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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 3

Dunagan's Commentary on the BibleDunagan's Commentary

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I. Childish Estimates of Preachers and Teachers: A Proof of Spiritual Immaturity: 3:1-4

II. The Proper View of Paul and Apollos: 3:5-9

III. Warning To Teachers: 3:10-15

IV. General Warning Against Division: 3:16-23


The Corinthians had carried their background with them into the church. The Grecian social tendency was to rally around great philosophers, thus forming a band of followers. Unfortunately, it appears that this is how many of the Christians in Corinth viewed the various preachers of the gospel. In addition, Paul is faced with another hurdle to overcome in teaching them. It appears that the Corinthians considered themselves to be "spiritual". In fact, a certain portion of the church in Corinth seemed to look down on Paul. ( 2Co_10:10 )


Verse 1

1Co_3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ.

'And I, brethren' -(2:1)

'spiritual' -4152. pneumatikos pnyoo-mat-ik-os'; from 4151; non-carnal, i.e. (humanly) ethereal (as opposed to gross), or (daemoniacally) a spirit (concretely), or (divinely) supernatural, regenerate, religious: -spiritual. Compare 5591.

-'as to spiritual men' (NASV); 'as men with spiritual insight' (TCNT)

"It was a sharp home thrust, for the Corinthians prided themselves on their spiritual gifts and attainments, and Paul's critics had sneered at the simplicity of his teaching. The apostle retorts that this simplicity was due to their immaturity. He had merely adapted himself to their incapacity." [Note: _ Erdman p. 43]

'carnal' -4559. sarkikos sar-kee-kos'; from 4561; pertaining to flesh, i.e. (by extension) bodily, temporal, or (by implication) animal, unregenerate: -carnal, fleshly.

'babes in Christ' -'mere infants in the Faith of Christ.' (TCNT)

Points to Note:

1. The above verse simply reveals the condition of the Corinthians after their conversion. They had accepted the gospel, therefore they weren't "anti-spiritual", just "un-spiritual".

2. "Paul doesn't fault the Corinthians for this early condition of theirs, for he adds the apposition, "as babes in Christ". We must all be "babes" at first in the natural course of our spiritual development..While "babes", removes all blame, it still suggests an unsatisfactory condition of immaturity that ought soon to pass away." [Note: _ Lenski pp. 120-121]

Verse 2

1Co_3:2 I fed you with milk, not with meat; for ye were not yet able to bear it: nay, not even now are ye able;

'milk, not with meat' -( Heb_5:12-14 ). 'He fed them milk because that's what their condition needed. He did want them to mature ( Col_1:28 ) and hoped that by the time this letter was written they could have been able to eat meat.' [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 49]

'for' -the reason for the above teaching practice. This is why Paul had spent his time teaching them simple truths.

'ye were not yet able to bear it' -'receive it' (NASV); 'You were unable to digest meat in those days.' (Phi) Following their conversion, the only teaching that these Corinthians could handle was very elementary instruction. ( Heb_6:1-2 )

Points to Note:

1. Like the first verse, the first part of verse 2 is simply a statement of fact. The real rebuke starts with the last line in verse 2, 'not even now are ye able.'

2. Environment can make one spiritually dull. Living in the city of Corinth, had cost these people the ability to discern good from evil. Living in sin, will always cost you something, even if you are able to escape from it. A life in sin dulls your moral perspective, it quiets your conscience, and it might even kill a few brain cells in the process. ( Eph_4:17-19 ) Yes, these Corinthians had escaped from sin. But Paul had found that these new converts where pretty dense when it came to grasping certain truths.

'nay, not even now are ye able' -here is where the real rebuke starts! 'Indeed, you are still not ready.' (Fee p. 126)

Points to Note:

1. God expects growth after a length of time. ( Heb_5:11-14 ; Eph_4:14-16 ; 1Pe_2:1-2 ; 2Pe_1:5-11 ; 2Pe_3:18 )

2. 'There is no disgrace in being a babe, but prolonged infancy is pitiable, and arrested development is deplorable.' [Note: _ Erdman p. 44]

'Infancy is beautiful in its season, and so is the young life of the new convert; but out of season, its beauty is gone...' [Note: _ Willis p. 92]

'But when that baby grows to adulthood and still retains babyishness it is grotesque. In a baby babyishness is expected. In an adult babyishness is bizarre and undesirable.' [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 49]

3. 'During all this time the Corinthians had been proud of their ability. Had Paul not preached mightily in their midst, and was he not followed by the great Apollos? Did Paul not acknowledge the great spiritual wealth God had given them (1:5)? How can Paul, then, now say a thing so severe as this? Paul knows how the Corinthians will wince under this lash, but he is far from administering it as he does and then trying to soften the hurt. Instead of following such a procedure he at once proves conclusively that the Corinthians are actually still fleshy and babes, far behind the state they should have attained ....At one time they were naturally immature without special blame; now their immaturity is a different matter.' [Note: _ Lenski p. 123]

Verse 3

1Co_3:3 for ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men?

'carnal' -4559. sarkikos sar-kee-kos'; from 4561; pertaining to flesh, i.e. (by extension) bodily, temporal, or (by implication) animal, unregenerate: -carnal, fleshly. 'Means adapted to, fitted for the flesh, one who lives according to the flesh.' (Robertson p. 93)

Most commentators see a distinction between this Greek word rendered "carnal", and the one rendered "carnal" in verse 1. Barclay says that the word rendered "carnal" in the first verse, means, "made of flesh". While this word in verse 3 means, "dominated by the flesh". Hence, the condition in verse 1 is that of being "unspiritual". A condition that time, study, prayer, etc..could take care of. A condition that Paul hoped the Corinthians would grow out of. But verse 3, is describing a condition that is "anti-spiritual", a condition that they could "help", a condition that they had allowed to happen since their conversion. Verse 3 isn't describing a state of spiritual immaturity or ignorance, rather, a state in which one has allowed worldly attitudes and appetites to dominate their lives.

'for' -the proof of the last statement. Paul might be anticipating a defiant, 'Prove it Paul'. 'The proof of this immature, undeveloped, worldly state was found in their envying and strife and divisions.' [Note: _ Erdman p. 44]

'whereas there is among you jealousy and strife' -'these are included in the "works of the flesh" in Gal_5:20 (cf. 2Co_12:20 ); men of the Spirit ought to have got rid of such things .' [Note: _ F.F. Bruce p. 42] And the Corinthians cannot deny it! ( Jam_3:16 )

'Jealousy' -zeal that has turned into something bad.

'There is something of the tragedy of the human situation here..."zelos" could denote a great thing which had degenerated into a sin. Maybe it is true to say that there is no better test of a man that his reaction to the greatness and to the success of some one else. If it moves him to the "zelos" which is noble ambition to goodness, that is the work of the Spirit, but, if it moves him to a bitter and envious resentment, that is the work of the flesh, and what ought to be a spur to goodness has become a persuasion to sin.' [Note: _ Flesh and Spirit. William Barclay p. 49]

'Strife' -2054. eris er'-is; of uncertain affinity; a quarrel, i.e. (by implication) wrangling: -contention, debate, strife, variance.

This seems to be the natural outcome of the state of mind that includes the aforementioned jealousy.

'But the really significant fact about Paul's use of the word "eris" is that four out of its six occurrences are connected with life in the Church. ( 1Co_1:11 ; 1Co_3:3 ; 2Co_12:20 ; Php_1:15 )..."Eris" invades the church and becomes characteristic of the church, when the leaders and the members of the church think more about people and about parties and about slogans and about personal issues than they do about Jesus Christ. Here is our warning . Whenever in a church Jesus Christ is dethroned from the central place, all personal relationships go wrong ...when a man begins to argue to demolish his opponent rather than to win him, then "eris" comes in.' [Note: _ Flesh and Spirit. p. 44]

'and do ye not walk after the manner of men?' -'are you not walking like mere men?' (NASV); 'living on the purely human level.' (NEB); 'are you not worldly-minded and do you not behave like the unconverted' (Ber); 'and are acting merely as other men do.' (TCNT)

Points to Note:

1. Whatever the Corinthians were "saying" about their behaviour, their "actions" denied it.

2. "Walk after"-indicates a norm or standard of conduct. Far from acting like "spiritual men", the Corinthians were "acting" like the world. Hence spiritual growth won't happen, without the cooperation of the individual. ( 2Pe_1:5-11 )

Verse 4

1Co_3:4 For when one saith,I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not men?

'For when one saith' -'For whenever any one says' (pr. sbj. of recurring contingency); every such utterance shows you to be "men".' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 787) 'Each instance is a case in point and proof abundant of the strife.' (Robertson p. 93)

'I am of Paul' -'It was a home-thrust. Paul would not even defend his own partisans .' (Robertson p. 93) 'Partisanship was consonant with the wisdom of men (the leading philosophical schools of Greece invoked the names of their founders and chief teachers).' [Note: _ F.F. Bruce p. 43]

Points to Note:

1. 'The Corinthians may have expected a different kind of proof, for they may not have considered their contentions such a serious matter. For when they wrote to Paul they never mentioned a word on this subject (7:1; 1:11). Paul's words must, therefore, have struck them rather forcefully. Really serious faults in the church quite frequently make little or no impression on the members while lesser failings stir them up ( Mat_23:23 ).' [Note: _ Lenski p. 125]

2. 'This is extremely significant because it means that you can tell what a man's relations with God are by looking at his relations with his fellow men. If a man is at variance with his fellow men, if he is a quarrelsome, competitive, argumentative, trouble-making creature, he may be a diligent church attender, he may even be a church office-bearer, but he is not a man of God.' [Note: _ Barclay p. 34]

3. We should note that Paul doesn't have a lot of patience with belief that doesn't issue in proper behaviour.

4. Modern Application: The "spirit" that Paul here condemns, still lives on in the church. There is nothing wrong in quoting from a human source. If a man said something insightful, then certainly give him the credit. But it is another thing to quote from human sources, thinking that such sources "establish" the truthfulness of a position.

"Angels straight out of heaven are to be tested by the word of God. ( Gal_1:6-9 ) Bereans heard an apostle speak and checked their Bibles to see if what he said agreed with the Bible ( Act_17:11 ). If what you say is biblical, stand on it yourself!" [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 50]

Verse 5

1Co_3:5 What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him.

'What then is Apollos? and what is Paul?' -'In these verses Paul begins his discussion about the real place of people like himself. He doesn't ask "who is Apollos". He asks "What is Apollos?" The neuter stresses instrumentality. It plays down the personality of the minister and plays up the idea of his being a "tool" (as it where) in the hands of God.' [Note: _ McGuiggan pp. 50-51]

'Ministers' -'No more than servants' (Phi); 'Just servants' (Gspd). 'The etymology of the word Thayer gives as "dia" and "konis", "raising dust by hastening." (Robertson p. 93) 'Besides evidencing a misapprehension of the gospel itself, the Corinthians' slogans bespeak a totally inadequate perception of the church and its ministry (ministers). They are boasting in their individual teachers as though they could "belong" to them in some way...Apollos and Paul are "only servants", he asserts (v.5), and by implication, therefore, not "masters" to whom they may belong.' [Note: _ Fee p. 129]

'Paul and Apollos were not lords; they were servants and, therefore, unworthy that anyone should treat them as leaders of parties in the church..men are mere servants; no one worships a servant!' [Note: _ Willis p. 97]

'through whom ye believed' -the point being, that the Corinthian's did not believe "in" Paul or Apollos, but "through" them came to believe in Christ. Another passage indicating that faith comes by hearing. ( Rom_10:17 )

'and each as the Lord gave to him' -'even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one' (NASV). God gave different opportunities and tasks to Paul and Apollos (3:6).

Verse 6

1Co_3:6 I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

'Paul got the work of redemption going among the Corinthians and Apollos followed up on it and "watered it" ( Act_18:27 ). But in it all, the increase was given by God.' [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 51]

'Increase' -'was causing the growth' (NASV)

"We must be careful to avoid a Calvinistic conclusion from this illustration. One must not hastily jump to the conclusion that the seed will not grow in the heart of the individual unless God enlightens the man's heart. The figure is easily understood. The farmer may plant and water but God's power is what causes the growth. We do not imagine that God must miraculously operate on the soil before the plant will grow. The point is that the power of life which is in the seed is put there by God ; our works would be useless had God not put the life producing power in the seed...Similarly, Paul relates, the power of God is in the gospel ( Rom_1:16 ). The life which is produced through preaching it is no less the power of God at work than when a seed grows." [Note: _ Willis p. 100]

Verse 7

1Co_3:7 So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

'So then' -the application of Paul's analogy in verse 6.

'anything' -'deserves the credit' (Lam). 'The problem in Corinth is with perspective . They are viewing things from below, and as a result think altogether too highly of their teachers...Paul and Apollos do have essential tasks to perform, for which they will receive their own rewards. But they have no independent importance , from the perspective of ultimate responsibility for the Corinthians' existence as the people of God, Paul and Apollos count for nothing.' [Note: _ Fee p. 132]

'These Christians, with their weak understanding of the Message of God (it isn't a philosophy) and their warped view of preachers of that Message (they aren't logicians or rhetoricians) fragmented into groups within the Body. In all that has gone before since 1:10 we have been hearing God being exalted and men being put in their place FOR THE GOOD OF MAN! ' [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 51]

'The present participles seem to indicate that what Paul said here has universal application . Regardless of who does the planting and watering, they are nothing in comparison with God..' [Note: _ Willis p. 101]

Paul is saying, 'Without the Message of the Gospel, we wouldn't be able to bring life to anyone!'

Verse 8

1Co_3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: but each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.

'are one' -'are working as a team, with the same aim' (Tay) 'These servants, Paul and Apollos, are not rivals. They should not be regarded as leaders of sects..their common interest is the advancement of the church. They are cooperating, not competing.' [Note: _ Erdman pp. 46-47] 'If no one planted, the watering would be useless. If no one watered, the planting would come to naught..' (Robertson p. 94)

'according to his own labor' -'significantly, Paul did not place the basis of wages on results but on labor . The rule of reward is not the talents or gifts, nor the success of ministers, but their labors. This brings the humblest on a level with the most exalted; the least successful with the most highly favored.' [Note: _ Willis pp. 102-103]

Verse 9

1Co_3:9 For we are God's fellow-workers: ye are God's husbandry, God's building.

'God's fellow-workers' -'What an honor to be described as God's helper or co-worker!' (Willis p. 103) 'for we are God's men, working together.' (Beck) 'Which may mean that Paul and Apollos work together for God or work together with God.' (F.F. Bruce p. 43)

What a privilege Christians have! God let's us work with Him! ( Eph_2:10 )

'ye' -Corinthians

'God's husbandry' -'God's field' (NASV) 'God's tilled land'. (Robertson p. 95). The Corinthians were a "field" in which God had expended labor and they belonged to God. Paul and Apollos would really only be "farm-workers" in such an illustration, and nobody ever thinks about worshipping a "farm-worker". How foolish their divisions look!

'God's building' -at this point Paul switches from a agricultural illustration to an illustration involving a building or temple.

'All too often those "in charge", be they clergy, boards, vestry, sessions, or what have you, tend to think of the church as "theirs". They pay lip-service to its being "Christ's church, after all", then proceed to operate on the basis of very pagan, secular structures ...Nor does the church belong to the people, especially those who have "attended all their lives", or who have "supported it with great sums of money", as though that gave them special privileges. The church belongs to Christ, all other things--structures, attitudes, decisions, nature of ministry, everything--should flow out of that singular realization ..' [Note: _ Fee p. 135]

Verse 10

1Co_3:10 According to the grace of God which was given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder I laid a foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let each man take heed how he buildeth thereon.

'According to the grace of God which was given unto me' -'In His love God gave me a work to do.' (Beck) The unmerited favor shown to Paul in appointing him to be an apostle, to speak by inspiration, to establish churches. ( 1Co_15:10 'But by the grace of God I am what I am'; Eph_3:8 )

'as a wise masterbuilder' -'In the case of the Corinthians, Paul was the one who laid the foundation. He has no doubt that he did wisely what the Master had entrusted him to do. At this point Paul is drawing a distinction between himself as the "founder" of this particular congregation and those who carry on the work with that assembly. He did his job wisely. Those who continue the work need to do theirs likewise .' [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 52]

Paul was a wise master builder, or a skillful architect, in the sense that he KNEW THE RIGHT FOUNDATION TO LAY.

'I laid a foundation' -The foundation that Paul laid was Jesus Christ (3:11). The church isn't founded upon the apostles, rather they were the ones who through preaching laid the foundation. ( Eph_2:20 ) Simply another way of saying, "I planted."

'another buildeth thereon' -referring to those like Apollos who had and would continue to work with the church in Corinth.

'But let each man take how he buildeth thereon' -'Whoever he is, let him be careful how he builds' (Mof).

'Some interpretations of 3:10-15 tend to place absolutely no responsibility on the preacher for whether what he builds on the foundation is gold, silver.....The warning, "Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon", necessitates that whatever interpretation one places upon these verses must be one which harmonizes with the fact that the preacher (or leading elements in Corinth) is to some degree responsible for using the proper material to build upon the foundation of Christ.' [Note: _ Willis p. 107]

Verse 11

1Co_3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

'can no man lay' -God determined what the foundation of the church would be, and no one can change that fact. ( Mat_16:16 ; Mat_16:18 ; Mat_21:42 ; Eph_2:20 ; 1Pe_2:6-8 ) 'Men can and do build on different foundations but the building which they erect cannot properly be styled "God's building."' [Note: _ Willis p. 107]

'which is Jesus Christ' -hence Peter wasn't the foundation "rock" on which the church was established.

This verse appears to be a warning directed at those in Corinth, who were in danger of attempting to lay another foundation, other than Jesus Christ. (1:23; 2:2)

'The QUALITY of the foundation could not be disputed.' (Bruce p. 44)

Verse 12

1Co_3:12 But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble;

'any man' -The work of "anyone" coming after Paul was that of building on the foundation which he had already laid. 'After the interjected caution to let the foundation alone , Paul turns to the superstructure.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 791)

'gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble' -various views exist concerning what these materials represent.

Points to Note:

1. Paul is discussing "what" is built upon the foundation of "Jesus Christ". The materials that compose the church, are individual members. ( 1Pe_2:5 ; Eph_2:20 'having been built upon..') 1Co_9:1 '..are you not my work in the Lord?' ( 2Ti_2:19 )

2. In this section a man's work may be lost, but his own soul saved. (3:15)

3. The materials listed are a studied scale of descending value. And the value under consideration seems to be the ability to endure. Some materials endure fire while others are consumed. In like manner, some converts endure to the end, while others give up. ( Mat_13:20-23 )

Verse 13

1Co_3:13 each man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man's work of what sort it is.

'made manifest' -'evident' (NASV) 'The character of each one's work will come to light.' (Wms); 'The quality of each man's work will become known' (TCNT)

'for the day shall declare it' -'show it' (NASV). The 'Day of Judgement' will certainly reveal the true nature of those that a teacher has converted. And yet, so do periods of trial. ( Luk_8:13 )

'because it is revealed in fire' - 2Th_1:7 ; 2Pe_3:10-12

'of what sort it is' -'the fire will test the quality of everyone's work' (Gspd)

'It's unusual, says one writer, for a builder to build a house so that it might survive fire. He usually builds in hope that it will never face fire. But the building the Christian teacher builds will pass through the fire . The teacher's.....converts will one day face trial (not just the final judgement) and that trial will demonstrate if he worked in hay and stubble or something more durable. If the converts or students burn up under pressure the teacher loses.' [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 53]

Points to Note:

1. Hence the great need for plain preaching and teaching. Every teacher needs to ask themselves, 'Have I given this student everything they need to resist temptation?' 'Have I equipped them to the best of my ability?'

2. The necessity of no subject being off-limits due to it's uncomfortable nature. People are going to face "the fire" one day, therefore character flaws, wrong attitudes or anything that might trip up the student needs to be pointed out now.

3. This section of Scripture also demands some self-examination on the part of the student. It's hard to read these verses without asking yourself, at this point in my life, am I 'gold or stubble'?

Verse 14

1Co_3:14 If any man's work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward.

'shall abide' -while fire consumes wood, hay and stubble, it only is able to melt such things as gold and silver.

'he shall receive a reward' -Satisfaction and praise from God. ( 2Jn_1:4 ; 3Jn_1:4 ; 1Th_2:19-20 ; Php_2:14-16 ; Php_4:1 ). When we compare verses 14 and 15, this reward consists in something more than one's own salvation.

Verse 15

1Co_3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire.

'he shall suffer loss' -2210. zemioo dzay-mee-o'-o; from 2209; to injure, i.e. (reflexively or passively) to experience detriment: -be cast away, receive damage, lose, suffer loss.

'but he himself shall be saved' -indicating that the "loss" doesn't refer to his own salvation. Which also tells us that it wasn't necessarily the "content" of his teaching which resulted in his converts failing to stand the test.

Paul was personally afraid about the condition of some of his converts. ( Gal_4:11 ) And in those instances, Paul was afraid that all his hard work had been in vain. ( 1Th_3:5 ) ( 2Co_11:29 )

'yet so as through fire' -The preacher or teacher himself will be tested also. The "fire" of trial or the final day will reveal whether he was personally responsible for the weakened condition of his converts, and hence their final destruction.

Points to Note:

1. Some have tried to get the doctrine of "once saved, always saved into this verse". Many commentators view this verse as teaching that a teacher may have done a very miserable job in teaching others, even teaching them error, and yet God will save such a teacher "just barely", "snatching them out of the fire". Yet such a view would contradict other portions of the book. ( 1Co_10:1-13 )

2. Actually, such an interpretation would only establish "once saved, always saved" for preachers or teachers. For the converts of this teacher, do end up lost (3:15). Now that presents an interesting situation. God will save all religious teachers, even if they taught error, and yet will condemn their disciples that went into error?


'I think Paul now turns from the teachers (whom he speaks of in the third person in 10-15) to the church in general. He reminds them who they are. They aren't some little "fly by night" school of philosophy, here today and gone tomorrow. The ruins of temples and sacred shrines which were scattered through that part of the world were numerous enough. But no one really lost anything when these temples and shrines were destroyed. But they are the temple of the Lord . It is of eternal consequence what happens to the temple of God.....' [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 53]

Verse 16

1Co_3:16 Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

'Know ye not' -'a touch a amazement at their ignorance.' (McGarvey p. 65) 'An expression of surprise arising out of their conduct.' (Alford p. 993)

'ye are a temple of God' -i.e. the local church in Corinth. ( 1Pe_2:5 ; 1Ti_3:15 ; Eph_2:20 ; 2Co_6:16 ) 'In verse 9 he had called them God's building; he now reminds them of what kind the building was.' (McGarvey p. 65)

'temple' -'The word used (naos) refers to the actual sanctuary, the place of the deity's dwelling, in contrast to the word "heiron", which referred to the temple precincts as well as to the sanctuary....now Paul is calling their attention to the fact that since there is only one God, he can have only one temple in Corinth, and they are it..."Do you not know that you are THE temple of God in Corinth?" ' [Note: _ Fee pp. 146-147]

'the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' -( Eph_2:19-22 ) Reminding us of the fact that the glory of God inhabited the tabernacle ( Exo_40:34 ) and the temple of Solomon ( 1Ki_8:11 ).

'The main idea to be conveyed is that the church is just as holy as Solomon's temple was. During Christ's day, a person could be put to death for defiling the Temple. The Corinthians needed to be warned of the same danger with reference to the Church.' [Note: _ Willis p. 115]

Verse 17

1Co_3:17 If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye.

'any man' -regardless of their status.

'destroyeth' -There are cases worst than the teacher who suffers the lost of those he converted (3:15). There is the man who had a hand in destroying the church. There is the individual that personally contributed to the downfall of other Christians. ( Mat_18:6-9 ; Pro_6:19 ) 'Signifies to corrupt morally, deprave, injure in character, as well as to waste, damage.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 793)

'him shall God destroy' -The punishment is certain. 'Those who are responsible for dismantling the church may expect judgement in kind.' (Fee p. 17)

Points to Note:

1. The temple of God can be destroyed. God will not step in and prevent division from happening. God will not rescue us, against our will, from our self-destructive ways.

2. Many churches have been destroyed from within, rather than from without.

3. This verse tells me that all those examples in the O.T., like Nadab and Abihu ( Lev_10:1-3 ); Uzzah ( 2Sa_6:1-7 ); and King Uzziah ( 2Ch_26:16-23 ); still accurately reflect God's attitude towards how man views the things of God. The local congregation is just as "holy" as the worship that Nadab and Abihu were involved in, or the ark of the covenant, or the privileged work given to the priests, etc..God still takes a dim view of those that show a lack of respect for what He says is holy.

4. Hence the church is not a place to play the human games of 'power, gossip, popularity contests, etc..', that people play in other organizations.

Verse 18

1Co_3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.

'Let no man deceive himself' -'A warning that implied that some of them were guilty of doing it.' (Robertson p. 99) 'By thinking himself wise enough to amend or modify God's truth.' (McGarvey p. 66) 'Let no one be under any illusion over this.' (Phi)

It appears that Paul now returns to the subject of God's wisdom verses the World's wisdom. Dividing into parties and following men, may have seemed "wise" to some. But Paul had revealed that such attitudes are destroying the church in Corinth, and those that pursue such attitudes will not only destroy the church, but they are self-deceived and a fearful judgement threatens them.

'If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world' -'imagines that he is wiser than the rest of you, in what this world calls wisdom.' (Gspd)

'Paul then goes on once again to pin down the root cause of this dissension and this consequent destruction of the temple of God.. that root cause is the worship of intellectual, worldly wisdom.. it is this very worldly wisdom which makes the Corinthians assess the worth and the value of different teachers and leaders. It is this pride in the human mind which makes them assess and evaluate and criticize the way in which the message is delivered..' [Note: _ Barclay p. 38]

'let him become foolish that he may become wise' -'by receiving the gospel in its simplicity, and so becoming foolish in the world's sight.' (Alford p. 993) ( Act_26:24 ; 1Co_4:10 ) 'Let him discard this wisdom, have himself called "a fool" by the adherents of this wisdom.' (Lenski p. 151)

'This is simply a vivid way of urging a man to be humble enough to learn. No one can teach a man who thinks that he knows it all already.' (Barclay p. 39) ( Pro_9:8-9 ; Jam_1:21 )

Verse 19

1Co_3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He that taketh the wise in their craftiness:

'is foolishness with God' -'For this world's cleverness is stupidity to God.' (Phi) Especially the "wisdom" that the world uses in the attempt to solve it's own problems and to deliver itself. And remember, ultimately, God's perspective is the only one that really counts.

'And how do we know? Because once again, as in 1:19, there is sufficient evidence from what "is written"..' (Fee p. 152)

'He that taketh the wise in their craftiness' -'He traps the wise in their own cunning' (NEB); 'God uses man's own brilliance to trap him.' (Tay) ( Job_5:13 ) 'When the world's schemers think themselves cleverest, Providence catches them in their own toils.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 794)

'The very acts which man considers to be the heights of his wisdom are the acts which lead to his own downfall (cf. Rom_1:21-32 )' (Willis p. 120)

Verse 20

1Co_3:20 and again, The Lord knoweth the reasonings of the wise that they are vain.

'and again' - Psa_94:11

'The Lord knoweth the reasonings of the wise that they are vain' -'The Lord sees how fruitless are the deliberations of the wise.' (TCNT) 'What the Lord sees is that all their carefully thought-out conclusions are ineffectual..the ineffectiveness of these wise men is illustrated by the schemes, plots, and tricky questions of the Lord's enemies, by which they tried to entangle him. Jesus always saw completely through their cunning and frustrated their designs WITH A WORD OR TWO..Let the Corinthians keep that in mind and not deceive themselves by admiring worldly wisdom.' [Note: _ Lenski p. 153]

Keep this verse in mind when you hear the "smart" arguments for Reincarnation, atheism, pantheism, 'everyone is on the same road to heaven-ism', 'suffering disproves the existence of God-ism', etc....

Verse 21

1Co_3:21 Wherefore let no one glory in men. For all things are yours;

'Wherefore' -'What is the proper conclusion to be drawn from all this?'

'let no one glory in men' -'to glory in men, means to boast about them, their qualities, teachings, and wisdom in any measure or degree apart from Christ and the wisdom of the gospel. The Corinthians were on the way to that type of glorying.' (Lenski p. 153)

There is no good reason to glory to man, seeing that man, by himself can't find God! (1:21; Jer_10:23 ) Why in the world would one want to boast in a "wisdom" that is so helplessly inept?

'For all things are yours' -'all of them belong to you' (NEB).

Verse 22

1Co_3:22 whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;

'whether' -these are the things that "belong" to the Corinthians.

'Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas' -'how can the Corinthians say, "I am of Paul, or Apollos"? That is too narrow, too constricted a view...You do not belong to them; they belong to you, as your servants .' (Fee p. 154) 'Why should they claim Paul as theirs and leave Peter? They're all yours!' (McGuiggan p. 54)

'or the world' -'The point is that the world exists and subsists for the usefulness of the saint. Only the Christian can properly use the things of the world; the non-Christian generally lets the world use him..' (Willis p. 122)

'or life, or death' -'Don't choose life and reject death; both are yours!' (McGuiggan p. 54) Both life and death "serve" a useful purpose for the Christian. The Christian can use both to his/her advantage. "Death" is very handy when we are ready to exit this life, and go to our reward. ( Php_1:21 ; Php_1:23 ) Without "death", the Christian could never get any closer to God! 'Life with it's possibilities and death with it's gain- Php_1:21 ' (McGarvey p. 66)

'or things present, or things to come' -'Don't choose now and reject the future; all is yours!' (McGuiggan p. 54) All periods and possibilities of time BELONG TO THE CHRISTIAN. Both the present and the future "serve" a useful function for the Christian. Both Present and Future contain blessings for the the child of God. ( Rev_21:5-27 ) See Rom_8:28 .

Hence how "poor" the people of the world look who "live for today", but have nothing to look forward to in the future. Who grasp for every bit of life, and yet fear death. Who merely "exist" in this world because they are "slaves" of the world they were created to "use". How sad to only possess a little "slice" of life.

Verse 23

1Co_3:23 and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.

'ye are Christ's' -'Here is the true slogan which abolishes all others...'You' means all of the Corinthians as one body. This wipes out the "I" in the old slogans, one individual over against the others..' (Lenski p. 158)

'It is not that "all things are yours" willy-nilly, or selfishly...They are yours because you belong to Christ; and all things are his ( 1Co_15:23-28 ). Thus it is only in him that the believer possesses all things..' (Fee pp. 154-155)

'Hence not the properly of his servants' (McGarvey p. 66)

'And what is their response to be? You are Christ's! Act like it.' (McGuiggan p. 54)

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/1-corinthians-3.html. 1999-2014.
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