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Better Together

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

 

Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. [2] I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were not yet able to receive it. In fact, you are still not able, [3] because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like ordinary people? [4] For whenever someone says, “I’m with Paul,” and another, “I’m with Apollos,” are you not [typical] men? [5] So, what is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. [6] I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. [7] So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. [8] Now the one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. [9] For we are God’s co-workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (HCSB)

 Paul is brutal with the Corinthian church in the first part of this passage.  He calls them spiritual babies.  The reason?  They were a divided church, unable to work together.  Verse three says, “because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like ordinary people?”  The following verses show the source of their division.  Some people were attaching themselves to Paul and others to Apollos.  They had rivalries.

The independent commission investigating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks reported that the rescue efforts were hampered by a “Rivalry between New York’s police and fire departments.”Their report said, “This rivalry has been acknowledged by every witness we have asked about it.”

(http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Americans needed cooperation, not competition on that gloomy day.  We are at our best, when we set aside our own ambitions and throw all our efforts into the common good, instead of putting energy into unhealthy rivalries.

Earlier in the book, Paul wrote, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Cor. 1:10 (NASB)

I’m so glad that the Corinthian Church had this problem, because it allows us to have this beautiful teaching that Paul gives.  Paul makes it clear that he and Apollos were partners not competitors in ministry.  They are just doing their part in the Kingdom work, it is God, not them that gives the growth and is deserving of the glory.  The verse that follows this explanation is precious.  It says, “For we are God’s co-workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

 This morning, I want us to examine the first of the three phrases Paul uses, “We are God’s Co-workers.” 

"Co” does not imply equality.  Paul is not saying we are on the same standing as God.  He makes that clear in the previous verses.  Within the context of this passage, co-worker means that God allows us to PARTICIPATE TOGETHER WITH HIM IN HIS KINGDOM’S work.  Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV)

 This Great Commission is our unifying mission.  It is God’s agenda, not ours and we work together to achieve our common goal.  That’s what it means to be co-workers.  We have the same objective and we are working together to achieve it.

On October 16, 1987, the world witnessed the dramatic rescue of 18-month-old Jessica McClure, who was trapped in an abandoned water well for almost 58 1/2 hours.

"It was one of those events that ended well and uplifted not only our country, but uplifted the whole world,'' said Midland, Texas oilman Clayton W. Williams, who played a background role in the rescue.
The rescue by up to 50 on-site mining engineers, firefighters, paramedics, drillers, jackhammer operators, law-enforcement officers and other support people brought out "the higher quality and better part of the human soul and the human spirit,'' Williams said. "Everybody was pulling for that little baby."

"The biggest thing ... was the teamwork of the people involved,'' David Lilly recalled.”It worked beautifully. Every person there was just willing to do everything above and beyond (their duty). There was no arguing or bickering .” 

Many of the rescuers worked as competitors in the oil drilling business,. One-time business partners turned bitter rivals were working side by side, and even hugged one another after the rescue.
Why?

Lilly said, "All of them pulled together because they had a common cause."  (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

People who normally won’t work together will, if they have a common goal.  We cooperate best, when everyone involved agrees on the desired outcome.

 We are co-workers because we are working together on the same objective, but we are also co-workers because He is WORKING BESIDE US.  Jesus didn’t give us “The Great Commission” then go and sit down beside the pool and sip a cold glass of ice tea, he promised to be with us as we do His work.  He is in the trenches with us, fighting the good fight.

 Actually, I find that I’m closer to Him when I’m busy doing His work.  If you want to be near to God, then you have to go out into the field and work, because that’s where He is. 1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  (NKJV)

 Not only do we draw near to God, but also we draw closer to one another.  I know that when Jack Johnson wrote his love song, “Better Together,” he was thinking of his wife.  However, his words also apply to Christian fellowship.  It says, “It’s not always easy and sometimes life can be deceiving/But I’ll tell you one thing, it’s always better when we’re together.” 

 True fellowship rarely happens over a cup of coffee or a plate of spaghetti.  Real fellowship happens beside a hospital bed, or over a paint can or in a committee meeting.  We develop stronger relationships working together for the cause of Christ than we ever will engaging in small talk or idle chatter.

 Besides, the added benefit of building strong relationships, working together increases the probability of the successful completion of our mission. 

Tom Westman credits two things with his million-dollar victory of Survivor Palau.  First, being himself, and second applying two things he learned as a firefighter:  “survival and teamwork.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Dr. Paula M. Rooney, President of Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts recently told her graduating students, “you cannot undertake life as a spectator sport. True success will involve playing on a team," (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 How about you?  Are you in the game, working together with others on the field.  Or are you sitting in the stands, a mere spectator watching others do what God called you to do?

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