He expected more. He had been with them for 18 months, establishing the church at Corinth and teaching the believers there (Acts 18:1-11). And so, he expected more. They had been born again and he had spoon fed them for an extended period of time. And so, after Paul leaves, when he hears of how things are going in Corinth he expects, as with any baby, that they would have grown up to some degree. That they would have moved beyond mother’s milk and pabulum. That they would be taking in solid food and thus growing and maturing. But apparently it wasn’t happening. And maybe you can hear their response, “Paul it’s been hard. And after all, we’re only human!” To which Paul might have replied, “Yes, but you are not merely human.”
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, I follow Paul, and another, I follow Apollos, are you not being merely human? (1Corinthians 3:1-4 ESV)
They may have been only human, but they need not have behaved as merely human. Instead, Paul assumed they would be living as “spiritual people.”
They had been born of the Spirit when, by faith, they received the gospel, repented of their sin, and confessed Christ as Savior and Lord. They were in Christ. A new creation. Old things had passed way, the new had come (2Cor. 5:17). And so, while they might be only human, they need not be merely human. Though they were still in the flesh, the spirit had been revived. They had the tools to put off that which was of the flesh, and to pursue that which was of the new nature. But rather than pursue the new man, they hung out with the old. Instead of maturing in Christ, they remained infants in Christ.
And it manifested itself in their jealousies and divisions over who followed who. Some said Paul was their guy, others wore their “Apollos Always!” t-shirts. Less than being the problem, it was the symptom. The problem was that they were settling for being merely human. Followers of the flesh. Grown men and women content to stay in diapers.
So, while I might be only human, I’m reminded that I need not be merely human. I can participate in the divine nature (2Pet. 1:3-4). Having been sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I can live according to the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the old man (Romans 8:13). If I walk in the Spirit I won’t gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). If I seek to be led by the Spirit, I will bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:18-22).
If, by God’s abundant provision, and a bit of holy determination, I seek to live as the “spiritual people” I am, then I will grow and I will mature. And, though for now, I am still in the flesh, I don’t need to walk according to the flesh.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
Human, but not merely human. All because of grace . . . all for God’s glory.