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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
1 Corinthians 3



Other Authors
Verse 1

Carnal ( σαρκίνοις )

Made of flesh. See on Romans 7:14, and see on flesh, Romans 7:5.

Babes ( νηπίοις )

From νη notand ἔπος aword. Strictly, non-speakers. Compare the Latin infans. Strongly contrasted with perfect; see on 1 Corinthians 2:6.

Verse 2

I fed ( ἐπότισα )

Lit., I gave you to drink. An instance of the rhetorical figure zeugma, by which one verb is attached to two nouns, of which it only suits the meaning of one, but suggests a verb suitable for the other. Thus “gave to drink ” is applied to meat as well as to milk. For another illustration see hindering (A.V. and Rev., forbidding ), 1 Timothy 4:3.

Verse 3

Carnal ( σαρκικοί )

Here the milder word is used (see 1 Corinthians 3:1), having the nature of flesh. In 1 Corinthians 3:1, Paul would say that he was compelled to address the Corinthians as unspiritual, made of flesh. Here he says that though they have received the Spirit in some measure, they are yet under the influence of the flesh.

Verse 4

Another ( ἕτερος )

See on Matthew 6:24. Not merely another, numerically, but another of different affinities and prepossessions.


The best texts read ἄνθρωποι menAre ye not mere men?

But ministers

Omit but, and place the interrogations after Paul and Apollos, respectively, as Rev. For ministers see on Matthew 20:26; see on Mark 9:35. Servants, not heads of parties.

Verse 6

Planted - watered - gave the increase ( ἐφύτευσα - ἐπότισεν - ηὔξανεν )

The first two verbs are in the aorist tense, marking definite acts; the third is in the imperfect, marking the continued gracious agency of God, and possibly the simultaneousness of His work with that of the two preachers. God was giving the increase while we planted and watered. There is a parallel in the simultaneous work of Satan with that of the preachers of the word as indicated by the continuous presents in Matthew 13:19. See note there.

Verse 7


The devoted Angelique Arnauld, of Port Royal, when her sister condoled with her on the absence of her confessor, Singlier, replied: “I have never put a man in God's place. He can have only what God gives him; and God gives him something for us only when it is His will that we should receive it through him.”

Verse 9


In this and the two following clauses, God is emphatic. “It is of God that ye are the fellow-workers.”

Husbandry ( γεώργιον )

Rev., in margin, tilled land. Only here in the New Testament. Bengel says: “Embracing field, garden, and vineyard.”

Building ( οἰκοδομή )

Paul's metaphors are drawn from the works and customs of men rather than from the works of nature. “In his epistles,” says Archdeacon Farrar, “we only breathe the air of cities and synagogues.” The abundance of architectural metaphors is not strange in view of the magnificent temples and public buildings which he was continually seeing at Antioch, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus. His frequent use of to build and building in a moral and spiritual sense is noteworthy. In this sense the two words οἰκοδομέω and οἰκοδομή occur twenty-six times in the New Testament, and in all but two cases in Paul's writings. Peter uses build in a similar sense; 1 Peter 2:5. See edify, edification, build, Acts 9:31; Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 8:10, where emboldened is literally built up, and is used ironically. Also Romans 14:19; Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 14:3; Ephesians 2:21, etc. It is worth noting that in the Epistle to the Hebrews, while the same metaphor occurs, different words are used. Thus in Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 3:4, built, builded, represent κατασκευάζω toprepare. In Hebrews 11:10, τεχνίτης artificerand δημιουργὸς , lit., a workman for the public: A.V., builder and maker. This fact has a bearing on the authorship of the epistle. In earlier English, edify was used for build in the literal sense. Thus Piers Ploughman: “I shal overturne this temple and a-down throwe it, and in thre daies after edifie it newe.” See on Acts 20:32. In the double metaphor of the field and the building, the former furnishes the mould of Paul's thought in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, and the latter in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17. Edwards remarks that the field describes the raw material on which God works, the house the result of the work.

Verse 10


The special endowment for his apostolic work. Compare Romans 1:5, grace and apostleship: Romans 12:3, Romans 12:6; Ephesians 3:7, Ephesians 3:8.

Wise ( σοφὸς )

Skillful. See on James 3:13.

Master-builder ( ἀρχιτέκτων )

Only here in the New Testament. “The architect does not work himself, but is the ruler of workmen” (Plato, “Statesman,” 259).


The importance which Paul attached to the foundation was figured by the care employed in laying the foundation of the great Ephesian temple. “To avoid the danger of earthquakes, its foundations were built at vast cost on artificial foundations of skin and charcoal laid over the marsh” (Farrar).

Verse 12

If any man build, etc.

It is important to have a clear conception of Paul's figure, which must be taken in a large and free sense, and not pressed into detail. He speaks of the body of truth and doctrine which different teachers may erect on the one true foundation - Jesus Christ. This body is the building. The reference is to a single building, as is shown by 1 Corinthians 3:16; not to a city with different buildings of different materials. The figure of Christ as the foundation of a city does not occur in the New Testament. To this structure different teachers (builders) bring contributions of more or less value, represented by gold, wood, hay, etc. These are not intended to represent specific forms of truth or of error, but none of them are to be regarded as anti-Christian, which would be inconsistent with building on the true foundation. It is plainly implied that teachers may build upon the true foundation with perishable or worthless materials. This appears in the history of the Church in the false interpretations of scripture, and the crude or fanatical preaching of sincere but ignorant men. The whole structure will be brought to a final and decisive test at the day of judgment, when the true value of each teacher's work shall be manifested, and that which is worthless shall be destroyed. The distinction is clearly made between the teacher and the matter of his teaching. The sincere but mistaken teacher's work will be shown to be worthless in itself, but the teacher himself will be saved and will receive the reward of personal character, and not of good building. Luther alluded to this verse in his unfortunate description of the Epistle of James as “an epistle of straw.”

Stubble ( καλάμην )

Not the same as κάλαμος areed. See Revelation 11:1; Revelation 21:15; and on 3 John 1:13. This word means a stalk of grain after the ears have been cut off. It was used for thatch in building. Virgil, “Aeneid,” 654, alludes to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus with its roof bristling with stubble.

Verse 15

Shall suffer loss ( ζημιωθήσεται )

He shall be mulcted, not punished. See on Matthew 16:26; see on Luke 9:25.

He himself shall be saved

Compare Dante of Constantine:

“The next who follows, with the laws and me,

Under the good intent that bore bad fruit

Became a Greek by ceding to the pastor;

Now knoweth he how all the ill deduced

From his good action is not harmful to him,

Although the world thereby may be destroyed.”

Paradiso,” xx. 55-60.

By fire ( διὰ πυρός )

Better, Rev., through fire. He will escape as through the fire that consumes his work, as one does through the flames which destroy his house.

Verse 16

Temple ( ναὸς )

Or sanctuary. See on Matthew 4:5. Compare Ephesians 2:21; 2 Corinthians 6:16.

Verse 17

Defile ( φθείρει )

Rev., more correctly, destroy. This is the primary and almost universal meaning in classical Greek. In a fragment of Euripides it occurs of dishonoring a female. Sophocles uses it of women pining away in barrenness, and Plutarch of mixing pure colors. The phrase seems to be used here according to the Jewish idea that the temple was destroyed or corrupted by the slightest defilement or damage, or by neglect on the part of its guardians. Ignatius says: “ οἱ οἰκοφθόροι ; violators of the house (of God) shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (To the Ephesians, 16).

Which temple ( οἵτινες )

Temple is not in the Greek. The double relative which refers to the epithet holy; “of which holy character or class ye are.”

Verse 19

He taketh ( ὁ δρασσόμενος )

Cited from Job 5:13, but not following the Septuagint verbally. The verb occurs only here, meaning to grasp with the hand. Rev., more accurately, gives the force of the participle with the article, he that taketh. This is the only allusion to the book of Job in the New Testament, except James 5:11.

Verse 21

All things are yours

The categories which follow form an inventory of the possessions of the Church and of the individual Christian. This includes: the christian teachers with different gifts; the world, life, and things present; death and things to come. In Christ, death becomes a possession, as the right of way between things present and things to come.

Verse 22

Things present ( ἐνεστῶτα )

See on Romans 8:38.

Verse 23

Ye are Christ's

A summary of the title following the inventory. Compare Romans 8:17.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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