1 Corinthians 3:3-4. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
What makes super hero movies and stories so popular? Why are we drawn to these modern mythologies? Spiderman. The X-Men. Captain America. Superman. Wonder Woman. Is it because these heroes are beyond us? They have what we all want – a power that takes them past being merely human. They know something or can do something that goes beyond normal human capabilities. They are human, but they are also super human.
Look again at the amazing language that Paul uses here in 1 Corinthians 3. He is rebuking the Corinthian Christians for only behaving in a human way, or for being merely human. Wow. What does this rebuke mean? It means that in Christ we are beyond human. We have been given a super power. The life of Christ. In the words of the Apostle Peter, “We are partakers of the divine nature.”
But the Corinthians had it all backwards. They thought they were super-human because they were “super-spiritual.” The Holy Spirit had graciously given them really cool spiritual gifts. Speaking in tongues, healing, prophesying. But they failed to understand that spiritual gifts are not the measure of true spirituality. In fact, like the Corinthians, you too can have incredible spiritual gifts and still be completely trapped in fleshly living – are you not of the flesh?
The result in Corinth? Jealousy and strife. The church was completely divided. And here’s the truly sad part, they were being torn apart over Bible teachers. Paul. Peter. Apollos. Who do you follow? Who’s your favorite? Who’s the best?
You might be asking, “What’s so bad about that? I have a favorite bible teacher/pastor. Doesn’t everybody?” Um….the same question then applies to you – are you not of the flesh?
Anytime we choose one Christian over another, one teacher over another, one pastor over another, or one gift from God over another, that is the definition of fleshly. At best it is a failure to see everything as a gift from God and a chance to honor him. At worst it is self-righteousness that creates division within the church. And Paul will have very strong words for those who seek to divide Christ’s church (see 1 Cor. 3:17).
At the end of the day, the flesh (indwelling selfishness and sin) is our number one arch-enemy. Not the Devil, not the system, not “the man.” Your greatest kryptonite preventing you from being the super-human Jesus wants you to be, is YOU. Our own fear filled flesh makes us all about self-promotion. We’re all about making ourselves look good, making sure that everyone knows that we’re special. The flesh has us pursuing our own selfish ends, rather than pursuing the love of others.
And here’s the scary part. As we have seen in Galatians and now in Corinthians, the flesh can masquerade as both law keeping and as spirituality. We can be easily deceived into thinking that we are being spiritual when we are actually being fleshly. Gaining Bible knowledge. Calling out sin. Moralism. Traditionalism. Seeking spiritual experiences. Watching “Christian” TV. These can all look like holiness on the outside but be nothing more than feeding the self-righteous flesh.
Real spirituality, however, is having the mind of Christ. It is the crucified life. It is Jesus’ life of self-sacrifice and humble service for others. It is humility, love, and grace.
Mere humans seek their own way. They cause division. They aim to survive rather than sacrifice. But super-humans, those with the Spirit of God and his super-power of love inside of them, seek the benefit of others. They submit, they give grace, they forgive, they care and they sacrifice.
But here’s the glorious truth for the Corinthians and for us. Paul doesn’t say we ARE merely human. He says we behave like we’re merely human. The reality is that we are super-human saints in Christ. Saints who forget that we’re saints. And so in forgetfulness and fear we run back to the flesh. Again and again.
“To live is Christ” reminds us of who we really are. We are super heroes. Filled with the power of the cross. Filled with the love of Christ. We no longer have to self-justify, or self-promote, or prove our worthiness. Our worth is in Christ. True spirituality is found in submitting to him and to each other. Loving, giving, sharing, sacrificing. This is our super power.
Can you identify ways you are behaving in a merely human way?
You in Christ
How does your union with Christ empower your behavior to match your identity?
Christ in you
How can you display your super-power of Christ’s love today?
Playlist: True spirituality.