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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
1 Corinthians 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-16

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

The church at Corinth consisted of persons of large education and great abilities. It was one of those churches that had given up the one-man system, where everybody talked as he liked — a very knowing church, and a church of Christians, too; but for all that. Christian babies. And though they thought themselves to be so great, yet the apostle says that he never spoke to them as to spiritual: he kept to the simple elements regarding the carnal part as being too much in them as yet, to be able to drink down spiritual things.

1 Corinthians 3:2. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

How grateful we ought to be that there is milk, and that this milk does feed the soul — that the simplest truths of Christianity contain in them all that the soul wants, just as milk is a diet upon which the body could be sustained, without anything else. Yet how we ought to desire to grow that we may not always be upon milk diet but that we may be able to digest the strong meat — the high doctrine of the deep things of God. These are for men, not for babes. Let the babes be thankful for the milk, but let us aspire to be strong men that we may feed on meat.

1 Corinthians 3:3. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

A united church, you may conclude, is a growing church — perhaps a grown church; but a disunited church, split up into factions where every man is seeking position and trying to be noted such a church is a church of babes. They are carnal, and walk as men.

1 Corinthians 3:4. For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollo; are ye not carnal?

Instead of that, they should all have striven together for the defense of the common faith of Jesus Christ. There is no greater symptom of mere infancy in true religion than the setting up of the names of leaders or the preference for this or that peculiar form of doctrine, instead of endeavoring to grasp the whole of truth wherever one can find it.

1 Corinthians 3:5-6. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

Let God, then, have all the glory. Be grateful for the planter, and grateful for the waterer, ay, and grateful to them as well; but, still, let the stress of your gratitude be given to him without whom watering and planting would be in vain.

1 Corinthians 3:7-8. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one:

They are pursuing the same design; and Apollos and Paul were one in heart. They were true servants of one master.

1 Corinthians 3:8-9. And every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

The church is built up. God is he who builds it up — the master of the work, but he employs his ministers under him to be builders.

1 Corinthians 3:10-13. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: For the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

Very easy to build up a church quickly. Very easy to make a great excitement in religion, and become very famous as a soul-winner. Very easy. But time tries everything. If there were no other fire than the mere fire of time, it would suffice to test a man’s work. And when a church crumbles away almost as soon as it is got together when a church declines from the doctrines which it professed to hold, when the teaching of the eminent teacher is proved, after all, to have been fallacious and to have been erroneous in practical results, then what he has built comes to nothing! Oh! dear friends, what little we do we ought to aspire to do for eternity. If you shall never lay the brush to the canvas but once, make an indelible stroke with it. If only one work of sort, shall come from the statuary’s workshop, let it be something that will live all down the ages.

But we are in such a mighty hurry: we make a lot of things that die with us ephemeral — results. We are not careful enough as to what we build with. May God grant that this truth may sink into our minds. Let us remember that, if it is hard building with gold and silver, and harder still building with precious stones, yet what is built will stand the fire. It is easy building with wood, and easier still with hay and stubble, but then there will be only a handful of ashes left of a whole lifework, if we build with these.

1 Corinthians 3:14-15. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

If he meant right — if he did endeavor to serve God as a worker, though he may have uttered many errors and have been mistaken — (and which of us has not been?) — he shall be saved, though his work must be burnt.

1 Corinthians 3:16. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Do you know it? He says, “Know ye not?” but I might leave out the “not” and say, “Know ye that ye are the temple of God?” What a wonderful fact it is! Within the body of the saint, God dwells, as in a temple. How do some men injure their bodies or utterly despise them, though they would not so do if they understood that they are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in them.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 6:1-24. 1 Corinthians 3:1-16.


Verses 1-23

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

Their spiritual part had not grown strong, their old carnal nature still had the preponderance, as Paul was obliged to address that which was the bigger half of them.

1 Corinthians 3:2. I have fed you with milk,

That is a blessing.

1 Corinthians 3:2.And not with meat:

That is not a blessing. It is a great privilege to be fed even with the simple doctrines of grace, with the milk of the gospel; but it is a higher boon to have such a spiritual constitution as to be able to eat the strong meat of the Word.

1 Corinthians 3:2-3. For hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

As ordinary, unregenerate men.

1 Corinthians 3:4. For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

Is not this just how common, ordinary men would do? Where is your spiritual-mindedness if you so act?

1 Corinthians 3:5. Who then is Paul,

Mark, it is Paul himself who asks this question. He puts his own name here in order to show that he does not despise Apollos any more than he despises himself.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that waterereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry.

Ye are God’s tilled ground. Then the apostle works out the same thought under another image turning from agriculture to architecture.

1 Corinthians 3:9-10. Ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.

Paul began the churches; he was the first preacher of the gospel in Corinth, and also in other places; and other preachers followed in his footsteps. When a man lays a good foundation, he always feels anxious that those who come after him should build in the same substantial manner as he has begun. It is a great grief to a man if he sees that, after he her laid a foundation of truth, somebody else follows, and builds up an error on the top of it. Alas, men do that still sometimes.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

If he be a good man, he builds for God; though he may build mistakenly, and say much that he ought not to have said. He shall escape, as a man flies out of a burning house, but all his work is gone. What a dreadful thing that would be, at the end of life, to get into heaven, but to have seen that all your life’s work had been a failure; to have been building a great deal, but to see it all burned; or to know, as you die, that because it was not God’s truth, it would all be burned!

1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroy the temple of God, —

For so it should run, —

1 Corinthians 3:17. Him shall God destroy;

If any man should pull down that which Paul built for God, if any man shall pull down that which any faithful minister of Christ has built before him,

“him shall God destroy;”

1 Corinthians 3:17-18. For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 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 that kind of folly is the doorstep of true wisdom.

1 Corinthians 3:19. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.

All that which calls itself philosophy, and talks about its culture, and so on, is foolishness with God, just as much today as it was among the Greeks.

1 Corinthians 3:19. For it is written, he taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

They call themselves wise, but they shall all be taken in their own craftiness.

1 Corinthians 3:20-21. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men.

Men are poor things to glory in.

1 Corinthians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 3:23. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

Glory be to his holy name!


Verses 17-23

17-18. If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 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.

Do not let him seek to be reckoned wise by the philosophers of the period, who are always against the truth of God. Let him consent to be thought to be a fool; yea, let him know in his own heart that he is not wise; and then let him yield himself up to the wisdom of God. Consciousness of ignorance is the vestibule of knowledge, and he that knows right well that he is a fool is on the way to becoming a wise man. He that would pass into the temple of wisdom must first of all confess his unwisdom.

1 Corinthians 3:19-20. 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.

What a wonderfully small difference there is, after all, between the very cultured man, who thinks himself so, and the man who makes no pretense to it whatever! The knowledge which the wisest man has is about equal, in the presence of God, to the knowledge which one child of three years old has over a child of two years old. To God we must all seem masses of ignorance; and if you could put the whole British Association and all the doctors of divinity, and all the LLD’s, and all the men of high degrees together, the things they did not know would make a great many volumes, and the things they did know would not go very far. “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise that they are vain.”

1 Corinthians 3:21. Therefore let no man glory in men.

There really is not anything to glory in, in men. “The best of men are men at the best.” Never need we exalt ourselves or extol others. “Lord, what is man that thou art mindful of him?” “Let no man glory in men.”

1 Corinthians 3:21 For all things are yours;

Children of God, all men are yours, to serve your highest benefit. All ministers and leaders in Christ are yours to seek your souls’ good. Treat them as bees do flowers, and gather honey from them all. “All things are yours.”

1 Corinthians 3:22-23, Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 13:1-23; Matthew 15:13-28. 1 Corinthians 3:17-23.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/1-corinthians-3.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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