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Bible Commentaries

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
1 Corinthians 3

 

 

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Verses 1-23

Let"s turn now to I Corinthians, chapter3.

Beginning with the fourteenth verse of chapter2 , Paul here separates men into three classifications. Starting in chapter2with the natural man, the unregenerate man, the man who knows not Jesus Christ. And concerning him, he said, "He cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned." So the natural man in darkness, not able to see, not able to know the things of God.

In realizing this, in praying for those who are not saved, it is important to realize that Satan, as Paul said, the god of this world has blinded their eyes that they cannot see the truth. So they cannot receive, neither can they know, because Satan has blinded them to the truth of God. And as Paul said to Timothy, "That we might take them from the captivity of the enemy who is holding them captive against their wills" ( 2 Timothy 2:26 ).

So the direction of our prayers for the natural man would be that God would open their eyes to the truth, that God would deliver them from that power of Satan by which they are held, that blindness that Satan has brought over their minds concerning God, and that Satan"s work be bound in order that they might be freed and become a free moral agent capable, then, of receiving Jesus Christ.

It is a misnomer to declare that the natural man is a free moral agent. He is furthest from free moral agency. He is bound and he is blinded by the power of darkness. And so the thrust of the prayers are to deliver him from this power of darkness to make him a free moral agent, in order that he might believe.

Now in contrast to the natural man, you have the spiritual man. And Paul says, "But he that is spiritual understands or discerns all things though he is not understood by men. For who hath known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him, but we have the mind of Christ" ( 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 ).

So the spiritual man is a man whose mind is now controlled by the Spirit. Man, a threefold being: body, soul, spirit. If the body is uppermost, then your mind is controlled by the body needs and is occupied by your body needs and you have what Paul calls in Romans 8:1-39 , "the mind of the flesh" or "the carnal mind which is enmity against God, neither can it know Him."

When a person is born again by the Spirit of God he becomes spirit, soul and body. And when the spirit is uppermost, then you have the mind of the Spirit, the mind that is under the control of the Spirit, as Paul said here, "We have the mind of Christ." Now as we get into chapter3 , Paul introduces us to a third classification.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual ( 1 Corinthians 3:1 ),

Now he"s talking to those in Corinth, those in the church in Corinth, those who are presumably born again. And yet, they are not spiritual, for he says, "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual,

but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ ( 1 Corinthians 3:1 ).

Now the issue arises, and people often question, is it possible to be a carnal Christian? A carnal Christian is one who has received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, but does not yet have victory over the flesh and thus, still walks, many times, under the control of the flesh. He does believe, he has received Jesus as his Savior, but not as his Lord, for the flesh is still ruling over him. And he needs deliverance from that power of the flesh that has a hold on his life. So Paul describes this as the conditions of those in Corinth.

He cannot talk to them as spiritual, for they are still carnal, but he does call them babes in Christ. And so he acknowledges that they are in Christ, but unfortunately, they are babes. There is a natural development and growth physically even as there is and should be a natural development and growth spiritually. There is a time when being a babe in Christ is a beautiful, glorious thing. I love to see natural babes in Christ.

To me it"s beautiful when a person has just come to the realization that Jesus is Lord and their sins are washed away. And that enthusiasm, that love, that excitement that they have for the things of the Spirit, it"s just something that"s glorious to behold. And they"re just fun to be around because the things of the Lord are just so exciting to them at that point, babes in Christ. But there is also a necessity of growing up into a fully matured relationship.

There are many marks of the babe in Christ, and Paul gives to us some of the marks. First of all, they need to be fed with milk because they are not able to endure the meat of the Word of God. So their first relationship is extremely experience-oriented. And thus, as they relate their experiences, they are usually relating them to the feelings that they have of excitement, of joy, of thrill as they come into the spiritual dimension, and for the first time begin to really discern or understand the things of the Spirit.

But as we grow and as we develop spiritually, it is God"s desire that we come into a full maturity, as Paul the apostle declared to the Ephesians that they might come into that perfect man. And the word perfect is fully matured, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of the image of Christ. And so it is God"s will that we grow up spiritually into the image of Jesus Christ as we become fully matured.

Now, when a baby is a baby and is supposed to be a baby, it is a beautiful, lovely sight. I don"t know of anything that can tug at the heart of a person more than a baby. And the first words of a baby are always so exciting. The first time that your little children say, "da da," and they know what they are saying is a thrilling experience. I"ll never forget. We were living in Tucson behind the church. And it was a Sunday evening. And we just had one big room that we partitioned off with curtains and Jan"s crib was in the room there with us. And I think Kay was already out in church and I was going into the closet to grab my coat and Jan was over in her crib, and she said, "da da." And I yelled, I turned, I screamed, and I said "What did you say? What was that?" But of course she wouldn"t repeat it. But she had the cutest, most knowing smile on her face like, "I said it," and from that time on she started calling me Da Da. But I could hardly wait to get a hold of Kay and tell her that our baby said, "da da," just as plain as could be. And it was always such a thrill in the morning to wake up and to look over to the crib. And when she"d wake up she"d say, "da da," and I loved it.

But now if I should go over to her house and I find her lying there in bed and giving me that beautiful smile and saying, "da da," it wouldn"t thrill at this point. It would pain. Because you see, naturally she should have developed and matured, which, of course, she has. And it is thrilling to sit down with her and just to share with her, because she has such keen insights on so many things. But our communication now is on a much higher plane. And it should be, because in the process of time there should be the maturation, the development.

Now, when a person first is born again by the Spirit of God and they are spiritual babes, babes in Christ, it"s just always beautiful to behold, that fresh work of the Spirit of God in their lives. But, if after fifteen years, twenty years, they"re still in the crib state, they haven"t matured, they haven"t developed in their spiritual growth or maturity, then it is painful and it is tragic to behold. It is important that we grow up.

Now Paul said they were carnal, and because of that they weren"t able to take the meat of the Word of God. They were interested only still in milk.

Another mark of their carnality,

was the envying, and the strife, and the divisions ( 1 Corinthians 3:3 ),

That existed among them. Envy, strife, divisions, marks of carnality, and Paul said as long as these exist,

are ye not carnal and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are you not carnal? ( 1 Corinthians 3:3-4 )

This party spirit or denominational spirit is a mark of carnality, to refuse to recognize the whole body of Christ. To break down the denominational barriers and be able to love another man even though he is a Baptist, or even though he is a Nazarene, or even though he is a Presbyterian. To be able to accept him as a brother in Jesus Christ is so important. That I not see these differences. And it is tragic to me that so many people, rather than identifying themselves with Jesus Christ, identify themselves with a particular church that they attend. "Are you a Christian?" "Oh, I"m a Baptist." "Are you a Christian?" "Well, I"m a Presbyterian." "Are you a Christian?" "Oh, I"m a Catholic." I think that"s tragic. Rather than being able to identify with Jesus Christ. "Are you a Christian?" "You bet your life." "What church do you belong to?" "His church." "When did you join?" "I was born into it by the Spirit of God." To see the whole body of Christ.

The fierce dividing of the body into these quadrants is a mark of carnality. "Some say, "I"m of Paul," some say, "I"m of Apollos."" Paul said,

Who is Paul? who is Apollos? they are only servants by whom ye believe, even as the Lord gave to every man ( 1 Corinthians 3:5 ).

They are only the instruments that God used to bring you to a faith.

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but it is God who gives the increase ( 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ).

So Paul said, "Who am I? Who is Apollos? We are only instruments that God used. You shouldn"t identify with us. You should identify with the Lord. It is God who gave life. All I did was plant seed, all Apollos did was water seed. All we were is instruments that God used to bring to you salvation. But it is God who gave to you your life and thus, you should identify with Him."

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one ( 1 Corinthians 3:8 ):

Apollos and I are one. Why are you trying to create a division? We are one.

and every man will receive his own reward according to that labor ( 1 Corinthians 3:8 ).

So Paul will receive his reward for planting. Apollos will receive his reward for watering. And that is the beautiful thing about serving the Lord, He does reward us for that work that we do, not for the results of the work, because the results belong to Him.

So I"m on a salary, I"m not commissioned at all. I"m not paid with a commission. I"m only salaried by the Lord to teach His Word; whatever comes of it is His and it"s for His glory.

I cannot produce fruit in your life. All I can do is teach you the Word of God, water really. And maybe someone else has planted the seed, but here we are watering, cultivating, in some cases planting, great. But it"s the work of God that counts. It"s God who brings life and gives life to the Word, and thus, I just receive the reward for that which I have done, and I receive the reward whether or not anything comes of it, because I"ve been faithful to do what God called me to do.

And that"s the thing that we need to really realize: that God rewards us for the work that He"s called us to do, not for the results of that work. Sometimes we feel so discouraged, because, "I"ve witnessed to so many people, then none ever believe, you know. I haven"t been able to lead one person to Jesus Christ and I"ve talked to so many." Hey, it doesn"t matter. As far as your reward is concerned, God only asked you to talk to them.

God didn"t commission us to argue people into a faith in Jesus Christ, to get into disputes with people over the inerrancy of the Bible or whatever. I find it rather pathetic that we so often are placed in the position of defending the Word of God. God didn"t call you to defend His Word. God called you to use His Word.

If you were in a duel and you pulled your sword out of the sheath, you wouldn"t say, "Now, you be careful, this sword is the sharpest sword in the world, you know. It can cut the hair on my arm, you know, and it"s the singing sword," or whatever. "And it"s the finest steel," and everything else. You"re not going to defend your sword, you"re going to use it. Don"t defend the Word of God, just use it. The Lord will do the work.

Paul, speaking of Apollos and himself, said,

We are laborers together with God ( 1 Corinthians 3:9 ):

"You see, I planted, Apollos watered, but we are, both of us, working together with God." And that, to me, is always a glorious concept, to realize that I am a worker with God, co-laboring with God in His harvest field. You are God"s husbandry, plantings, the vines. Jesus said, "I am the true vine, my Father is the husbandman, every branch in Me that bringeth forth fruit . . . "

So really,

you are God"s husbandry ( 1 Corinthians 3:9 ),

He is cultivating your life in order that you might bring forth fruit for His glory. And then he goes on to say,

you are God"s building ( 1 Corinthians 3:9 ).

You are the work of God. You"re not the work of Chuck Smith or of Pastor Romaine or of any other pastor here. You are the work of God. It is God that has worked in your life through His Word. And so he who plants is nothing, he who waters is nothing, but it is God who gives life and brings increase. And so,

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereon ( 1 Corinthians 3:10 ).

"I planted; you are God"s building." So he takes it from the farm to construction, from the field to a building now. "I planted. Apollos watered. I laid the foundation. Apollos came and build upon that foundation. For you are the building of God." But he warns, "Let every man take heed how he builds thereon."

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ ( 1 Corinthians 3:11 ).

Now the church is the building of God that has been built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. And no other foundation can any man lay than that which is laid.

It is a sad error of the Catholic Church to declare that Peter is the foundation upon which the church was built. Taking Matthew"s gospel, chapter16 , where at Caesarea Philippi Jesus said, "Who do men say that I am?" And they began to say the current concepts that people had about Jesus.

Finally, Jesus said, "Who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Or, "You"re the Messiah. You"re the Son of the living God." And Jesus said, "Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto you, that you are Petros [you"re a little stone], and upon this petra [the rock] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" ( Matthew 16:16-18 ).

So the rock upon which the church was built, the Catholics say, was Peter. He is the foundation. Not so. Jesus said, "You are Petros [a little stone], upon this petra I will build my church." What is the petra, the rock upon which the church was built? The confession of Peter that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. That"s the foundation upon which the church was built, as Paul here declares, "No other foundation can any man lay than that which has already been laid, which is Jesus Christ."

He is the foundation of the church. He is the one upon whom the church is built. But, we must be careful even how we build on that foundation.

Now if any man build upon this foundation of gold, and silver, and precious stones, or wood, hay, and stubble; every man"s work shall be manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man"s work what sort it is. If any man"s work abide which he hath built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man"s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire ( 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ).

Christ, the foundation upon which the church is being built. Paul acknowledges that there are some who are building with wood, hay, and stubble. Others are building with gold, silver, and precious stones. But there is a day that is coming in which the building is to be tested. It"s to be tested by fire, and when that day of testing comes, then it will be manifested, the materials that were used in the building.

Now, I do believe that many of the great religious systems today have been built with wood, hay, and stubble. I believe that we are living in an age when somehow we have lost true faith in God and in the ability of Jesus Christ to do what He said He was going to do. For He said to Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church." But somehow we"ve come to the idea that He cannot build His church without our help and our genius.

And so we"re going to help the Lord build His church. And we"re going to have fundraising campaigns, and we"re going to develop tremendous programs whereby we"re going to help the Lord build His church, because surely He wants to build His church, but He can"t do it without our genius and our helping Him.

And so we go to Madison Avenue and we study their techniques. We study how to write a psychologically enticing letter that will encourage the person to immediately sit down and respond to our appeal. "And I"ll trace my hand upon a napkin, and when you get it you put it on your forehead and pray. And if you send me one hundred dollars, you can get whatever you need." That oughta be good for a hundred bucks from these poor simple little people who can"t think for themselves. Gimmicks.

Oh, how I long for the day of purity within the church again. That kind of purity when Ananias and Sapphira came in with a pretense and they got snuffed by the power of the Spirit of God. That kind of purity that when the tabernacle was set up and they began the worship, when the two sons of Aaron took false fire and went in to offer it before the Lord, the fire from the altar consumed them.

There"s a lot of false fire today being offered before the Lord: wood, hay, stubble. One day it is all to be tested by the fire, and much of the work that has been done in the name of Jesus Christ is going to be consumed and perish. Be careful how you build on the foundation. Make sure that you are using gold, silver, precious stones. We"re the building of God. The church is the building of God. Christ the foundation, but be careful how you build. The day will come when it will be tested, our works, what sort they are.

You remember Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, chapter6 , "Take heed to yourself that you do not your righteousness before men to be seen of man." In other words, take heed that you"re not doing things in such a way as to receive the recognition and the reward from man. For He said unto you, "You have your reward." So when you pray, don"t make a big public demonstration of it. Don"t be always telling others about it so that they know what a prayer warrior you are. For Jesus said, "You have your reward." When you give, don"t do it in such a public demonstration that everybody knows what you gave, for you have your reward. When you fast, don"t put on the appearance of sackcloth and ashes and long mournful faces so that everybody knows how spiritual you are because you fast.

But do these things rather to your Father, before your Father, in secret before Him, and you"ll receive your reward from Him. But Jesus is saying that in the acknowledgment that you receive from man in doing things in a public display, that will be the only reward that you"ll get from them, that which comes from man. So our works will be judged, what sort they are as the motives of our hearts will be judged when we stand before God.

Now, a lot of beautiful, marvelous things that are done, we will be shocked when we realize the motive behind those things. You know, I"ve done some things that just really, totally failed. I mean, it was just a total flop. But yet, the motive of my heart was right. So it isn"t really so much what I"ve done, but what was the motive behind what I did.

Now Paul goes from the building to the individual,

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God ( 1 Corinthians 3:16 ),

Two Greek words for temple, the word hieron referred to the entire temple complex. It included the buildings, the courts, the porches, even the temple mount. Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, the hieron.

The other Greek word for temple is naos, which is the inner sanctuary, the holy place. It is the word that Jesus used when the Pharisees asked for a sign and He said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it again." He used the word naos, this inner sanctuary, this holy place.

"You," Paul said, "are the naos of God." The inner sanctuary was the place of divine activity. That"s where God revealed Himself to man. That"s where man came into a relationship with God, for the Shekinah dwelt in the naos, in that inner sanctuary. "You," Paul said, "are the naos of God." Therefore, your life becomes the center of divine activity. Your life is the instrument through which God reveals Himself to man today. Your life is the dwelling place of God, your body.

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God,"

and that the Spirit of God is dwelling in you? ( 1 Corinthians 3:16 )

Every believer in Jesus Christ has the Spirit of God dwelling in him. The moment you ask Jesus Christ to come into your life, the Spirit of God begins to indwell you. Paul said, "Don"t you know you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God is dwelling in you?" And then he goes on to declare,

If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy ( 1 Corinthians 3:17 );

Now in the sixth chapter he tells us some of the ways by which the temple of God can be defiled, as he tells us there your body is the naos of God. And if I commit fornication, Paul said I am then sinning against my body, my body, the temple of God, member of Jesus Christ, joined unto Him.

And if I then join it unto a harlot, I am actually bringing Christ into participation in that relationship, sinning against the body, defiling the temple of God. And the warning here is, "He who defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy." I believe that we need to honor and respect our bodies as the temple of God. I believe that we should take care of our bodies. I believe that we should seek to eat nutritious food. I think that we should stay away from junk food as much as possible, because I believe that we can defile the temple of God with harmful food products and other harmful things.

But basically, though it isn"t primarily physical, but spiritual defiling of the temple of God, it is important that we keep ourselves pure and holy. "For if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy;"

for the temple of God [the naos of God] is holy, which temple ye are ( 1 Corinthians 3:17 ).

So it is a call to a holy, righteous life.

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he might be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God: for it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness ( 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 ).

There is a growing realization that science is a hoax and that men of science are guilty of, many times, perpetrating hoaxes as they are supposedly dealing with absolutes. And science is supposed to be the accumulation of absolutes and facts.

But one of the greatest to arise, Einstein, said, "There is nothing that is absolute; it"s all relative." And so there is quite an interesting movement now among the intellectuals, as again, we"re beginning to discover that not all science is science and that there"s a lot of hoax in scientific circles.

Now, to me the biggest hoax that men, supposedly of science, are trying to perpetrate upon people is that of the theory of evolution. Supposedly a scientific theory, very credible, and every science accepts it as fact according to those who espouse it so heartily. Even though there are many scientists who are arising now and say, "Wait a minute. There are too many gaps, unexplainable things here." And evolution is not a satisfactory explanation of the existence of life.

But there are men who claim to be scientists who are trying to perpetrate the hoax of evolution upon society. And, admittedly, they have been quite successful in the perpetration of this hoax. But it"s not science at all. It doesn"t really possess the necessary empirical evidence to prove it as a science.

They have not yet demonstrated how that in a closed system you can have a spontaneous generation of life. In fact, we have billions of evidences that show that you cannot have spontaneous generation of life within a closed system. Now, think for a moment, if life could be spawned in a closed system, every time you went to the store and bought a can of sardines, or tuna, or peaches, or whatever, you would never know what might come out of that closed system of the spontaneous generation of life within it.

There you have a closed system, there you have billions and billions and billions of cans of goods that have been sold, and we have confidence in the inability of a closed system to spontaneously generate life, and so we do can our foods, and we seal them up in order that they might be preserved in that state, in order that life forms may not form within it.

Now, unfortunately, there are times when they were not correctly sealed, or they were not correctly sterilized and life forms can develop in them. And when we were working in the market, quite often in the dog food we would find there was a spontaneous generation of life. And whenever the cans would be puffed and pushing out at the end, we"d always toss them back for the salesman when he came, to give them back to him, because somehow it wasn"t sterilized completely when they canned it, and there was this formation going on inside that was pushing out the ends of the can. And every once in a while you"d get one that would pop in the box and you"d have to send the whole box back because it would just explode and get all over the rest of the cans.

Yet, it"s being offered to us as scientific fact. It"s a hoax in the name of science. And, "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. He takes the wise in their own craftiness."

And again, The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are empty. Therefore let no man glory in men ( 1 Corinthians 3:20-21 ):

Now Paul is saying, "Don"t glory in Paul, don"t glory in Apollos, don"t glory in man. Man at his best is an empty show. The thoughts of the wise are empty. Don"t glory in men."

for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ"s; and Christ is God"s ( 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ).

So I can learn and I can gain from Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, or whoever else. Everyone has something to offer. Of course, with some you"ve got to sift through so much before you find something that"s worthwhile, that it"s easier just not to listen.

But all things are yours, and so learn to gain from the whole world around you.

"

 


Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.

Bibliography Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:4". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/1-corinthians-3.html. 2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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