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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 3

Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the BibleBox on Selected Books

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For All Things Are Your First Corinthians Three

One of the problems among the Christians at Corinth was that of being "carnal." Paul knew that by that time the Corinthian Christians should have become spiritually mature. However, he still had to "speak unto them as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ." ( 1Co_3:1 ) The word "carnal" means "pertaining to the flesh, or fleshly desires. To be carnal means that your flesh and the word of God are at odds and the flesh is always winning out, because you are allowing it to win!

This chapter addresses the divisions that were separating these brethren into groups that identified themselves with men. Paul rebuked them for allowing the names of preachers to divide the Lord's church. They were carnal being guilty of envying, strife, and divisions. "Strife" means fighting among themselves with words. No wonder Paul called them "carnal!" They were acting like they were of the world.

Paul told them that the preachers they were dividing over were actually in harmony and that they worked together. He wanted them to know that the preachers were nothing more than ministers. These preachers all built upon the same foundation, that of Jesus Christ. ( 1Co_3:11 ) He wanted it understood that it is wrong to make divisions in the body of Christ. They were admonished to take care not to divide and destroy the church because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Later Paul will say that the body of each Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Verses 1-4

The brethren were carnal 1Co_3:1-4 : When Paul wrote this epistle the brethren were acting like people of this world. They were acting like babies as far as their faith is Christ was concerned. Division had caused them to be so weak spiritually that they were unable to receive the meat of God's word. Paul had to treat them like spiritual babies and give them milk and not strong spiritual food.

The focus of these brethren was on their own desires instead of on the spiritual plan of God for salvation and the church. The milk of the word is beautiful, but we need the meat of the word in order to have our spiritual armor. The carnal nature of these brethren led to envy, strife, and divisions, instead of to spiritual strength. Envy is "a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another." Strife is "bitter conflict; heated often violent dissension." Division is "the state of having been divided." Some were saying they followed Paul. Others said they followed Apollos. The people of the word divide themselves and quarrel with one another. Christians should not act this way.

Verses 5-10

The preachers are servants 1Co_3:5-10 : Apollos and Paul were merely servants or ministers that had helped these brethren have faith. Paul had no desire for preachers to receive special honor. He had planted the spiritual seeds, Apollos watered them, but God gave the increase. Paul established the church in Corinth. Apollos came after the church was established and watered the seed that Paul planted. God blessed their efforts and gave an increase.

The blessings that came to the brethren at Corinth came by the Lord of glory, not by the one that delivered the gospel message to them. What matters is not the one that planted or watered, but God who made the plants grow. Any increase that comes to the church comes from God. It does not matter who does the planting or the watering for we are all one in Christ. ( Gal_3:26-28 ) The fact that Christians are one in Christ produces mutual love and respect for each other. Each servant will be rewarded according to his labors. ( Rev_14:13 )

The church should just work together for God. We are God's garden and God's building. We are co-workers together with God. Paul laid the foundation at Corinth and others like Apollos built thereon. "But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon."

Verses 11-15

The foundation is Christ 1Co_3:11-15 : Christ is the foundation, and we are to be careful that we build in a scriptural and spiritual way on Him. He is the only foundation upon which you can build for eternity. He is the chief corner stone for the church and for our salvation. ( Eph_2:20 ) Many attempt to build on such temporary foundations as "gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or stubble." "The church should be built of true Christians, the proper material; and not of worldly-minded hypocrites, or of those who estimate the oracles of God as on a par with the philosophies of men. The day of judgment will reveal the true character of all who are in the church."

Those that build on Jesus must be genuine in their faith and service. The foundation that we have built upon will be tested by fire on the Day of Judgment. "The fire will try every man's work of what sort it is." We must do the work of God and diligently seek to please Him in all that we do. We must see that He gets the glory for all the increase. We will be rewarded if our building is standing after being tested at the judgment. You may put forth the effort to win a person to Christ only to have that person turn from the Lord. Your reward would in some way have been greater if they had remained faithful but what they do will not affect your salvation.

Verses 16-23

The Temple is the church 1Co_3:16-23 : As members of the church we should be spiritual people because the church of Christ is the Holy Temple of God. His Spirit dwells in this temple. God will destroy anyone that defiles His Temple or church by being carnal, causing division or by becoming unfaithful. Paul urged Christians to be more humble by saying, "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." Pride is how Satan fell and it also causes many to fall today. We should stop bragging about what any person has done because Jesus is our rock and the very foundation upon which we must build.

Paul reminded these brethren that "All things are yours." (1) Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas are yours as servants that have taught you the gospel. (2) The world is yours to live in, to conquer and to enjoy. (3) Life is yours as a daily gift from God and as a proving ground for eternity. (4) Death is yours to terminate the sorrows of this life and to usher you into life's other side. (5) Things present are yours in that you can enjoy all the benefits of the gospel. (6) The "things to come" that are yours include judgment, eternity and heaven itself. True Christianity allows us to rise above denominationalism because there is only one Savior, One Father and One Holy Spirit.

Bibliographical Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3". "Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/box/1-corinthians-3.html. 2014.
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