‘But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 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? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?’
- Cor 3:1-4
"We cannot deal with people like human beings, we cannot deal with them on the high level of true humanity, unless we really know their origin—who they are. God tells man who he is. God tells us that He created man in His image. So man is something wonderful."
- Francis Schaeffer
“Experience confirms the witness of Scripture: we cannot long sin against God without sinning against God’s image bearers, and if in measure we do love God, we will love those who bear his image.”
- D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited, p. 47
You see the extremes
Of what humans can be?
In that distance some tension's born
Energy surging like a storm
You plunge your hand in
And draw it back scorched
Beneath it's shining like
Gold but better
Rumours of glory
- Bruce Cockburn, Rumours of Glory, v. 3
Last Sunday’s message was taken from 1 Corinthians 3. And as I heard the passage read I was struck by the use of the words, ‘…being merely human.’ This seemed to be a curious phrase and I needed to figure out what the Apostle Paul meant. After a bit of study and consideration Paul’s point became clear. The inference is that the Corinthian church, by their exhibition of jealousy and strife toward one another, were engaging in behavior that far more resembled the fallen sons of Adam than the redeemed sons of Christ. It goes something like this, for Christians to participate, as willing accomplices in sinful behavior, is a denial of who God has redeemed them and called them to be. To be merely human is to reassign our origins to earth. When Paul addresses them as being ‘merely human’ he is not paying the Corinthians a compliment. He is reminding them that they were redeemed for something better. He is attempting to call their attention to an ontological incongruity.
Jealousy and strife, along with every other sin, is at base a denial of the Christian’s beginnings, and to live our lives with no thought of how we treat others is to locate our origins with the unregenerate and merely human. In other words, we are still of the flesh (v. 2).
What this means is that Paul expected differently of the Corinthians. They were acting at cross-purposes with what God had created and redeemed them for. In their sin against one another they were calling God a liar and denying their birthright, and here Paul does not pull any punches. He lets them know that they are behaving as babies, immature and unspiritual, and that this behavior is simply unacceptable for those redeemed by God.
Paul’s warning to the Corinthians is important and we must take heed as well. The bottom line is that our redemption is not for nothing. We were redeemed from something and redeemed for something. Our salvation is not simply an escape from the realities of hell, though that surely is true. Our salvation signals the beginning of restoration to true humanness. Being born again is just the beginning and an indication that the re-creative process has begun…all things are becoming new. God's goal for us is this - we are to become less like mere humans and more like Christ.