speak the truth for the purpose of building trust and unity.
Dear Lord, I desire divine wisdom, peace and righteousness to reign in my family, church and company. I cut myself off from every instinct and thought that is fleshly, natural and demonic. Cause me to be a living testimony of divine wisdom. And use me to establish your kingdom’s culture in my family, church and company. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.