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Bible Commentaries

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 3

Verses 1-4

  1. INTRO:
    1. Are you a carnal Christian? Are you a spiritual Christian? What’s the difference? Do you think you can fluctuate or oscillate between both? When you fall into carnal Christian mode what can you hold onto for hope? When you are in spiritual Christian mode what can become its demise?
    2. 3 kinds of people:
      1. Most tend to divide up the human race into 2 groups: Christians & non-Christians.
      2. But at the end of ch.2 & in the beg of ch.3 Paul shows there are 3: the natural, the spiritual, & the carnal.
        1. Paul already discussed the Natural man…who doesn’t receive any of the things of the spirit (2:14). They are lost, unsaved. For now at least, as Chuck Swindoll said, they have pulled in the welcome mat from the door of their hearts, locked the dead bolt, & turned a deaf ear to Jesus’ knocking (Rev.3:20). (Chuck Swindoll, 1 Corinthians, Strong Reproofs for a Scandalous Church. Pg.47.)
        2. Now, Paul introduced us to 2 kinds of Christian life or 2 classes of Christian people:
          1. Both are brethren(1); both are babes in Christ (1); both are born in the spirit (2:12); Yet one is Carnal & one is Spiritual.
    3. God, help Your church today! [stats: 3,500 churches close or die every year in US. 80% of churches plateau. The average church in the US has between 40-60 people in them. An even bigger problem is that when polled about attendance, churches lie & say they have 70/80]
      1. Often they close because: bad doctrine; bad moral examples; bad moral teachings
  2. MILK & MEAT! (1-4)
    1. YOU ARE STILL CARNAL! (1-4)
    2. Spiritual - These people are saved. They are enjoying vital fellowship with God.
      They are active, productive members of His family. They have the mind of Christ (2:16b). They have spiritual insight that natural people cannot have. They live heavenly lives on earth & carry with them peace, faith, & steadfastness. They daily practice living in God’s kingdom.
    3. Carnal - These people are saved. They are heirs of the same kingdom. They choose instead to live in the pigpen. Wallowing in sin’s slop, they squander their spiritual inheritance which is intended to be enjoyed on earth. They trade it for a romp in the slime of their selfishness. They are still headed for heaven...but are living like hell.
      1. Immediately, many Christians judge a carnal Christian as: never knowing the Lord; they never had a relationship; they believed in their heads & not in their hearts; they found redemption but them let it slip through their muddy fingers.
      2. But the answer Paul gives here is that there is an eternal destiny for these pigpen Christians. So Brian its ok to stay that way? No, Paul pleads here that these carnal Corinthian or Murrieta’n Christians, should be challenged to come out of the pigpen of their lives. [He wont run & yank you out of the pigpen; but as soon as you repent & start heading home, He’ll run so fast to meet you]
    4. (1,2) When cats are no longer kittens, they say it isn’t good to feed them milk any longer (possible Kitty Dysentery). But we are not Cats, we are Christians!
      1. So on one hand...we never outgrow the nourishing milk of God’s Word!
        1. Thats like getting awestruck in your devotions of a basic concept...again! (see John 4:26)
      2. 1 Pet.2:1-3 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
        1. I still love a glass of milk, but it isn’t the only thing in my diet (I’ve added cookies!)
        2. But Paul warns against a steady diet of “milk only”! (anyone do powdered milk growing up?)
    5. We can’t grow strong unless we also have the solid food!
      1. Heb.5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
    6. We grow by eating & exercising.
      1. 1 Tim.4:7b,8 …exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things,
    7. Age is no guarantee of spiritual maturity! (I don’t care what the date on your Christian card reads!)
      1. There are unfortunately many old saints who are still holding their bottle, their blankey, & are simply spiritual thumb suckers!
    8. (3) In verse 3 Paul lists some of their carnality as: envy(jealousy), strife, divisions(quarreling) & living like men of the world.
      1. Charles L. Allen in The Miracle of Love writes of a fisherman friend who told him that one never needs a top for his crab basket. If one of the crabs starts to climb up the sides of the basket, the other crabs will reach up and pull it back down.
        1. I think you get the analogy...Some Christians are a lot like crabs!
      2. See, the church’s greatest threat isn’t from outside, but from inside.
        1. It’s from people on our team! (Jesus/Judas; Paul in Acts 20:29,30)
        2. Christians are often found fighting against the unbeliever & his/her lifestyle. Or worried about a Darwinian, or a Morman, or a homosexual.
        3. No, the greatest threat to Christianity; to Jesus’ precious name; to our church; or the church at Corinth is...the Carnal Christians!
          1. Their bad example; their bad lifestyle; their lack of holiness.
          2. They just continue to root around in the pigpens of their old natures.
          3. They rebel against the control of the Holy Spirit.
    9. Now, do you struggle with being a carnal Christian? I hope you all said yes. Paul was honest to admit it. Paul wrote a whole chapter on his struggles w/carnality.
      1. Rom.7:21-24 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
        1. The whole chapter is a portrait of the Carnal Conflict.
        2. It is a constant conflict, a moment by moment battle between 2 natures.
        3. The carnal man, though in dwelt by the H.S., is mastered by the flesh (carnal=fleshly)
          1. Flesh = that which pursues its own ends, in self-sufficient independence of God.
    10. Why did Paul use the analogy of a baby?
      1. It is a wonderful experience when a baby comes into a home, but what a tragedy if he never grows up!
      2. The characteristics of a baby: Absolutely dependent on other people, needs to be fed, he can’t walk, he has to be held, & he is only happy when he is the center of attention.
      3. The characteristics of Carnal Christians: Absolutely dependent on other people (constantly needs everyone’s counsel), needs to be fed (his only feeding is the ministers milk bottle on Sunday morn), he can’t walk (by himself), he has to be held (propped up by others), & he is only happy when he is the center of attention.
        1. His heart is still mostly in the world, & there is an atmosphere of worldliness about him.
        2. The Carnal Christian is a child of God, born again & on his way to heaven,...but he is traveling 3rd class! (Alan Redpath)
    11. Does this describe your christian walk today?
      1. Repeated defeat. You find no power over the principle of sin in your life? Are you torn up by jealousy, strife, & quarrels? Are you living out a long drawn out infancy? Do you have stinted & stunted growth?
    12. Instead of beating up the Carnal Christian, listen up for some encouragement: (from Spurgeon)
    13. Are you mourning, believer, because you are so weak in the divine life: because your faith is so little, your love so feeble? Cheer up, for you have cause for gratitude. (Taken from Spurgeon Morning & Evening Oct.19.)
      1. Remember that in some things you are = to the greatest & most full-grown Christian.
      2. You are as much bought with blood as he is.
      3. You are as much an adopted child of God as any other believer.
      4. An infant is as truly a child of its parents as is the full-grown man.
      5. You are as completely justified, for your justification is not a thing of degrees.
      6. Your little faith has made you clean every where.
      7. You have as much right to the precious things of the covenant as the most advanced believers, for your right to covenant mercies lies not in your growth, but in the covenant itself; and your faith in Jesus is not the measure, but the token of your inheritance in him.
      8. You are as rich as the richest, if not in enjoyment, yet in real possession.
        1. The smallest star that gleams is set in heaven.
        2. In the family register of glory the small & the great are written with the same pen.
        3. You are as dear to your Father’s heart as the greatest in the family.
        4. Jesus is very tender over you.
        5. You are like the smoking wick that He will not extinguish. A rougher spirit would say, “put out that smoking wick, it fills the room with an offensive odor!” but the smoking wick He will not quench.
        6. You are like a bruised reed; and any less tender hand than that of the Chief Gardner would tread upon you or throw you away, but He will never break the bruised reed.
      9. Instead of being downcast by reason of what you are, you should triumph in Christ.
      10. Am I but little in Israel? Yet in Christ I am made to sit in heavenly places.
      11. Am I poor in faith? Still in Jesus I am heir of all things.
      12. Carnal Christian where do you start? I will rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the God of my salvation.
    14. The Tale of 2 Prodigals:
      1. In Luke 15:11-32 Jesus tells us about a man w/2 sons.
        1. 1 son rebels, wandering from his fathers love. Runs away, ends up in a pigpen.
        2. But the other son was in a pigpen too; rolling & squealing in the mire of his self-righteousness.
          1. The younger son - cameos 1 type of carnal Christian, the type who doesn’t try to mask his rebellion w/a false loyalty.
            1. Once he got his hot hands on the money, he packed up went far away (it’s easier to sin the farther from home you are) & squandered it all.
            2. Note: no sudden calamity fell on him. The sky didn’t fall. The bus he took didn’t get a flat. He didn’t come down w/leprosy. Because the ax didn’t fall immediately, he felt encouraged to stay in his rebellion.
            3. Eccl.8:11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
            4. Then he finally reaches his desperation level. Knee deep in swine slop, hungry, alone, he comes to his senses & makes plans to go home.
          2. The older son - shows another type of carnal Christian, the type who does try to mask his rebellion w/a false loyalty.
            1. Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him! Lk.15:29,30
            2. Note the pride in the rebels words. He drags his brothers name back through the mud. He denies any familial relationship w/him(this son of yours).
          3. Yet the father reaches out to this carnal son also,
            1. And he said to him, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.
          4. Then, Jesus leaves the older son in the spiritual pigpen, never telling us whether or not he decided to clean up his attitude & join his brother’s welcome-home party.
          5. Clearly, Jesus expects us to finish the story with our own response!
    15. If you’ve wandered from the Lord & you think God is awaiting your return with a club in His hand, you’re mistaken.

Verses 5-23

  1. Intro:
    1. Title: The Lord of the Harvest. Salvation & the Christian life is about HIM!
    2. Outline (word pictures): Harvesting; Building; Indwelling; & Glorifying.
      1. Metaphors/images are used to express deep & difficult truths.
      2. Examples: He’s a Vine that nourishes its branches; a Shepherd who lays down His life for his sheep; the One True Light for a dark world; the Bread of life.
  2. HARVESTING! [Agricultural Metaphor] (5-9)
    1. ​​​​​​​This has to do with understanding we are servants & God alone is Lord!
    2. New Flash: We are just ministers - servants - slaves!
    3. God’s servants are many, but God alone is Lord.
      1. The roles of the two must never be confused.
        1. We have an important but subordinate role in the work of the gospel.
    4. Examples:
      1. Paul had planted the church in Corinth; while Apollos, who came later, watered it.
      2. Bob Chappell planted CM; while I took over 5 years later, watering it.
      3. Steve Struikmans planted RCC in Tem; while Scott Treadway now is watering it.
      4. Pastor Marty planted Lambs Fellowship in Murr; while John now is watering it.
        1. And in every one of these churches...GOD has given the increase! To which, Apollos, Brian, Scott & John would all say...AMEN!
    5. Another Example:
      1. I have a Staghorn Fern as you walk up to my front door, hanging on the wall.
      2. Who gets the glory for its beauty? It was originally planted by Pasquale Tripepi (Masked Marvel) & given to me as a gift. Mical when she waters it (very rare but I think it happened once for my analogy!) Kelly when she waters it. Me when I water, fertilize, & provide the real labor on it. Or, God who brought forth the original fern?
        1. Are we really going to argue, “my thumbs greener than your thumb?”
    6. Here’s what we find then corporately for churches, but also individually for all believers, “Hard work is available to all; large Harvests are not!” (that’s a God thing)
      1. Only God has the power to cause the seed of the gospel message to grow.
      2. (7) So planters & waters are nothing...w/o Him.
      3. (if you don’t have sunlight or air, you don’t have a plant)
        1. The problem? Sometimes we splash some water on someone, and BAAM the seed sprouts. We think Wow! It was the words I spoke that saved them!
        2. I’ve had “net jumpers” before. Whats a net jumper? Where I barely say anything & they want to get saved. I know it wasn’t my few moments with the person, but probably a history of others investing in their life...but ultimately God’s grace to be credited.
        3. It’s God...Only God! Only He can change a heart! Only He can change a life!
    7. The agricultural lesson:
      1. The church is the field(9).
      2. Believers get the opportunity to spread seeds of the gospel, i.e. plant.
      3. We also have the opportunity to water the implanted seeds. (nurture, cultivate)
      4. Growth/increase only comes from God. He germinates the seed. He helps it to sprout. He ultimately helps it to bring forth fruit.
        1. Jill Briscoe said, “I love what Corrie ten Boom once taught me”. She said, "Jill, people thank me so much, and it used to worry me because I didn't want to get a big head. So I began to collect those compliments like flowers. 'Thank you,' I'd say. 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.' Then at the end of the day I'd kneel down and I'd say, 'Here You are Jesus, they're all Yours.'"
        2. If we have an ability, it is Christ’s ability - to be laid at His feet.
        3. If we have money it is to be Christ’s money, Christ’s building, Christ’s lambs, Christ’s mission, Christ’s gospel, everything is Christ’s!
    8. We also recognize...Everyone has a place in God’s harvest. Slide #7
      1. Jn.4:35-38 Do you not say, ‘There are still 4 months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.
      2. There should not be competing or comparing.
  3. BUILDING! [Architectural Metaphor] (10-15)
    1. ​​​​​​​This has to do with the believers works.
    2. Key: Importance of the genuineness of one’s building materials for the work of the kingdom.
      1. Adequacy or integrity of any building material depends upon the test it will have to meet.
        1. That test for the Christians building is fire on the day of judgment. Showing it for what it is.
    3. No other foundation - no other redemption; no other salvation; no other Savior; no other Christ.
    4. Cement = water, cement, aggregate.
      1. The Romans had figured it out & we’re still using it for our foundations today!
      2. Hadrian’s Pantheon in Rome is made of concrete, still stands.
      3. No other foundation! - Spurgeon said, “None but Jesus, the divine savior, could sustain the weight of a single soul w/all its sins, much less of all the souls which are built up into the Temple of God.”
    5. Some building materials are combustible (wood, hay, straw) & they will be burned up completely.
    6. Others will use noncombustible materials such as gold, silver, or costly stones (granite, marble) & they will find their labor will stand the test. And they will receive a reward.
      1. Those who build poorly will suffer loss, but they themselves will be saved as a person who is rescued from a fire.
      2. Picture a man escaping a burning building, he has his lifebut no possessions.
        1. There is a legend of a wealthy woman who, when she reached heaven, was shown a very plain mansion. She objected. "Well," she was told, "that is the house prepared for you." "Whose is that fine mansion across the way?" she asked. "It belongs to your gardener." "How is it that he has one so much better than mine?" The houses here are prepared from the materials that are sent up. We do not choose them, you do that by your earthly faithfulness.
        2. This may be a legend, but it bears a profound truth!
    7. Examples of wood, hay, & straw works??? Slide #12b,c,d AFTER Poof! (3 x’s)
      1. Wood: When I became a sound man as a new believer to be seen by others…POOF!
      2. Hay: Sharing the gospel w/a friend w/me, being more interested in showing off my apologetic prowess than caring for the soul of the individual I was talking to...POOF!
      3. Straw: Any time I have served the Lord with a wrong heart...POOF!
    8. Take heed how you build! - Wasn’t that the story of the 3 little pigs?
      1. That which was made of shoddy building materials (straw & wood) blew down, but that which was of sturdy material (brick) withstood the fierce winds.
        1. Instead of blowing, Jesus will simply look at it with “His eyes like a flame of fire” at the judgment seat of Christ. “Take heed how you build!”
    9. What helped Kelly & I more than anything in our 1st building blocks?
      1. Friends plugged us in right away.
      2. We never forsook the gathering together of the brethren (when they met, we were there)
      3. We got involved in home studies, in serving, in fellowship (Christian friendships).
        1. And been doing it ever since, for 31 years.
  4. INDWELLING; TEMPLE! [Another Architectural Metaphor] (16,17)
    1. ​​​​​​​This has to do with all believers, anytime & anywhere.
    2. Key: Importance, the temple does not refer to the structure in which believers meet to worship. Rather, Christians themselves are the temple.
      1. We are God’s temple why? - Because the Spirit of God dwells in us! (1 Cor.6:19)
      2. Know there are 2 words in Greek for Temple: (naos & hieron)
        1. One means the Temple building itself. hieron
        2. Naos means the Sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, where the glory of God dwells (that is the word used here).
          1. We are God’s sanctuary, the place of His holy awesome presence!
          2. You are not simply the structure in which He lives. You are the dwelling place of the Shekinah glory of God! :)
    3. Note: The Spirit of God dwells in you - not an influence of the Spirit; but the 3rd person of the Trinity Himself!
      1. ​​​​​​​Christian, no matter how weak, feeble, poor, helpless, or frustrated you feel; or how inadequate, incapable, incompetent, or ineffective you feel,…The Spirit of God dwells in you!
      2. Why does He dwell in us? That we might develop character, the fruit of the Spirit, good works, & the reproduction of the character of Jesus Christ.
        1. Which begs the question, “Why is it that so little of His life is produced in us & so much of ourselves still remains?” (Alan Redpath)
      3. The O.T. tabernacle had an outer court (where the public walked), the inner court (which was the place of service), & the Holy of Holies (the sanctuary of the presence of God).
        1. We are not to live in the outer court (the world); we are not to live “only” in the inner court (of the busy rush of Christian service); but in the Holiest of all (walking as holy men & women w/dignity, reverence, & worship!)
    4. Paul gives a strong warning here, that He will destroy those who destroy His Temple.
  5. GLORIFYING! (18-23)
    1. ​​​​​​​Key: Importance, Avoid self-deception. Avoid the worlds wisdom. Avoid boasting in men.
    2. (18-20) Avoid self-deception. Note the difference between worldly wisdom & God’s wisdom.
    3. (21-23) He wraps up with challenging the Corinthian believers to reverse their partisan cries.
      1. Stop boasting of your loyalties to your favorite leaders (Paul, Apollos, Cephas).
      2. These loyalties divide the church into rival factions.
      3. Paul’s reminder...they ALL belong to Christ...not to them.
    4. All is yours - you are Christ’s - Christ is Gods.
      1. If all things are yours, what are you fighting for, or bragging about, or competing for, or comparing yourself against? All things are yours!
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3". "Brian Bell Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/1-corinthians-3.html. 2017.