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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 3

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-23

III 1. ’Could not’: when he was among them. ’Carnal’: ’fleshly’, with the same meaning of ’flesh’ as in 1:26. Even after their conversion they were only infants in the spiritual life, weak in faith, spiritual insight, and also in charity, as appears later. Only moderate demands could be made on them. This is what he means by ’milk’.

2. ’Meat’: ’Food’, solid food of any kind. See Hebrews 5:12-14, where the same metaphor is fuller and clearer.

3. ’Everything’: Rivalry’. ’According to man’: In man’s way, as distinct from God’s way. A fourth term, meaning precisely the same as worldly, natural, and fleshly.

III 4b-IV 21 —Paul has given a profound and grandlyworded description of the two wisdoms. He now applies this to the Corinthians: their devotion to this or that teacher is a foolish human feeling; the spiritual man must see in every teacher a mere instrument of God. But the passage goes on to speak of the value and place of teachers in general. Although Paul never names anybody, except the three already mentioned, there are now signs that he is thinking of other teachers at Corinth, men of pernicious influence whose party is hostile to himself. These can hardly be other than the False Apostles. See Introd. C, D and F for the evidence for this, and the explanation of his reserve.

4b-9 Over-estimation of Teachers—5. ’Servants (of God) by means of whom you have believed (in Christ) and each has done only what the Lord gave him power to do’.

8. ’Are one’: i.e. in the same class. Both are mere instruments, one is as good as the other. ’And every man’, etc.: ’Though each (teacher) will receive’, etc. They keep their own personalities, even as instruments.

9. ’Coadjutors’: ’Fellow-workers with God’. ’Husbandry’: cultivation. The meaning hovers between ’farming’ and ’farm’. So also with ’building’— the same double meaning as in English.

10-17 The Parable of the Building —Like all St Paul’s parables, it melts and changes. The builders are the teachers, but the building seems to be first the doctrine, then (16-17) the Christian community.

10. ’Architect’: ’Master-builder.’ ’Another’: perhaps loosely used for ’others’. The next sentence seems the first hint that some teachers at Corinth have been blameworthy.

12. ’Precious stones’: or perhaps ’costly stone ’—marble, etc. The first three materials stand for sound instruction, the others for useless or unsound. ’Stubble’: ’Straw’. The building may turn out to be either a palace or a thatched hut.

13. The best texts omit ’of the Lord’. ’For the Day will show it, for it (i.e. the Day) will be revealed amidst fire’. The Day of Judgement is sometimes called simply ’the Day’ or ’that Day’both by Christ and Paul. If the house still stands for doctrine, the fire means God’s judgement on it.

15. ’If any man’s work is burnt down, he will be a loser, though he himself will be saved, but only like something which has been through fire’. He will be like one pulled out of a burning house, scorched but alive. The unworthy teacher will not lose his soul (he is not therefore guilty of mortal sin) but will lose his work and his special reward. The last words clearly imply some penal suffering, and as Paul connects it so closely with God’s judgement, it can hardly be confined to suffering in this world, but seems to include the idea of purificatory suffering after this life, i.e. in purgatory.

16-17. The new turn in the parable is accompanied by a sterner tone. Not useless but pernicious teaching grave sin, and eternal punishment are now the subject. It is most natural to suppose that he was referring to the men whom he later called the servants of Satan ’whose end shall be in accordance with their works’ (2 Corinthians 11:15). 17. ’If any man is destroying’, etc.— same Greek verb twice. ’Which’: ’Which temple’, etc.

18-23 Continuation of the Warning of vv 4-9 —The first words take us back to the Two Wisdoms. Note that the first three verses may be addressed to the unnamed teachers as well as to their followers.

18 ’Seems’: ’Imagines he is wise’. /par/par19. The quotation is from Job 5:13: ’He who grips’, etc.; Paul substitutes a more picturesque word for the Hebrew ’catches’.

20. From Psalms 93:13, which however has men, not the wise.

21., ’Glory’: ’take pride in’, by giving their whole devotion to some human leader. If they gave their first thoughts to God, all men and all creation, being God’s, would be theirs too.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1951.
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