“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 3)

[For the explanation and illustration (animated short) of C/E Spiritual Theory, please see here.  For previous posts in this “Scriptural Case Study”, please see Part 1 and Part 2.]

[Listen to Part 3 here.]

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As we look further at Paul’s apostolic reproof and re-centering of the ekklesia in Corinth through the lens of C/E Spiritual Theory, we come next to the contrasting attributes of balance and distortion.  We will pick up where we left off in 1 Corinthians and take a look at a few passages of Paul’s discourse as it continues in chapter 3.

After taking a chapter and a half to focus on wisdom and power, Paul then returned in chapter 3 to address more fully the inordinate exalting of the Lord’s servants as the visible rallying points of the various schisms within the ekklesia of Corinth.  He continued:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.  I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal.

For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?  For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
(1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

What is all but impossible to ignore in these first four verses of chapter 3 is how Paul unashamedly declared these believers and their schismatic propensities as “carnal.”   [He uses the word “carnal” (Gk. = “sarkikos”) four times in a mere three verses (vs. 1, 3, & 4.)]  That degree of concentration on one word in such a short space ought to arrest our attention.

To begin to give it the attention it deserves, then, let us take out the “magnifying glass” of C/E Spiritual Theory and see how these matters of carnality, schism, balance, and distortion come into focus when looked at through it.

As a result of the fall, the natural man is essentially SELF-centered and, therefore, is essentially “eccentric” in nature.   As a result, fallen humanity, both individually and collectively, is corrupted in its constitution and therefore readily embodies and expresses the fruit of eccentricity: disunity, diminishment, distortion, and defilement.  When it comes to “spiritual” matters, then, the “carnal” man tends toward divisiveness, party spirit, religious biases, and sectarian pride.

On the other hand, through the redemptive work of Christ, the “spiritual” man is essentially God-centered in nature.  As a result, redeemed humanity, both individually and collectively, is constituted so as to (super-)naturally embody and express the fruit of Christocentricity: unity, fullness, balance, and purity.  When it comes to spiritual matters, then, the “spiritual” man, tends toward reconciliation, magnanimity, spiritual impartiality, and collective humility.

When the ekklesia of God, therefore, fails to embody and express the unifying fruits of Christocentricity and manifests instead the divisive fruits of eccentricity, it proves itself to be “carnal” rather than “spiritual.”  As such, it’s fallen, SELF-centered orientation  represents a clear distortion of its redeemed, CHRIST-centered constitution, character, and calling.  This is what we see had developed in Corinth and so Paul did not hold back in his declaration and denunciation of their divisive practices as “carnal.”

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Paul continued on in chapter 3:

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (vs. 5-7)

Here we see a specific example of the kind of distortion that springs from spiritual eccentricity.  Looking again through the lens of C/E Spiritual Theory, we understand that whenever some secondary aspect takes on super-significance so as to rival Christ in His unrivaled centrality and preeminence, distortion takes place beginning with that newly elevated “vector-point.”

Subsequently, as a new “circle” forms and shifts over around this new “centerpoint”, distortion works its way outwardly to the circumference as all “vector-points” twist and orient to the new center.  These vector-points also shift in their degree of “weightedness” according to their newly adjusted proximity to the new “centerpoint” so that systemic spiritual imbalance likewise becomes integral to the distortion of the new “circle.”

Those surrounding vector-points that are now closest to the new “centerpoint” increase in their “weightedness” more than the others and thus take on a highly-elevated significance of their own.  These hyper-inflated points often represent tangible outward things which are esteemed simply for their being the means through which the unseen, deeper eccentricities are manifested.  Because “…man looks on the outward appearance…” (1 Samuel 16:7), these outward things can become collectively esteemed and embraced as the tangible rallying points and unifying identities of those who are inwardly attracted to the deeper eccentricities that they embody and express.

I suggest this is what had taken place in Corinth with the servants of the Lord, Paul, Apollos, and Cephas.   Paul’s purpose in this section, then, was to re-center and reorient the Corinthians believers back onto their true Center and to reestablish the actual significance of these men according to God’s true “weighting” of them, thus restoring proper spiritual balance.

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When it comes to spiritual balance, one last aspect of the situation in Corinth should be noted.  If we look for a moment at the concluding verses of chapter 3, we are given a hint of the spiritual balance that God had intended and indeed provided for the ekklesia there:

“Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come–all are yours.  And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”  (1 Corinthian 3:21-23)

In this statement, we notice that “Paul”, “Apollos”, and “Cephas” are each equally commended as belonging to all of the saints in Corinth.  If we take into consideration what has been shared earlier in this “case study” concerning these three men, as well as an additional consideration regarding Paul, we will see how God had truly provided to the saints in Corinth a full and balanced supply of Christ in and through these men.

As was shared in Part 2, Paul was well-balanced in his person and ministry whereas Apollos and Cephas were more accentuated in their strengths and weaknesses.  Apollos weighed in more heavily on the wisdom side of things while Cephas (Peter) on the power side.

In addition to what Paul himself contributed of his own measure of wisdom and power to the saints in Corinth, he also weighed in heavily on another facet of the nature and work of God, love.  We see this highlighted in particular in chapter 13 of this epistle (sometimes called “the love chapter.”)  Love is an essential virtue that if it is not found in unity and balance with the others, renders all else as “nothing” (see 1 Corinthians 13:2.)

Wisdom, power, and love are, as it were, the “primary colors” of the nature and work of God.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  When the Ekklesia is fashioned according to Christ in all things, it too possesses these “primary color virtues” in unity, fullness, balance, and purity.

This is what God intended for the ekklesia of Corinth.  In the servants that He had caused to have the greatest impact upon her, we see a balanced heavenly provision of love, wisdom, and power embodied and expressed primarily through Paul, Apollos, and Cephas respectively.  If the saints had remained truly Christ-centered, they would have received each one of these servants for who they were and what they had to supply.  The ekklesia there would have thus been marked by unity rather than division, fullness rather than limitation, balance rather than incongruity, and purity rather than carnality.

What God had intended for the unified embodiment of the blessed fruit of Christocentricity, the believers turned into splintered expressions of the cursed fruit of spiritual eccentricity.

This is what Paul labored so intensively in order to eradicate within these believers in these opening chapters of 1 Corinthians.

And still, he was not done…

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We have one section of 1 Corinthians 3 left to consider, verses 8 through 20, and, according to “C/E Spiritual Theory”, one contrasting-fruit-couplet to explore as well: purity/defilement.  I do believe Paul saved His most convincing and convicting counsels for last!  Please stay tuned for his “grand finale”…

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 4)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 1)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” main page: C/EST

The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)
Centrality and Balance

About David

Following Him who is the Way; learning of Him who is the Truth; living by Him who is the Life. - John 14:6
This entry was posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Christ-Centered Unity, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Ekklesia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to “C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 3)

  1. Lloyd says:

    Amen, David!

    Liked by 1 person

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