Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 67
BUT GOD! (Gave the Increase) – Part 1
I Corinthians 3:7 and Other Pertinent Scriptures
Good to see everybody in again this afternoon. For those of you out in television, we’ve got these folks in for four programs this afternoon. As we welcome these here in the studio, we also welcome all of you out in television, wherever you are, whether it’s morning or evening or any other time of the day. And for those of you that may be new to this program, we’re just a simple Bible study. We’re not trying to twist arms. I don’t try to move people from one situation to another. We just want to teach the Word of God, to teach what It says and what It doesn’t say!
You know, one of the biggest improvements in my own understanding of Scripture came when I’d been here in Oklahoma for a few years. A gentleman who was in my class almost wherever I was, all the nights of the week, came up to me and he said, “Les, you’re always telling us that it’s just as important to see what’s not in the Scripture as what is.” I said, “Yeah, of course.” He said, “Well, I can’t find one word of church or Body of Christ language in the first eight chapters of Acts.” And I said, “What?” He said, “It’s not in there. Everything is Jewish.”
Well, that’s how I learn from my students. I got home that night and I searched the Scriptures until probably one o’clock in the morning, and all I could see was – that guy’s right! It’s just as important to see what’s NOT there. There is no word of church language in those first eight chapters. It’s still the extension of Christ’s earthly ministry. That’s a class all on its own, and I didn’t intend to do that. That just comes free for nothing! But, anyway, this is the way we teach. We’re going to point out what the Scripture says, and we’re also going to point out what It doesn’t say. I think this is imperative.
Now, before we even get started, you know so often I refer to a statement by an old Bible theologian way back in the 1500’s. This time, I decided I’m just going to put it on the screen so you can see the whole print of it. We switched it from the old English, changed the thee’s and the thou’s and ye’s to you and yours. Nevertheless, I’m going to have the camera on it. There it is right there, the statement by Coverdale that, “It shall help you to understand Scripture if you mark not only what is spoken, or written, but ask yourself of whom, to whom, with what words, what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows.”
Now, if you’ll do that in your Bible Study, you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes. I’ve already alluded to it – the first eight chapters of Acts are all written to Israel. The language is plain – “Ye men of Israel.” In chapter 4, verse 1 it says “Peter and John went up to the Temple, because it was the hour of prayer.” Well, that’s not church language, but it fit for those folks that were associated with Israel. So, always remember that this is the whole idea of dispensational teaching.
Now there again, that makes me think of something else. I walked into one of my classes in Oklahoma quite some time ago and I was shaking hands with the folks. One of the guys looked me straight in the eye and said, “Les, what’s a dispensationalist?” I said, “Well, you’re looking at one.” He was kind of dumbfounded. He said, “What does that mean?” I said, “I’m a dispensationalist. I make no apology for it.” He said, “Well, what does that mean?” The quote just said it. When you study Scripture, to whom is it written? Is it written to Israel, or is it written to the Gentile church? Who’s writing? Is it an Old Testament prophet, or is it the Apostle Paul? What are the circumstances? All these things – that’s what you do when you separate the Scriptures or rightly divide them as Paul says.
That’s what makes Bible study simple, understandable, exciting, and all the rest that goes with it. But most of Christendom is just feeding off of a jumbled-up mixture. You’ve heard me use the illustration over and over through the years of a young man that came up and said, “Well, they put it in a blender and turn it up on high and ladle it out to me and wonder why I get sick to my stomach.” Well, that’s exactly what’s happening.
I had a letter again yesterday, all mixed up, and I just pitched it in the wastebasket. I had a notion to write back and say you’re best blender I’ve ever seen, yet. But, that’s what they do. They mix everything up, and everybody’s in total confusion. So, the Bible goes back up on the bookshelf and collects dust, because after all, who can understand it? But here we are; we’re rightly dividing. We’re separating it. We’ve been doing that now for the last 15 years, and they haven’t kicked me off the air yet! We hope they won’t.
Okay, now we’re going to continue on with our series of “But God” or “But Whom” or “But When.” Today we’re going to jump in at I Corinthians chapter 3. Verse 7 is the “But God” that I’m going to head for. But, like we’ve done all the other times, we’ll go back and read what goes before. But first read verse 7.
I Corinthians 3:7
“So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; (What are the next two words?) but God that giveth the increase.” What does that mean? No matter what we as human instruments do, it counts for nothing until God steps in. And He does! Every one of you here that are a believer, you know that’s what happened. God stepped in, and He opened your understanding, and it all made sense.
Except for rare exceptions, now I know there are a few. There are a few who claim to have been saved without an intermediary, by just simply reading the Bible on their own. I get quite a few who find salvation in one program! Now, that seems unbelievable, but we get phone call after phone call, “Les, just found your program, and I’ve been a devout this or whatever the case may be and by the end of the program God opened my eyes, and I became a believer.” Now, that’s rare, but it does happen. For most of us, it took, probably, a little time of instruction. It took a lot of prayer on the part of our loved ones. But we came to knowledge of salvation, because God moved in!
All right, so the verse we’re going to head for is verse 7 “…but God giveth the increase.” But we’re going to pick up what goes before. Just like old Coverdale said, “What goes before? Who’s writing? To whom?” Well, Paul is writing to a Gentile congregation, a congregation that knows nothing of Judaism or the Law, because they’re under Grace! Just like we are! So, Paul is writing to Gentiles, but he’s going to go back and use various Old Testament situations for illustrations. That’s the beauty of the Old Testament. It’s all laid out in such a way that it teaches us lesson after lesson. All right, now in I Corinthians chapter 3 we’ll start at verse 1, where Paul writes:
I Corinthians 3:1a
“And I, brethren, (So, who’s he writing to? Believers. He’s not writing to the unsaved world, but rather he’s writing to believers.) could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, (as people who were mature) but as unto carnal,…” In other words, they were still weak, fleshly-minded believers.
Now, it’s interesting, and I suppose here’s where I should stop. Paul uses this word “carnal” in two different scopes. Here he’s speaking of believers who are still weak spiritually, and he calls them carnal. Come back with me to Romans chapter 8. I do this so that in your own private study or reading you won’t get confused. Now, in Romans chapter 8 he uses the same word, but now he’s talking about the rank unbeliever who knows nothing of spiritual things. It’s the same word but two totally different applications.
All right, in Romans chapter 8 verse 5, here’s the same Apostle Paul but now he’s writing to believers at Rome, still predominately a Gentile congregation. Now, when I say the word predominately, I’m inferring that there was probably a sprinkling of Jews in these early congregations. It is very possible that some Jews had come in recognizing not only that Jesus was the Messiah, but also that He had finished the work of the cross.
“For they that are after the flesh (in other words, the things of this world) do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit (In other words, the person who has been born from above. He now has a spiritual understanding. God is a part of his life.) the things of the Spirit.” Those are the things that are the most important.
“For to be carnally minded is death; (So, there’s no figment of faith in the life of these carnal people, because they are still lost. They are headed for eternal, spiritual death.) but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7. Because the carnal mind (the unsaved person) is enmity against God:” See, that’s never the attitude of the believer, but for the carnal individual; he’s an enemy. He’s a total enemy. He has nothing to do with the things of God.
“…the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” That’s why we have people who have no concern about any aspect of spiritual things, or the Word of God. They’re carnal, cannot please God.”
All right, back to I Corinthians chapter 3 but now Paul is using the word to simply describe less than spiritual believers. They’re saved, they’re going to be in Glory, no doubt about that, but they just haven’t taken on any spiritual growth. Well, of course, I think our churches are full of those kinds of people. I won’t deny their salvation. They may all well be saved, but they have no hunger for the Word. They have no desire to live a dedicated life and be a testimony of God’s saving grace. But they’re saved. And if we have time today, we’ll go on and we’ll pick them up in verses 12 and 13. Okay, but now, come back to chapter 3 and verse 1.
I Corinthians 3:1
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” So, there it’s very plain that he’s not talking to carnal unbelievers, he’s talking to believers who are still fleshly. All right, verse 2.
I Corinthians 3:2a
“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat:…” Now, I won’t make you go back and look at it, but Peter uses the same analogy in his little epistle in the back of your Bible in I Peter. I think it is chapter 2 and verse 2. Iris and I memorized it when we were first married. I’ll never forget it. We struggled with it for a week, didn’t we? We finally got it. “As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word.”
It took us a week to learn that one, but we’ll never forget it. Peter says the same thing. That a new believer starts out like a physical baby. They need milk for their sustenance, but just like in the human realm, the baby finally gets to the place where milk is no longer the major portion of the diet. He goes on to stronger food. Well, that’s what we’re supposed to do. Some will take a little longer than others, but it should be a growth process that, as soon as a new believer comes into the picture and he hungers for the Word, he should start showing some growth. Then after a few years he should start showing a little maturity. Just like in the physical.
Okay, but the Corinthians weren’t. They were so carnal. One of the poorest examples of Christianity in the whole Bible was the Corinthian church. That’s why I can’t imagine why people want to copy them. Why copy that which is the poorest? But they do.
I Corinthians 3:2
“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: (or strong food) for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, (that is the stronger food) neither yet now are ye able.” Even after they’ve been believers several years, they still couldn’t handle the deeper things of Scripture. So, he says:
I Corinthians 3:3a
“For ye are yet carnal: (You’re still more concerned about the things of the world than you are of the things of the Spirit.) for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions,…” It was not a very peaceful congregation. The Corinthians were in constant turmoil over some of the most stupid things. But you know what? Is it any different today? I can remember when we were back in Iowa. Iris was working with a bunch of people from various denominations, and then one church, a huge congregation, split right down the middle. What was it over? Iris, do you remember? Carpet!
The color of the carpet. See, she knew exactly what I was talking about. They split over the color of the carpet! Foolishness! Now, if a church splits over doctrine, that’s one thing, but most of them don’t. They’ll split over financial situations or things that just don’t amount to much. Corinth had all kinds of foolishness in their church, and Paul was constantly trying to deal with it. So, he says in verse 3.
I Corinthians 3:3b
“…whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions….” Now, what caused the divisions?
Well, who are you going to follow? You going to follow Jesus? You going to follow Peter? You going to follow Paul? You going to follow Apollos? Who are you following? They had four distinct groups in that one congregation. One group said, well, I’m going to follow Peter. And another would say, I’m following Paul. Others would say, na…you’re all off on a deep end, I’m going to follow Jesus. Well, there again, it is pretty much the same today, isn’t it? All right, so that was their strife.
I Corinthians 3:4
“For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; (If that’s the case, Paul says–) are ye not (What?) carnal?” Because, no doubt Apollos had things that could contribute to their spiritual life, but on the other hand, Paul was the one who brought them out of their pagan idolatry and everything. He should have been number one in their view, but he slipped away from that, and they just began dividing the congregation. All right, now drop down to verse 5. He’s going to make a point.
I Corinthians 3:5
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” Now, let’s stop a minute. Again, for those of you who have been with us all the way up through Scripture, you remember that after Paul had established the Corinthian church and brought them out of paganism, a couple made their appearance, because Rome had made a decree that Jews could no longer stay in Italy.
So, if you remember, Priscilla and Aquila were two of those Jews. They were believing Jews of the fact that Jesus was indeed the Christ, but they had heard nothing, yet, of believing in the finished work of the cross for salvation. So anyway, Priscilla and Aquila, you remember, came into Paul’s congregation. In fact, it makes it quite plain that since they labored together in tent-making, Paul evidently rented a room from Priscilla and Aquila, and the three of them lived under the same roof.
Well, what did that mean? They talked and they talked and they talked! Well, what did they talk about? Well, the spiritual things. And it wasn’t long until Paul was able to impress upon Priscilla and Aquila this tremendous finished work of the cross, the Gospel of Grace. How that it has nothing to do with Judaism and the Law and everything. That we’re set apart from all of that, and, boy, they just latched onto it! The more they visited with their fellow laborer, the stronger they got.
Well, Paul had to leave, of course, and went on, I think, to Ephesus. And it wasn’t long until another Jew arrived in Corinth who had recently been at Alexandria. Now, the Scripture doesn’t say it. I’m always up front, and I’ll tell anybody, but I’m just assuming that Apollos was probably a graduate of one of the big Jewish Seminaries that was down in Alexandria, Egypt. It doesn’t say that, but he was so learned in the Scriptures that I have to feel he must have been. But anyway, in comes Apollos into the situation. And with all the pomp and circumstance of all of his education and who he was and everything, he thought he was pretty important. But after he had finished speaking, who took him aside? Priscilla and Aquila. Not publicly, but they took him aside, and all the Scripture says is they showed unto him the things of God more perfectly, or more completely. Again, the Scripture leaves it up to you. What do you suppose they shared with this man Apollos? Paul’s Gospel! Paul’s revelation of the mysteries! How we’re not under the Law; we’re under Grace. How the Old Testament economy is nothing more now than just stepping stones to this tremendous Age of Grace.
Well, did Apollos argue? No! He just latched onto it. He went from there on as one of Paul’s best co-workers. All right, so that’s what we have here. Apollos had made such an impression upon these Corinthians, that even though he’d gained it all by virtue of Paul’s revelations and from the patient teaching of two other simple Jews, Priscilla and Aquila, he became a great apostle, I suppose, in his own right. So, some of the Corinthians said, hey, I’m going to follow this man Apollos, this guy’s sharp! Boy, he can preach. He’s an orator. He knows his stuff. And others said, well, we’re going to stay with Paul, because, after all, he brought us out of all this paganness. And then others said, well, now I’ve learned enough from Scripture, I’m going to follow Peter, because Peter had three years with Jesus. Can’t you just picture it?
Now, this is what the Scripture leads us to do. You know, I’m always trying to get people not to just read it and then say I don’t know what it means. Stop and analyze it a little bit. Put some details in there. We’ve the freedom to do that. In fact, I’ve got time enough. One of my favorite places that taught me to do this, and you have to, otherwise the Scripture is just going to leave you hanging time and again. Now, I didn’t intend to do this either. I don’t know why I’m doing it, but turn back with me to John chapter 12. This is the perfect example that you have to logically put together some of the pieces. Because, after all, if Scripture would give us every little detail, and you’ve heard me say this before, this Book would be so big you’d have to have a pickup truck to carry it around. So, the Holy Spirit sees fit to keep things, you know, as brief as possible.
But this is a good example. That’s the only reason I’m going back here, just to show you that you have to fill in details, John’s Gospel chapter 12. The crowds are gathering for Passover. This is the same Passover at which Christ is going to be crucified. So, there’s the setting, as Mr. Coverdale said, what’s gone before, what’s going on now, who’s it written to, who’s it concerning? Okay, we’ve got the Jews gathering for Passover, the same Passover at which Jesus is going to be crucified. So, from verse 20, we are about 72 hours from His death, burial, and resurrection.
“And there were certain Greeks (non-Jews) among them that came up to worship at the feast (of Passover).” Now, more than likely, they were curiosity seekers. And you can just sort of put that in there without doing any harm to Scripture.
These Greeks were evidently just there to watch these Jews carry on at one of their big feast celebrations. But, they’d been in Israel long enough that who had they heard about? Jesus of Nazareth and all of His miracles and signs and wonders – how He could feed the five-thousand, and how He had walked on water and all these things. They’d heard it. Listen, do you think people 2000 years ago were any different than we are today? Not one whit! Not one whit! If someone would come into Tulsa next week and begin to perform the miracles that Jesus did, do you think that it would be confined to Tulsa? Why, the whole United States of America would be hearing about this man that’s in Tulsa – he can walk on the water, he can raise the dead, he can make five loaves and five fishes. Why, it would just cover the country. Well, it was the same way then. These things just went out by word of mouth. So, these non-Jewish Gentiles here had heard about Jesus and all of His miracles and so forth. All right, verse 21.
“The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee,…” All right, now, logically, here’s this humongous crowd of Jews, thousands and thousands of them. How do you suppose these three foreigners knew to go to that man over there? How’d they know that Philip was the guy to ask? Well. use common sense? What would you do? Well, you start asking. You know, I’m one of those dumb men that doesn’t mind a bit to stop and ask where I’m at when I get lost. Most men don’t want to do that, I know that, but I’m not afraid to swallow my pride. When I get lost, I pull into some place, jump out, and say, okay, where am I? Where am I going?
Same way here. These men were not afraid to ask around where is this Jesus that’s been performing all these miracles up and down Israel? Sooner or later, somebody must have said, well, there’s one of His followers. And that’s the way I want you to study Scripture. Just analyze it. What must have happened here? So, somebody said, well, there’s one of His followers, go ask him. So, that’s what it says, “they came and asked Philip who was of Bethsaida of Galilee.” And what did they ask him?
“…Sir, we would see Jesus.” That’s plain enough isn’t it? All right, now then, the next statement, unless you know a little bit of His early days of ministry you don’t know what they’re driving at.
“Philip cometh and telleth Andrew:…” Now, are you going to stop and analyze it, or are you just going to read on and just get half the story? Well, you’d better stop. What in the world do you suppose Philip tells Andrew? Are you getting with me? Well, Philip tells Andrew, there’s Gentiles over here. They want to talk to the Lord Jesus, and we know that He won’t have anything to do with them. How did they know that? Because at the beginning of His ministry He told them – “Go not into the way of a Gentile, into the house of a Samaritan enter ye not, but go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And these two men hadn’t forgotten that.
So, they were in a quandary. What were they going to do? These guys are Gentiles and they want to see Jesus, and they knew how He felt about Gentiles. So, they probably hashed it over for a minute or two and finally they said what? Well, let’s go tell Him. See, that’s what you have to do with Scripture, and then it gets so interesting.
“and again Andrew and Phillip tell Jesus.” All right, read on. Well, what do they tell Him? There’s Gentiles out here that want to see You. Do you see that? Now then, you’ve got to read between the lines some more.
“And Jesus answered them, saying, (See, Jesus doesn’t say a word here in red about these Gentiles. He doesn’t say a word about Philip and Andrew being remiss or correct them. He just simply comes out and says–) The hour is come, (Like I said – 72 hours.) that the Son of man should be glorified. 24. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn (or a kernel) of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
What in the world was He talking about? Well, unless you know Scripture, it doesn’t make sense. But He’s driving home the fact that He couldn’t talk to those Gentiles out there until He had finished the work of the cross. Like a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, He had to be put into the tomb for three days and three nights. He had to go through death. And through death what happened? New life! It’s a fact of nature. You can’t get away from it. Every spring it’s all around us. Resurrection power! Everything is coming to life that’s been dead.
Every farmer knows that if you’re going to get a crop you can’t leave the seed in the bag in the machine shed, you’d better get it out there and plant it. Well, it’s the same way spiritually. We’ve got to get out there, and we’ve got to convince people they will never see heaven until they die to the Old Adam and are raised to new life by the power of the cross. That’s what Jesus is alluding to. That unless that kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will never spring up and bear a hundred kernels. But see, you’ve got to read so much in between the lines! Otherwise, it’s just so many empty words. That’s what I mean by taking the Scriptures and learning how to study.