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1 Corinthians 3:1-2 . Babes in Christ, like children at the breast, requiring to be fed with milk, and not with meat. Our great tutor here addresses the Corinthians in a superior style of eloquence, to make them ashamed of their folly, being yet like children, crying and debating in parties, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos.
1 Corinthians 3:6-8 . I have planted, Apollos watered. Here again we see the great and noble mind of this apostle. He detracts nothing from the real excellence of Apollos as a workman, but ascribes to God the full glory, as the giver of all good. Those who plant are not the authors, but the helpers of our faith and joy. These helpers are encouraged by the liberal promises of grace, that every man shall receive his own reward.
1 Corinthians 3:10 . As a wise master-builder, an experienced man in architecture, I have laid the foundation, by preaching Christ through the Grecian provinces. Therefore let those who succeed, build according to the plan and grand design of the temple.
1 Corinthians 3:11 . Other foundation can no man lay, no new theory, no new doctrine than what is described in Isaiah 28:16. But the materials of the building, concerning which the Corinthians are cautioned to take heed, are of two sorts; gold, silver, and precious stones, as used in Solomon’s temple; and wood, hay, and stubble, as used in the mud-walled houses of the poor. The foundation is the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, from which the covenant and the promises have emanated. Those great and precious promises are more to be desired than fine gold. Therefore, as the temple had outward glory, and inward beauty, so the stones in the living temple must be built up in their most holy faith. Babes must be nourished with the sincere milk of the word, and men with stronger food. The inward beauty regards the edification of the church in all the graces of the Holy Spirit, and these graces are above all estimation: if a man would give all the substance of his house, he cannot purchase love. The same may be said of faith, which being tried and purified, is much more precious than gold that perisheth. 1 Peter 1:7.
1 Corinthians 3:12 . Wood, hay, stubble. St. Paul allows the ministers of Corinth to have been regenerate men, begotten by his ministry; but some of them still adhered to many jewish rites and customs. Others dabbled in gentile philosophy, which could not save in the fiery trials of life; and in fact, their labours availed but little in the salvation of souls. They forgot to preach Christ, and him crucified, and so missed their aim.
1 Corinthians 3:13 . The day shall declare it. Beza remarks here, after Calvin, that the light, like the rising sun, shall disperse the darkness of ignorance, and cause curious opinions which have been admired, to be of no value. But Poole adheres to Peter’s idea, that it is the fiery trial which shall reveal the moral state of the heart; the fire which shall purify our graces, and make the christian bright in the furnace. Then the builder and the building shall receive a reward by a vast encrease of grace here, and of glory in the life to come.
1 Corinthians 3:15 . He himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. Yea, as a brand plucked from the burning. How many good ministers have filled the sanctuary, and been applauded by their hearers; yet they have no work of God, or revival of religion among their hearers. It is because they have been building wood for gold, hay for silver, and stubble for precious stones. And when the fiery trial comes, such a man’s own soul shall have but a narrow escape from the conflagration. He has been preaching moral duties to carnal, wicked, and unconverted men, instead of laying the axe at the root, pressing a present salvation, and entire holiness of heart and life, as stated in the next words.
1 Corinthians 3:16 . Ye are the temple of God. The Father, Son, and Comforter will come and make His abode with you; and that heart alone is meet for his abode, which is his own workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, and formed for all good works.
1 Corinthians 3:17 . If any man defile the temple of God, φθερει τουτον ο Θεος , him will God defile, by leaving him in his pollution, as in Revelation 22:11. He who is filthy, let him be filthy still. He who grossly and wantonly profaned a temple, was accounted worthy to die. Hence Polycarp said, “Young men, keep your flesh as the temple of God.”
1 Corinthians 3:18 . Let no man deceive himself in vain efforts of rhetoric to please his hearers, instead of saving and sanctifying them; for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. He despises such craftiness and cunning, especially in those who profess to be his servants. By deceiving Isaac, Jacob narrowly escaped assassination; and the rich man who laid up treasures for many years, was, in the midst of his schemes, hurried away by death. In building the temple of the Lord, Paul is yours to plant, Apollos to water, and you are all the servants of Christ Jesus, even as he is the beloved Son of the Father. Why then should discord exist in the church? Why not obey the great Healer’s advice, and seek the lowest place, to be servants of all for Christ’s sake?
1 Corinthians 3:19 . He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. Let no man trouble the church as a party man, for the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. He took the wise inhabitants of Jerusalem in their policy. They did not honestly confess the Saviour through fear of man, and when the christians fled from that devoted city, they were enveloped in the siege. Mark 8:34. Therefore let no man glory in any leader of a faction, for Christ is one, and the body is one; whatever is contrary to concord shall be revealed in the day of fiery trial.
1 Corinthians 3:21-23 . All things are yours, labourers in the vineyard, and builders of the temple. Whether Paul, who puts himself first because he could not well do otherwise, being the founder and father of the Corinthian church. Or Apollos, who, it would seem, had reached Corinth before Peter: a triad of the most illustrious men. Or the world, which also is yours, the faithful in Abraham being made heirs of the world. Or life, or death; that you may glorify God by a holy and a useful life, and by a happy death. In this great bond of perfection, you owe only subordinate reverence to men, for ye are Christ’s body, his vineyard, his temple; and Christ is God’s high servant in the ministry of his kingdom. The unity therefore which subsists in heaven, should reign in the church below.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28