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1 Corinthians 3:1-46.3.4
The carnal conceit of the spiritually immature.
1 Corinthians 3:1
I… could not speak unto you as unto spiritual. Though softened by the word brethren, there was a crushing irony of reproof in these words: "You thought yourselves quite above the need of my simple teaching. You were looking down on me from the whole height of your inferiority. The elementary character of my doctrine was after all the necessary consequence of your own incapacity for anything more profound." As unto carnal. The true reading here is sarkinois, fleshen, not sarkikois, fleshly, or carnal; the later and severer word is perhaps first used in 1 Corinthians 3:3. The word sarkinos (earneus), fleshen, implies earthliness and weakness and the absence of spirituality; but sarkikos (carnalis) involves the dominance of the lower nature and antagonism to the spiritual. As mite babes in Christ. The word "babes" has a good and a bad sense. In its good sense it implies humility and teachableness, as in 1 Corinthians 14:20, "In malice be ye babes;" and in 1 Peter 2:2, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word;" and in Matthew 11:25. Here it is used in its bad sense of spiritual childishness.
1 Corinthians 3:2
I fed you with milk. The metaphor is expanded in Hebrews 5:13, "Every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the Word of righteousness; for he is a babe." The same metaphor is found in Philo; and the young pupils of the rabbis were called "sucklings" (תוקונית) and "little ones" (camp. Matthew 10:42). Not with meat; not with solid food, which is for full grown or spiritually perfect men (Hebrews 5:14). For hitherto; rather, for ye were not yet—when I preached to you—able to bear it. The same phrase is used by our Lord in John 16:12, "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now;" and he taught them in parables, "as they were able to bear it" (Mark 4:33). Not even now are ye able. Though you imagine that you have advanced so far beyond my simpler teaching.
1 Corinthians 3:3
For ye are yet carnal. This is the reason for the spiritual dulness which your pride prevents you from recognizing. Envying, and strife, and divisions. The two latter words are omitted in some of the best manuscripts, and may have been added from Galatians 5:20. Partisanship and discord, the sins of the Corinthians—sins which have disgraced so many ages of Church history—are works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19), and involve many other sins (James 3:16), and are therefore sure proofs of the carnal mind, though they are usually accompanied by a boast of superior spiritual enlightenment. As men; that is, "as men, not as Christians." To walk as a mere ordinary human being is not to "walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25); comp.," I speak as a man" (Romans 3:5).
1 Corinthians 3:4
For when one saith, I am of Paul. This is a proof that there were jealousies and partisanships among them. We again notice the generous courage of St. Paul in rebuking first those adherents who turned his own name into a party watchword. Are ye not carnal? The true reading is, "Are ye not men?" (א, A, B, C, and so the Revised Version); i.e. Are ye not swayed by mere human passions? The Spirit which you received at baptism ought to have lifted you above these mean rivalries. You ought to be something more than mere men. Religious partisanship is, in the eye of St. Paul, simply irreligious. He sets down party controversies as a distinct proof of carnality. Those who indulge in it are men devoid of the spiritual element.
1 Corinthians 3:5-46.3.15
The one foundation and the diverse superstructure.
1 Corinthians 3:5
Who then is Paul? The better reading is what? (א, A, B). The neuter would imply a still greater depreciation of the importance of human ministers. Ministers. The same word as that rendered "deacons" (diakonoi); "ministers of Christ on your behalf" (Colossians 1:7). Through whom ye believed. Through whom," not "in whom" (Bengel). They were merely the instruments of your conversion. In the second Epistle (2 Corinthians 3:3) he calls them "the epistle of Christ ministered by us written… with the Spirit of the living God." As the Lord gave to him. The gifts differ according to the grace given (Romans 12:6).
1 Corinthians 3:6
I planted. St. Paul everywhere recognized that his gift lay pre eminently in the ability to found Churches (comp. Acts 18:1-44.18.11; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:1). Apollos watered. If, as is now generally believed, Apollos wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, we see how striking was his power of strengthening the faith of wavering Churches. Eloquence and a deep insight into the meaning of Scripture, enriched by Alexandrian culture, seem to have been his special endowments (Acts 18:24, Acts 18:27). The reference of the word "watered" to baptism by Augustine is one of the numberless instances of Scripture distorted by ecclesiasticism. God gave the increase. The thought of every true teacher always is, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give the praise" (Psalms 115:1).
1 Corinthians 3:7
Anything. The planter and the waterer are nothing by comparison. They could do nothing without Christ's aid (John 15:16), and were nothing in themselves (2 Corinthians 12:11). But God that giveth the increase. The human instruments are nothing, but God is everything, because, apart from him, no result would follow.
1 Corinthians 3:8
Are one; literally, one thing. God is the sole Agent; the teachers, so far from being able to pose as rival leaders, form but one instrument in God's hand. Their relative differences shrink into insignificance when the source and objects of their ministry are considered. His own reward… his own labour. In the lower individual sphere the work of teachers shall be fairly estimated and rewarded as in the parable of the pounds and talents (comp. John 4:36; Revelation 22:12).
1 Corinthians 3:9
God's fellow workers. Throughout the Bible we are taught that God requires the work of man, and that he will not help those who will do nothing for themselves or for him. The world was to be evangelized, not by sudden miracle, but by faithful human labour (Mark 16:20). God's husbandry; rather. God's field, or tilled land. The thought which he desires again and again to enforce is that they belong to God, not to the parties of human teachers. The word" husbandry" may also mean vineyard, and the metaphor is the same as in Is 1 Corinthians 5:1; 27:2; John 15:1; Matthew 13:3-40.13.30; Luke 13:6-42.13.9; Romans 11:16-45.11.24. God's building. This is one of St. Paul's favourite metaphors, as in Romans 11:16, Romans 11:17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; —Ephesians 2:20-49.2.22; Romans 15:20; 2 Timothy 2:19.
1 Corinthians 3:10
According to the grace of God which is given unto me; rather, which was given. Here, again, we have St. Paul's baptismal aorist—his habit of regarding his whole spiritual life as potentially summed up in the one crisis of conversion and baptism. This phrase is a favourite one with him (1 Corinthians 15:10; Romans 15:15; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:2). As a wise master builder. "Wise" only in the sense of subordinating every pretence of human wisdom to the will of God; and here the adjective only applies to the wisdom required by a builder. In other words, "wise" is here equivalent to "skilful." Since Paul had received the grace of God for this very purpose, he was made "wise" by the knowledge of Christ (for the metaphor of building, see Matthew 7:24; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:21; 1 Peter 2:5). The foundation; rather, a foundation. Though in truth there is but one foundation, as he proceeds to say, St. Paul always refused to build on the foundation laid by another (Romans 15:20). Another. Perhaps the special allusion is to Apollos.
1 Corinthians 3:11
Other foundation can no man lay. Any "other" gospel is not merely "another," but "a different" gospel (Galatians 1:9). That which is laid; rather, that is lying. It has not been placed there (τεθέντα) by any human bands, but lies there by the eternal will. Which is Jesus Christ. "The doctrine of Jesus Christ is the foundation of all theology; his person of all life." This is again and again inculcated in Scripture: Isaiah 28:16, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation." On this rock the Church is built (Matthew 16:18 : Acts 4:11, Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:20).
1 Corinthians 3:12
Gold, silver. Perhaps St. Paul thought for a moment of the gorgeous metals rod rich marbles used in the Corinthian temples, as well as in the temple at Jerusalem. But it is surely fantastic to suggest that his reference is an historical reminiscence of the melting of gold and silver in the burning of Corinth by Mummius, nearly two hundred years before. Costly stones; i.e. costly marble from Paros, Phrygia, etc. Wood, hay, stubble. These words seem to symbolize erroneous or imperfect doctrines, which would not stand the test, and which led to evil practices. Such were the" philosophy and vain deceit," "the weak and beggarly dements," "the rudiments of the world," of which he speaks in Galatians 4:9; Colossians 2:8. So in the Midrash Tehillin, the words of false teachers are compared to hay. The doctrines to which he alludes are not anti christian, but imperfect and human—such, for instance, as, "Humanas constitutiunculas de cultu, de victo, de frigidis ceremoniis" (Erasmus).
1 Corinthians 3:13
Each man's work shall be made manifest. The real nature—the worth or worthlessness—of each man's work, will be made clear sooner or later. The day shall declare it. "The day" can only mean "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:8), which would specially "make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1 Corinthians 4:5), and "judge the secrets of men" (Romans 2:16), and make all men manifest "before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:10). It shall be revealed by fire; rather, because it is being revealed in fire. The phrase "is being" is called bad English, but some such phrase is positively needed to render the continuous present tense, which here expresses certainty, natural sequence, perpetual imminence. This tense is constantly used to express the continuity and the present working of Divine laws (comp. Matthew 3:10). As the nominative is not expressed, it is uncertain whether "it" refers to "each man's work" or to" the day." Either gives an apposite sense (Malachi 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:8). Some would make "he" (namely, Christ) the nominative, because "the day" means "the day of Christ;" and in favour of this view they quote 2 Thessalonians 1:7, "The revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven in flaming fire." But the ellipse of an unexpressed nominative is harsh. The fire itself shall prove each man's work. This is the "probatory" or testing fire of the day of the Lord, of which we read very frequently in the Fathers. The doctrine of purgatory has been in some measure founded on this verse; but such a view of it cannot be maintained. The reader will find the subject examined and the quotations from the Fathers given in the writer's 'Mercy and Judgment,' p. 69. All that is said here is that the fire of Christ's presence—the consuming fire of God's love—shall test the work, not purge it. The fire is probatory, not purgatorial, and it is not in itself a fife of wrath, for it tests the gold and silver as well as the inferior elements of the structure. It is the fire of the refiner, not of the avenger.
1 Corinthians 3:14
If any man's work shall abide. St. Paul is speaking primarily of teachers, though, of course, his words apply by analogy to all believers. He shall receive a reward. One of the teacher's rewards will be his converts (1 Thessalonians 2:19), who will be "his joy and crown of glorying" (Philippians 2:16); another will be "a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:2, 1 Peter 5:4; Daniel 12:3); yet another will be fresh opportunities for higher labour (Matthew 25:23).
1 Corinthians 3:15
He shall suffer loss. He shall not receive the full reward to which he might otherwise look (2 John 1:8). He himself shall be saved. It is an inexpressible source of comfort to us, amid the weakness and ignorance of our lives, to know that if we have only erred through human frailty and feebleness, while yet we desired to be sincere and faithful, the work will be burnt, yet the workman will be saved. Some of the Fathers gave to this beautiful verse the shockingly perverted meaning that "the workman would be preserved alive for endless torments," "salted with fire" in order to endure interminable agonies. The meaning is impossible, for it reverses the sense of the word "saved;" and makes it equivalent to "damned;" but the interpretation is an awful proof of the distortions to which a merciless human rigorism and a hard, self styled orthodoxy have sometimes subjected the Word of God. Yet so as by fire; rather, through or by means of fire (διὰ πυρός). We may be, as it were, "snatched as a brand from the burning" (Zechariah 3:2; Amos 4:11; Jude 1:23), and "scarcely" saved (1 Peter 4:18). Similarly it is said in 1 Peter 3:20 that Noah was saved "through water" (δι ὗδατος). The ship is lost, the sailor saved; the workman is saved, the work is burned.
1 Corinthians 3:16-46.3.23
The peril and folly of glorying in men.
1 Corinthians 3:16
Know ye not. The phrase is used by St. Paul in this Epistle to emphasize important truths, as in 1 Corinthians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 6:2,.1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 9:13, 1 Corinthians 9:24. Out of this Epistle it only occurs in Romans 6:16; Romans 11:2. That ye are the temple of God. "Ye," both collectively (Ephesians 2:21) and individually; "God's shrine;" not built for men's glory. The word "temple" in the Old Testament always means the material temple; in the Gospels our Lord "spake of the temple of his body;" in the rest of the New Testament the body of every baptized Christian is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:16), because "God dwelleth in him" (1 John 4:16; comp. John 14:23). In another aspect Christians can be regarded as "living stones in one spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). The temple; rather, the shrine (uses) wherein God dwells (naiei), and which is the holiest part of the temple (hieron).
1 Corinthians 3:17
If any man defile the temple of God. The verb is the same as in the next clause, and should be rendered, If any man destroy the temple of God; but the word is perhaps too strong, and the word "mar" or "injure" might better convey the meaning (Olshausen). The two verbs are brought into vivid juxtaposition in the original: "God shall ruin the ruiner of his temple." St. Paul was, perhaps, thinking of the penalty of death attached to any one who desecrated the temple of Jerusalem. Inscriptions on the chel, or "middle wall of partition," threatened death to any Gentile who set foot within the sacred enclosure." Which temple ye are; literally, the which are ye; i.e. ye are holy. St. Paul is here referring to the Church of Corinth, and to the false teachers who desecrated it by bringing in "factions of destruction" (2 Peter 2:1). Ideally the Church was glorious, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27).
1 Corinthians 3:18
Let no man deceive himself. Like the other formula, "Be not deceived" (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7); "Deceive not yourselves" (Jeremiah 37:9); "Let no man deceive you" (Marl 24:4; Luke 21:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Ephesians 5:6; 1 John 3:7). We are so liable to self deception (1 John 1:8; Galatians 6:3), as well as to being deceived by others (2 Timothy 3:13), that there was need to repeat this warning incessantly. Seemeth to be wise; rather, thinketh that he is wise. He is referring specially to the Apollos party, who vaunted their esoteric knowledge, and so were "wise in their own eyes, prudent in their own conceits" (Isaiah 5:21).
1 Corinthians 3:19
The wisdom of this world. Here the word for "world" is kosmos, in the last verse it was alert. Kosmos is the world regarded objectively; aion the world regarded in its moral and intellectual aspect. He that taketh the wise in their craftiness. This is one of the few references to the Book of Job in the New Testament. It comes from the speech of Eliphaz in Job 5:13, but St. Paul substitutes the words "clutching" (drassomenos) and "craftiness" (panourgia) for the milder katalabon and phronesei of the LXX.
1 Corinthians 3:20
The Lord knoweth, etc. A quotation from Psalms 94:11. St. Paul substitutes "the wise" for the "men" of the original, because the psalmist is referring to perverse despisers of God. Dialogismoi is rather "reasonings" than "thoughts." It is used in a disparaging sense, as in Romans 1:21; Ephesians 4:17.
1 Corinthians 3:21
Wherefore. St. Paul, with this word, concludes the argument of warning of the previous section, as in 1 Corinthians 3:7; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1Co 8:1-13 :38; 1 Corinthians 11:33; 1 Corinthians 14:39; 1 Corinthians 15:58 (Wordsworth). All things are yours. It is always a tendency of Christians to underrate the grandeur of their privileges by exaggerating their supposed monopoly of some of them, while many equally rich advantages are at their disposal. Instead of becoming partisans of special teachers, and champions of separate doctrines, they might enjoy all that was good in the doctrine of all teachers, whether they were prophets, or pastors, or evangelists (Ephesians 4:11, Ephesians 4:12). The true God gives us all things richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
1 Corinthians 3:22
Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas. All were their servants for Jesus' sake (2 Corinthians 4:5). Instead of becoming partisans of either, they could enjoy the greatness of all. Or the world. The sudden leap from Cephas to the world shows, as Bengel says, the impetuous leap of thought. There is a passage of similar eloquence in Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39. The "hundredfold" is promised even in this world. Or life. Because life in Christ is the only real life, and Christ came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly (see Romans 8:38). Or death. To the Christian, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). So that death is no more than
"The lifting of a latch;
Nought but a step into the open air
Out of a tent already luminous
With light which shines through its transparent folds."
Or things present, or things to come. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things" (Revelation 21:7), because Christ has received all things from the Father.
1 Corinthians 3:23
And ye are Christ's (see 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Corinthians 15:23; Romans 14:8; Galatians 3:29). Christians possess because they are possessed by Christ (Meyer). Christ is our Master, and God our Father (Matthew 23:10). And Christ is God's; because "Christ is equal to the Father as touching his Godhead, but inferior to the Father as touching his manhood." Hence in 1 Corinthians 11:3 he says, "The head of Christ is God;" and in 1 Corinthians 15:28, we read of Christ resigning his mediatorial kingdom, that God may be all in all. Perhaps St. Paul implies the thought that Christ belongs, not to a party, but to God, the Father of us all. But the ultimate climax from Christ to God is found also in 1 Corinthians 4:1 : Romans 15:5, etc.
1 Corinthians 3:1-46.3.8
Reflections for Churches.
"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual," etc. In these verses are three subjects worthy of the profoundest contemplation.
I. THE GRADUATING METHOD OF TEACHING. "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk," etc. Truth is to be administered with a practical regard to the receptive powers of the student, just as the administration of bodily food must have regard to the digestive capacities of those who need it; "milk" for children, "meat" for men. This is Paul's metaphor; though men might live on milk, strong meat would kill children. There are truths in the gospel of such an elevated character, requiring so much intellect and culture to appreciate them, that to enforce them on the attention of mental and moral children would be positively to injure them. Christ practised this method of teaching. He had many things to say which his disciples could not bear. Had he preached to them the doctrines of the cross at first, they would have been shocked. When at one time they were merely intimated, they produced a kind of revulsion in Peter, and he exclaimed, "That be far from thee, Lord." This method of teaching shows:
1. That a minister that may be useful to one class of men may be unprofitable to another.
2. The necessity of all who would enjoy the higher teaching to cultivate their mental and moral powers.
II. THE CARNALITY OF CHURCHISMS. "For whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" etc. By Churchisms I mean sectarianisms, denominationalisms, etc. What are Churches? The best Churches in Christendom today are but the organization of certain opinions concerning Christ and his gospel. Some men extol one class of opinion more than another, and they set up one Church in opposition to another, and so on. Paul says this is "carnal." Carnal, because it engrosses the soul:
1. In the human rather than the Divine.
2. In the personal rather than in the universal.
3. In the selfish rather than in the self denying.
4. In the transitory rather than in the permanent.
III. THE UNITY OF ALL TRUE MINISTERS. "Who then is Paul? and who is Apollos? but ministers by whom ye believed," etc. Again, "He that planteth and he that watereth are one."
1. One, notwithstanding the diversity of talents and kinds of labour. Paul, Peter, and Apollos differed in many personal respects; they differed in ,the kind and measure of their faculties, in their temperaments and attainments; still they were one in spirit and aim.
2. One in grand practical aim. What were they working for? The spiritual cultivation of mankind. One planting, another watering, etc. Different kinds of labour, but still one.
3. One in their connection with God.
(1) Whilst all depended on God for success, God gave the "increase."
(2) All were coworkers with him; "labourers together with God."
4. One in their ultimate reward. "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." Each from the same God, each according to his work.
1 Corinthians 3:9
God a Husbandman.
"We are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry," etc. The words lead us to look at God as the great Husbandman of human souls. As a husbandman—
I. HE IS THOROUGHLY ACQUAINTED WITH THE SOIL.
1. He knows its original state. The soil in its pristine state, with all its original powers, he knows.
2. He knows its present condition. Its present barren and wilderness state he understands. To him it seems like the "field of the slothful" mentioned by Solomon. It is stony, weedy, and thorny.
3. He knows its tillable capabilities. He knows what can be made of it, notwithstanding its present condition. He knows what every soul is capable of producing. He knows that some are far more capable than others. Some can become the majestic cedar, whilst others only the shrub.
II. HE HAS ALL NECESSARY INSTRUMENTALITIES. This stony, weedy ground requires certain well contrived implements to work it into a fruitful condition.
1. He has them in the events of life. All the dark and painful circumstances in life are his implements to break up the fallow ground. All the pleasant and propitious are instruments for mellowing the soil.
2. He has them in the revelations of truth. There is Law and love, Sinai and Calvary. All are soul culturing implements.
III. HE POSSESSES THE PROPER SEED. The seed he has to sow is good seed, and seed adapted to the soil. What is it? His Word. His Word is seed in many respects.
1. In vitality. Every seed has life in it. His Word is Spirit and life.
2. In completeness. The seed is complete in itself.
3. In prolificness. One seed in course of time may cover a continent. The Word of God is wonderfully fruitful.
IV. HE COMMANDS THE CULTURING ELEMENTS. The best agriculturists, who understand the soil, possess the best implements and the best seed, are thwarted in their efforts, because the elements are not propitious. God has command over the elements. He is the great Husbandman of souls, and we his husbandry.
1 Corinthians 3:10-46.3.15
The true foundation of character.
"According to the grace of God," etc. The words suggest certain important thoughts concerning character.
I. That there is an ANALOGY BETWEEN THE FORMATION OF CHARACTER AND THE ERECTION OF A BUILDING. "If any man build," etc. It is like a building in three respects.
1. In the variety of its materials. Buildings are generally formed of a variety of materials—stone, wood, iron, etc. Moral character is built up by a variety of things—the impressions that are made on us, the emotions that rise in us, etc.
2. In the unity of its design. Every building is formed on some plan. One design shapes the whole. So with character. The master purpose of the soul, whatever it may be, gives unity to the whole.
3. In the function it fulfils. Buildings are generally residences of some kind or other. The soul lives in the character. It is its home. In some cases the home is the mere sty of the animal; in some, the shop of the barterer; in some, the prison of the guilty; in some, the temple of the saint.
II. THAT CHRIST IS THE ONLY FOUNDATION OF A TRUE CHARACTER. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." There are sometimes splendid edifices and poor foundations, and the reverse. All characters are based upon some one idea.
1. Some are based on the sensual idea; such as that on which the prodigal son started, etc.
2. Some are based on the secular idea. On this Judas, the young lawyer, and Demas built.
3. Some are based on the ambitious idea. Absalom, Haman, Herod, are examples.
4. Some are based on the Christian idea. What is that? Supreme sympathy with God; and this requires Christ. Christ is its Foundation, for he does two things to generate this supreme sympathy in the soul.
(1) Demonstrates to man the propitiableness of God.
(2) Reveals to man the moral loveliness of God.
III. THAT TO CHRIST, AS A FOUNDATION, MEN BRING WORTHLESS AS WELL AS VALUABLE MATERIALS. Some build edifices of "gold, silver, precious stones," and some of "wood, hay, stubble."
1. There are edifices partially formed of "wood, hay, stubble."
(1) The mere creedal character is worthless.
(2) The mere sentimental character is worthless.
(3) The mere ritualistic character is worthless.
All these characters are formed of "wood, hay, stubble "—things of no solidity, no value, no duration.
2. There are edifices entirely formed of valuable materials brought to Christ. They are formed of "gold, silver, precious stones." The profoundest thoughts, the strongest sympathies, the gold and silver of the soul, are connected with Christ.
IV. THAT THERE IS AN ERA TO DAWN WHEN ALL THE EDIFICES BUILT ON THIS FOUNDATION SHALL RE TRIED. "Every man's work shall be made manifest." Heaven has appointed a day for testing character. Individually, it is the day that dawns at the end of our mortal life; universally, it is the day that dawns at the end of this world's history.
1. This day will be injurious to those who have built on this foundation with worthless materials.
(1) They will suffer loss—the loss of labour, opportunity, position.
(2) Though they suffer loss, they may be saved—"saved, yet so as by fire." Though his favourite theories and cherished hopes shall burn like "wood and hay," yet he himself may survive the flames.
2. This day will be advantageous to those who have built on this Foundation with right materials. "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward."
1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17
Humanity the temple of God.
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." The apostle is writing not to those who were spiritually perfect; on the contrary, to those who were characterized by most salient moral defects. Yet he says, "Ye are the temple of God." Let us, therefore, look at man—
I. As A DIVINE "TEMPLE." "The temple of God." In what respects a temple?
1. He is a special residence of God. God is in all material objects, but he is especially in moral mind.
2. He is a special manifestation of God. God is seen everywhere in this world, but never so fully as in the mind of man. "We are all his offspring," and we are like the Father in essence, conscience, freedom.
3. He is a special meeting place with God. The temple at Jerusalem was God's special meeting place with man. "There will I commune with thee." Man can meet with God in material nature, but not so fully and consciously as in mind. "The highest study of mankind is man."
II. As a Divine "temple" THAT MIGHT BE DESTROYED. "If any man defile [destroy] the temple of God." The destruction of a temple does not mean the destruction of all its parts, but the destruction of its use. Man might live forever, and yet be destroyed as the temple of God, the special residence, manifestation, and meeting place of God. Now, mark, this destruction, if it takes place, is not by God. He will not destroy the temple, only by man. "If any man defile [destroy] the temple." Alas! men are destroying this temple, i.e. destroying their natures as the temple of God. An awful work this!
III. As a Divine temple, the DESTROYER OF WHICH WILL BE DESTROYED BY GOD HIMSELF. "Him shall God destroy." Destroy, if not his existence, all that makes existence worth having or even tolerable. "He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." "The temple of God is holy," that is, ideally holy, ought to be holy.
1 Corinthians 3:18-46.3.20
"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. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain." The "wisdom" here referred to is what Paul calls elsewhere "fleshly wisdom," the "wisdom of the world," or of the age. It is the same wisdom as he refers to in 1 Corinthians 1:20. The "wisdom of this world" may be regarded as mere intellectual knowledge, applied to secular and selfish ends; however vast and varied its attainments, it is worldly in the apostolic sense; it is "earthly," "sensual," "devilish," not like the "wisdom which is from above," which is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits." In relation to this wisdom three remarks are here suggested.
I. It is SELF DELUDING. "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world," etc.
1. This worldly wisdom deceives a man, inasmuch as it leads him to overrate the value of his attainments, he imagines that this kind of knowledge, "wisdom," is everything for a man. Hence the enthusiastic promotion of secular schools and colleges. But all such knowledge is of no value to man as man, and beyond his brief and uncertain earthly, life. He deceives himself in its value.
2. This worldly wisdom deceives a man, inasmuch as it leads him to overrate his own importance. He is "vainly puffed by his earthly mind," as Paul says elsewhere (Colossians 2:18). Such a man imagines himself to be very great; he becomes a pedant; he "struts and stares and a' that."
II. It is SPIRITUALLY WORTHLESS. A man with this worldly wisdom must "become a fool, that he may be wise." Two things are here implied.
1. That with all his wisdom he is already really a "fool." He is a "fool;" for he looks for happiness where it is not to be found. Happiness does not spring from a man's brain, but from his heart; not from his ideas, but from his affections. Moreover, he is a "fool" because he practically ignores the chief good, which is love for, resemblance to, and fellowship with, the great God. Hence God esteems this wisdom as foolishness. "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." The most illustrious scholar, sage, orator, who is considered by himself and by most of his contemporaries to be a man of wonderful wisdom, to the eye of God is a fool.
III. It is ULTIMATELY CONFOUNDING. "It is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." It must confound a man sooner or later, either
(1) here in his conversion, or
(2) yonder in his retribution.
"Who are the wise?
They who have govern'd with a self control
Each wild and baneful passion of the soul,
Curb'd the strong impulse of all fierce desires,
But kept alive affection's purer fires;
They who have pass'd the labyrinth of life
Without one hour of weakness or of strife,
Prepar'd each change of fortune to endure,
Humble though rich, and dignified though poor,
Skill'd in the latent movements of the heart,
Learn'd in the lore which nature can impart,
Teaching the sweet philosophy aloud
Which sees the 'silver lining' of the cloud,
Looking for good in all beneath the skies!—
These are the truly wise."
1 Corinthians 3:21-46.3.23
A call to the utmost expansiveness in religious sympathy.
"Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours," etc. The attendants on a Christian ministry may be divided into two classes.
1. Those who esteem the doctrine because of the teacher. There are not a few in all congregations who accept doctrines simply because of the strong sympathies they have with the preacher. Paul seems to have thought of these when he wrote this chapter. He alludes to the men in the Church at Corinth who had been taken more with the teachers than with their doctrines. The other class of attendants on a Christian ministry are:
2. Those who esteem the teacher because of his doctrines. A man who preaches to them they feel is estimable only as he embodies and propounds the true doctrines of the gospel. The impropriety of glorying in teachers rather than in their doctrines is strikingly illustrated in these verses by three things.
I. THE UNIVERSE IS FOR THE CHURCH. "All things are yours." "All things," not some things.
1. The ministry is for the Church. "Whether Paul, or Apollos." There is no agency more valuable on earth than the Christian ministry; in every way it serves man—intellectually, socially, materially. But its grand aim is to restore the human spirit to the knowledge, image, and fellowship of its God. Why, then, should it glory in one form? Let those who like Paul take Paul, and be thankful, and not find fault with those who regard Apollos as the most effective preacher.
2. The world is for the Church. By the world we mean the earth, with all its beauties and blessings. In the sense of legal possession the world, of course, is not the property of Christians, nor is it the property of others. For he who claims the largest number of acres has but a handbreadth compared with its numerous islands and vast continents. Yet in the highest sense it is the property of the Christian. He feels an intense sympathy and oneness with God who created it.
3. Life is the property of the Church. "Or life." There are certain conditions in which we find men on this earth, in which they cannot be said to live. There are some chained in their cell, under the sentence of death; they have forfeited their life. There are others whose limbs are so paralyzed that they can neither speak nor move; life is not theirs. Morally, sinful man is as a criminal; he is under the sentence of death; he is dead in trespasses. But life is the Christian's; his sentence of death is removed; his moral infirmities are healed, and all his faculties and powers are alive unto God.
4. Death is the property of the Church. "Or death," What is death? Who shall define it? Who shall penetrate its meaning? The word has unfathomable depths of the wonderful and the terrible. But it is for the Christian; it is his. It delivers him from the imperfections of the present state; it frees him from all that is incompatible with his peace, his safety, and his advancement; it introduces him into the scenes, the services, the society, of a blessed immortality. It is his; it is the last step in the pilgrimage.
5. General events are the property of the Church. "Things present, or things to come"—an expression including all the circumstances of existence. "Things present," whatever their character, are ours. "Things to come:" what things are those? Now, if all these things are for the Church, why should any of its members give themselves up to any one particular ministry to the disparagement of others?
II. THE CHURCH IS FOR THE REDEEMER. "Ye are Christ's." There are two very different senses in which Christian men are Christ's. They are his:
1. By his relationship to them. He is the Creator of all. "By him were all things created." He is the Mediator of all.
2. By their pledge to him. They have pledged themselves to him as their moral Leader. They have vowed unqualified obedience to his teaching. If they have thus consecrated themselves to him as their great Teacher, how absurd to glory in subordinate and fallible teachers! Why live under the rays of the rushlight, when you can bask under the beams of the sun? Follow a Plato in philosophy, a Solon in law, a Demosthenes in eloquence, a Bacon in sciences, but no one but Christ in religion. Value the Calvins, the Luthers, the Wesleys, for what they are worth, but disclaim them as leaders.
III. THE REDEEMER IS FOR GOD. "And Christ is God's." Jesus, as a Mediator, is the Messenger and Servant of the Eternal.
1. Christ is God's Revealer. He is the Word of God, the Logos.
(1) He reveals him in creation;
(2) he reveals him in his personal ministry.
2. Christ is God's Servant. He came here to work out God's great plan of saving mercy.
Learn from this subject:
1. The infinite worth of Christianity. It gives all things to its true disciples. None of the "all things" specified here are possessed by those who are not his genuine disciples. The ministry is not theirs. If they attend preaching they are mere instruments in the hands of the preacher; they are carried away by the emotions of the hour. The world is not theirs, however large a portion of it they claim legally; the world uses them as its tools. Life is not theirs; it is forfeited to justice. They have no true enjoyment in it. Death is not theirs; they are its. "Through fear of death they are all their lifetime subject to bondage." "Things present and things to come" are not theirs; they are the mere creatures of circumstances. It is Christianity alone that makes all these things man's. It attunes the soul to the influences of God, as the AEolian harp is attuned to the winds; and every passing breeze in its history strikes out in music the anthem, "The Lord is my Portion, saith my soul."
2. The contemptibleness of religious sectarianism. How wretchedly mean and base does sectarianism appear in the light of this subject! The men who glory in their own theological peculiarities, ecclesiastical sect, and religious teachers, have never felt the grandeur contained in the text, that the universe is for the Church, the Church is for Christ, and that Christ is for God.
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
1 Corinthians 3:1-46.3.4
Spiritual condition of these Corinthian partisans characterized.
These men were in a low state of Christian development, their growth in grace having been arrested by the jealousy and strife dominant in their midst. Under such circumstances, personal progress and Church progress were impossible. Individual self assertion and arrogance could net but lead to the depreciation of others, nor could envious rivalries tolerate merit and worth in those whom it sought to crush. On the other hand, looking at the Church as an organic body, its virtue was a common stock, to be cherished, honoured, and diligently maintained by every one of its members. Its zeal was not a solitary flame burning on an isolated altar, but the combined warmth of many hearts. Diversity, too, is God's law, diversity reaching down into temperament, diversity in the highest realm of gifts, diversity of insight and experience, and this factious temper was fatal to diversity. Agreeably to the Divine method, diversity was preliminary to unity, and men were allowed free action of individuality, that the strongest and best elements of character, and especially its latent qualities, might be brought out and incorporated in the totality of the Church. A very miscellaneous world environed these Corinthians; the Christian community itself was made up of Jews, Greeks, and Romans; and the reasons were, therefore, exceptionally stringent that they should, as brethren, be very closely banded together in one mind, "the mind of Christ." Had they been a homogeneous people, circumstantial motives, which have a very important part to play in the scheme of providence, would not have been so imperative. But these dissensions involved their national peculiarities, and hence the antecedents of blood, the residuum of former bitterness, would surely come in to aggravate their animosities. They were "babes in Christ," and furthermore, they were "carnal;" and this infantile and carnal state, in which all growth had been stopped, was due solely to intestine discord. Had they considered what a grievous evil it was? Paul and Apollos, Tarsian and Alexandrian, had been put by no choice of theirs in a position very unenviable, nay, in despite of their earnest remonstrance. Leaders they were, leaders they must be, leaders of the Church; and on this very account, nothing could be more ill timed, nothing more abhorrent to their personal feelings, nothing so little like "the mind of Christ," as the attempt to make them heads of factions. Alas for such unwise friends, blocking up their way and multiplying the hazards, already enormous, of their ministry in Achaia! If this audacious effort continued, how could they withstand their enemies? The heart of St. Paul is stirred, and, in this chapter, it swells to the full compass of his apostleship. Intellectual heroism is needed now, and in that, as in the other qualities of an habitual hero, he is never wanting.—L.
1 Corinthians 3:5-46.3.10
St. Paul's view of the ministry.
After declaring to the Corinthians that they were carnal in their estimates of God's ministers, the apostle exposes their folly in this particular, by assuring them that he and Apollos were but ministers, or servants, whom God had commissioned to labour in their behalf. Halfway work he never did. To show their error, and prove that it was a worldly sentiment disguised under a fictitious admiration, he sets before them the true idea of the ministry, as an instrument through which the Divine agency of the Holy Ghost operated. No one enjoyed proper sympathy and affectionate regard more than St. Paul, whose heart overflowed into everything that offered a channel for its diffusion. There is nothing about him of Cato, whose virtue runs into the fanaticism of hatred; or of Coriolanus, who looks upon the people as "if he were a god to punish, and not a man of their infirmity." Nevertheless, he guards his tenderness against effeminacy, nor will he accept the slightest tribute to himself at the expense of truth. The hardest thing in our nature to organize is impulse; and yet this man, whose sensibilities were so quick and strong (1Co 4:14, 1 Corinthians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 2:13), could not tolerate the homage paid him by partisans. And in this spirit he asks, "Who then is Paul?" Only a medium used by the Spirit for their faith, and the medium itself valueless, except so far as the Spirit made it effective. Their very capacity to receive St. Paul's influence was the gift of God, and would they now turn the gift against the Giver? St. Paul's figures are not poetic, but practical, and his imagination is always the offspring of the reason; and hence the illustrative image—"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase"—began and ended in a breath, with no delight in it beyond utility. Two conclusions follow: one, the entire dependence upon God for the increase; and the other, the coworking with him who is the only Source of the increase. Neither the sower nor the seed, however good, can secure the yield; this is from the great Husbandman, who apportions the result according to his sovereignty, and under conditions which St. Paul subsequently points out. The workman is rewarded for his labour; he does not create the reward, but receives it from God; nor could reward have any other basis than free and unmerited grace, seeing that we are coworkers with God. If this were not the law of nature and providence, it could not be a law of grace, nor could the figure of seed and sower have any logical force. But, at the same time, the workman under the gospel has a special relation to God, and, in a sense peculiar to the gospel, is a "coworker." This is one of St. Paul's favourite ideas (see 2 Corinthians 6:1). It is not working, but co-working, that evidences the spirituality of the work and gains the recompense. Among the sources of deception, not one is so insidious as our work. The old man, long a servant of God, looks back upon his labours; his eye is tranquil now; it has grown to be a very honest eye; and nothing in the past surprises him so much as the mixture of self with work that he once thought was unselfish. Early manhood and middle life, if not absolutely incompetent to form a perfect idea of disinterestedness, are yet very prone to fall into a mistake on this subject. No doubt St. John imagined that he was doing Christ's work when he forbade the man casting out devils in Christ's Name; and, likely enough, St. Peter put a special value on his courage in the garden, when he drew his sword for the Lord's defence. If our tastes and self will can be gratified, we are often ready to be enthusiastic workers for what we suppose is the cause of Christ. But God's rule is unyielding. You must labour according to his will, or the work will be rejected. And just here, his thought in transition to another aspect of the great topic, St. Paul brings into view the co-relationship of ministers and people, God being all in all. "We" and "ye"—"we" are co-labourers with God, and "ye" are not our husbandry and building, but God's. What claims he for himself? He is a builder, a master builder, a wise one too; and he is free to assert it, because it is the utterance of humility, and humility is under obligation to speak the exact truth about itself, under valuation being wrong, as well as over valuation. The preface attests the spiritual purity of the avowal: "According to the grace of God which is given unto me," while the elaboration of the figure, taken from architecture, indicates more of the Grecian mode of illustration than the Jewish.—L.
1 Corinthians 3:11-46.3.15
Workmen and their works.
St. Paul affirms that he had laid just such a foundation in Corinth as became a wise master builder. Like a good architect, he had made sure of a solid basis, but had the edifice in process of erection been true to the cornerstone? There was but one Foundation—Jesus Christ—and a man might build rightly or wrongly on it in the materials used. The range of substances which might be employed in the superstructure was large. Large it must needs be, for, it' the builders are many, the material must be manifold. Individuality in workmen must be respected, and, though the risks are numerous and great, yet Christianity can only adhere to its fundamental principle of each man as a man in himself. Brutus sacrificed his instincts to what he deemed patriotism in the murder of Caesar; Rome taught her best men to have no conscience except what she dictated; but Christianity laid a stress on personality in the human will in order to secure the full activity of individual responsibility. Providence ordains our home and life in a very ample world. The amplitude is seen, not in its size nor in the mere variety of its objects, but in the endless adaptability to human tastes and dispositions. Despite the curse, this earth is a grand historic memorial of the original idea of humanity, and a prophecy likewise of a glory be recovered. "The field is the world;" and this is true of every man in it, so true indeed that our connections with the great world are far more vital and operative on our destiny than we imagine. This, furthermore, is our discipline. We have a world from which to choose our resources, means, and opportunities, and hence the wonder of experience is the multitudinous additions ever making to the world we inhabit as our own world. Now, to each Christian, "the field is the world;" and therein he finds a vast miscellany—"gold, silver, precious stones," and they are side by side with "wood, hay, stubble." Redeemed man is treated by Providence and the Holy Ghost, not on the bare idea of what he is in an earthly condition, but also and mainly on the ideal of his capacity in Christ. And consequently, when St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 3:21), "All things are yours," he has only formally wrought out the truth involved in the workman's command of his diversified materials. Just because the worker is in such a vast and heterogeneous world, he must "take heed." Nothing short of spiritual discernment can protect him against woeful blunders. A hard worker he may be, a sincere and enthusiastic worker, but he must have Divine insight, and show himself" a workman that needeth not to be ashamed," and the work must be true and acceptable work, or his labour will inevitably perish. St. James is often referred to as the supporter and defender of the doctrine of work. From his point of view Christianity was the final outgrowth of Judaism, its culmination and crown, and, quite in accord with his instincts, he presents the work side of religion with a very vigorous emphasis. St. Paul, however, confines himself in the text to the kind of work, and puts forth his strength on a single line of thought. What is uppermost in his mind is the absolute need of spiritual insight. The practical man is in the eye of St. James, and he writes of "religion pure and undefiled" as its spectator and analyst among the actualities of the world. Caesar, in the 'Commentaries,' is not more terse and compact, nor does he observe more rigidly the requirements of intensiveness as a mental law than St. James in his great monograph. Be it noticed, however, that St. Paul is viewing this matter as a branch or offshoot of a topic engrossing at the time his sympathies, and, consequently, he limits himself to the difference between work which shall be found worthy of reward and work undeserving of recompense. Two cases are before him—in the one the man is saved and his work rewarded; in the other, the man is saved and his work disallowed and destroyed. The latter suffers loss, but not the loss of his soul, and, though the ordeal be severe, the man is "saved, yet so as by fire." Now, this view of work, truthful in itself, was specially suited to these noisy, impulsive, erratic Corinthians. And may we not reasonably conjecture that he had the products of partisanship in his eye while writing of the fiery test? Looking at the world's history, we can scarcely fail to see that the fruits of factions are the most perishable things in civilization, and, in Church history, the fact is still more obvious. But the apostle has something further to say.—L.
1 Corinthians 3:16-46.3.23
Believers as the temple of God.
Previously St. Paul had said, "Ye are God's building;" and now he adds, "Ye are the temple of God." Along with this comes the idea of sanctity: "The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." If, then, these Corinthians were the temple of God, and if the Spirit of God dwelt in them, no stronger motive could bear upon them than the need of holiness; and this holiness is a personal matter. "If any man"—whoever he be and whatever his gifts—"if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." The man's duties to the Church are duties to the Spirit of God in the Church; and the purity of principle and affection, purity of motive and aim, purity of life, which he is bound to maintain,—in brief, his spiritual character, grows out of his relation to the Holy Ghost. "Know ye not" this fact—that the Church is much more than a society for mutual helpfulness, much more than a human institution, and most truly human when most Divine? To violate this relation in such a way as to "defile the temple of God" is to incur a fearful punishment: "Him shall God destroy." Hitherto in the argument no such language had been used. Did the thought of the gross sin—the son taking the father's wife—cross his mind at the instant, and leave its darkness in his memory? Whether so or not, St. Paul knew of moral corruption in the Church as well as religious defection, and he reminded the Corinthians of their peril. Observe the change; a man's work, if rejected, shall be burned, but he shall be "saved, yet so as by fire." Amid the danger, God will rescue him. But if a "man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." And now the exhortations: "Let no man deceive himself." And wherein lies the danger of deception? It is in the "wisdom of this world." Intellect exposes us to dangers because it is the great organ of receptivity, by means of which the outer world finds unceasing access to our souls. Through the open avenues of the senses, myriad influences gain an entrance within and distribute themselves over every portion of our nature. Very many of them are unchallenged. Few men criticize their senses and hold them accountable for truth and fidelity in their momentous functions. What habits come from this facile power of sensuousness over the mind, we all understand, alas! too well. The natural man (animal man) has the world of sensation on his side. Instead of the body growing more and more into harmony with spirit and participating in its elevation, the opposite more commonly occurs, so that men become in large measure the creatures of the senses. St. Paul had a very clear insight into this fact. No man makes so many references, direct and indirect, to the physiological connections of sin. As a writer of Scripture, the terrible truth of the "fleshly mind" is often before him, and from him we learn the supreme necessity of keeping the body under, lest we become castaways. "Castaways" are far more numerous than we take knowledge of. Short of downright materialism and its counterpart in sensual degeneration, we have innumerable evidences of the wreck of the spiritual nature. These nerves of ours—delicate threads that interlace the whole body and are frequently too fine for the eye—what a machinery for the hand of Satan, skilled by the practice of centuries, to play upon! We err when we confine our view of materialism to its professed advocates. We err also when we measure the sensualism of the age by its grosser forms. Far greater, far more harmful, and far more widespread, are the deleterious effects, often unrecognized, that work havoc among our spiritual sensibilities. It is this deadening of the intellect by the sensuousness that keeps itself aloof from overt sensualism which St. Paul so earnestly assails as "the wisdom of this world." Not seldom it beasts of morality, cultivates beauty, patronizes aesthetics, and abounds in animalized poetry and eloquence and science. Meantime it lends all its aid, acting through an army of auxiliaries, to encourage men in a bloated sense of self sufficiency, until there is no felt need of God and still less of Christ. Most of all, this state of mind is inimical to the agency of the Holy Ghost upon the human heart, and consequently we find in our times a much more wilful and violent rejection of the Holy Ghost and a contempt for his gracious offices than hostility to the Father and the Son. Against this most evil and fatal habit St. Paul lifts a vehement remonstrance. And he was the only man of his day competent to this task. No rude Galilean was he; no obscure and unlettered person; but a cultured soul, whose endowments had been signalized before he went forth to convert an empire to Christ. "Become a fool"—a fool in the world's estimation—"that ye may be wise." It is "craftiness," argues the man who had experimentally known it all, and, furthermore, it ensnares itself in its own net. And hence glory not in man; there is no wisdom in it, no plea and no excuse for it, since "all things are yours." Party spirit shuts us up in narrow limits; Christianity gives the freedom of the world. Party spirit makes us the disciples of men; Christianity declares that we do not belong to Paul, Apollos, Peter, but that they belong to us, and all Divine in them ministers to the Divine in ourselves, so that our life superabounds by means of theirs. Nor is this all. The vast inventory embraces things as well as men: "The world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours." No room for pride here, since it is a common possession; no opportunity to thank God like the Pharisee that we are not as others are, for God's grace humbles the natural man, that it may endow and then exalt the Christian. If we undertake to be Christians of a particular sort, it is certain that we shall be cast in a very dwarfing mould, and get our colouring from a very earthly pigment. To be a true Christian is not to adopt the Name of Christ as the watchword of a sect or party, but to accept and venerate it as the watchword of humanity redeemed in the Son of man. Any other use of Christ's Name is essentially schismatic. All things are ours only so far as we are Christ's. And it is the Christ of God, the Son of God, the anointed Messiah, who was filled with the unction of the Spirit, and who said, "I do nothing of myself,"—it is this Christ who is ours. Seen in hint, life redeems itself from everything low, groveling, and merely sensuous; and even the human body, whose wants and demands are the unmanageable factor in all civilization, and whose warfare against the Spirit is the most fearful hazard in moral probation, becomes, through Christ, the temple of the Holy Ghost. Spiritualize in this sense the human body; sanctify its large and. beautiful capacity for a true sensuousness; organize its habits until it becomes almost the automaton of the Spirit, and self denial, prayer, and praise, by virtue of the automatic and semi automatic laws of the physical system, are well nigh incorporated in the nervous functions. Ask art, science, philosophy, to attempt such a task, and would they set themselves to it? Political economy, physiology, hygiene, sanitary: science, concern themselves much with the human body, and are entitled to honour for their interest in its welfare—welfare only, however, stopping very far short of genuine well being. Let no word of ours be understood as depreciating these invaluable services. But, nevertheless, their field lies in a department of life comparatively humble—life as existence, as organic and vegetative, life as intellectual and moral, not in life as spiritual. Now, at this very point, the incomparable glory of Christianity demonstrates itself by a profound interest in the human body as a religious question, and, first and last, its words are, "temple of God." No wonder that St. Paul rises to the height of exultation. The eagle wing smites the upper air in its buoyant strength, and the eagle eye, catching a radiance unknown in the thick atmosphere of earth, commands the scope of a vast horizon. One of his grand powers was this instinct—shall we call it?—of exultation, always held in check till the Divine fulness of Christ and the sublimity of humanity in Christ kindled it into rapture. Nor is he ever more like himself nor ever nearer to us than in these moments—"such high hour of visitation from the living God."—L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Corinthians 3:6-46.3.8
Spiritual husbandry and growth.
A man, looking upon the world, sees according to his power of vision; i.e. not simply according to what he finds in it, but to what he brings to it. To the eye of the Apostle Paul, the world was a wilderness which might be made a garden. There was, he saw, rude, worthless growth to be extirpated, rich soil to be tilled, plants of worth and renown to replace the weeds. His prophetic eye beheld the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose. And to his mind Christians were plants, and Christian ministers were gardeners and husbandmen.
I. SPIRITUAL CULTIVATION NEEDS HUMAN INDUSTRY. There is need, in order to the progress and perfection of the work of God, of:
1. Intelligent and willing labourers. Men are employed by Divine wisdom to labour among their fellow men. Saved, renewed, and consecrated labourers have ever been blessed in the work of securing a spiritual harvest. The olive yard, and the vineyard cannot flourish and prosper without unstinted toil, vigilance, skill, and care; so is it with the garden of the Lord.
2. Divinely commissioned labourers. They work best for Jesus who have heard his voice saying, "Go, work today in my vineyard;" whom the authoritative Lord has addressed in his own commanding language, "Unto men I now send thee."
II. SPIRITUAL CULTIVATION DEMANDS A VARIETY OF CHARACTER AND ABILITY IN THE TOILERS.
1. One class of labourers are especially adapted to the work of planting. There are Christian missionaries and evangelists who have the gift of awakening attention, arousing concern, eliciting inquiry, calling forth repentance, founding Churches even among the ignorant and degraded heathen.
2. Another class possess the grace of watering the plants already placed in the spiritual soil. These, as pastors and bishops, impart instruction, administer consolation, exercise guidance and control. Catechists and teachers carry on the work which missionaries have begun.
3. All classes co operate towards the one great end in view. All true labourers are one in motive and in aim, in spirit, in mutual confidence and love. None may say to the other, "I have no need of thee." Each has his service, and none is more indispensable than another.
4. All are individually noticed, appreciated, and rewarded. "Then shall every one have praise of God;" "I will give unto every one of you according to your works;" "My reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."
III. SPIRITUAL CULTIVATION DEPENDS FOR ITS EFFICIENCY AND SUCCESS ENTIRELY UPON THE BLESSING OF THE LORD.
1. From God comes the vitality of the spiritual plant; his is the gospel and his the Spirit, by whose co-operation the result is brought about.
2. From God comes the preparation of the labourer; whose intellectual gifts, whose emotional sympathy, and whose spiritual power are all alike of heavenly origin.
3. From God comes the living energy to which is owing the progress and increase of that which man plants and waters. Thus the excellency of the power is seen to be of God, and not of us.—T.
1 Corinthians 3:9
"God's fellow workers."
God is ever working. Let this thought shame those foolish, worthless persons who deem it derogatory to labour. Not only when he fashioned this world and made it fit for our dwelling place, not only when he created man, but always and everywhere is God working. The laws of nature are the operations of the Almighty, and he is working as well in the spiritual sphere as in the physical.
I. TRUE CHRISTIANS ARE SPIRITUAL LABOURERS. Christian evangelism and pastors, teachers and bishops, are all working in prominent positions in the harvest field of spiritual toil. Bat spiritual labour is the natural outcome of the spiritual life. Every sincere follower of Christ is seeking an end outside of himself—the promotion of the kingdom of righteousness and the glory of the Divine Master. Our hearts may rest in the Lord, but our hands work for him.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE FELLOW LABOURERS ONE WITH ANOTHER.
1. There is difference in natural powers, in spiritual gifts, in ecclesiastical position, in length of service.
2. But there is unity in aim, in hope, in the relation all sustain to him by whose authority and for whose glory they toil.
3. And there is sympathy, mutual good will, and helpfulness. If there is defect here, it is a discredit to the common profession, a hindrance to the general usefulness, a grief to the one Lord.
III. CHRISTIANS ARE FELLOW LABOURERS WITH GOD AS THEIR MASTER.
1. All are alike called by him who scuds forth labourers into his harvest. He is independent of us, and it is to his grace we owe it that we are permitted to labour for him.
2. All are alike directed to labour for the one great end—the universal and immortal reign of truth and righteousness, holiness and love.
3. All are alike instructed by him as to the special means by which the one end is to be secured. He gives to every one the appropriate implement for his toil, the weapon adapted to his warfare.
4. All alike receive the needed strength and guidance from him, the spiritual impulse and power which gives efficacy to their service.
5. All rejoice that, whether they plant or water, the same Lord "gives the increase."
IV. CHRISTIANS ARE LABOURERS WITH GOD AS THEIR FELLOW WORKER. This interpretation, whether justifiable or not grammatically, does not seem liable to a charge of irreverence.
1. In Christ Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme Exemplar of spiritual labour. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." Jesus calls us to do what he himself is doing. What power there is in his appeal, "Work, not only for me, but with me!"
2. The agency of the Divine Spirit is never withheld. The husbandman can only work effectually when God works with him by the agencies of nature; the mechanist, only when physical forces can be employed under his control, the physician, only when his treatment is in harmony with physiological laws. So the Christian labourer is successful, not through independence, but just because he avails himself of the co-operation of the Lord and Giver of life; because, in all devotion and diligence and humility, he endeavours to live and to toil as a fellow worker with God!—T.
1 Corinthians 3:11
The one Foundation.
There was a tendency on the part of the Corinthians to exalt their favourite teachers and leaders. Such exaltation could not but be at the expense of the Lord Jesus himself. In dissuasion from such a course of Church thought and practice, the inspired Apostle Paul puts in a just and clear light the relative positions of the teachers, the taught, and the great theme of all Christian instruction. He makes use of a familiar figure of speech, based upon the common craft of masonry. Christ is the Foundation; the people of Christ are the stones of the structure reared thereon; and the apostles and other teachers are builders of the spiritual edifice. It is of the Foundation that the text especially treats.
I. JESUS CHRIST IS THE FOUNDATION OF THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE.
1. The temple is composed of human souls, fashioned into a Divine unity and endowed with a Divine life.
2. The temple is inhabited and inspired by the Holy Ghost consecrating and honouring it.
3. This temple has actually and historically been called into existence by the ministry and mediation of Jesus Christ, who has thus constituted himself its Foundation. As Son of God and Son of man, as the accepted Mediator, as the authoritative Teacher and rightful Lord, he is the Author and the Basis of the true Church.
II. THE PERFECT SUFFICIENCY OF THIS FOUNDATION.
1. Christ is a Foundation deep and strong enough to support the fabric reared upon him. No fear need be entertained as to the permanence of Christ's Church. It may be assailed by the storms of persecution, it may be threatened by the decaying force of time; but "the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." It rests on Christ, and the Foundation standeth sure.
2. Christ is a Foundation broad and comprehensive enough to underlie the widest, stateliest structure. None who is conversant with the character, the designs, the promises of Jesus Christ, can question this. In our day, all systems that are narrow are doomed to contempt and destruction. This fate Christianity need not fear; it has only to be true to the Divine Head and Lord, and nought can overturn it or even injure it.
III. THE EXCLUSIVENESS OF THIS FOUNDATION. Upon this the text lays an especial stress.
1. No other is permitted by God. It would be dishonouring to the Father to suppose that his Son can be replaced or supplemented by any other; the sufficiency of the Divine provision does not admit of question.
2. No other is needed by man.
3. No other is possible. Any other than the Divine Foundation must be of man's appointment, must be indeed merely human. The apostle teaches that he and Apollos were only builders upon the Foundation, and could not therefore be the Foundation itself.
IV. THE RELATIONS MEN SUSTAIN TO THIS FOUNDATION.
1. All Christians are represented as living stones built upon Christ. Each has his own place and his own use; but all are alike in this fact—they support themselves upon the strong foundation laid in Jesus.
2. All Christian pastors and teachers are building upon Christ. The question for them to ask is this: Are we building into the walls of the temple such material as will endure the test of trial and the test of time?—T.
1 Corinthians 3:13
The test of fire.
"Fire is a good servant, but a bad master." The element is symbolical of proof and testing; for where it has its liberty and may do its work unchecked, there is little that can withstand its assaults and outlast its ravages. How many a city, like this Corinth itself, has been burnt, and laid for the most part in ashes, so that only the most substantial buildings have survived the conflagration! So shall all spiritual work, sooner or later, be tested and put to the proof. The means may seem severe, but the result shall be decisive.
I. THE WORK.
1. It is spiritual, not material work, of which the assertion is made. All are builders, not only of their own character and. destiny, but of the character and destiny of some associates. There is an awful solemnity attaching to this responsible work in which men are bound to engage.
2. Every man's work is in question, especially that of every professedly Christian laborer who aims to build in the temple of the living God. The learned and the illiterate, the sober and the enthusiast, the sanguine and the desponding,—all are teaching Christian doctrine, and are more or less exercising influence over human souls.
3. Work of every kind is included—genuine and. pretentious, hasty and gradually progressive, sound and superficial.
II. THE FIRE. This must be something universally applicable, since it is not represented as an accident befalling here and there one, but as an incident of every man's labour of every kind to pass through this fire. We shall not be wrong in terming it the fire of judgment, fire being the discriminating and decisive element. The fire may purify, and it may consume. It is possible that this fire may burn here and now; it is certain that it will burn hereafter, when God "shall try every man's work of what sort it is."
III. THE TEST. There are circumstances and times which have no virtue of probation. There is weather in which the soundly built house, the well found ship, cannot be distinguished from the most ill planned and faultily constructed house, the most unseaworthy craft. But the storm tries both. And the fire of judgment puts to the proof the workmanship of the spiritual labourer. "Judge nothing before the time." "The day will declare it, for it shall be revealed in fire." None can evade this trial or deceive him who shall then cast all work into the furnace of his probation.
IV. THE RESULT. It shall be unmistakable and decisive.
1. To the work which is sound and workmanlike glory shall accrue, and credit to the faithful and diligent labourer. The precious metals and the costly marbles shall be none the worse but rather the better for the test; their qualities shall shine out the more resplendent.
2. To the work which is bad destruction shall come; for the wood, hay, and stubble of false doctrine and of worthless profession shall be consumed and shall disappear. The builder may escape, though only as through the burning embers and the falling sparks. "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"—T.
1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17
"The temple of God."
The temple at Jerusalem was holy, being constructed according to Divine directions, inhabited by the Divine glory, and con-secreted by divinely appointed services and sacrifices. But that temple was local, temporary, and for a purpose. It was, in accordance with the Lord's prediction, destroyed and abolished before the generation which rejected him passed away. And it was not intended that it should be replaced by any material edifice. The spiritual temple was destined to supersede the material and to abide forever. It is of this spiritual structure that the apostle here speaks.
I. THE MATERIALS OF WHICH THIS TEMPLE IS COMPOSED. "Ye," says the apostle, "are the temple." Not that the Corinthians were more than other Christians entitled to this honourable distinction; for this language was addressed to all Christians. All Christ's people were and are living stones, each in its proper place, and all alike upon the one Foundation. How noble a conception! how worthy of Christ himself, to whom the material was ever of secondary interest, and in whose view the spiritual was of supreme significance and value!
II. THE PRESENCE BY WHICH THIS TEMPLE IS CONSECRATED. The first temple had been hallowed by the Shechinah glory which hovered over the ark of the covenant. The second temple—the body of the Lord—had been consecrated as the dwelling place of the mind of the Holy One. This third temple is the residence and the shrine of the Spirit of God. In his transforming, quickening, purifying power, the eternal Spirit penetrates his separated and consecrated society, and makes it growingly his own. His light and glory glow within it, so that its spiritual lustre excels that of the holy house at Jerusalem.
III. THE WORSHIP WHICH IS IN THIS TEMPLE OFFERED. Here is the living oracle; here is the consecrated priesthood; here are the spiritual sacrifices. The offerings are those of willing obedience and grateful praise; the incense is the incessant worship which floats in fragrance from the spirits of the just; the music that fills these courts is the anthem of adoration, the harmony of imperishable love. Worship is here not occasional, not frequent, but unceasing; there is no moment when this spiritual temple is not telling the praises of the Lord.
IV. THE ATTRIBUTE BY WHICH THIS TEMPLE IS CHARACTERIZED. "The temple of God is holy." This expression does not import simply a ceremonial and nominal holiness, but such a character as was both exhibited and required by the Lord Jesus himself. Holiness, not only of word and deed, but of purpose and desire, is required by him who searches the heart and tries the reins of the children of men—holiness such as the Holy Spirit alone can create.
V. THE REGARD AND TREATMENT WHICH THIS TEMPLE SHOULD RECEIVE.
1. It deserves to be regarded with reverence. Men treat with respect the palaces of kings. Of how much deeper a reverence is that true palace of God, that temple of the Holy Ghost, that home of Christ, deserving!
2. It should not be defiled or destroyed. Every member of Christ's Church is called upon to purify himself, lest his impurity should dishonour the sacred edifice. "Holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, forever!"—T.
1 Corinthians 3:21-46.3.23
"All things are yours."
These are great words; but if they were not so great they would here be out of place. Men are given to boast of their possessions; but the Christian's boast is in this respect larger and grander than any man's beside. Men are wont to glory in belonging to some select society, some great nation, some illustrious king; but the Christian glories in belonging to a greater than the greatest who owes his honour to this world. "All things" are his; and he is "Christ's."
I. OUR PROPERTY IN ALL THINGS. To Christians it may be said—it was said by the inspired apostle:
1. All ministries are yours; the dead and the living, the speaking and the writing, the official and the unrecognized.
(1) The ministry of doctrine and of conversion, such as that of Paul, who planted.
(2) The ministry of eloquence and of edification, such as that of Apollos, who watered.
(3) The ministry of morality and zeal, such as that of Cephas. Each has his gift, and the Church is not for the ministry, but the ministry for the Church.
2. All circumstances are yours.
(1) The world, which is ours by the gift of God and by the redemption of Christ.
(2) Life is yours, in its opportunities and its manifold blessings.
(3) Death is yours—not your master, but your servant and your friend.
3. All times are yours.
(1) The present, in enjoyment, which is more the Christian's than it is the worldling's.
(2) The future, in reversion, which has for him brightness, glory, and joy. The future can deprive the Christian of no real good; it must bring him advantages unnumbered.
II. CHRIST'S PROPERTY IN US. To Christians it may be said, "Ye are Christ's:"
1. By the purchase of his blood. For, "Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price."
2. By his choice and ours. "I," says he, "have chosen you." And, "We love him because he first loved us."
3. By the inhabiting of his Spirit, whose gracious presence makes us his. It is not a case of mere property, but of spiritual affinity: "The Lord knoweth them that are his."
4. By our grateful and affectionate service. That Christians are his, it is their daily aim to prove, by their delight in his Word, their devotion to his cause, their obedience to his commands.—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
1 Corinthians 3:1
I. MANY SUCH ARE FOUND IS THE CHURCH. Christians in whom Christianity is not dominant. They have a portion of the Spirit, but a very large portion of the flesh. They allow Satan to hinder them. The world has still much power over them and much attraction for them. They love Christ, but not enough to lead them to live very near to him. They are conspicuous chiefly for fault and failure. They reach the verge of Christianity and stay there. They desire "to be saved," and beyond this they have few spiritual longings. They are no credit to Christianity, but make it questionable in the eyes of the world. Spiritual dwarfs, who have not even the advantage of stimulating curiosity, seeing they are so numerous.
II. THEIR RELATION TO THE FAITH. They are babes; but note—babes in Christ. It is better to be a babe in Christ than a full grown man apart from him. Still, these are babes in Christ when they ought to be men in Christ. As babes, they are:
1. Of no practical use in the Church. They cannot be relied upon for service; they are not fitted for real work. In spiritual things they are weaklings. They draw upon the resources of the Church rather than add to them. They are encumbrances—sources of weakness rather than of strength. They require much looking after. The Church has to nurse them when she should be converting the world. Yet withal they often have a very high opinion of their own powers, and sometimes are exceedingly anxious to take up a great work—as anxious as they soon become to put it down again. Childish instability of purpose, as well as lack of spiritual power, prevents them from being useful. And work that is done is done after so carnal a manner that often it had better have been left undone. It is child's work, having in it more marring than making.
2. Not a source of joy. A babe in Christ delights the hearts of all true Christians—when it ought to be a babe; but continuous babyhood is monstrous and revolting. Carnal Christians are babes without promise; often it seems as though they would never get out of their spiritual long clothes. They sadden the heart of their spiritual parent. They are disappointments. Hope deferred concerning them has made the heart sick. Neither to Christ, nor to man, nor to themselves, are they satisfactory. The Church which has many of them will have its share of spiritual depression. Carnal Christians are kill joys.
3. Often fretful and peevish. Carnal Christians are often quarrelsome Christians. They are fault finders, and if they cannot find faults they can always make them. Into the Church they bring ill temper, which is contagious, and thus they become the cause of not a little mischief. They have considerable destructive power. They have only enough Christianity to make them miserable. They are fractious and self willed, and always want to have their way, whether it is a good way or an ill.
4. Fond of toys. They must have their playthings, even in Church. Things pleasing to the senses are the things pleasing to them. Ornate ritual, pretty pictures, gaudy decorations, elaborate but unsuitable music, have been brought into the Churches by those babes in Christ, carnal Christians. Where they have their way the sanctuary resembles nothing so much as a toyshop or an opera house.
5. Not very open to reasonable appeal. They are wilful. Having very little knowledge, they believe that they possess all. They are hard mouthed, and the bit of reason controls them but little. To argue with a babe is not promising, but it is quite as hopeful as to reason spiritually with a carnal Christian.
III. CONSPICUOUS SIGNS OF THE CARNAL STATE.
1. Jealousy. Partisan spirit, rivalry, pride; in opposition to "in honour preferring one another." Leading to:
2. Strife. Active opposition instead of hearty co-operation. Creation of causes of strife; evident fondness for it. The carnal Christian is seldom at peace except when he is at war. Love of fighting other Christians rather than love of fighting Satan. The disciples at the table had a strife for pre-eminence, and thus showed their carnality.
3. Division. Estrangement, separation, hatred; instead of unity, peace, love. The carnal Christian's progress is very different to the true pilgrim's progress.
4. Men followers rather than Christ followers. The carnal Corinthians showed their carnality conspicuously in this respect.
5. Arrest or retardation of development. "Not even now are ye able" (1 Corinthians 3:2). If the carnal Christian does not go back, he tends to stand still.
6. Weak spiritual digestion. (1 Corinthians 3:2.) Poor spiritual appetite. Little power of assimilation. Spiritual food does not seem to feed the carnal believer. He is lean. There are many religious dyspeptics.
IV. HOW TO BE DEALT WITH.
1. To be fed. (1 Corinthians 3:2.) Not to be neglected as of no account or cast out as evil. Whilst some of these babes may have little appetite, others of them may be noisy because they are hungry. To be fed; if the rod is not to be spared, still less are the spoon and cup. Carnal Christians are in the care of the Church, and must be dealt with kindly and helpfully, in the hope that, by the Spirit's working, manhood may be attained at last.
2. With milk. Food suited to their condition. With milk—good food; unadulterated, for they need the best—the "sincere milk of the Word." Sweet milk; for babes like sweetness, and sour milk can only injure them. With milk, which may nourish and strengthen; not with the vinegar of scolding condemnation, which some seem to favour. Not too much physic; abundance of milk.
3. Not with meat. This would choke them. Babes may cry for strong meat, but they must not have it. The Corinthians found much fault with the simplicity of Paul's teaching; but Paul knew what they needed, though they clamoured for something else. Not with the deeper things of God, which can be appreciated only by the matured (1 Corinthians 2:6); but with the more elementary truths put in elementary forms. The carnal Christian can appreciate only the exterior parts of gospel truths; these must come first; the surface must be passed before the internal can be reached. So, though Paul did not conceal any doctrines from the carnal Corinthians, he could only carry them with him in his teaching as far as they were prepared to go. Milk is the simple religious view; meat, the profounder. The same doctrine can be presented as milk and meat; the carnal Christian only goes so far in comprehending it, the spiritual searches into its depths. The doctrine of Romish reserve is not sanctioned by Paul.—H.
1 Corinthians 3:6
Man's work and God's.
I. MAN'S WORK. It is:
1. Varied. Paul speaks of planting and watering; may extend to the multiform operations of agriculture. We cannot all do the same work. Let us seek to do that for which we are fitted. There is some spiritual work suited to each of us. In agriculture all find employment, from the boy with his clapper scaring away the birds, to the presiding mind which controls all operations. If Christians do nothing it is because they want to do nothing.
2. Important. As in husbandry, unless we sow and water we may not look for a harvest, so as a rule in things spiritual, Never think that what you can do is unimportant. You may think too little of your work as well as too much. You will think too little if you think that your work may safely be left undone.
3. Honourable. Christian work itself,—what can compare with it for an instant? Further, in it we are "God's fellow workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9). The Christian worker is one of God's nobility.
4. Limited. We can only do so much. We may sow and water, but not give the increase. It belongs to us to preach and teach, not to convince; to invite and warn, not to convert. We cannot produce spiritual results. We are not responsible for them.
5. Not independent. We cannot do our own work apart from God; it is "as the Lord gave to every man" (1 Corinthians 3:5). The seed that we plant is God's; the soil and water are God's; our powers employed are not "ours" but "God's."
6. To be rewarded. Upon just principles; according to the "labour" (1 Corinthians 3:8); according to faithfulness in the labour (Matthew 25:14-40.25.30). Not according to success. We cannot command this, though success usually follows faithful labour, and lack of success often means lack of diligence, or lack of something which should not have been lacking. Many Christians have an unhappy facility in accounting for failure.
II. GOD'S WORK.
1. Wonderful. Deeply mysterious. How marvellous the development of the seed after it is planted! Before this expansion and multiplication of life science stands dumb and confounded. So with the seed of the Word in the human heart. What inexplicable working and result! Well may we bow in adoring awe before this mystery of Divine might.
2. All important. The great need: without this, all nothing. If the increase comes not, of what service is it to plant and irrigate? If the Divine blessing rests not on our preaching and teaching, of what possible service can it be? Alas! how often we forget this! No harvest because God ignored.
3. Independent. God is not in any way dependent upon us or others for the increase; neither is he for the sowing and watering. The storm wind can be his seed sower, the rains and the dews are his servants.
1. God's work and man's are usually conjoined. God works generally by means. Let us, therefore, see that our part is done.
2. As our part is important, let us do it with the utmost possible efficiency.
3. Let us ever remember that we are working in God's field, and near to him, under his observation, etc.
4. Let us never attempt to do God's part or take any of the glory when it is done.
5. Let us ever bear in mind the relative importance of God's work and ours. Our work is nothing in comparison with his; we are nothing in comparison with him (1 Corinthians 3:7).
6. When we have done our part, let us look in faith to God to accomplish his.
7. Let us think little of man, much of God.
8. Let us never expect God's work from man.
9. As we work with and for the same God, let us cultivate unity.—H.
1 Corinthians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 3:11
The great Foundation.
I. WHAT IT IS. It is Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). He is the Foundation of:
1. Christianity. Its basis is conveyed in its name. It rests upon Christ. If he be removed, it falls to the ground in ruins; if he be diminished (as in the denial of his divinity, for example), Christianity becomes weak and tottering. As Christianity is of Christ, so is it strong, abiding, glorious.
2. The Christian Church. Its doctrines and practice. How many other foundations have been laid for it from time to time! how often there has been an attempted union of other foundations with the one Foundation, Jesus Christ! To tamper with this Foundation is perilous indeed; to add to it is to deteriorate and to threaten the whole superstructure. The Christian Church should look to her Foundation, and clear away all that is not of Christ. No hurricane or storm will move her if she is on the Rock; but if her dependence be upon the shifting sands of wealth, position, world power, human learning, or other things of man, woe betide her!
3. Religious work. How Paul made Christ the Foundation of his work amongst the Corinthians when he determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)! When we teach we should teach Christ, when we preach we should preach Christ. Our work amongst men is not to be based upon our fancies or upon human theories, but upon Christ and his great redemptive work. We may amuse men with the fireworks of rhetoric or startling supposition, but the blaze will soon be over, and the old darkness will seem more intense than ever. If we want to bring abiding light to men, we must not divert them with pyrotechnic displays, but we must bring them to the Sun—the Sun of Righteousness. Much "religious work" is like a house built upon nothing. The marvel is, not that it should last so short a time, but that it should last at all.
4. Godly life. There is no sure foundation but this. Christ is the way to holiness. A life's labour after true excellence will be thrown away unless Christ be the Starting point. We shall not reach God without Christ: "No man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6); "Without me ye can do nothing." From Christ we receive power to live aright. Many seek to be godly that they may come to Christ, instead of coming to Christ that they may be godly. We have heard of the man who resolved to rear the house first and put in the foundation afterwards, but he was not a successful builder.
5. National greatness. A nation is truly great only in so far as it is based upon Christ and the principles which he expounded. The nations have perished one after another; their greatness was spurious, and therefore they were ephemeral; they rested upon that which moved, not upon that which is immovable—" The same yesterday, today, and forever." When the nation arises which shall be founded upon Christ and his truth, its glory and greatness shall excel the palmiest days of Solomon, and it shall abide. Our duty as subjects is to remove from the national foundations all that is not of Christ. Sacrifice may be entailed, but never loss: it is never loss to cast away the bad.
II. HOW IT IS LAID.
1. By human instrumentality. At Corinth by Paul: "wise" (1 Corinthians 3:10) was he as a master builder to lay this foundation, as well as wise in his manner of laying it. Here is marvellous honour conferred upon human creatures, that of laying the great foundation. We may participate in this vast privilege; we may have the high joy of laying the Foundation, Jesus Christ, in some unsaved souls. If archangels could envy, assuredly they would envy us this sublime, all glorious work. How readily should we run to it! how gladly devote to it our every power! how unceasingly labour and pray until "Christ be formed in" those whose salvation we desire!
2. Under Divine direction and by Divine help. What wisdom is here required! and of ourselves we are but foolish; what power! and we are weaklings. "Our sufficiency is of God." Only are we "wise master builders" when we constantly look up for guidance and rely upon Omnipotence. If we do anything in this matter it can only be "according to the grace of God" (1 Corinthians 3:10). This grace must be sought. When received and made effective in our lives, all the glory of that which is accomplished must be ascribed to him from whom the grace has flowed.—H.
1 Corinthians 3:10-46.3.15
Christian work and its testing.
I. CHRISTIAN WORK:
1. Should be rightly based. Christ is the only Foundation for the spiritual building. This Foundation may have been already laid for us by others where we are called to labour: if so, we must see that we are building upon it; if it be not laid, by "the grace of God" (1 Corinthians 3:10) we must seek to lay it without delay. All our teaching must rest upon Christ. He is not only the Omega to be ended with, but the Alpha to be begun with. All our efforts will be fruitless unless identified with him. The well constructed house built upon the sand perishes; so the most earnest and devoted labour is thrown away where Christ is ignored. The Christian builder should look carefully to his foundation. Whilst others build upon all sorts of things, he should build only upon Christ.
2. Should be wisely ordered. It is not enough to work; we must work wisely and well. Some seem to think that if they engage in Christian service, it is no matter how they engage in it; if the work be but done, it is no matter how it is done. Some of the most slipshod slatternly work under God's sun is done in God's Name and in connection with his kingdom. In other departments of life, care, watchfulness, anxiety, assiduity, are demanded; but in the religious sphere the thing is to get the work done somehow or other, and if it be but done somehow, all is likely to be well! Such careless builders sadly need the apostolic blast of warning: "Let every man take heed how he buildeth" (1 Corinthians 3:10). Christian work should be conformed to Christ in every particular. The superstructure should correspond to the Foundation. Epithets may go for little with us; in our teaching we should be just as "narrow" as Christ and just as "broad" as Christ. Our building will be of right dimensions if it is neither wider nor less wide than the Rock foundation upon which it rests. As to being "old fashioned," we need not greatly dread this if thereby we are more fully identified with our Lord; or "new fangled," if thus we and our work are more truly after his mind. Christian work is planned work. As the architect has a plan for his work, so the great Architect has a plan for his work, and for that part of his work which he entrusts to us to perform. If we "take heed how we build," we shall take heed that we build only according to the Divine plan. Knowledge of this is to be sought in prayer and from the Divine Word. There is one way in which our life work should be done; that way has been conceived by the Divine mind; we should seek a revelation of it. The Christian must not be his own architect.
3. In Christian work right materials should be used. It is not enough that we teach; we must teach the truth, and we must teach the truth as it is in Jesus. Our doctrine must be of Christ, and it must be sound doctrine, the "sincere milk" of the Word; the revelation of God, unedited by man. What rubbish has been and is taught by not a few! how much "wood, hay, stubble," placed in the great spiritual building! No wonder that the Christian soldier is so often worsted when he fights with gingerbread weapons. Shame upon men that, when the right material for labour is provided, they go hunting about for the wrong. The Scriptures are the great quarry and mine in which costly stones and gold and silver abound, and no zealous spiritual builder need lack who will search these mines.
II. CHRISTIAN WORK WILL BE TESTED. A solemn thought. Our work will be tested! When Christian work is done, that is not the end of it. It will be tried. Well may we ask:
1. When? On "the day," says the apostle. Christian work is tested on many days. Much of it does not stand the test of these days. But on the day—the day of days—the judgment day—all shall be tested and finally tested. "Each man's work shall be made manifest;" its true character will then be seen. "The day shall declare it" as it is, not as it has been thought to be. Now it may look well; but then? A veil now rests upon Christian work, then the veil shall be taken away; now the scaffolding obscures the building, then it shall fall, and then shall be seen "of what sort" the building is. The final test cannot be escaped from.
2. How? By "fire." (Not by the fires of purgatory; the apostle speaks of fire applied to work, not to persons,—not remedial, but testing.) The test will be thorough, searching, perfectly efficient. The false work will stand this test when hay and wood and stubble can abide unchanged in the flame; but not till then. Our work may look well now, but how will it bear the fire test?
3. By whom? God. At the great day he will be Judge, and will try every man's work. He will apply the fire test. He loves truth and hates lies, which we call shams. On that day he will manifest the truth concerning work done in his Name. Whatever it has seemed before, it will then seem as it really is. The careless and the false may well tremble at the thought of this ordeal; but the sincere and faithful may have confidence; for as no work then will be made to appear better than it is, none will be made to appear worse.
III. THE ISSUES OF THE TESTING OF CHRISTIAN WORK.
1. As to the work tested. Some will stand. The pessimists will then be ashamed; railers and mockers will then be silenced There is some work (and who shall say that it is little?) which will approve itself to God, and stand the final and most searching trial. This, doubtless, will be the work done in Divine strength, and, whilst the doers of it will rejoice with exceeding joy, they will as assuredly cry, "Not unto us." Some work will not stand the test. As hay and wood and stubble are speedily consumed in the fire, so this work will perish in the last testing flames. To see a life work destroyed in a day! A life lived and no fruit. No "Well done" because all has been ill done. And perhaps all through carelessness, sluggishness, self reliance, inattention to the "mind of Christ." Sad, sad close of a "Christian course."
2. As to workers. Some shall "receive a reward;" their work has borne the test. Though they say truly that this reward is "unmerited," they shall have it. "Doth Job serve God for nought?" Certainly not; no man ever did or shall. We lose nothing by labouring for Christ; and note that we lose nothing by labouring thoroughly for him. We may lose by labouring half heartedly—we may lose our reward. It is best every way to do our best in Christ's service. Some receive no reward. Their work perishes and they "suffer loss," but they themselves are saved, "yet so as by fire," i.e. barely, with difficulty. The reference is to those who hold fundamental truths (for they are supposed to build on the one Foundation, verse 12), but who mingle with their teaching the wood, hay, and stubble of human notions. Strikingly are we here taught that salvation is not of works; for the works perish, but the salvation abides. Doubtless we must suppose that in such cases there is true Christian living and a real desire to do the Master's will; for these are necessary evidences of a saved, regenerate state; but the vital truth of salvation by faith is pointedly illustrated by the chief works of the life (upon which all would have been resting if salvation were of works)suffering ignominious rejection. Being saved "so as by fire" is in Striking contrast to "the abundant entrance." May we have the ecstatic joy of the latter, and the holy gladness which comes from seeing that we have not "lived in vain"!—H.
1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17
Declared to be the Church of Christ. Each community of Christians is a temple of God. The old temple has perished; this is the new and the imperishable. The Christian Church has often been insignificant in numbers, wealth, position, earthly learning; men have despised her; judged by human standards she has appeared contemptible; but the Divine thought has been this—the temple of God!
1. Erected under Divine direction. The old and new temples are of God; they express his thought and purpose. Believers who constitute the new temple become believers through him; for faith is the gift of God. They are gathered into the Church as spiritual stones, by his servants, under his direction, and each has an appropriate place. God is the Author of the constitution of the Church.
2. Erected for the Divine glory. The supreme object. Everything in the Church to be made subservient to this. To glorify God should be the life object of the redeemed. And:
3. Erected for the welfare of men. The temple of old was for God and also for man. The Church has a great mission to the world. There is no conflict between the two objects. As the Church seeks to save the lost, she is most truly seeking to bring glory to God. Her worship is likely to be a mockery unless her work is faithfully performed.
4. Set apart for God. The Church should be separate, holy, peculiarly God's. "A peculiar people—a people for God's own possession" (1 Peter 2:9); "Ye are not your own."
5. An object of beauty. The beauty of holiness should clothe the Church. The world's admiration has often been commanded, in early days and since. And better still, God has approved.
6. Of great variety in its parts. Vast diversity in gift and condition, but one spiritual building. In the Christian Church there cannot, perhaps, be too much variety as there certainly cannot be too much oneness.
7. The dwelling place of God. Not only for God, but God's dwelling place. This was the glory of the Jewish temple—the Shechinah—the Divine presence. The Church's joy and glory are that "God is in the midst of her." He dwells not now in temples made with hands, though he does dwell in the temples made by the Divine hands. The ancient temple was unmeaning and useless without the presence of Jehovah. So is the Christian Church: "Ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22).
8. From it true worship should arise. Sanctuary worship, home worship, business worship, recreation worship, worship throughout all the life of those who constitute the temple.
9. In it should ever be the great sacrifice. Not the sacrifice of the Mass, but "Christ crucified" manifestly set forth. The temple of old would have been offensive to God without sacrifice, so we cannot be acceptable to him without the atonement. When the Church loses the cross she loses God. In every Christian community there must be a Calvary. And the true Jerusalem has not its Calvary "without the gate;" Christ crucified is central, chief, predominant.
II. PUNISHMENT FOR INJURY. Aaronic priests who violated the ancient temple were doomed to death; injurers of the Church of Christ will meet a terrible fate. In 1 Corinthians 3:17 the Greek verb, which means "to bring into a worse state," is repeated; what we do to the Church, God will do to us—if we injure it, he will injure us. At Corinth the dividers of the Church were likely to become destroyers, and so God will "destroy." These are far more serious offenders than those named in 1 Corinthians 3:12 and 1 Corinthians 3:15. God is jealous over his temple, and men may not do evil to it with impunity. Those who sin against it sin directly against him. Note: We may injure the temple of God in many ways. For example, by
(1) false doctrine;
(2) unchristian spirit;
(3) personal unholiness;
(4) conniving at unholiness in others;
(5) failing to do our part;
(6) failing to take our place in the Church.
III. HOW CAREFUL WE SHOULD BE IN ALL THAT CONCERNS THIS TEMPLE. In Church life and Church work. How serious are these! in them there is no room for trifling. Alas! how many are living in the Church, and even labouring in it, who seem to feel little or no responsibility! Let us realize what this Church is, and then assuredly with more care than the Aaronic priests shall we comport ourselves. To avoid offence and injury and failure, we shall need the wisdom that cometh down from above (1 Corinthians 3:18-46.3.20).—H.
1 Corinthians 3:21-46.3.23
The believer's possessions.
I. WHAT THESE ARE.
1. Ministers. The Corinthians had made a strange mistake; they had been regarding ministers as masters, and choosing which they preferred to serve. In a singular loss of dignity (singular because many of them were not a little afflicted with pride) they had become ambitious of belonging to ministers, forgetting that ministers, as such belonged to them. Ministers are the servants of the Church, and thus among the believer's possessions; instead of quarrelling over them, he should use and enjoy them. God has greatly enriched his people by sending to them many able and faithful ministers. Whilst these should be highly esteemed for their work's sake, their true relation to the Church should never be lost sight of. They should bear it in mind, and thus check any tendencies towards lordship.
2. The world. It is generally thought that the world belongs to the Wicked One and his children, seeing that it appears to be largely in their hands. This is a popular blunder. The world was made and is kept for the people of God. Unbelievers have no right to the things which they grasp. The ungodly hold their possessions upon a precarious tenure. They are very short leaseholders, or rather they are tenants at will. Believers are the freeholders, and at last "the meek shall inherit the earth." The child of God has not yet "come of age;" but his title is good, and now he enjoys as much of his inheritance as is good for him in his present state. But as believers look at the world they can say, "It is ours—all of it, and all things in it work together for our good." Cowper says—
"The Christian looks abroad into the varied field
Of nature, and, though poor perhaps compar'd
With those whose mansions glitter in his sight,
Calls the delightful scenery all his own.
His are the mountains, and the valleys his,
And the resplendent rivers; his t' enjoy
With a propriety that none can feel
But who, with filial confidence inspir'd,
Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye,
And smiling say, 'My Father made them all.'"
3. Life. Without Christ there is nothing worthy of the name of life. Life is emphatically the believer's. What possibilities it has for him! how vast are his opportunities! Pity it is that some believers seem only half alive to this. The child of God has in life the experience most likely to benefit him: mercies, joys, trials, temptations, pains—all his, to do him good. The lives of others are also controlled for the welfare of the redeemed.
4. Death. Death, a precious possession. The entrance to the life immortal. Death conquered has become the believer's servant. Death, the dire loss of the impenitent, the great gain of the saints. The death of those outside the Church is ordered for the well being of those within. God strikes down the foes of his people when the right hour has come.
5. Things present. The present order and movement in the world; all governments and powers; the march of the ages;—all these things are made subservient to the great work of redemption. "God moves in a mysterious way," but always moves for his people.
6. Things to come. Not only the present order of the world, but the future. Believers often tremble for what is coming; the Church quakes, for she dreads some future movement, glimmerings of which she can discern, perhaps, in the present. But God is in the future, giving that future to his people. All discoveries, all increase of knowledge, all progress, shall be for the weal of Zion: "The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." And the believer reckons amongst things to come, the heavenly world, the life immortal, the higher service, the perfected nature, the unsullied joy. All these are his. How rich, how blessed, is he!
7. All things. Marvellous truth, that there is nothing of which he can say, "It is not mine."
II. SECURED BY THE BELIEVER'S CONNECTION WITH CHRIST. Believers are Christ's. His servants? yes; his friends? yes; but his "brethren," and thus "heirs" with him—"joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). Christ is God's. All that the Father hath is the Son's. All that the Son hath belongs to those that are his; and this is "all things." What an amazing transformation, then, there is in conversion! The unsaved has nothing; the saved, "all things." Are we unutterably poor or infinitely rich? The question is answered when another is: "Are we Christ's?"—H.
HOMILIES BY E. BREMNER
1 Corinthians 3:1-46.3.9
Christian teachers and their work.
The apostle has still in view the dissensions prevailing in the Corinthian Church. Throughout the first four chapters this subject is never absent from his mind, even when it is most in the background. The spirit of party, with the various phases of thought and life that found expression therein, suggests the several topics on which he enlarges.
I. THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER ADAPTS HIS TEACHING TO THE CAPACITIES OF HIS HEARERS. (1 Corinthians 3:1-46.3.4.) Paul has already said (1 Corinthians 2:6) that he " spake wisdom among the perfect," and here he presents the other side.
1. At Corinth he had to deal with carnal Christians. In the last verses of the previous chapter he has contrasted the natural man and the spiritual man, the latter alone being able to discern the things of the Spirit. Here the comparison is not between Christians and non Christians, but between different classes of Christians, distinguished according to spiritual attainment. Every believer in Christ is a spiritual man as compared with those who do not believe; but one believer may be carnal in comparison with another believer. The new nature may be weak and sickly and all but overlaid by the old. This was the case with the Corinthians, whose fleshliness of mind appeared in the prevalence of "jealousy and strife" and of party spirit. These things spring from the flesh (Galatians 5:20), wherever they are found. When the Church is rent by faction, and men think mainly of the aggrandizement of their favourite party, no further proof is needed of the reign of carnality. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, peace." A fleshly Christian! What opposites must we unite in describing real character!
2. They were as yet "babes in Christ." Conversion is a new birth: young converts are newborn babes (1 Peter 2:2). They have in germ all that is to be found in the full grown man; but they are weak, dependent, immature. Young Christians have the rudiments of the Christian character in more or less clear outline, but only the rudiments. Infancy is beautiful in its season, and so is the young life of the new convert; but out of season, its beauty is gone. A child with the years of a man is a monstrosity in nature; an old Christian with the crudeness of a young convert should appear to us as great a monstrosity in grace. The "babe in Christ" is meant to develop into "a full grown man, into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
3. As babes, they must be fed "with milk, not with meat." Infants and men must each have food suitable to their capacity. The doctrines of the faith may be presented in the form of milk or of solid food. Milk has in it all the nourishing elements to be found in strong meat, though in more diluted form. The facts of the gospel history contain all the truths of the most elaborate theological system; a child can digest them in the one form, but not in the other. Every wise teacher will adapt his teaching to the capacity of his hearers. He will give to each only such food as he can receive and assimilate. He will not give solid food to infants, nor will he feed full grown men merely with milk. The preacher should consider the wants of women and children, as well as of men, and adapt some part of the public service to them (comp. Hebrews 5:12-58.5.14).
II. MINISTERS ARE GOD'S SERVANTS, NOT PARTY LEADERS. The childish condition of the Corinthians was shown in their party divisions. They gloried more in the leader after whom their faction was called than in Jesus Christ. To correct this the apostle presents the right view of spiritual teachers and their work.
1. Ministers are but servants. They are not heads of sects or schools, whose object is to gather disciples for themselves. They are servants of God, doing his work. Therefore they are not to be lifted above their position, as they are when they are regarded as masters in the Church; nor are they to sink below it, as they do when they take the law from any other but God.
2. Each minister has his own peculiar work. "I planted, Apollos watered." Paul began the work at Corinth; Apollos continued it. One minister is sent to preach the gospel to sinners, another to edify believers, another to teach the ignorant, another to comfort the sorrowful; but all are contributors to the same great interest. The servant's work, however, is but a subordinate instrumentality. Planting and watering are the ordinary conditions of growth, but they do not of themselves cause growth. It is "God that giveth the increase." In the spiritual sphere, as in the natural, the life giving power is Divine; but in both cases this power usually works through human ministries. It is only in connection with diligent planting and watering that we can expect the increase.
3. Each minister has his own peculiar reward. All are one, inasmuch As all are servants of one Lord and engaged about the same work. Hence they are not to be set against each other as rivals. Their work is one, yet diverse; and so is their reward. No faithful servant shall go without a recompense at his Master's hand; but each shall receive his own, alike in kind and in degree. The principle that determines this is—"according to his own labour." It is not according to the fruit or result of our labour, but simply according to the measure of our labour. What reversals of human opinion are in store for us! Men applaud success; God praises fidelity. Many an obscure but faithful worker shall receive a greater reward than he who has been less faithful but more prominent and successful.
4. Ministers are God's fellow workers. All God's servants are fellow servants as workers for him; but here the fellowship is carried still higher. We are workers along with God, who is pleased to associate us with himself in the great work of his kingdom. What a thought is this!
(1) What dignity it gives to the Christian ministry! It is to work with God.
(2) How inspiring to the Christian worker! Who would not labour when God is with him?
(3) How sure the reward! Will God leave his fellow workers without a due recompense?
III. BELIEVERS ARE GOD'S FIELD. The same idea is elsewhere expressed under the figure of a garden (Isaiah 58:11) and a vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-23.5.30.). Consider:
1. The Proprietor of the field. The Church is God's field. It is not the Church of Paul, or Apollos or any other; but "the Church of God, which he purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). It belongs to him; it exists for him; it is called by his Name. Hence the spirit of faction, which ranges parties and sects under the names of rival leaders, robs God of his glory as the Church's Lord.
2. The labourers in the field. These are apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers, etc. (see above).
3. The field itself.
(1) Its original condition. Wild, untilled, full of merely natural growths. Believers are originally a part of the world, living in a state of sin, under no gracious culture.
(2) The work bestowed upon it. Preparatory work: trenching, ploughing, gathering out stones, fencing; and then the sowing of seed, planting, weeding, etc. Corresponding to this there is a preparation of heart for receiving the truth, an awakening to a sense of sin and need, a quickening into spiritual life, a culture of the new life into fulness and strength, etc. For these ends every true labourer works, but always in dependence on the rower of the Holy Spirit, who alone can make our labour fruitful.
(3) Its produce. The farmer looks for a return from his field in the form of fruit in harvest; God expects his Church to yield fruit to his glory. Christian character, life, usefulness, productiveness,—these are some of the returns for which the Lord of the field looks (comp. Luke 13:6-42.13.9; John 15:1, etc.).—B.
1 Corinthians 3:10-46.3.15
The Foundation and the superstructure.
Under the figure of a building, the apostle continues to speak of the work of Christ's ministers, and specially of his own labours at Corinth. As the first to preach the gospel there, he had laid the foundation, upon which the teachers that succeeded him were to build. The reference is primarily to doctrine, but the principles apply to work and life as well.
I. THE FOUNDATION. This is Jesus Christ the Mediator (Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6). He is the Foundation of truth: the system of Christian theology is built upon him. All Christian teaching and preaching must have him for their basis. The entire structure of knowledge rests upon him who is the Source of all wisdom, He is also the Foundation of life. The Church is built upon him, believers being "living stones" in the great spiritual temple. In both these respects Jesus Christ is:
1. A Divine Foundation. "Behold I lay." The Church requires a basis laid by God himself.
2. A sure Foundation. No work of God can fail. Jesus Christ is a Foundation, not of sand, but of solid rock (Matthew 7:24-40.7.27). It will bear any strain, even the weight of a world.
3. The only Foundation. This is the point emphasized here. Men build on other foundations when they rest their systems of belief on human opinion, or base their hope of heaven upon their own worlds, the merits of others, the general mercy of God, etc. But "other foundation can (δύναται) no man lay;" there is but one.
II. THE SUPERSTRUCTURE. Having found the true Foundation, we must "take heed how we build thereon." The work of ministers or of believers in general is here viewed as the superstructure. Two kinds of materials may be employed: "gold, silver, costly stones"—the beautiful and lasting materials, suited for a temple; or "wood, hay, stubble"—the baser and more perishable materials, fit only for a temporary house. Apply this to:
1. Doctrine. The "gold," etc., represents pure, scriptural teaching. Take Paul's Epistles, e.g., as a noble structure of truth built on Jesus Christ. Such doctrine is precious and abiding, like its Foundation. The "wood," etc., represents human opinions and speculations put in the place of God's truth. In Paul's time, Jewish tradition, Gnosticism, etc.; in ours, Popery, Ritualism, etc. Such doctrines are not truly edifying.
2. Life. The "gold," etc., is a Christian life of the noblest kind, built out of faith, hope, love. Pure, unselfish, Christ like character. Variety may be indicated in the three materials. Gold may denote the most brilliant service rendered by consecrated genius, heroic faith, patient suffering. Silver may indicate a work less brilliant, but useful—the honest doing of the Lord's will. Costly stones—marble or granite, e.g.—a life of solidity and strength, on which others may lean. Each of these classes has its own place and value. All are genuine. The "wood," etc., is a Christian life of the poorest kind, Dull as wood, with little spiritual insight. Swayed by public opinion, as the grass by every breeze. Barren as stubble, bringing forth little to the glory of God. What differences in the lives of Christians! Gold or stubble: which?
III. THE FIERY TRIAL. The true nature of our life and work is not always seen here. We judge wrongly of others and of ourselves. Men praise the wood as if it were gold; depreciate the gold as if it were wood. But "the day shall declare it"—Dies irae, dies illa—the day of fire, when Christ comes to judge (Malachi 3:2, Malachi 3:3; Malachi 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:8). Time tests but partially; the thorough test is the judgment fire. Shall our work stand that?
1. The edifice of "gold," etc., shall stand. Truth will come through the fire; so will a genuine, unselfish, Christly life. Work for time perishes; work for eternity endures. The fiery ordeal will only bring out more clearly its true quality. The builder shall receive a reward in seeing his work abide (Philippians 2:16), in being recognized as a good workman (Matthew 25:21), and in wearing the crown of life (James 1:12). Observe, the reward is not for being on the Foundation, but for what is built thereon. Salvation is of free grace; the reward is "according as his work" (Revelation 22:12).
2. The structure of" wood," etc., shall be burned up. Error, falsehood, unreality; a life animated by a worldly, selfish spirit;—these shall be consumed. The builder is glad to get away with his life, as one escapes from a house in flames, saved "so as through fire." Picture the consternation of the poor builder as he sees the fire doing its awful work, and hears the crash of his life structure! He himself is saved for Christ's sake, but his labour is lost.
1. See to the nature of your life and work as Christians. Apply specially to Christian workers.
2. Be not satisfied with bare salvation at last. Build with materials that will endure. Have an eye to the "full reward" (2 John 1:8).
3. If many on the true Foundation shall be saved only "so as through fire," how shall they escape that are building on a false foundation? (1 Peter 4:17, 1 Peter 4:18).—B.
1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17
The temple of God.
Paul again takes up the idea of a building and gives it a new direction. The noblest of all edifices is a temple in which architecture finds its highest and worthiest employment. Under this figure the apostle sets forth sometimes the collective Church of Christ, sometimes the individual believer (1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:21). Man was created to be a sanctuary of God, but this sanctuary was overturned by sin. It lay in ruins till the Lord Jesus came as the Restorer, whose work it is to rebuild the ruined walls; and now the temple is seen rising in its fair proportions in the hearts of the regenerated, and in the spiritual house built of these living stones (1 Peter 2:5).
I. BELIEVERS ARE GOD'S TEMPLE.
1. God dwells in them. The temple at Jerusalem was Jehovah's dwelling place. There he had his Shechinah in the cloud above the mercy seat and between the cherubim, and there he was worshipped. Even so "the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." The Father and the Son make their abode with the man who loves and obeys the Son (John 14:23), and this is effected by the Spirit. This indwelling is the culmination of the work of grace within us. The heart must first be quickened, renewed, purified, ere the Holy Spirit can dwell in it. How wonderful a truth is this! God in me] It is not the dream of the pantheist, who calls me a spark from the eternal fire—God dwelling in me because I am only a mode of the one universal existence. It is not the raving of the mystic, whose imagination has betrayed him into a hazy confusion of ideas regarding his relation to God. It is the utterance of sober truth. In me the creature—the new creature—God the Creator makes his abode; not, indeed, in the infinity of his being, as if our tiny vessels could contain the ocean, yet really. The little flower cup has the sun dwelling in it all the day, though he dwells in thousands besides; and his presence is made known by the colour and fragrance and growth of the flower. The same Spirit of God who abides in the Church abides in every true member of it; and this abiding is revealed in the love shed abroad in the heart, in the odour that breathes through the life, and in the gracious bending of the nature to all that is righteous.
2. They are holy. As the place where Jehovah dwelt, the Jewish temple was holy—consecrated to him, and to him alone. None but an Israelite could tread the outer court; none but the priests could serve in the holy place; none but the high priest could enter the holy of holies. Believers are holy, set apart for God and his service. They are not a public street or common, which the world may use as it likes; they are a sacred enclosure, marked off and devoted to holy uses. They are God's temple—body, soul, and spirit corresponding to the three divisions of the ancient tabernacle. This applies also to the Church, which is holy because dwelt in by God.
II. GOD'S TEMPLE MUST NOT BE MARRIED. This follows from what has been said. If God dwells in believers, an injury done to them is done to his sanctuary. Consider:
1. How the temple may be marred. Sin in every form pollutes and injures the soul. It is an outrage on God's temple. The Holy Spirit cannot dwell with unholiness. More particularly:
(1) By setting up idols. To place any person or thing beside God is to be guilty of idolatry. He will not dwell in the temple where other gods are worshipped; it is polluted (Isaiah 42:8; 1 John 5:21).
(2) By throwing it open to all. The temple was holy ground, which none but consecrated feet might tread. The heart of the believer is not to be flung open to the world or to unholy thoughts and desires; the Church is not to act on worldly principles, or employ carnal means, or seek secular ends. All such intruders defile God's temple (John 2:14-43.2.17).
2. The penalty threatened against those that mar God's temple. He who defiled God's sanctuary was punished by death (Leviticus 15:31; comp. Numbers 19:20). He who destroys God's spiritual temple shall himself be destroyed. The grieved Spirit will depart and spiritual death will ensue. A warning to Christians against espousing error, or practising sin, or cherishing party spirit. A warning to teachers lest, by preaching false doctrine or fomenting strife, they incur this awful punishment. How watchful should we be over our own hearts! How careful should we be in our treatment of fellow Christians!—B.
1 Corinthians 3:18-46.3.20
The way to wisdom.
"Wisdom" is one of the key words of these early chapters of the Epistle. Here again the contrast between true and false wisdom appears in the form of a warning against self conceit. "Let no man deceive himself."
I. TO BE WISE WE MUST FIRST BECOME FOOLS. The wisdom of this world has its uses within its own sphere, but it is no help to the understanding of the things of God. It is a hindrance which must be removed ere we cart learn the Divine wisdom. We must divest ourselves of our fancied wisdom and. become fools in our own eyes, in order to be spiritually wise. This is a general law. Pride or self conceit in regard to any branch of knowledge or art is an effectual bar to progress. We must confess our ignorance in order to knowledge, our weakness in order to strength, our folly in order to wisdom. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." This truth holds:
1. As to the beginning of the Christian life. How often are anxious souls kept back from entering into peace because they will not renounce their own ideas of the way of salvation! Only when they submit entirely to God's way as little children do they enter the kingdom.
2. As to progress in the Christian life. Even after conversion we must be careful "to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). We can grow in spiritual insight, in holiness, in patience, in power for service, in faith and hope and love, only by esteeming ourselves foolish and being content to sit as learners at the Lord's feet.
II. THE WISDOM OF THIS WOULD IS FOOLISHNESS. This explains why our own wisdom must be renounced. In the judgment of the All wise it is folly. The speculations of men regarding God and our relation to him, however much of truth they contain, are yet on the whole vain, inasmuch as they fail to reach an adequate knowledge of him. Those who have worked the longest at the great problems of life are the readiest to confess this. One after another of the world's wise men have wrestled with them and passed them down to their successors unsolved. Or look at the schemes of men for the regeneration of the world. Education, aesthetic culture, the teaching of morality, social communism, religion made easy,—all have been tried and found wanting. None of them can redeem mankind from sin and restore them to their lost dignity. And in nothing do men seem so foolish as just in those things in which they think themselves wise. They are caught in their own net. Their schemes of salvation work their ruin.—B.
1 Corinthians 3:21-46.3.23
The Christian's heritage.
Since the wisdom of men is foolishness, and even the ministers of Divine wisdom are but servants, all glorying in men is to be avoided. Boast not in this one or that, however eminent; for all such boasting is a degradation to one who is possessed of so rich an inheritance.
I. IT IS UNIVERSAL. "All things are yours." Man's original lordship over creation (Psalms 8:6) has been lost by sin, but is now restored in Christ. All things exist for the Christian; all things cooperate for his good (Romans 8:28).
"For us the winds do blow;
The earth doth rest, heaven move, and fountains flow.
No thing we see but means our good,
As our delight, or as our treasure:
The whole is, either our cupboard of food,
Or cabinet of pleasure.
"Oh, mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him."
1. All teachers belong to the Christian. The Church was not made for Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; but these have been given to the Church for its planting and watering and culture. The ministers of Christ are workmen employed in erecting God's temple. One lays the foundation, another hews the stones, another carves the ornaments, another does the carpenter work, etc. All are working for the same end, each in his own department. Why should we set the one against the other, as if the mason were everything and the carpenter nothing? You have your favourite apostle: do not neglect the practical James, because you delight in the fervid, argumentative Paul; or the dogmatic Peter, because you love the calm, intuitive John. Learn from Christian men of various schools and denominations, whom God sends with a message to their generation. All are yours.
2. The world. This denotes the material universe and all its providential arrangements. However evil men may usurp possession meanwhile, it is the saints that inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). It is maintained for their use, ordered with a view to their welfare, and in the end they shall be its sole possessors. The world, with all its forces and all its treasures, lies at their feet. All has been given to make life happier and better, and to help us to glorify our Father in heaven.
3. Life and death. The term of our sojourn on the earth, with all that it brings, is ours. Life is a mighty gift—a great field in which to sow eternal seed. It is ours for two great purposes—for being and doing. The culture of the new life within us, and the promotion of our neighbour's well being,—in these two directions life is our opportunity. "To me to live is Christ." There are ways of promoting God's glory which are peculiar to this life, and which can never come to us again. Death also is ours as well as life. That grim, horrid thing, whose face strikes terror to the stoutest heart, and whose icy grasp freezes the fountains of life,—that, too, becomes our servant. As the sailor conquers the winds by making them propel his vessel, so death ministers to our advancement. "To die is gain." It releases from the pains, and toils, and conflicts, and limitations of this mortal state, and ushers us into the enjoyment of our inheritance.
4. Things present and things to come. The present and the future in the most comprehensive sense. Our actual lot is ours, whether it be easy or hard, pleasant or distressing. It is ours to serve us, if we will only let it do its work and turn it to the best account. The future is still hid from us, but it can bring us nothing which shall not work for our good. Whatever form the things to come may take, we are assured that they are ours.
II. THE TITLE IS GOOD. "Ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." All things are ours only because we belong to Christ. He has recovered for man his lost sovereignty, and in him we receive what he has won for us. The crown is again placed on our heads; we become joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), who is Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2). Apart from him we have no title. And belonging to Christ, we belong to God; for "Christ is God's." As the Son of God manifest in flesh for the redemption of his people, he is the Father's Servant, delighting to do his will; whilst at the same time he is the Father's equal (1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 15:28).:Mark the successive steps of this great ladder of being. All things are subject to the saints; the saints are subject to Christ their Head; Christ as Mediator is subject to the Father,
LESSONS. Be not subject to men; Christ is your Head.
2. How valid is the believer's title to his glorious heritage!
3. Reckon up your possessions in Christ; claim them as your own; and all earthly wealth and dignity will fail to dazzle you.—B.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
1 Corinthians 3:9
The leading truth in the context would seem to be this—that the most honoured and most successful worker in the kingdom of Christ is but as a helpless instrument through which the living power is pleased to operate, and that power is in God alone. The name of God, therefore, occupies the emphatic place in each clause of this verse. "Of God ye are the husbandry." This is spoken of the Corinthians, not so much as individual believers, but as an organized Christian society. Observe the view it gives us of—
I. THE NATURE OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH. It is God's "tilled land." Not so much the process of husbandry, but the field in which the process is wrought out, is here intended. Every organized Christian society is the sphere of a spiritual culture analogous to that which goes on in the realm of nature, in the gardens, the vineyards, and the corn-fields. Two or three distinct elements of thought are suggested.
1. There is the idea of a germ of Divine life implanted is the hearts of men. The course of nature's husbandry proceeds on the law that when the seed corn, in which the mysterious principle of vegetable life is hidden, is brought into contact with certain quickening and nourishing elements of the soil, it will germinate and be productive. The step of primary importance is the planting of the seed in the ground, because that establishes the necessary connection between the latent forces that combine to work out the desired result. So in the higher sphere of man's moral life. The "truth as it is in Jesus" is the productive germ, in which, beneath the husk of the literal verbal form, is hidden the very spirit and life of God. And the condition of its unfolding is that it should be brought into real, direct, living contact with the soul (Matthew 13:23; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:23). There is no uncertainty in the result when the needful conditions are supplied. The Church is God's "tilled land." "The field is the world;" but then the world has its "wayside" and its "stony and thorny places;" the "good ground" is composed of those who, "in an honest and good heart," are prepared to receive the imperishable seed of the kingdom.
2. The development of this germ by external culture. The husbandry of the earth is man's effort to supply the most favourable conditions for the working out of nature's great productive law. Churches exist to promote, as far as possible, the operation of the spiritual law. Social life generally, with all its relations and activities, is no doubt intended by God to be helpful to this. We rise to the true, broad idea of religious culture only when we look On them all as auxiliaries to the great work of spiritual enlargement and enrichment. But the Church relationship, by all its conditions Of fellowship, worship, and work, is specially fitted to accomplish this end. Spiritual culture is the primary purpose of its existence. The ideal may not always be reached. As the earth has its frigid and temperate and torrid zones, so Christian societies differ as to the kindliness of their soil and atmosphere for the development of the germs of spiritual life. But this is their Divine intent—that they should be nurseries of all truth and goodness, where everything that is best and noblest and loveliest in men may be fostered and brought to perfection.
3. The production of the appropriate fruits. All labour is for the sake of the "profit" that can be got out of it. Seed sowing, "planting and watering,'' point on to the harvest. One harvest lays the foundation for another and a greater. The "increase" is the end of all. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8). "These things [good works] are good and profitable to men" (Titus 3:8). Churches exist for the production of the fruits of Divine goodness, with all the added force and fulness that social unity can give. They answer their end only so far as spiritual power goes forth from them, and they are felt to be centres and sources of blessing to the world, producing something that shall make it richer and happier than it would otherwise have been, something that shall never die.
II. THE RELATION BETWEEN DIVINE AND HUMAN AGENCY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH. "God's husbandry." Divine proprietorship is an important truth involved here, but Divine activity is no doubt the more prominent. The field not only belongs to God, so that none dare claim any kind of "lordship" over it; but it is one in which God is the great Worker. The process wrought out in it is the result of his productive power, and, as far as the vital part of it is concerned, of his alone. Man is nothing; God is "all in all" (1 Corinthians 3:7). But the instrument has its needful and proper place. God works out his beneficent ends through the intervention of man's own willing cooperation, and in this lies for man himself an infinite benediction. He might have made the earth to yield its fruits without any culture of ours; but would that have been a merciful arrangement? In those parts of the earth where there is the nearest approach to such a condition of things, human life is always found to be in a state the most degraded. Labour is the law of man's being. And though that labour, through the curse of sin, presents too often the aspect of irksome toil, yet still it is a "sublime necessity," the indispensable condition of physical health and happiness. In the spiritual sphere, too, God would have us to be "fellow workers" with himself. He will not accomplish his beneficent purposes without us. He employs us as the channels and vehicles of his power. His working in us is the motive and the inspiration of our working for him. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for," etc. (Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13). We can expect to see the blessed issue only when we place ourselves as ready and prepared instruments in his hands. But never may we forget that the power is his and not ours.
"Should e'er his wonder working grace
Triumph through our weak arm,
Let not our sinful fancy trace
Aught human in the charm."
1 Corinthians 3:11
The one Foundation.
It is of the personal, not the doctrinal, Christ that the apostle here speaks—of Christ, not so much as the basis of a system of religious teaching, but as himself the living Foundation of living souls. Look at this Foundation in two or three different lights.
I. AS THE GROUND OF THE SINNER'S HOPE OF SALVATION. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name," etc. (Acts 4:12). The apostles never diverged in the slightest degree from this testimony. To have done this would have been to preach no gospel to men at all, but only to flatter them with a false, delusive hope. The reason of Paul's unyielding fidelity to the simplicity of his gospel message at Corinth and everywhere else, lay in his deep sense of the fact that, in whatever land or age or grade of social life a man may be found, whatever the level of his civilization or intellectual culture, "Christ crucified" can alone meet his spiritual necessities. And he would pay just as little respect to our dreams of self sufficiency as he did to those of the men of his own times; for they have just as little solid ground to rest upon. Our nature is the same as theirs. Our spiritual needs are the same. There is the same insatiable craving within us, the same guilt on our consciences, the same seeds of corruption latent in our hearts, the same moral dangers besetting the pathway of our life. The same eternal spirit world surrounds us, and we must confront the same "righteous judgment of God." What can we do but cast our souls, with all the wealth of their affections and the weight of their immortal interests, on Christ? What other "refuge" have we but the "hope set before us in the gospel "?
II. THE BASIS OF ALL TRUE SPIRITUAL ONENESS AND FELLOWSHIP AMONG MEN. The Church at Corinth had become a distracted and divided communion. It failed to maintain the "unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." St. Paul knew well where the secret of this lay. As a "wise master builder," he saw at once that the breach, the disruption in the house was caused by some fault in its relation to the Foundation on which it was supposed to rest. In spite of all his care, the superstructure had not been based with sufficient firmness upon that. He calls them back to the principle and ground of their unity. They were divided because they had in some way wandered from it, had slipped off from it, lost their hold on it. The uniting principle had become less to them than the forces that rend asunder. There is no real, living, lasting union among men, except on the basis of a common life in Christ. There are appearances, shadows of it, approximations to it more or less near, but not the Divine reality. Think of those associations into which men enter for purposes of commerce, personal enrichment, science, pleasure, politics, philanthropy; the oneness of a nation m its devotion to the throne and constitution; of an army in the enthusiasm of its service; of a popular assembly under the spell of some commanding influence; the oneness even of a family, with its identity of interest and interchange of natural affection;—what are all these forms of unity compared with that of souls that are bound together in the fellowship of the eternal life of Christ, members of his body, and therefore "members one of another"? The true brotherhood, which men seek elsewhere in vain, they find in the Church ransomed by the blood of Christ and built on him as its eternal Foundation.
III. THE ROOT OF AN ENDURING PERSONAL RIGHTEOUSNESS. In what the apostle afterwards says of the different ways in which men "build," he probably has religious teachers and the quality of their teaching specially in view. But we may also apply it to the quality of a man's personal character and life. The picture is presented of one who, as regards the groundwork of his being, may be "in Christ," but whose practice is not altogether worthy of the sacred relationship—a loose fabric of "wood, hay, stubble." In the day "when every man's work shall be made manifest of what sort it is," how mournfully will the defective doings of the unfaithful servant, the careless slothful builder, be swept away before the consuming fire! "He shall suffer loss:… saved; yet so as by fire." And this suggests an opposite picture. There are those whose virtue has no living root in Christ, draws none of its inspiration from the faith of which he is the "Author and Finisher." It is a fabric symmetrical and. fair to look upon, but it rests not on the true Foundation. It is not for us to judge any man. "To his own Master he standeth or falleth." But this we know—that the criterion by which Christ will judge us all "at that day" is the relation in which we stand towards himself, and "other foundation" of personal righteousness "can no man lay."—W.
1 Corinthians 3:13
Proof by fire.
There can be no doubt as to what day it is that is here intended. It is that "great and dreadful day" of the Lord's coming to judgment, to which all Scripture bears more or less distinct prophetic witness—the day when the final issues of time shall be gathered up, and time itself shall melt into the measureless eternity. One special characteristic of the day is that then all human works will be put to the supreme and decisive test. Consider—
I. THE INSTRUMENT OF THE TEST. "The fire shall prove each man's work."
1. Literal elemental fire. It is the plain teaching of Scripture that the visible, material world around us shall undergo some wondrous transformation by fire, that out of the ashes of the old there may arise "the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (see Malachi 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Peter 3:7, 2 Peter 3:10). And science confirms the possibility, if not actual probability, of such an issue.
2. The fire of Divine holiness. The elemental fire is but the outward symbol of moral judgment. It was for such judgment that Christ came into the world at first (Isaiah 10:17; Malachi 3:2, Malachi 3:3; Matthew 3:11, Matthew 3:12). He will finally and completely fulfil in the last day this judicial function. The holy love of God, in its fiery antagonism to all evil, is incarnated in "that Man whom he hath ordained to be the Judge of quick and dead."
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE TEST. To make manifest "every man's work of what sort it is." To make manifest:
1. The basis on which it rests. Christ is the Source of all true saintliness of character and righteousness of life in men. Only as our souls are "rooted and grounded" in him can we build up a fabric of personal virtue that will stand the searching test of that day. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).
2. The spirit that inspires it. The mere form of the work, the place and space it has visibly occupied on the stage of the world's history, is of comparatively small moment. The spirit that has animated it, this is its living substance, its essential quality. It is this that makes it of "the sort it is."
3. The practical results of it. Not all the works even of the best of men will bear the revealing light and the consuming fire of that day. When the good die, "their works do follow them," as grateful memories, as enduring fruits of goodness and of blessing to the world. And yet not all. There may have been works among them that were too much "of the earth, earthy." They perish with meaner things, not worthy of immortality. While in the case of some men it is as if all were lost; they leave no lasting memorials behind them, over which the living may rejoice; but like one flying from his burning house, escaping with bare life, they are "saved; yet so as by fire." Prove yourself and yore work now by the Divine standard, "that when He shall appear you may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."—W.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17
The New Testament temple.
Under the Old Testament, the temple of God was a house made with hands, a worldly sanctuary. The New Testament or dispensation reckons the people of God to be his temple, "the habitation of God in the Spirit." At Corinth there were many temples to the gods, but one temple of God. And the former were of dead stones, however beautiful to the eye. It is a common saying, "As dead as a stone." But St. Paul, with a fine audacity of thought, conceived of the latter—the temple of God—as formed of living stones, from the Foundation upwards.
I. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE. The foundation of the whole Church God himself laid in raising up Christ from the dead. Whom men despised, he accepted; whom men slew, he quickened. And this living One is made "the Headstone of the corner." A "tried stone," too, thoroughly tested and proved to be sufficient. The foundation of the local Church at Corinth, Paul as a wise master builder had laid, i.e. he had made known Jesus Christ as crucified and risen from the dead, and taught the Corinthian converts to rest on him. Eloquent Apollos followed; and, though a party formed itself under his name, saying "I am of Apollos," St. Paul never blamed the eloquent preacher for this or showed the least jealousy of his influence. On the contrary, at the end of the Epistle he promised to the Corinthians another visit from "our brother Apollos,… when he shall have convenient time." Any builder was welcome to continue the work and enter into St. Paul's labours, provided that he did not disturb the Foundation which had been laid and could not be improved, and that he took good heed how he built thereon. The duty of builders is first to gather men, even though they be dead stones, to Jesus Christ, that they may live; and then to build them together, or edify them in faith and love. For this the proper means are found in the exposition and application of the Word with tenderness, pointedness, comprehensiveness, fearlessness, and fidelity. The power is altogether of God. Paul planted, Apollos watered; but the Church at Corinth was not their husbandry, but God's. Paul laid the foundation, Apollos built on it; but the Church was God's building, not theirs. It is so always and everywhere. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it."
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE TEMPLE.
1. Holiness. "Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, forever." The temple built by Solomon was holy, or separated to sacred use; but when its holiness was outraged by the idolatrous images and altars afterwards placed within its courts, it still retained beauty, because it was material. But now that the temple is spiritual only, its holiness is its attraction. Corrupt the character, degrade the purity of the Church, and you destroy its beauty too. The holiness of the Church is produced and maintained by the Holy Ghost abiding therein. We have not "influences of the Spirit" as from a distance, but his personal presence. When the Lord Jesus stood in the house of God at Jerusalem, he said, "In this place is One greater than the temple." For once, the less contained the Greater. Now in every meeting of the saints is One greater than the Church, for the Holy Spirit is there. And it concerns his Divine honour to purify the place of his habitation. It is his high prerogative to consecrate; and the New Testament temple is throughout consecrated, not by man, but by the Spirit of God. And as it is in calling and consecration, so ought it to be in fact and in service—holy to the Lord.
2. Unity. We read not of temples, but of one temple. However men may arrange themselves ecclesiastically, God sees but one temple or Church in each city, as of old at Corinth or at Ephesus. Indeed, there is but one temple, one Body of Christ, in all the world. And the unity is not brought about by negotiation or legislation; it is wrought by God. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body." We have nothing to do with making the unity; but we are to know, feel, and evince it, worshipping together with joy, helping and exhorting each other, working together for the glory of God and good of man, and partaking together of the same bread and the same cup, not as partisans, but as Christians, members of one Body, guided by one Spirit, and cheered by one hope of our calling.
3. Variety. There are various courts, wings, towers, and porticoes in this great building. To our minds there may seem to be confusion and incongruity; but the supreme Architect knows how to adjust and reconcile all in a building "fitly framed together." Variety is not desultoriness. The mere heaping of stones together gives no temple, far less the making of little groups or heaps here and there over a wide field. They must be built and knit together in love. And then, too, there is variety in the places assigned to individual Christians. Some "seem to be pillars." They are like those vertical columns which supported a horizontal entablature in those classical temples with which the Corinthians were familiar. Others must be content to fill a niche or fit into a corner. It is an honour to be anywhere in the spiritual house.
III. A WARNING AGAINST INJURING THIS TEMPLE, One may mar the temple by not taking heed to what he builds. It may be called very liberal and tolerant to make no distinctions, and bestow Christian privileges on all; but St. Paul would call it the building of "wood, hay, and stubble," which cannot abide the fiery trial that comes on every man's work. One may also mar the temple by introducing the temper of the market place, and of the tables of the money changers into its courts. Such things call again and again for censure and a whip of small cords. One may destroy the temple, i.e. aim blows at its very life, by striking at its holiness, its unity, or its variety. Not that any one can actually demolish it; for it is an ever living Church: "The gates of hades shall not prevail against it." It is a capital crime against Christ and the Church, either
(1) to bring unholy teachings and practices into the temple ("deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate," Revelation 2:6); or
(2) to disunite the living stones, striking the pick axes of dissension and a "separating humour" into the temple wall; or
(3) to forbid in a bigoted spirit all variety in Christian organization, and say, "The temple of the Lord are we," instead of looking with an eye of charity on all who love the Saviour and breathe his Spirit, saying, "The temple of the Lord are these."—F.
1 Corinthians 3:21-46.3.23
A Christian's possessions.
It is a folly under the sun to live above one's means. It is the folly of very many Christians that they live spiritually far below their means of grace and godliness. They are like poor people who have come into a large estate, and cannot for some time adapt themselves to their altered position or comport themselves as befits their fortune. They still betray the narrow ideas and awkward manners of their former condition. So Christians are assured that they have unsearchable riches in Christ, but cannot elevate their ideas and modes of life to the high level of their spiritual privilege. They still betray the narrow estimates and unworthy habits of their time of unregeneracy and unbelief. To correct this tendency and raise the standard of Christian sentiment and conduct, let us look into this inventory of a believer's possessions, and the right or charter by which they are his.
I. THE PROPERTY. "All things are yours." It is at once real and movable estate. It has the most permanent character; and yet it may be taken by the Christian whithersoever he goes, and enjoyed anywhere. A man rich in this world's goods has necessary limits to his possessions. His real estate is irremovable and his personality or movable wealth is perishable. But he whose riches are intellectual and spiritual has property everywhere. Cast him naked and shipwrecked on an unknown coast; yet he is rich. Spoil him of all earthly goods; reduce him to the very almshouse; and yet he is rich. When he has nothing, he still possesses all things.
1. The Christian ministry, represented by Paul, Apollos, and Cephas. The Church is not for the ministry, but the ministry for the Church. The Corinthian Christians did not belong to the great preachers here named, but the great preachers belonged to them. Often the isolation of particular flocks under their own pastors is carried to an extent which virtually brings the doctrine to nought, and gives them no enjoyment of other gifts bestowed by the Head of the Church for the perfecting of his saints. But some are best for planting, others for watering. Let ministers and teachers of the Word, variously qualified, be welcomed and cherished. All of them are yours.
2. The world. It is a bad master, but a useful servant. All things in it that are not sinful may be made serviceable to the happiness and progress of the Christian, and to the glory of God. "Use this world as not abusing it."
3. Life, with all its vicissitudes and possibilities, sorrow and joy, trial and success. It is quite different to the Christian from what it is to the non Christian. He is never helpless, and need never be in despair; for he may be sure that the circumstances of his life are ordered by his heavenly Friend, the lines of his life are drawn according to the plan of his loving Saviour.
4. Death; which comes, not as a grisly terror, but to do a kindly office. Death, like life, just because it is not in the Christian's power, serves his best interests. "Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's." We may add—The death of friends is yours, softening your heart. The death of enemies is yours, delivering you out of their hand. And as for yourself, Boston has said, "Death comes to the godly man as Haman to Mordecai, with royal apparel and the horse, and commission to do him honour, though with a sullen voice and unkind countenance."
5. Things present. The Christian has a promise that he will lack no good thing, and things that seem evil, wounds, losses, disappointments, all tend by the Divine blessing to exercise his faith and patience, and so to strengthen his soul.
6. Things to come. Of these we cannot speak. The sights we may see, the feelings we may experience, the changes we may witness, within a year or two, who can tell? How much less can we descant on things beyond? But enough to know that the future is ours. There will be no power among things to come which can separate us from the love of God.
II. THE SECURITY FOR ALL THIS PROPERTY. The Christian holds all through his relation to Christ, "the Heir of all things." "Ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." Believers belong to Christ, as given to him by the Father, redeemed by him on the cross, effectually called and mystically united to him by the Holy Spirit. And Christ is God's, as the well beloved of the Father, to whom all things are made subject both in heaven and earth. Now believers inherit through Christ, are co-heirs with him. It is because he is Heir and Lord of all, that all things are theirs. To quote an old divine: "The saints have nothing but through Christ; and whatsoever is his, is theirs. His God is their God; his Father, their Father; his blood, his merits, his Spirit, his victories, all the spoil he hath gotten, all the revenue and income of his life and death,—all is theirs." If men only believed that these things are so, that Christians have such treasures, and hold them by such a tenure, surely a motive of enlightened self interest would urge them to the feet of Christ. Alas! all men have not faith. The current ideas of wealth and substance are quite unconnected with religion, which seems to many a good thing to die with, but rather a hindrance than otherwise in life. St. Paul's teaching tells a different tale. It is the Christless who, being without God in the world, are poor and indigent. It is those who are Christ's who, however poor in this world, are rich towards God.—F.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Corinthians 3:1
The carnal mind.
In view of St. Paul's description of the immoralities and sensualities of the pagan peoples, given in Romans 1:1-45.1.32., and in special lists of prevailing iniquities, such as are given in Galatians 5:19-48.5.21, his sense of the hindrance the carnal mind presents to the reception of spiritual teachings can be fully apprehended. Probably the severest thing St. Paul said about the carnal mind is that it is "enmity against God: for it is net subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. They that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7, Romans 8:8). Possibly a distinction between the "natural" man and the "carnal" man may be intended. The natural man is one "whose hopes and desires are bounded by the limits of the physical principle of life;" the carnal man is regarded as more or less under the influence of the sensual passions. But St. Paul seems to recognize that the Corinthian tendency to disputes and religious strife was a sign that the carnal principles were yet strongly working in them; and "an appetite for religious strife prevents us from discerning the deeper truths of the Christian faith." It is broadly true that the reception of spiritual truth mainly depends on the openness and preparedness and culture of those to whom such teaching is given. The teacher may indeed be unskilful, but more often the hindrance is that the hearer is unspiritual. The preparation of the teacher is considered to be essential, the preparation of the taught is left to the accident of personal earnestness.
I. THE SIGNS OF THE CARNAL MIND. With the hints given above two signs may be fully dealt with and illustrated.
1. Inability to receive advanced spiritual instruction. Self indulgence in meat or drink, inordinate pursuit of pleasure, the captivity of mind and heart to business schemes, the deteriorating influence of worldly ambitions,—all destroy interest in Divine things, and take from us the very possibility of apprehending the higher mysteries of the kingdom.
2. A spirit of strife and division. It is never the best people in a Christian community who are the cause of strife. Contention and controversy are only interesting to those who are not really growing in likeness to and nearness to Christ. Schism and strife are sure signs of carnality. Men who get soul visions of the truth never can want to contend over words. It would seem that St. Paul recognized signs of remaining carnality in the regenerate members of the Church, and found this to be a principal hindrance to the advance of his teaching. Such signs of the "carnal mind" are still observed by Christian pastors, and are the occasions of their deepest depressions and constant grief.
II. THE FOOD FOR THE CARNAL MIND. St. Paul does not neglect it or refuse to consider it. And it is remarkable that he does not deal with it by warnings or threatenings, but by food, and that of a kind carefully appropriated and adapted. So the physician deals with some classes of disease; he gives no medicine, but nourishes the general health, with a full expectancy that the renewed vitality will throw off, out of the system, the specific disease. St. Paul evidently thinks the real cause of carnality to be low spiritual vitality, want of capacity to digest and assimilate good strong food of truth. These religious men were, m regard to religious truths and principles, really only babes, and religious food suited to babes, to beginners, must be provided for them. They must have the "milk" of gospel simplicities until they are strong enough to take the "meat" of gospel mysteries. Only the milk was to be given with the purpose of nourishing the powers for better food. First principles duly apprehended would prepare the way for higher teachings.
Impress that in Christian congregations there is always a call for the gospel simplicities, but that call should not be continually made, as it so often and so sadly is, by the same persons. Milk prepares the way for meat. It may be earnestly urged that, after all these centuries of Christian teaching in the home and in the Church, there ought to be an earnest and a mighty cry for advanced and spiritual preaching of the great revealed mysteries of God in Christ. We ought to be "men."—R.T.
1 Corinthians 3:5-46.3.7
Man's work and God's.
Explain the agricultural figure used in 1 Corinthians 3:6. In the production of the year's harvest many different agencies are employed. Each man has work and his time for work, and upon man's labour the harvest in large measure depends. Yet sun, and wind, and rain, and atmosphere, and soil, are things quite as essential as man's work, but absolutely out of man's control. Year by year man ploughs, man plants, man tends, but God gives the increase. So in spiritual things, there is an important sphere for man's agency, but efficiency and result depend on the cooperating grace and blessing of God.
I. MAN NEVER CAN GET BEYOND MINISTRY. That is his duty, and that is his dignity. Even Paul and Apollos can be but "ministers by whom we believe." Man cannot control the plan into which his work may fit, or the issues which his work should reach. Man never can be independent, so as to take up anything and do it completely. He never has entrusted to him more than a piece or part, which, if well done, fits into other pieces and parts, entrusted to other men, and goes to complete the whole purpose that was in God's thought. And so no honour of results can ever attach to man the agent. Servants only ask praise for faithfulness, the honour of the work belongs wholly to the master whose thought and plan are thus wrought out. This feeling should ensure the sincere humility of all Christian teachers.
II. BEHIND MINISTRY IS ALWAYS MASTERSHIP. We serve somebody. "We serve the Lord Christ." But in the case of spiritual work, we may say that in God is more than mastership, there is presidency over and use of more important agencies than man's, though agencies related to man's, and working in with his. Spiritual agencies are as much out of our control as sun, or wind, or rain; yet God uses them, with ours, to win the increase. Man can never, by himself, accomplish any moral or spiritual service. Paul and Apollos could do much for the Church at Corinth, but they stand aside, and let men see how gloriously and effectively God works.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 3:9-46.3.12
Foundations and buildings.
A curious and interesting blending of metaphors is found in 1 Corinthians 3:9. "Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." The sudden changing of metaphors is a characteristic of St. Paul's style; for instances, see 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4-47.10.8; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 2:6-51.2.7. The apostle now dwells fully on the architectural metaphor, and gives some thoughts of singular depth and importance on the true foundation for a noble life work, and the kind of buildings which may hopefully be reared upon it. The apostle speaks of himself as a foundation layer; reminds the Corinthians that it had been his work to commence or found Christian Churches; that this he had successfully done again and again during his missionary travels; and that the Corinthian Church had its first announcement of the gospel from him, and the first stones of its spiritual Church laid by him. He naturally felt jealous concerning the character of the members of that Church, and would have them such as would stand the testing of the great day.
I. ST. PAUL AS A LAYER OF FOUNDATIONS. Only the layer, not the maker. The Foundation was provided (Colossians 2:11); with it not even an apostle could interfere. St. Paul was fitted for the work of laying it, or of commencing a Christian Church in new districts,
(1) by his special gifts as a missionary;
(2) by his having received a personal revelation from Jesus Christ, which gave intensity to his convictions; and
(3) by his clear apprehension of the gospel message, and sympathetic power as a teacher.
His personal and persuasive influence on his fellow men needs to be taken into account. But St. Paul did not look upon the beginning of a Church or the conversion of a soul as any end of his work. Laying foundations involves a design for a building that is to be raised upon it, and the apostle kept up his relations with the Churches he was honoured to found, so that he might ensure that the building was being raised in a manner worthy of the Foundation, and in harmony with it. He had no greater joy than to know that "his children walked in the truth."
II. OTHER TEACHERS AS BUILDERS ON THE FOUNDATION. St. Paul's call to the missionary work involved the necessity of removing from place to place, and prevented his personally watching over the uprising or growth of any one Church. This disability he often seriously felt, and it made him very anxious concerning the wisdom, skill, and character of those teachers who continued his work. That anxiety comes out in our text, and it made him appeal even to the individual Church member, urging him to see that, whatever might be the character of his teachers, his own personal character was being nobly and safely reared. The following points may be dwelt on:—
1. The builders of any one Church may be many. There may be a long succession of pastors and teachers, with very various gifts and endowments; but each may, in his time and way, add to the symmetrical and harmonious growth of the building. Each must have done so up to the measure of his loyalty to Christ and openness to his Divine lead. Still the same variety and succession are maintained, and under the many builders' hands the great Church of the redeemed advances to its perfection.
2. The materials used in the construction may differ. Even of right materials there is diversity, represented by "gold, silver, precious stones." Some teachers are strong in Biblical exposition, others in enforcement of practical duties, and others in appeal to pious feeling; but all bear upon the harmonious uprising of the building.
3. The architectural features may in parts differ. The general design cannot be altered, but multitudes of details are left open. A Christian character and a Christian Church can have but one general form; but there may be decoration and tracery according to men's thought of the morally beautiful in the age in which they build, and the whole Church appears at last as a composite structure, combining all architectural thought and form. But man's work, in character or Church, must be subject to a final and fierce testing, and only the really substantial and good may hope to bear that test.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 3:13-46.3.15
Final testings of our life work.
In treating this passage it should be noted that the first and chief reference of it is to Christian teachers and their work, and that it can only in a second sense be applied to the ordinary Christian, and the kind of influence for good which he strives to exert. Still, a great principle is enunciated in St. Paul's counsel to the teachers, and we may give that principle a wide and general application. The apostle is, in this part of the Epistle, dealing with the tendency of the teachers at Corinth to overpress their individual apprehensions of the truth, and so to make parties under their lead, instead of carefully preserving the unity of the Church in the common truth "as it is in Christ Jesus." "The image, in these verses, is taken from what would meet the eye of a traveller in Ephesus, where St. Paul now was, or in:Corinth, where his letter was to be first read. It is such a contrast as may be seen (though not in precisely the same striking form of difference) in London in our own day. The stately palaces of marble and of granite, with roof and column glittering with gold and silver decorations, and, close by these, the wretched hovels of the poor and outcast, the walls made of laths of wood, with the interstices stuffed with straw, and a thatched roof above. Then arose before the apostle's vision the thought of a city being visited by a mighty conflagration, such as desolated Corinth itself in the time of Mummius. The mean structures of perishable wood and straw would be utterly consumed, while, as was actually the case at Corinth, the mighty palaces and temples would stand after the fire had exhausted itself" (T. T. Shore). The point of the apostle is that, sooner or later, all earthly works come under severe and searching testings, which prove whether there is anything in them of permanent value, and destroy what had but a temporary use or was really worthless. There is a good and important sense in which the testing day is a continuous day. We need not put the thought of the proving of our life work off to some indefinite future. Every day tests and tries. Every night we may think that God weighs the day and its works in his perfectly adjusted balances. But the early Christian mind was very fully occupied with the idea of a particular day, on which Christ would appear and the judgment of mankind be completed; see 2 Corinthians 5:10.
I. THE FIRE TEST FOR ALL LIFE WORK. Fire is conceived as:
1. The most destructive agent.
2. The most searching agent. Recent fires have shown how it can destroy eves buildings of brick and stone. Illustrate from the great Chicago fire.
3. The most purifying agent. Illustrate its power to cleanse the dross from metals. Compare the two other cleansing agents noticed in Scripture—water and blood. Both these cleanse by a mechanical process; fire cleanses by a chemical process, Nowadays, in great cities and in regard to great buildings, the most anxious question is, "Will the walls etc., stand fire?" We try to build places that shall be fire proof. Fire fitly represents the searching power of God: "As fire does, so does God in the end thoroughly search out and destroy all that is vile or refuse, all that is not thoroughly genuine and durable." For passages associating fire symbols with God, see Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; Psalms 1:3; Psalms 97:3; Isaiah 66:15, Isaiah 66:16; Malachi 3:2, Mal 3:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 12:29. It may be shown that
(2) difficult circumstances,
(3) afflictions, test our life work, and act as the fire of God.
Sooner or later, even in this life, men find out of what sort their work has been, but all mistake and delusion about the quality of our work will be swept away in the great revealing day of God.
II. THE REWARD FOR ALL WHOSE LIFE WORK ABIDES THE TEST. The reward is really found in the abiding, the permanent character of the work. "Those who have built well shall have their reward in their work having survived the trial: of the fire." F. W. Robertson points out the doctrine of the rewardableness of work, as taught in this passage. "All were one, on the one Foundation; yet St. Paul modifies this: they were not one in such a sense that all their work was equally valuable, for 'every man shall receive his own reward according to his labour.' It is incredible that the mere theologian, defending the outworks, writing a book on the evidences of Christianity, or elaborating a theological system, shall be as blessed as he who has hungered and thirsted with Christ, and like Christ suffered. Nevertheless, each in his own way shall gain the exact recompense of what he has done." On the doctrine of rewards, consider
(1) the sense in which they are present;
(2) the sense in which they are future;
(3) how far we may think of them as material, and how far as moral;
(4) their precise adaptation to the worker, and relation to the work he had done; and
(5) their coming as a gift of grace, never ks a claim of merit.
III. THE LOSS OF THOSE WHOSE LIFE WORK WILL NOT ABIDE THE TEST. Their work will perish. It is proved to be "of the earth, earthy." It had no abiding spiritual character. Reference, no doubt, is to all so called Christian teaching that has mind in it, energy in it, individuality in it, but not Christ in it, and Christ wholly. All work that only glorifies the worker must perish. Only work that glorifies Christ can stand the fire test. Show with what care we should test our own work in God's sight, to be sure that no self seeking has crept into it and spoiled it. "If we would judge ourselves we shall not be judged." But St. Paul, while writing such severe and searching things, makes most careful qualifications, so that none should be unduly discouraged. This is said for the comfort of sincere souls whose life work has proved a failure. "He himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." "He shall be saved, while all his work shall be destroyed, just as, to use St. Paul's metaphor, a builder escapes from his house which has been burnt over his head, and stands trembling yet safe, looking on his work in ruins." "Surely the 'smell of fire' may be said to pass on him who sees all those works which he so honestly believed to be for God vanishing as worthless stubble in the searching trial which will 'purge away all the dross' of our human doings, and leave only what is of real value in God's sight." Impress how entirely our human will should be lost in the Divine will, so that our Christian work should be in no sense at all our work, but entirely God's appointment for us, and wholly done under his guidance and in his strength. Work that has the self seeking stamp on it will be sure to burn up. Precious stonework, gold and silver work, is work done wholly for Christ, in which the self does not appear. Let each man, then, test his ministry, his teaching, his influence, now, while he may correct his errors, and begin to do better things in a better spirit.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17
The Church a temple.
It is usual to regard these verses as referring to the individual Christian, but the Epistle is addressed "unto the Church of God which is at Corinth," and we may profitably dwell on some thoughts suggested by the comparison; premising that the peculiarities of ancient temples are well understood. The central building of a structure called a temple was not a place of meeting or of worship, it was the sacred shrine or dwelling place of the deity. Round this central building were grouped the courts in which worship was conducted. Eastern people are extremely jealous about the sanctity of their temples. The Christian system transfers the sanctity from the buildings to the body of believers, and even to the individual believer. All the sacredness which Jews felt to surround their temple at Jerusalem Christians ought to feel surrounds them and the Church; consequently each Christian should anxiously guard the Church, lest it should be injured by false teachings or defiled by the evil living of any of its members, No doubt St. Paul had chiefly in mind to warn all those teachers who were likely so to teach as to split the Church into divisions; for, in his thought, the Church is one great whole, and strife and party feeling are the very things that most seriously defile it.
I. THE CHURCH A TEMPLE, WITH AN INDWELLING DEITY. Compare the descent of God, in his symbol of fiery cloud, to take up his abode in Solomon's temple, with the descent of God the Holy Ghost—manifest through symbols of wind, fire, and tongues—to take up his abode in his Church, on the day of Pentecost. Observe how clearly St. Paul apprehended the truth of God's real and permanent presence with his Church, and how strongly he urges the consequent sanctity of the Church. It may be true that God is not seen, but he was not seen in the earlier shrines of tabernacle and temple. He is not therefore unknown or unfelt. Spiritual worshippers realized his presence in the older days; and spiritually quickened men and women feel his nearness now. How should we think of ourselves; how of each other; and how of the Church, if it be true that "God dwelleth with us, and is in us"?
II. THE INDWELLING DEITY UNIFIES AND SANCTIFIES THE WHOLE TEMPLE PRECINCTS. If he makes that innermost chamber the "holy of holies," because his cloud symbol, his Shechinah glory, rests there; his presence makes the outer chamber holy, and the courts all holy, and the altar and layers and utensils all holy. And if Christ "dwells in our hearts," and makes them like the holy of holies, we must realize that he sanctifies all our being and all our relations; sanctifies mind, affection, will, body, so that the prophetic figure should be fulfilled, and in the Christian life and Christian Church holiness should be inscribed on the very "bells of the horses.". The one anxious endeavour of a Christian life is to get all the "courts" of our body temple wholly sanctified.
III. THE OLD LAWS OF JUDGMENT ON THE DEFILEMENT OF GOD'S TEMPLE APPLY TO THE CHRISTIAN TEMPLE. Compare Exodus 28:43; Leviticus 16:2. The word used here, "defile the temple of God," is better read "destroy," as the opposite of "building up," which is the Christian teacher's duty. Ways in which a man may defile, or destroy, the temple of God, which he is himself, or which the Church is, may be detailed and illustrated. We may be sure that God will punish does punish—all dishonour done to his spiritual temples.
Impress how the cherished thought of our temple like sanctity would influence our daily life and conversation. As ever present with us, God seems to say to us continually, "Be ye holy; for I am holy."—R.T.
1 Corinthians 3:13-46.3.23
The cure for the party spirit.
Having still in mind the difficulty occasioned by those who claimed to be superior teachers; and gathered parties round them, the apostle proceeds to show that merely human wisdom is in itself worthless for spiritual purposes, and, therefore, that the possession of it alone is no reason for the exaltation of the teacher who is endowed with it." A man over confident in his superior knowledge is always a dangerous man. The most learned are always the most humble. "A child like willingness to learn is the first step towards the true wisdom." To find the cure for the party spirit, we must search for the real root of its evil; just as the physician who would remove disease and restore health must discover precisely where the disease is seated and what are its essential features.
I. THE ROOT OF THE PARTY SPIRIT. It is precisely self satisfaction, but it may take form as
(1) pride of wisdom;
(2) pride of place;
(3) pride of birth;
(4) pride of power.
A man wants to be separate from his brethren and to be counted superior to them. The party spirit is not, however, only shown in the leaders; there are persons who are weakly willing to take sides and follow leaders, and he who follows may be quite as wrong and as mischievous as he who leads. The root of the evil, the self seeking spirit, may be equally found in them both. Illustrate the evil of the party spirit by the silent, spreading, fatal influences of a cancer; and give cases of sectarian evil from Church history. In every age the Church has suffered from those who broke away from her unity, following this leader and that.
II. THE CURE OF THE PARTY SPIRIT. It is found in a full and worthy estimate of our rights, privileges, and possessions in Christ. If we enter into and maintain right relations with Christ, we shall certainly be delivered from any undue allegiance to men. Christ is Lord, and he is supreme; all teachers are but ministers, Divine agents, by whom we believe, and who are graciously used to help our spiritual joy. Christ alone is ours to follow and obey, ministers and teachers are ours to use and to honour for their works' sake. All are God's; all are in commission to Christ; all are in use, by him, for the instruction and edification of his Church; and therefore we ought to follow after no one of them, but only after Christ. "Let party spirit cease. Do not degrade yourselves by calling yourselves after the names of any man, foreverything is yours—these teachers only exist for you. The enthusiasm of the apostle, as he speaks of the privileges of Christians, leads him on beyond the bare assertion necessary to the logical conclusion of his argument, and, enlarging the idea, he dwells, in a few brief and impressive utterances, on the limitless possessions—in life and in death, in the present life and that which is future—which belong to those who are united with Christ." F. W. Robertson finely dwells on the freedom from party following which those have who are supremely loyal to Christ: "Then it is that he is emancipated from circumstances then, all things are his—this marvellous life, so full of endless meanings, so pregnant with infinite opportunities. Still more death, which seems to come to him like a tyrant commanding him when it will—death is his in Christ, his minister to lead him to higher life. Paul is his, to teach him freedom. Apollos his, to animate him with his eloquence. Cephas his, to fire him with his courage. Every author his, to impart to him his treasures. But remark, that St. Paul refers all this to the universal law of sacrifice: all things are ours on this condition—that we are Christ's. The law which made Christ God's has made us Christ's. All things are yours, that is, serve you; but they only discharge the mission and obey the law involuntarily that yon are called on to discharge and obey voluntarily—the law to which Christ was subject, for Christ 'was God's.' So that, when the law of the cross is the law of our being—when we have learnt to surrender ourselves—then, and then only, we are free from all things: they are ours, not we theirs; we use them, instead of being crushed by them."
Conclude by showing the peril of nourishing the party spirit in these days, when particular aspects of doctrine are so hotly contested. There may be party feeling doing copious mischief within Christian communities, though it may not reach the length of separation or schism. We need anxiously to watch against the beginnings of this evil in ourselves and in others.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent