The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Text: 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:23
In an East Texas Baptist church they were having a business meeting. Under new business, there was a motion on the floor for using some extra money on church building improvements. Everyone agreed that would be a good thing. Then the first suggestion was made to buy a chandelier for the church foyer. The floor was then opened for discussion. One good ol’ boy stood to and voiced his opinion. "Well, I'm against buying a chandelier."
When asked why he replied. "I'll give you three good
reasons. One, no one can spell it. Two,
no one in this church can play it and three, what we really need is more
This morning I'm going to give you three things as well, the
three conditions or states of man in his relationship with the Lord. You may have thought that man is either lost
or saved but actually there is a third condition that Paul explains in the
first letter to the Corinthians in chapters 2 and 3. Turn to 1 Corinthians 2:14
and let’s find them. I am labeling these
three “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” And no this is not the start of a new
series entitled Sunday morning at the movies. In case you were worried. Turn to
1 Corinthians 2:14
As you are turning let me give you some background to the book and the city of Corinth. Paul probably wrote the letter from Ephesus during the three year ministry he had there. It was written around a.d. 55. Paul wrote the letter because he had heard from two sources that there were deep divisions and conflict in the church. Also Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus had brought a letter from the believers in Cornith with several questions that needed guidance on. You can identify the answers to these questions when Paul says, 'now concerning.”
Throughout the book Paul’s purpose in writing was to save a local church from destruction from the inside out. This was a church that was killing itself through pride, division and sin and this was a heartbreaking reality to Paul who had founded it and now with these letters fights to save it.
It is amazing that a church could take root and survive in
the pagan immorality of a city like Corinth. The fact that it had, was a
testimony to the power of the Gospel and the providence of God. The old city
contained the famous Temple of Aphrodite, where one thousand sacred prostitutes
were made available to its cultists. There was a sexually-slanted proverb,
"It is not given to everyone to visit Corinth," Much like “What happens in Vegas, Stays in
Vegas” The Greeks even had a word which literally meant to act the Corinthian, and
they used it for people who were guilty of fornication, To be a 'Corinthian
girl' meant she was promiscuous. One ancient Greek writer recorded that if ever
a Corinthian was shown upon the stage in a Greek play he was shown drunk."
Corinth was a city noted for everything depraved, dissolute, and debauched.
So if it wasn’t hard enough to keep a church going in that
outward situation along comes the members of the church itself and they seem
intent on destroying it from the inside.
The Bad, The Natural Man 1 Corinthians 2:9-14
1 Cor 2:9-14 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 2 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The Natural man
Paul begins this section by telling the Corinthians that should understand they mystery, the hidden things he is going to teach them because they are from God and they are received by those who have the Spirit of God in them. He says the natural man, the unsaved man can’t see, hear or receive these things but the Corinthians can because they have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit of God, for the purpose of knowing the thing that are freely given to us of God. He says the natural man cannot received these things because they are spiritually discerned and the natural man does not have the Holy Spirit to teach him.
The first spiritual state that Paul presents here is the natural man. The natural man is a man without Christ as his savior; without God as his father and without the Holy Spirit as his comforter, guide and teacher.
The Natural man is a lost sinner, his sin has separated him from God.
Romans 3:10-12 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Jesus said that those who will not believe His words are children of the Devil
John 8:44-45 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
The Natural Man the Bible tells us is destined for eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire.
Revelation 20:12, 15 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. …. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
The First Spiritual State: Naturally Lost
The circle is your life, or your soul. The figure on the inside is a throne, the place of ruling for your life. The letter I, represents you. In this diagram you are in charge of your life. The cross represents Jesus and He is outside of your life. This is a graphic of the natural state of man.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in that spiritual state. We all were once but if we have accepted Christ as our savior, believed his words, accepted the truth of his death for us and repented of my sins then I am no longer a Natural Man.
I don’t want to be a natural man because a person in that condition receives nothing from the Spirit.
No forgiveness, no guidance, no sealing, no indwelling, no quickening, no eternal life and no hope. As Paul said, “1 Corinthians 2:9 9 Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
The natural man, the lost man, the unsaved will never know or experience the wonders, blessings and joy that God has prepared for those who love him.
Illustration: TV set and TV signals
Let me illustrate it this way, You know in our physical world all around us are invisible spectrums of light and frequencies of sound but we can’t normally see them or hear them. You can’t see what is on the internet without a computer, you can’t talk to your grandma in Terra Del Fuega without a cell phone. You can’t hear music coming through the air unless you have a radio. Imagine all you are missing, all you are completely ignorant of because you can’t see, hear or receive those things.
The same is true on a spiritual scale, but it is much, much worse. You can’t experience God’s comfort, the hope of eternity, the assurance of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You can’t know eternal love, you can’t know complete forgiveness, you can’t know the assurance of providence or the promises of God. If you are lost, you just don’t have the means to understand or receive these great blessings. Like a person with modem you are wondering what this internet thing is that everyone is talking about. You are lost in your ignorance, but oh what a much greater tragedy to be lost in your sin.
If you have never accepted Jesus as your Savior, then you are still in that natural and lost state, separated from God and under His judgmental and wrath.
Transition: Next Paul moves to the second spiritual state of man, The Good.
The Good, The Spiritual Man 1 Corinthians 2:15-16
1 Corinthians 2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
The Spiritual Man
Now Paul instructs the Corinthian church about the Spiritual man and he tells them that the spiritual man judges all things.
The word judge is from the Greek word anakrino, it means to examine, investigate, question.
The Spiritual man is a discerner of all things, he investigates and examines in order to find the true value, the things that count, the things that last.
The Spiritual man is judged by no one who is still in a natural state because the natural man is unable to judge that which he cannot understand.
Paul is telling this certainly because it is true, but in the case of the Corinthian church with all its divisions, pride and sin, he is exhorting them to understand that because they are spiritual now, they need to quit acting like and judging like they are still naturals.
Instead of saying Act like a man, he is saying act like a spiritual man. Like we tell our young sons, “Put on your big boy pants.” Parents have a saying for girls as well but I’m uncomfortable talking about women’s undergarments in the pulpit. Call me old fashioned.
Paul is trying to get the Corinthian church to understand who they are and who they should think and act as those who are saved and have the spirit of God.
In the diagram Jesus on the throne of my life, kept there by my following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Second Spiritual State: Spiritually Saved
We should heed the same exhortation. Know who we are, think like we should and act like those who are led by the Holy Spirit.
We know that we are Spiritual People because
We have through repentance and faith accepted Jesus Christ as our savior.
Romans 2:3-4 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Romans 10:9-13 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
We think like Spiritual people by following the Leadership of the Holy Spirit through God's Word.
John 16:13-14 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
And we act like Spiritual People when we do what the Holy Spirit and God’s Word instructs us to do.
Galatians 5:18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Quote: Without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind. We are useless. – Charles Spurgeon
The Ugly, The Carnal Man 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
The Carnal Christian
Paul uses two words translated carnal to describe the two types of Christians in these verses.
The first word in verse 1 is Sarkinos which means made of flesh or from the flesh.
When Paul first came to Corinth, the people were carnal, and weak because they are newborn. They are of the flesh because they haven’t yet matured beyond a physical understanding of their life and how to live it.
They were babes in Christ, being fed with milk, the basic teachings and truths of Christian doctrine. Babes in Christ are still immature, selfish, and ignorant because they have not be trained in the deeper, stronger things of Christ. They are young in the faith and they have not yet grown in a relationship with Jesus.
Sarkikos, is the second word used in vss 2 and 3 and has a slightly different meaning, instead of being of the flesh, it means dominated by the flesh.
The church had moved not from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity, but from immature weakness to immature willfulness. They were still as immature, selfish and ignorant as the babe in Christ, but it was because they were unwilling to grow and mature spiritual, are unwilling to hear and bear spiritual things. Their initial weakness had become negligent unwillingness, an unwillingness to grow to be able to accept the meat of the word rather than the milk.
The outcome of this willful carnality is seen in verse 3. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
The carnality of the church had brought about division, open sin, broken fellowship, and broken hearts. They may have been saved but they were acting like they were lost and just like the lost, their selfishness, greed and personal agendas had come close to destroying one of the Lord’s churches. And there is nothing uglier, in all of Christianity than one of the Lord’s churches acting like they are no different than a bunch of lost people.
Quote: The world conforms, the flesh deforms, but the Spirit transforms. – Larry Jones
The Third Spiritual State: Carnal Yet Christian
Paul’s challenge to the church at Corinth is also a challenge to our church at Athens. We must know what spiritual state I am in as an individual and as a church body. If we are saved then we should be growing, maturing as children of God. We should be acting and thinking as those who listen to God word and then follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit in all we do.
I can be saved but still live like this world, the reality is that Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit indwells us, but because of our willfulness, our sin, our pride, the Holy Spirit does not control us.
We began with the milk of God Word , the beginning, basic truths of God. We accepted salvation, repentance, baptism and church membership. But now the carnal Christian refuses to take the meat of God’s Word, the deeper, harder but vital truths.
The carnal Christian loves to hear about salvation and forgiveness but doesn’t want to hear about sending missionaries or forgiving those who have hurt them. Carnal Christians love to hear everything in black and white, wrong and right but they don’t want to deal with bearing the weakness of fellow church members when it comes to areas of conviction. They love listening to all of God’s blessing for themselves but refuse to be a channel of God’s blessing to others.
Carnality in my life or in my church always results in the same thing Paul pointed to in vs. 3, envy, strife, and divisions.
In the letter to the Galatians he said it this way, Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
Get past your own experience of Salvation, don’t be an ugly Christian. Choose to be a beautiful maturing child of God each and everyday.
Quote: Salvation is the most important thing in the world, until you are saved and then it’s the least important thing. - Raleigh Campbell
Paul gives the cures for carnality in the rest of the chapter 2 Corinthians 3:5-9, 19-23
In vss 5-9 he tells them to realize that we are called by God to unity. 1 Corinthians 3:9 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.
Avoid pride and the world’s view of wisdom 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
Then he tells them to focus not on great men but upon their Great God and Savior. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 1 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23 And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.
The ultimate fix for the problem of the ugly Christian is the beauty of Christian love. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13. There must be a dedication to the love that Jesus had for us, the love we should have for each other and the love we should even have for the lost of this world.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8 NKJV 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.
Walk in the Spirit, walk in the love of Christ! Be the Spiritual Person that Jesus Christ gave his life on Calvary to redeem and save. Many Christians spend their entire post salvation lives in this ugly condition and the church pays a terrible price especially when there is a crisis, a need or a opportunity. Ugly Christians, carnal immature Christians don’t do well in situations where they need to depend on a close, deep relationship with their Savior because they never matured beyond their own salvation.
If you are here today and you are still in your natural lost state, then
You need to receive Jesus Christ. You need to receive his forgiveness. You need to know His never-failing all-powerful love.
If you recognize in yourself that ugly carnal Christian, then
You need to get your eyes off yourself and on to others, off the world and on to Jesus Christ. You need to let Jesus rule in your life, he is ruler of this universe, how can we deny him the throne of my life? You need to resist the hurts, offenses and rivalries that are so easily fallen into, and realize that we are all laborer together in this work for God.
Strive to be a Spiritual One
This is not a impossible or super pious life. It is the normal Christian life, we are called to, the life we are given the Holy Spirit to live. We are not of this world we are citizens of a spiritual kingdom, Children of a Heavenly Father. Let the true, the real you show through.