Christianity must ever remain mission-minded, seeking to save souls, lest it lose its saltiness. Clear standards and expectations of progress are necessary and reasonable in order to achieve practical gains. Spreading the Gospel must always come before seeking self-fulfillment and, non-coincidentally, those who lovingly spread the Gospel will experience the most fulfillment.
All Christians must beware not to squander the gifts they have received or neglect the responsibilities that come with their faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is God’s gift to the believer and He provides additional gifts in order that one might cooperate with Him, repent, genuinely love Him and evangelize.
The Corinthian Church contains individuals at various stages of immaturity, whereas a vibrant Christian community contains a mixture of mature veterans and immature new-comers. After accepting the gift of salvation and numerous spiritual charisms, Paul upbraids the Corinthians for letting let the cares of the world distract them from living a mission-minded faith. Additionally, they have not put to death the desires of their fleshly minds and act like busybodies who point fingers at others but never examine their own lives. Paul knows that these men are not wholly un-spiritual, but are spiritual men acting upon the desires of their flesh. In contrast, a genuine Christian spirituality is a life lived in regular experience with the Holy Spirit.
He writes, "But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not 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 like ordinary men?" (1 Cor 3:1-3) Wrapping themselves in their human leaders Paul and Apollos, they withhold honor due only to God who alone provides the Christian’s growth (cf v 4). Paul understands that he is but a humble servant who thankfully responds well to God’s grace by grace. Mindful that no one can earn his salvation, he knows laborers for the Kingdom will receive wages according to their works (cf v 8).
Jesus Christ Himself is the only foundation upon which the Church can be built (cf v 13, Eph 4, 1 Pet). To the extend they do this, the work of the Christian will be made manifest on the Day of Judgment (cf v 14-15). The man whose work is unworthy and is "burned up" will "suffer loss, though he himself will be saved" after a period of purgation (v 15). All Christians must see themselves as they truly are and fess up to their sins, whether this revelation occur in this world or in purgatory.
Music: La Zabarella from the album Italian Music of the 17th Century, performed by Altri Stromenti. www.magnatune.com