Sermon Detail

The Joy of Stewardship The Touchstone/Litmus Test of Spiritual Maturity

February 13, 2022 | Buster Brown

“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? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.”  1 Corinthians 3:1-8

The problem with the church at Corinth was not that they failed to progress in the knowledge of Christ, but that they failed to comprehend the glorious nature of the gospel of Christ for the totality of their lives. A certain group of Christians in Corinth (“infants in Christ”) were not treasuring Jesus.

“You touch upon justification by faith, the first and keenest subject of controversy between us…wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown.”  John Calvin’s reply to Cardinal James Sadoleto (1539) 

In 1 Corinthians, we are introduced to three categories of people:

1. The “natural person” (2:14), the person who has no spiritual life and does not recognize the forgiveness of sins by the cross and the nature of the gospel.

2. The “spiritual person” (2:12-15), or “mature person” (2:6), those who recognize the supremacy and glory of Christ, and are living in such a way that they can receive biblical truth.

3. Believers who are “fleshly” or “infants in Christ.” (3:1)

General Principles

1. Our victory and ultimate salvation is assured in Christ, but there is an ongoing battle and our sanctification regarding growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

2. Milk, not solid food, was required because of pride and jealousy. These “infants in Christ” had not applied and embraced the centrality of the cross and were not enthralled by the grace that comes by knowing Jesus.

3. We can slip back into “infant” thinking from the point of maturity.  

“The fundamental contrast in Paul’s mind is not between two quite different diets which he has to offer, but between the true food of the gospel with which he has fed them (whether milk or meat) and the synthetic substitute which the Corinthians had preferred…therefore, they do not need a change of diet, but a change of perspective.”  David E. Garland, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

“Maturation will disclose itself in a growing ability to take in more and more Christian truth (3:2). It will also show itself in a large-hearted attitude that avoids quarreling and jealousy, and refuses to sink into narrow factionalism. If some who have the capitalistic spirit are slow to display this rise in maturity, the kindest interpretation is that they are “worldly”. In these matters, they are acting like 'mere men' instead of like Christian men and women empowered by the Spirit of God.”  D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, pp. 74-75


1. Progress in understanding, grappling with, applying the gospel and walking in the stewardship of life is a by-product of a life centered on the glory and goodness of Christ. 

“The gospel signifies good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that make a man’s heart glad and make him sing, dance and leap for joy.”  William Tyndale (1494-1536)

2. To live well we must think well and, therefore, we must labor to continuously understand the gospel and all its ramifications.

“It should not be forgotten that all religion is a penetration with the innermost part of the soul into the unity of all things in order to comprehend the unity of One from whom everything comes. For that reason, to take delight in godliness you must ascend from the many, the varied, the endlessly distinct, to the coherence of all things.” (Without focus, without the power to see coherence, faith dies.) Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)


1. Why is it important to make the distinction between “infants in Christ” and “spiritual people”, based not on knowledge but on the comprehension of the gospel’s radical nature for all of life? 

2. How does the wisdom and daily living of life flow from the central thesis of our lives?

3. How can mature believers slip into “infant living”?

4. What is the central meaning of the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price in Matthew 13:45-46?

5. What is the promise of Proverbs 3:1-4?