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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
1 Corinthians 3

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 3:1. κἀγώ, ἀδελφοί: The Ap. returns to the strain of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, speaking now not in general terms of ἡμεῖς, οἱ τέλειοι, etc.; but definitely of the Cor(455) and himself. They demonstrate, unhappily, the incapacity of the unspiritual for spiritual things. The καὶ carries us back to 1 Corinthians 2:14 : “A natural man does not receive the things of God …, and I (accordingly) could not utter (them) to you as to spiritual (men), but as to men of flesh”. Yet the Cor(456) were not ψυχικοί (see note, 1 Corinthians 2:14). For λαλῆσαι, see 1 Corinthians 2:6; and on the receptivity of the πνευματικός, 1 Corinthians 2:13 ff. Cf. Romans 8:5-9 : οἱ κατὰ πνεῦμα ὄντες τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος φρονοῦσιν.—( οὐκὡς πνευματικοῖς), ἀλλʼ ὡς σαρκίνοις: “on the contrary, (I was obliged to speak to you) as to men of flesh”—grammatical zeugma, as well as breviloquence: the affirmative “I was able,” carried over from the negative clause οὐκ ἠδυνήθην, passes into the kindred “I was obliged,” that is necessarily understood (cf. Ephesians 4:29); 1 Corinthians 3:7, 1 Corinthians 7:19, 1 Corinthians 10:24, are similarly expressed, without the zeugma.— σάρκινος (see parls.) differs from σαρκικός (1 Corinthians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 9:11, etc.) as carneus from carnalis, fleischern from fleischlich (as leathern from leathery)—- ινος implying nature and constitution ( ἐν σαρκὶ εἶναι), - ικὸς tendency or character ( κατὰ σάρκα εἶναι). So σάρκινος is associated with νηπιότης, σαρκικὸς with ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις: see Trench, Syn(457), § lxx. The distinction is one of standpoint, not of degree: in the σάρκινος the original “flesh” remains (a sort of excuse, as in Romans 7:14); the σαρκικὸς manifests its disposition. Both words may, or may not (1 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 3:3), connote the sinful, according to the σὰρξ in question.

The apposed ὡς νηπίοις ἐν χριστῷ softens, almost tenderly, the censure: the Cor(458) are “in Christ”; they possess, in a measure, His Spirit; but they are “babes in Christ,” not fairly grown out of “the flesh” (cf. Galatians 5:13-18); the new nature in them is still confronted with the old. The νήπιοι are the opp(459) of the τέλειοι (1 Corinthians 2:6; see other parls.). “I could not” suggests that Paul had attempted to carry his Cor(460) converts further, but had failed.


Verses 1-5

1 Corinthians 3:1-5. § 12. CHRIST’S SERVANTS ANSWERABLE TO HIMSELF. The Ap. has shown his readers their own true position—so high and yet so lowly (§ 11); Paul, Apollos, Cephas are but part of a universe of ministry that waits upon them. But more is to be said about the Christian leaders, whose names are sc much abused at Cor(629) If the Church is to understand its proper character, it must reverence theirs. They are its servants; it is not their master. They are its property, because they are Christ’s property; and His instruments first of all. P. thus resumes the train of thought opened in § 10, where the work of Church-builders was discriminated in relation to the building; now it is viewed in its relation to God the Householder. Here lies another and the final ground of accusation against the Cor(630) parties: those who maintained them, in applauding this chief and censuring that, were putting themselves into Christ’s judgment-seat, from which the Apostle thrusts them down.


Verse 2

1 Corinthians 3:2. “(Since you were babes), I gave you milk to drink, not meat:” a common figure for the simpler and more solid forms of instruction contrasted (see parls.). The teaching of 1 Thess. (see 1 Corinthians 2:7 f.) is γάλα as compared with the βρῶμα of Rom. or Coloss.; so the Synoptics, in comparison with the Fourth Gospel. The zeugma ἐπότισαβρῶμα is natural in Paul’s conversational style; see 1 Corinthians 9:7, per contra.— οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε: “for not yet (while I was with you) were you equal to it”. This absolute use of δύναμαι (= δυνατός εἰμι) is cl(461), but h.l(462) for the N.T.; the tense impf(463), of continued state.


Verse 3

1 Corinthians 3:3. ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε: “Nay, but not even yet (after this further interval), at the present time, are you strong enough (immo ne nunc quidem adhuc potestis, Bz(466)), for you are yet carnal”. For ἔτι, cf. 1 Corinthians 15:17, Galatians 1:10; Galatians 5:11; for σαρκικοί, see note on σάρκινοι (1). The Cor(467) are weak (otherwise than in 1 Corinthians 10:28) just where they think themselves strong (1 Corinthians 8:1), viz., in spiritual apprehension; their gifts of “word and knowledge” are a source of weakness, through the conceit and strife they engender. The ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ clause, with its strong disjunctives, is better joined to 1 Corinthians 3:3 (Al(468), W.H(469), Sm(470)) than to 1 Corinthians 3:2. The foregoing οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε sufficiently explained the οὐκ ἠδυνήθην of Paul’s previous ministry (1); οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε describes the present condition of the Cor(471) (1 Corinthians 3:3 f.). It is reluctantly and with misgiving that the Apostle later in the Ep. enters into deep doctrine ( βρῶμα, cf. note on 1 Corinthians 2:6).— ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν κ. τ. λ., “for where (not when, nor whereas—Vg(472) cum, Mr(473) quandoquidem) amongst you there is jealousy and strife”: this seems to limit the censure (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12; 1 Corinthians 15:34); the use of party-names was universal (1 Corinthians 1:12), but not due in all cases to ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις. Otherwise the ὅπου clause must be read as a general principle applied to the Cor(474) = ὅπου γὰρ ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις, ὡς ἐν ὑμῖν—a construction inconsistent with the position of ἐν ὑμῖν. So far as these evils exist, the readers are σαρκικοί, not πνευματικοί. For ἔρις, see note to 1 Corinthians 1:11; ζῆλος is the emulation, then envy, which is a chief cause of ἔρις. These are companion “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:20 : for the honourable sense of ζῆλος, prevailing in cl(475) Gr(476), see 2 Corinthians 7:7, etc.; also Trench, Syn(477), § xxvi.; zealous and jealous reproduce the diff(478)

Paul seems to hear the Cor(479) denying the allegation made in 3a, ἔτι σαρκικοί ἐστε, and so puts it to them again as a question prefaced by the reason (and limitation), ὅπου ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος, κ. τ. λ., and with the further challenge, οὐχίκαὶ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε; To “walk according to man” (non secundum Deum, humano more, Bg(480)) is to behave as men are apt to do—the σάρκινοι, the ψυχικοί. This Pauline phrase (confined to the epp. of this group) has κατὰ θεὸν for its tacit antithesis (cf. 4b); Mr(481)-Hn(482) quote the parl(483) καθʼ υἱοὺς τ. ἀνθρώπων εἶναι, Sir. 36:28 (Vg(484) 25; E.V(485) 23); also Soph., Ajax, 747, 764, κατʼ ἄνθρωπον φρονεῖν.


Verses 3-9

1 Corinthians 3:3-9. § 9. GOD’S RIGHTS IN THE CHURCH. One idea runs through this chapter and into the next,—that of God’s Church, God’s temple at Corinth, in whose construction so many various builders are engaged (1 Corinthians 3:5-17). For this building’s sake, and because it is His, God beats down the pride of human craft, making all things, persons, times, serve His people, while they serve Christ, as Christ serves God (1 Corinthians 3:18-23). To God His servants are responsible; it is His to judge and commend them (1 Corinthians 4:1-5). Thus the thought that the Gospel is “God’s power, God’s wisdom,” pursued since 1 Corinthians 1:18, is brought to bear upon the situation in Corinth. God who sends the message of the cross, admitting in its communication no mixture of human wisdom (ch. 1), chose and inspired His own instruments for its importation (ch. 2). What presumption in the Cor(464) parties to appropriate the diff(465) Christian leaders, and inscribe their names upon rival banners!


Verse 4

1 Corinthians 3:4 is parl(486) to 1 Corinthians 3:3. The protasis, ὅταν γὰρ κ. τ. λ., restates in concreto the charge made in ὅπου γὰρ κ. τ. λ.; while the interr(487) apodosis, οὐκ ἄνθρωποί ἐστε; gathers into a word the reproach of the foregoing οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε κ. τ. λ.: where and when the Cor(488) act in the manner stated, they justify P. in treating them as “carnal”. To say “Are you not men?” is at once to accuse and to excuse: see parls.; also ’adâm (mere man) as distinguished from ’îsh (Isaiah 2:9, etc.); cf. Xenoph., Anab., vi., 1. 26, ἐγώ, ἄνδρες, ἥδομαι μὲν ὑπὸ ὑμῶν τιμώμενος, εἴπερ ἄνθρωπός εἰμι; Cyrop., vii., 2. 4; and the familiar saying, Humanum est errare.— ὅταν γὰρ λέγῃ τις: “For whenever any one says” (pr(489) sbj(490) of recurring contingency); every such utterance shows you to be men. On ἐγὼπαύλου, see note to 1 Corinthians 1:12. The Ap. refers to the Pauline and Apollonian parties only: (1) Because they suffice, by way of example, to make good his point; (2) the main cause of strife, viz., the craving for λόγος σοφίας, lay between these two parties; (3) P. avoided bringing Cephas’ name into controversy, while he deals freely with that of his friend and disciple, Apollos, now with him (1 Corinthians 16:12).


Verse 5

1 Corinthians 3:5. The Cor(491) Christians were quarrelling over the claims of their teachers, as though the Church were the creature of men: “What therefore (I am compelled to ask) is Apollos? what, on the other side ( δέ), is Paul?”— τί is more emphatic than τίς; it breathes disdain; “as though Apollos or Paul were anything!” (Lt(492)). Abollos precedes, in continuation of 1 Corinthians 3:4. For both, the question is answered in one word— διάκονοι, “non autores fidei vestræ, sed ministri duntaxat” (Er(493)); cf. 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 4:5.: κύριος in the next clause is its antithesis. Paul calls himself διάκονος in view of specific service rendered (2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4, etc.), but δοῦλος in his personal relation to Christ (Galatians 1:10, etc.). “Through whose ministration you believed:” per quos, non in quos (Bg(494): cf. 1 Corinthians 1:15). To “believe” is the decisive act which makes a Christian (see 1 Corinthians 1:21); for the relation of saving faith to the Apostolic testimony, cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, etc. Some Cor(495) had been converted through Apollos.

The above-named are servants, each with his specific gift: καὶ ἑκάστῳ ὡς κύρ. κ. τ. λ., “and in each case, (servants in such sort) as the Lord bestowed (on him)”.— ἑκάστῳ is emphatically projected before the ὡς; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:17, Romans 12:3. The various disposition of Divine gifts in and for the Church is the topic of ch. 12. “The Lord” is surely Christ, as regularly in Paul’s dialect, “through whom are all things” (1 Corinthians 8:6, 1 Corinthians 12:5; Ephesians 4:7-12, etc.)—the sovereign Dispenser in the House of God; from “Jesus our Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:1) P. received his own commission; the Apostolic preachers are alike “ministers of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:1): so Thp(496), Rückert, Bt(497), Gd(498) However, Cm(499), and most modern exegetes, see God in κύριος on account of 1 Corinthians 3:6-9; but the relation of this ver. to the sequel is just that of the διʼ αὐτοῦ to the ἐξ αὐτοῦ τὰ πάντα of 1 Corinthians 8:6; cf. note on ἐξ αὐτοῦ, 1 Corinthians 1:30; and for the general principle, Matthew 25:14 ff.


Verse 6-7

1 Corinthians 3:6-7. The grammatical obj(500) of this sentence has been given by the foregoing context, viz., the Cor(501) Church of believers (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15).— φυτεύω Paul uses besides only in 1 Corinthians 9:7; his regular metaphor in this connexion is that of 1 Corinthians 3:10. “Planting” and “watering” happily picture the relative services of P. and Ap. ποτίζω, to give drink, to irrigate, may have for obj(502) men (1 Corinthians 3:2, 1 Corinthians 12:13, etc.), animals (Luke 13:15), or plants. In 1 Corinthians 3:2, Paul was the ποτίζων γάλα. The vb(503) takes a double acc(504), of person and thing (Wr(505), p. 284).—The ἀλλὰ of the last clause goes beyond a mere contrast ( δέ) between God and men in their several parts, excluding the latter from the essential part: “but God—He only, and no other—made it to grow”. The planting and watering of Christ’s servants were occasions for the exercise of God’s vitalising energy. While the former vbs. are aor(506), gathering up the work of the two ministers into single successive acts, ηὔξανεν is impf(507) of continued activity: “God was (all the while) making it to grow.” Several of the Ff(508)—Aug(509) e.g.—saw in ποτίζειν the baptism, in φυτεύειν the instruction of catechumens,—“illustrating a general fault of patristic exegesis, the endeavour to attach a technical sense to words in the N.T. which had not yet acquired this meaning” (Lt(510)).— ὥστε, itaque (and so, so then), with ind(511) (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:38, 1 Corinthians 11:27, 1 Corinthians 14:22), points out a result immediately flowing from what has been said: “the planter” and “the waterer,” in comparison with “the Lord” who dispensed their powers and “God” who makes their plants to grow, are reduced to nothing; “God who gives the growth” (qui dat vim crescendi, Bz(512)) alone remains. To the subject, αὐξάνων θεός, the predicate τὰ πάντα ἐστὶν is tacitly supplied from the negative clauses foregoing.—For ἐστίν τι (anything of moment), cf. Galatians 2:6; Galatians 6:3, Acts 5:36, and note on τὶ εἰδέναι, 1 Corinthians 2:2. The pr(513) ptp(514) with becomes, virtually, a (timeless) substantive—the planter, waterer, Increaser (Wr(515), p. 444).


Verse 8

1 Corinthians 3:8. In comparison with God, Ap. and P. are simply nothing (1 Corinthians 3:7): in relation to each other they are not rivals, as their Cor(516) favourers would make them (1 Corinthians 3:4): “But the planter and the waterer are one” ( ἕν, one thing)—with one interest and aim, viz., the growth of the Church; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:20; also John 10:30. Their functions are complementary, not competitive: a further answer to the question, τί οὖν ἐστὶν ἀπολλώς κ. τ. λ.; The servants of God are nothing before Him, “one thing” before His Church: vanity and variance are alike impossible.

While one in aim, they are distinct in responsibility and reward: “But each will get his own (proper) wage, according to his own toil”.— ἴδιος, appropriate, specific (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 15:28): “congruens iteratio, antitheton ad unum” (Bg(517)).— ἔργον (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) denotes the work achieved, κόπος the exertion put forth (see parls., and κοπιάω, 1 Corinthians 15:10, etc.): τί γὰρ εἰ ἔργον οὐκ ἐτέλεσεν;— ἐκοπίασεν δέ (Thp(518)). The contrast ἕν εἰσινἕκαστος δέ, between collective and individual relationships, is characteristic of Paul: cf. 1 Corinthians 12:5-11; 1 Corinthians 12:27, 1 Corinthians 15:10 f., Galatians 6:2-5, Romans 14:7-10. He forbids the man either to assert himself against the community or to merge himself in it. The fixed ratio between present labour in Christ’s service and final reward is set forth, diff(519) but consistently, in the two parables of the Talents and Pounds, Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:11-28.


Verse 9

1 Corinthians 3:9. θεοῦσυνεργοὶ sums up in two words, and grounds upon a broad principle ( γάρ), what 1 Corinthians 3:6 ff. have set out in detail: “we are God’s fellow-workmen”—employed upon His field, His building; and “we are God’s fellow-workmen”—labouring jointly at the same task. The συν- of συνεργοὶ takes up the ἕν εἰσιν of 1 Corinthians 3:8; the context (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:6) forbids our referring it to the dependent gen(520) (cf. also 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 6:1, Philippians 3:17, 3 John 1:8), as though P. meant “fellow-workers with God”: “the work (Arbeit) of the διάκονος would be improperly conceived as a Mit-arbeit in relation to God; moreover the metaphors which follow exclude the thought of such a fellow-working” (Hn(521)); also Bg(522), “operarii Dei, et co-operarii invicem”.

As in regard to the labourers, so with the objects of their toil, God is all and in all: θεοῦ γεώργιον, θεοῦ οἰκοδομή ἐστε, “God’s tilth (arvum, land for tillage, Ed(523)), God’s building you are”. For God as γεωργῶν, cf. John 15:1; as οἰκοδομῶν, Hebrews 3:4; Hebrews 11:10. “Of the two images, γεώργ. implies the organic growth of the Church, οἰκοδ. the mutual adaptation of its parts” (Lt(524)); the one looks backward to 1 Corinthians 3:6 ff., the other forward to 1 Corinthians 3:10 ff.— οἰκοδομὴ displaces οἰκοδόμημα in later Gr(525)θεοῦ, anarthrous by correlation (see note on ἀποδ. πν., 1 Corinthians 2:4): the three gens. are alike gens. of possession—“God’s workmen, employed on God’s field-tillage and God’s house-building”. Realising God’s all-comprehending rights in His Church, the too human Cor(526) (1 Corinthians 3:3 f.) will come to think justly of His ministers.


Verse 10

1 Corinthians 3:10. κατὰ τὴν χάριν κ. τ. λ.: while “the grace of God” has been given to all Christians, constituting them such (see 1 Corinthians 1:4), to the Ap. a special and singular “grace was given,” “according to” which he “laid a foundation,” whereon the Church at Cor(528) rests: see the like contrast in Ephesians 3:2-9; Ephesians 4:7-16; and for Paul’s specific gift as founder, 1 Corinthians 15:10, 2 Corinthians 3:5 ff., Romans 1:1-5; Romans 15:15 ff. The office of the founder is his own, and incommunicable: “you have not many fathers” (1 Corinthians 4:15).

σοφὸς is a correct attributive to ἀρχιτέκτων: see σοφία ( τ. ἀρχόντων), 1 Corinthians 2:6, and note; so in the LXX, Exodus 35:31, Isaiah 3:3, it characterizes the craftsman’s skill; in Arist., Eth. Nic., σοφία is the ἀρετὴ τέχνης—indeed this was its primitive sense (see Ed(529)). The Church architect (Christ, in the first instance, Matthew 16:18) is endowed with the σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ, the νοῦς χριστοῦ (1 Corinthians 2:6-16; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, Romans 15:16-20). The Gr(530) ἀρχιτέκτων was not a designer of plans on paper; he was like the old cathedral builders, the master-mason, developing his ideas in the material. “As a wise master-builder, I laid a foundation ( θεμέλιον ἔθηκα), but another builds thereupon” ( ἄλλος δὲ ἐποικοδομεῖ): P. knew that by God’s grace his part was done wisely; let his successors see to theirs. Not “the foundation”—that will be defined immediately (1 Corinthians 3:11 b): P. contrasts himself as foundation-layer with later workmen; hence the vbs. are respectively past and pr(531) The θεμέλιον, laid out once for all by the ἀρχιτέκτων, determines the site and ground-plan of the edifice (cf. Ephesians 2:20).—With the distributive ἄλλος cf. ἕκαστος (1 Corinthians 3:11): if Apollos, by himself, were intended, ἐποικοδομεῖ would have to be read as impf(532) (for ἐπῳκ., was building cf. aor(533), 1 Corinthians 3:14), since he is not now at Cor(534) Many Christian teachers are busy there (1 Corinthians 4:15). For this indef. ἄλλος, cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8 ff., 1 Corinthians 15:39; and for ἐγώἄλλος δέ, Luke 9:19, John 4:37; John 14:16; John 21:18. For the compound vb(535), see parls.; ἐπ- points to the basis, which gives the standard and measure to all subsequent work.—Hence the warning, ἕκαστος δὲ βλεπέτω πῶς κ. τ. λ.: “But let each man see (to it) how he is building thereupon!” Working upon the foundation, he must follow the lines laid down; he must use fit material. Not “how he is to build” (as in 1 Corinthians 7:32, aor(536) sbj(537)), but “how he is a-building” (pr(538) ind(539))—the work is going on. For the moods of the Indirect Question, see Wr(540), pp. 373 ff., Bn(541), §§ 341–356.


Verses 10-17

1 Corinthians 3:10-17. § 10. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE HUMAN BUILDERS. After the long digression on Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17 to 1 Corinthians 3:2), occasioned by the Hellenic misconception of the Gospel underlying the Cor(527) divisions, the Ap. returned in 1 Corinthians 3:3 ff. to the divisions themselves, dealing particularly with the rent between Apollonians and Paulinists. His first business was to reduce the Church leaders to their subordinate place, as fellow-servants of the one Divine cause (§ 9). They are temple-workmen—not himself and Apollos alone, but all who are labouring on the foundation which he has laid down—and must therefore take heed to the quality of their individual work, which will undergo a searching and fiery test.


Verse 11

1 Corinthians 3:11 is a parenthetical comment on θεμέλιον: As to the foundation, that is settled; the workman has to build upon it, not to shift it, nor add to it.— θεμέλιον γὰρ ἄλλον οὐδεὶς δύναται θεῖναι παρὰ κ. τ. λ.: “For another foundation none can lay, beside (other than παρά, possibly suggesting also in competition with; or contrary to) that which is laid down, which is JESUS CHRIST” other builders there are beside the architect, but no other ground for them to build upon.— κεῖμαι serves as pf. pass, to τίθημι (Philippians 1:16, etc.), connoting fixity of situation (positum est), and so of destination, as in Luke 2:34. The work of the Apostolic founders is done, once and for ever; so long as the Church lasts, men will build on what they laid down.— θεμέλιον, here masc. (read as adj(542), sc. λίθον), as in 2 Timothy 2:19, Hebrews 11:10, Revelation 21:14; Revelation 21:19, and sometimes in LXX neut. in Acts 16:26, as in the κοινή, and commonly in LXX.— ὅς ἐστιν—continuative, rather than definitive (as in 1 Corinthians 3:5): “There is but one foundation, and it is Jesus Christ”; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, etc.— ἰησοῦς χριστός, (not χ. ., nor χ.), the actual historical person, not any doctrine or argument about Him—“Jesus” revealed and known as “Christ”: see Acts 2:22; Acts 2:36; Acts 17:3, etc., for the formation of the name; and for this, with Paul the rarer, order, cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2, Romans 5:15; Romans 16:25, etc.,—also Hebrews 13:8; in each instance Jesus Christ connotes the recognised facts as to His life, death, etc. (cf. note on 1 Corinthians 1:2).


Verse 12

1 Corinthians 3:12. After the interjected caution to let the foundation alone, P. turns to the superstructure, to which the work of his coadjutors belongs; δὲ indicates this transition.— εἰ δέ τις ἐποικοδομεῖ, εἰ with ind(543) (as in 1 Corinthians 3:14 f. etc.),—a supposition in matter of fact, while ἐὰν with sbj(544) (as in 1 Corinthians 4:15) denotes a likely contingency. The doubled prp(545) ἐπί (with acc(546))—an idiom characterising later Gr(547), which loves emphasis—implies growth by way of accession: “if any one is building-on,—onto the foundation”; contrast ἐπὶ with dat(548) in Ephesians 2:20. The material superimposed by the present Cor(549) builders is of two opposite kinds, rich and durable or paltry and perishing: “gold, silver, costly stones—wood, hay, straw,”—thrown together “in lively ἀσύνδετον” (Mr(550)). The latter might serve for poor frail huts, but not for the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:17).— λίθοι τίμιοι, the marbles, etc., used in rearing noble houses; but possibly Isaiah 54:11 f. (cf. Revelation 21:18-21) is in the writer’s mind. The figure has been interpreted as relating (a) to the diff(551) sorts of persons brought into the Church (Pelagius, Bg(552), Hf(553)), since the Cor(554) believers constitute the θεοῦ οἰκοδομή (1 Corinthians 3:9), the ναὸς θεοῦ (1 Corinthians 3:16)—“my work are you in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:1; cf. Ephesians 2:20 ff., 2 Timothy 2:19 ff., 1 Peter 2:4 f.; also the striking parl(555) in Malachi 3:1 ff; Malachi 4:1); (b) to the moral fruits resulting from the labours of various teachers, the character of Church members, this being the specific object of the final judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 2:5-11; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13) and that which measures the work of their ministers (1 Thessalonians 2:19 ff., etc.)—so Or(556), Cm(557), Aug(558), lately Osiander and Gd(559); (c) to the doctrines of the diff(560) teachers, since for this they are primarily answerable and here lay the point of present divergence (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:10 f., Romans 14:15; 2 Corinthians 11:1 ff., 2 Corinthians 11:13 ff., Galatians 1:7, etc.)—so Clem. Al(561), and most moderns. The three views are not really discrepant: teaching shapes character, works express faith; unsound preaching attracts the bad hearer and makes him worse, sound preaching wins and improves the good (see 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:3; John 3:18 ff; John 10:26 f.). “The materials of this house may denote doctrines moulding persons,” or “even persons moulded by doctrines” (Ev(562)),—“the doctrine exhibited in a concrete form” (Lt(563)).


Verse 13

1 Corinthians 3:13. “The work of each ( ἑκάστου resuming the ἕκαστος of 10) will become manifest:” while the Wheat and Tares are in early growth (Matthew 13:24 ff.), they are indistinguishable; one man’s work is mixed up with another’s—“for the Day will disclose (it)”.— ἡμέρα can only mean Christ’s Judgment Day: see parls., esp. 1 Corinthians 1:8, 1 Corinthians 4:3 ff., and notes; also Romans 2:16, Acts 17:31, Matthew 25:19. “The day” suggests (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 ff., Romans 13:11 ff.) the hope of daylight upon dark problems of human responsibility. But this searching is figured as the scrutiny of fire, which at once detects and destroys useless matter: ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ ἀποκαλύπτεται, “because it (the Day) is revealed in fire”. For ἀποκαλύπτεται (pr(564), implying certainty, perhaps nearness), see notes on 1 Corinthians 1:7, 1 Corinthians 2:10—a supernatural, unprecedented “day,” dawning not like our mild familiar sunrise, but “in” splendour of judgment “fire”: cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8. This image comes from the O.T. pictures of a Theophany: Daniel 7:9 f., Malachi 4:1, Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 64:1 ff., etc.— καὶ ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον ὁποῖόν ἐστι κ. τ. λ.: “and each man’s work, of what kind it is,—the fire will prove it”. The pleonastic αὐτὸ is due to a slight anacoluthon: the sentence begins as though it were to end, “the fire will show”; φανερώσει is, however, replaced by the stronger δοκιμάσει suitable to πῦρ, and this altered vb(565) requires with it αὐτό, to recall the object τὸ ἔργον. Mr(566) and El(567) attach the pronoun to το πῦρ, “the fire itself,” but with pointless emphasis. Others avoid the pleonasm by construing ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον at the beginning as a nominativus pendens (“as to each man’s work”), resembling that of John 15:2; but the qualification that follows, ὁποῖόν ἐστιν, makes this unlikely: cf. Galatians 2:6, for the interpolated interr(568) clause.— δοκιμάζω is to assay (see LXX parls.),—suggested by the “gold, silver” above: “probabit, non purgabit. Hic locus ignem purgatorium non modo non fovet, sed plane extinguit” (Bg(569)).— ἕκαστος, thrice repeated in 1 Corinthians 3:10-13, with solemn individualising emphasis.


Verse 14-15

1 Corinthians 3:14-15. The opp(570) issues of the fiery assay are stated under parl(571) hypotheses: εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργονμενεῖεἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται, “If any one’s work shall abide … shall be burned up”. The double ind(572) with εἰ balances the contrasted suppositions, without signifying likelihood either way: for the opposed vbs., cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8; 1 Corinthians 13:13; μενεῖ recalls ὑπομενεῖ of Malachi 3:2.— ἐποικοδόμησεν (wanting augment: usage varies in this vb(573); Wr(574), p. 83) reminds us that the work examined was built on the one foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10 ff.).— μισθὸν λήμψεται and ζημιωθήσεται are the corresponding apodoses,— μισθὸν being carried over to the second of the parl(575) clauses (Mr(576), Gd(577), Lt(578), Ed(579)): “He will get a reward … will be mulcted (of it)”.— ζημιόω retains in pass(580) its acc(581) of thing, as a vb(582) taking double acc(583); derived from ζημία (opp(584) of κέρδος: cf. Philippians 3:7), it signifies to fine, inflict forfeit (in pass(585), suffer forfeit) of what one possessed, or might have possessed. “ αὐτὸς δέ—opposed to μισθός: his reward shall be lost, but his person saved” (Lt(586)); αὐτὸς is nearly syn(587) with the ψυχὴ of Matthew 16:25 f., etc. The man built on the foundation, though his work proves culpably defective: σωθήσεται promises him the σωτηρία of Christ’s heavenly kingdom (see 1 Corinthians 1:18, and other parls.). Such a minister saves himself, but not his hearers: the opp(588) result to that of 1 Corinthians 9:27, etc. αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός ( δὲ correcting δέ, as in 1 Corinthians 2:6)—“yet so (saved) as through fire,”—like Lot fleeing from Sodom; his salvation is reduced to a minimum: “He rushes out through the flame, leaving behind the ruin of his work … for which, proved to be worthless, he receives no pay” (Bt(589)), getting through “scorched and with the marks of the flame” upon him (Lt(590)); “s’il est sauvé, ce ne peut être qu’en échappant àtravers les flammes, et grâce àla solidité du fondement” (Gd(591)); to change the figure, “ut naufragus mercator, amissa merce et lucro, servatus per undas” (Bg(592)). For the prp(593), in local sense, see Gm(594), and Wr(595), p. 473; διὰ πυρός, proverbial for a hairbreadth escape (see Lt(596) ad loc(597); Eurip., Andr., 487; Elec., 1182, and LXX parls.). The διὰ has been read instrumentally, “by means of fire,”—sc. the fire of purgatory (see Lt(598)); an idea foreign to this scene. Cm(599), by a dreadful inversion of the meaning, reads the διὰ as ἐν πυρί—“will be preserved in fire!” ( σώζω nowhere has this sense of τηρέω): εἰπὼν σωθήσεται, οὐδὲν ἕτερον τὴν ἐπίτασιν τῆς τιμωρίας ᾐνίξατο. For other interpretations, see Mr(600)


Verse 16-17

1 Corinthians 3:16-17. However poor his work, the workman of 1 Corinthians 3:15 built upon Christ. There are cases worse than his, and to the εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον alternatives of 1 Corinthians 3:14 f. the Ap. has a third to add in the εἴ τιςφθείρει of 1 Corinthians 3:17. Beside the good and ill builders, who will gain or lose reward, there are destroyers of the house, whom God will destroy; the climax of the βλεπέτω πῶς, 1 Corinthians 3:10. Gd(601) well explains the absence of connecting particles between 1 Corinthians 3:15-16,—a “brusque transition” due to the emotion which seizes the Apostle’s heart at the sight of “workmen who even destroy what has been already built”; hence the lively apostrophe and the heightened tone of the passage.—The challenge οὐκ οἴδατε; is characteristic of this Ep. (see parls.), addressed to a Church of superior knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Corinthians 8:1). For the form οἴδατε, of the κοινή, see Wr(602), pp. 102 f.—The expression ναὸς θεοῦ (see parls.) accentuates the θεοῦ οἰκοδομή, expounded since 1 Corinthians 3:9 : “Do you not know that you are (a building no less sacred than) God’s temple?” Not “a temple of God,” as one of several; to P. the Church was the spiritual counterpart of the Jewish Temple, and every Church embodied this ideal. For the anarthrous (predicative) phrase, cf. θεοῦ βασιλείαν, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and see note on 1 Corinthians 2:4.— ναός (see parls.) denotes the shrine, where the Deity resides; ἱερόν (1 Corinthians 9:13, etc.), the sanctuary, the temple at large, with its precincts.— ὅτι is not repeated with the second half of the question, καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν οἰκεῖ, the two propositions being virtually one; God’s temple in Christian men is constituted by the indwelling of His Spirit: “and (that) the Spirit of God dwells in you?” cf. Ephesians 2:21, also 1 Peter 2:5. The same relationship is expressed by other figures in 1 Corinthians 12:5, Ephesians 4:4, etc. So the O.T. congregation of the Lord had for its centre the Shekinah in the Holy Place: Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 37:27; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16 ff. This truth is applied to the Christian person in 1 Corinthians 6:19.

“If any one destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him”—talione justissima (Bg(603)). On the form of hypothesis, see 1 Corinthians 3:14.— φθείρω signifies to corrupt morally, deprave (injure in character), 1 Corinthians 15:33, 2 Corinthians 11:3, as well as to waste, damage (injure in being: see parls.)—mutually implied in a spiritual building. This Church was menaced with destruction from the immoralities exposed in chh. 5, 6, and from its party schisms (1 Corinthians 3:1-3), both evils fostered by corrupt teaching. The figure is not that of Levitical defilement ( φθείρω nowhere means to pollute a holy place); this φθορὰ is a structural injury, to be requited in kind.— θεὸς closes the warning, with awful emphasis (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:6, Romans 12:19); God is bound to protect His temple (cf. Psalms 46, 48, 74, Isaiah 27:3; Isaiah 64:10 ff.).—The injury is a desecration: “for the temple of God is holy,—which (is what) you are”. The added clause οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς reminds the Cor(604) at once of the obligations their sanctity imposes (see notes on ἡγιασμένοις, κλητοῖς, ἁγίοις, 1 Corinthians 1:2; cf. 1 Peter 2:5), and of the protection it guarantees (2 Corinthians 6:14 ff., 2 Thessalonians 2:13; John 10:29; Isaiah 43:1-4, etc., Zechariah 2:8).— οἵτινες, the qualitative relative, refers to ἅγιος more than to ναός, and is predicate (see Wr(605), pp. 206 f.) with ὑμεῖς for subject.


Verse 18

1 Corinthians 3:18. Accordingly, the ΄ηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω looks forward, not backward: one may “deceive himself” about the mixing of man’s wisdom with God’s, but scarcely about the truth of the threatening of 1 Corinthians 3:17. “If any one thinks to be wise amongst you, in this age ( αἰῶνι, world-period: see parls.) let him become foolish, that he may become wise.”— δοκεῖ not videtur (Vg(607), A.V.), but putat—“seemeth to himself, the usual (though perhaps not universal) sense of δοκεῖν in St. Paul” (Lt(608): see parls., esp. 1 Corinthians 14:37): the danger is that of self-deception (cf. the irony in 1 Corinthians 4:10, 1 Corinthians 8:1 ff.), a danger natural in the case of teachers, esp. if intellectual and cultured—there were a few such at Cor(609) (1 Corinthians 1:26); cf. the exhortations of James 3:1; James 3:13-18.— ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ is antithetical to ἐν ὑμῖν (put the comma between them), “amongst you”—God’s temple, Christ’s property (1 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:23, etc.)—in accordance with 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 2:13, and with the contrast between the two wisdoms that dominates this whole Division. Men must not think to be wise in both spheres; the Church’s wise are the world’s fools, and vice versâ. The cross is μωρία to the world, and he who espouses it a μωρὸς in its opinion—a fool with a criminal for his Master; and one can only be a Christian sage—wise after the manner of 1 Corinthians 2:8 ff.—upon condition of bearing this reproach (so Or(610), Cm(611), Luther, Hf(612), Gd(613), Hn(614)). Paul was crazy in the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 4:10, 2 Corinthians 5:13; Acts 26:24), but how wise amongst us! Cf. Christ’s paradox of losing the soul to gain it.


Verses 18-23

1 Corinthians 3:18-23. § 11. THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD. Affectation of philosophy,—“the wisdom of the world,” which P. has repudiated on behalf of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:2)—was at the bottom of the Cor(606) troubles. Those who follow human wisdom exalt human masters at the expense of God’s glory, and there are teachers who lend themselves to this error and thus build unworthily on the Christian foundation—some who are even destroying, under a show of building, the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:3-17). That the warnings P. has given to his fellow-labourers bear on the popular λόγος σοφίας is apparent from the manner in which he reverts to the topic at this point. § 11 resumes the strain of §§ 4–8, impressing on teachers and taught alike the true relationship of things human and Divine.


Verse 19-20

1 Corinthians 3:19 a gives the reason why the philosophy of the times must be renounced by the aspirant to Christian wisdom: “For the wisdom of the world is folly with God” (= 1 Corinthians 1:20); and since it is folly with God, it must be counted folly, and not wisdom, amongst you (1 Corinthians 3:18). God’s judgment is decisive for His Church.— παρὰ θεῷ, apud Deum, judice Deo (see parls.).

1 Corinthians 3:19-20. That the above is God’s judgment appears from two sayings of Scripture, bearing on the two classes of worldly wise—the men of affairs (such as the ἄρχοντες of 1 Corinthians 2:6) and the philosophers (1 Corinthians 1:20), distinguished respectively by πανουργία and διαλογισμοί. In the first text (the only N.T. quotation from Job: Philippians 1:19, perhaps an allusion), Paul improves on the LXX, possibly from another version, substituting the vivid δρασσόμενος (He that grips: cf. δραξάμενος φάρυγγος, Theocritus, xxiv. 28) for καταλαμβάνων, and πανουργίᾳ αὐτῶν for φρονήσει,—both nearer to the Heb. (LXX reads πανουργίαν in 1 Corinthians 3:12). The words (from Eliphaz) are “appropriated because of their inherent truth” (Lt(615)); they reassert the anticipation expressed in 1 Corinthians 2:6. For πανουργία, see parls.; note its deterioration of meaning, as in Eng. craft. When the world’s schemers think themselves cleverest, Providence catches them in their own toils.—The second text P. adapts by turning ἀνθρώπων into σοφῶν: what is true of the vanity of human thoughts generally (machsh ’both ’âdâm) he applies par excellence to “the reasonings of the wise”.— διαλογισμοί, signifying in Plutarch’s later Gr(616) debates, arguings (see parls.), recalls 1 Corinthians 1:19 f. above, echoing the quotation of that passage. On μάταιοι, futile, see note to 1 Corinthians 15:14 ( κενός).


Verse 21

1 Corinthians 3:21 a. ὥστε μηδεὶς καυχάσθω ἐν ἀνθρώποις: “And so let no one glory in men”.— ὥστε often, with P., introduces the impv(617) at the point where argument or explanation passes into exhortation; cf. note on 1 Corinthians 3:7, and see 1 Corinthians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 5:8, etc.— ἐν ἀνθρώποις states the forbidden ground of boasting (see parls.), supplying the negative counterpart of 1 Corinthians 1:31. Paul condemns alike the self-laudation of clever teachers, hinted at in 1 Corinthians 3:18, and the admiration rendered to them, along with all partisan applause.

1 Corinthians 3:21-23 form an unbroken chain, linking the Cor(618) and their teachers to the throne of God. Not till the last words of 1 Corinthians 3:23 do we find the full justification (sustaining the initial γάρ) for the prohibition of 1 Corinthians 3:21 a; “only when the other side to the πάντα ὑμῶν has been expressed, is the object presented in which alone the Church ought to glory” (Hf(619)); standing by itself, “All things are yours” would be a reason in favour of, rather than against, glorying in human power. The saying of 1 Corinthians 3:21 b is, very possibly, taken from the lips of the Cor(620) δοκοῦντες (1 Corinthians 3:18), who talked in the high-flown Stoic style, affirming like Zeno (in Diog. Laert., vii., 1. 25), τῶν σοφῶν πάντα εἶναι, or daring with Seneca (de Benef., vii., 2 f.) “emittere hanc vocem, Haec omnia mea esse!” similarly the Stoic in Horace (Sat. I., iii., 125–133; Ep. I., i., 106 ff.): “Sapiens uno minor est Jove, dives, liber, honoratus, pulcher, rex denique regum!” Some such pretentious vein is hinted at in 1 Corinthians 4:7-10, 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 1 Corinthians 10:22 f., 1 Corinthians 7:31. ( οἱ χρώμενοι τ. κόσμον: see notes); the affecters of philosophy at Cor(621) made a “liberal” use of the world. As in 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 1 Corinthians 10:22 f., the Ap. adopts their motto, giving to it a grander scope than its authors dreamed of (1 Corinthians 3:22), but only to check and balance it, reproving the conceit of its vaunters by the contrasted principle ( δέ) of the Divine dominion in Christ, which absorbs all human proprietorship (1 Corinthians 3:23).

First amongst the “all things” that the Cor(622) may legitimately boast, there stand—suggested by ἀνθρώποις, 21—“Paul, Apollos, Cephas,” the figureheads of the Church factions (1 Corinthians 1:12),—enumerated with εἴτεεἴτε (whether P. or Ap. or Ceph.), since these chiefs belong to the Church alike, not P. to this section, Ap. to that, and so on. Christ (1 Corinthians 1:12) is not named in this series of “men”; a diff(623) place is His (1 Corinthians 3:23).—From “Cephas” the enumeration passes per saltum to “the world” ( εἴτε κόσμος—anarthrous, as thought of qualitatively; cf. Galatians 6:14], understood in its largest sense,—the existing order of material things; cf. note on 1 Corinthians 1:20. The right to use worldly goods, asserted broadly by Greek Christians at Cor(624) (1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 7:31, 1 Corinthians 10:23 f.: see notes), is frankly admitted; the Church (represented by its three leaders) and the world both exist for “you,”—are bound to serve you (cf. 1 Timothy 2:2-4; 1 Timothy 4:8; 1 Timothy 6:17; Psalms 8, etc.); the Messianic kingdom makes the saints even the world’s judges (1 Corinthians 6:2, Romans 4:13; Revelation 5:10, etc.).— εἴτε ζωὴ εἴτε θάνατος, by another bold and sudden sweep, carries the Christian empire into the unseen. Not Life alone, but Death—king of fears to a sinful world (Romans 5:17; Romans 5:21, Hebrews 2:15)—is the saints’ servant (1 Corinthians 15:26, etc.). They hold a condominium (Romans 8:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:10) with Him who is “Lord of living and dead” (Romans 14:9, etc.; Ephesians 4:9 f., Revelation 1:18); cf. ἐμοὶ τὸ ζῇν χριστός, καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος, Philippians 1:21.— ζωὴ and θάνατος extend the Christian’s estate over all states of being; εἴτε ἐνεστῶτα, εἴτε μέλλοντα, stretch it to all periods and possibilities of time. The former of these ptps. (pf. intransitive of ἐνίστημι) denotes what has come to stand there (instans),—is on the spot, in evidence; the latter what exists in intention,—to be evolved out of the present: see the two pairs of antitheses in Romans 8:38 f.; these things cannot hurt the beloved of God (Rom.), nay, must help and serve them (1 Cor.). See other parls. for “things present” (esp. Galatians 1:4) and “to come” (esp. Romans 8:17-25).

The Apostle repeats triumphantly his πάντα ὑμῶν, having gathered into it the totality of finite existence, to reverse it by the words ὑμεῖς δὲ χριστοῦ, “but (not and) you are Christ’s!” (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20, Romans 12:1 f., 2 Corinthians 5:15). The Cor(625) readers, exalted to a height outsoaring Stoic pride, are in a moment laid low at the feet of Christ: “Lords of the universe—you are His bondmen, your vast heritage in the present and future you gather as factors for Him”. P. endorses the doctrine of the kingship of the spiritual man, dilating on it with an eloquence surpassing that of Stoicism; “but,” he reminds him, his wealth is that of a steward. Our property is immense, but we are Another’s; we rule, to be ruled. A man cannot own too much, provided that he recognises his Owner.

Finally, Christ who demands our subordination, supplies in Himself its grand example: χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ, “but Christ is God’s”. We are masters of everything, but Christ’s servants; He Master of us, but God’s Servant (cf. Acts 3:13, etc.). For His filial submission, see 1 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Corinthians 15:22 ff., Romans 6:10, and notes; also John 8:29; John 10:29, etc. We cannot accept Cv(626)’s dilution of the sense, “Hæc subjectio ad Christi humanitatem refertur”; for the ὑμεῖς χριστοῦ, just affirmed, raises Christ high over men. It is enough to say with Thd(627), χριστὸς θεοῦ οὐχ ὡς κτίσμα θεοῦ, ἀλλʼ ὡς ὑιὸς τοῦ θεοῦ: cf. Hebrews 5:8. The sovereignty of the Father is the corner-stone of authority in the universe (1 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Corinthians 15:28).

The Ap. has now vindicated God’s rights in His Church (see Introd. to § 10), and recalled the Cor(628) from their carnal strife and pursuit of worldly wisdom to the unity, sanctity, and grandeur of their Christian calling, which makes them servants of God through Christ, and in His right the heirs of all things.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/1-corinthians-3.html. 1897-1910.

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Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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