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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 3:7

So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Apollos;   Minister, Christian;   Partnership;   Power;   Regeneration;   Works;   Zeal, Religious;   The Topic Concordance - Bearing Fruit;   Division;   Increase;   Labor;   Rendering;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Agriculture or Husbandry;   Ministers;   Power of God, the;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Apollos;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Tongue;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Corinthians, First and Second, Theology of;   Mission;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Pastor;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Apollos;   Humility;   Holman Bible Dictionary - 1 Corinthians;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Chance;   Growth Increase ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Apollos ;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Calling;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for March 25;  
Unselected Authors

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse 1 Corinthians 3:7. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing — God alone should have all the glory, as the seed is his, the ground is his, the labourers are his, and the produce all comes from himself.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Lack of spiritual growth (3:1-9)

When Paul was in Corinth a year or two previously, he could not speak to the believers as spiritual people (such as those just described in 2:6-16), because they were then little different from ordinary, natural people of the world. They were babes in Christ and Paul treated them so. He did not find fault with them then, because one expects new converts to be like that; but he does find fault with them now, because they are still like that (3:1-2). They are like people ‘of the flesh’, people whose lives are characterized by the old sinful nature. They are like the people of the world that Paul has just been describing in Chapter 2. Their behaviour is not according to the wisdom of God, but according to the wisdom of the world. Their quarrels and divisions are proof of this (3-4).
Some of the Corinthians were exalting Paul, others exalting Apollos. But Paul and Apollos are not in opposition; they are working together. The work of God in Corinth is likened to a field in which Paul did the planting, and Apollos the watering. Though the two have different functions, both are necessary, but neither of them can make the plants grow. Only God can do that (5-6). Those who plant will not see as much fruit as those who water or those who reap. For that reason the reward does not depend on the fruit people see but on the work they faithfully carry out (7-9).

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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Anything - This is to he taken comparatively. They are nothing in comparison with God! Their agency is of no importance compared with his: see the note at 1 Corinthians 1:28. It does not mean that their agency ought not to be performed; that it is not important, and indispensable in its place; but that the honor is due to God - Their agency is indispensable. God could make seed or a tree grow if they were not planted in the earth. But He does not do it. The agency of the farmer is indispensable in the ordinary operations of His providence. If he does not plant, God will not make the grain or the tree grow. God blesses his labors; he does not work a miracle. God attends effort with success; God does not interfere in a miraculous manner to accommodate the indolence of people. So in the matter of salvation. The efforts of ministers would be of no avail without God. They could do nothing in the salvation of the soul unless God would give the increase. But their labors are as indispensable and as necessary, as are those of the farmer in the production of a harvest. And as every farmer could say, “my labors are nothing without God, who alone can give the increase,” so it is with every minister of the gospel.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

3:5-7: What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him. 6 I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

The ASV uses the word “what” at the start of the 5th verse (this puts attention on the “function” or job of Paul and Apollos). The KJV has the word “who” and this puts stress on the personalities. This difference is due to a manuscript variation and the better translation of the thought is what. Paul was not asking who he and Apollos were. He asked what he and Apollos were. The emphasis is on the office (job), not the preachers. This is very similar to 1:13 where Paul wanted to know what kind of position he and other evangelists occupied. What is said directly relates to the first four verses in this chapter (the Corinthians were acting in ways that were not spiritual, verse 1).

Paul’s questions about the role of preachers are answered at the end of verse five. What did ministers in the first century do? What is a minister’s God given job in our day and time? Ministers are a (not “the”) means by which people believe the gospel (compare Romans 10:14 f). Notice that belief came “through” men like Paul and Apollos (the KJV says “by”). “Faith was not placed in them or because of them. Faith is the gift of God which comes through hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17; Ephesians 2:8-9)” (Gromacki, p. 45).

The word translated “minister” (diakonos) is the same word elsewhere translated “deacon.” This term had both a specific and general meaning. The specific definition applied to those who taught the gospel. The general meaning, which is the proper sense here, described some type of servant. First century preachers like Paul and Apollos were not rulers or high officials to be revered; they were servants who taught others about Christianity. Since they were servants they were not suitable candidates for leading uprisings and creating strife within the church. Preachers are servants and no one worships or exalts servants. Even angels are simply servants (Revelation 22:8-9).

The clause at the end of verse 5 says, “And each as the Lord gave to him.” This is related to verse 6. Paul meant that not all preachers are alike. Not all preachers have the same talents and skills. Some are able to start a congregation where one does not exist. Other preachers lack this ability, but they are tremendous encouragers. There are preachers who excel in the fields of scholarship and research. Some have the ability to work in situations where boldness and straightforwardness are needed. Others have the gift of tact and work well in places requiring great diplomacy. Preachers are all different and this is acceptable to God. When we find areas that are not a preacher’s strong point, we should not be critical of his weaknesses because we also have areas wherein we are weak, too. Preaching requires many skills, and all evangelists have their weak spots. When the Law of Moses was in effect, God said the high priests were people who struggled with sin just like anyone else (Hebrews 5:1-3). Preachers are also just people (sinners like everyone else), though they do have a unique function.

If we relate the information about skills and talents to the life of Paul, we must say he was a skilled church planter. He was able to start the Lord’s church in places where the gospel had not been preached. Apollos was also a minister, but his abilities were different from the ones possessed by Paul. Apollos had the ability to work with an established congregation and “water” what men like Paul had planted (in this context water has no relation to baptism). Apollos was an encourager. Paul established the Corinthian congregation (Acts 18:1; Acts 18:8) and Apollos later helped evangelize this city (Acts 18:24-28; Acts 19:1). These two men were talented in different areas, and God was the true boss/leader (6b). Since God is involved with the whole evangelism and encouragement process, He is ultimately responsible for what takes place in His vineyard and Christians have no right to follow any man. Our leader is Jesus and our orders must come from Him.

Paul described preachers with an illustration based upon gardening (gardening and farming illustrations are found in several parts of the Bible). Jesus spoke of the sower sowing seed, the parable of the tares, the parable of the mustard seed, etc (compare Matthew 9:37-38). Illustrations like these were and still are excellent because preaching and Christianity are a lot like gardening. There are weeds in the field; there is crop damage; beautiful vegetables are eventually raised with sufficient time and care, etc. There are many parallels between a garden and the kingdom of God. The 6th verse is also a passage filled with encouragement. God’s people are only obligated to plant the seed and all are workers in the same garden (1 Corinthians 12:12). The responsibility for the seed’s growth rests with God. He is the harvester (Matthew 13:41).

“Increase” in 6b (auxano) is a very interesting word (it also occurs in verse 7). Jesus used this term in the Sermon on the Mount to describe the “growth” of lilies (Matthew 6:28). It is used of John the Baptist’s growth (Luke 1:80), as well as Jesus’ outpacing John (John 3:30). In Acts 6:7 it is applied to the Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 this word tells us “God is the one who causes to grow that which he himself sows through Jesus, or plants through his servants” (Brown, 1:219).

Another key point in verse 6 is based upon the verb tenses. When Paul spoke about his planting and the watering done by Apollos, he used aorist tense verbs. When He spoke about God giving the growth, he switched to the imperfect tense. Men may do much good for many years, but a time comes when humans die. We pass from this earth, but God continues His work. In some cases our actions can have a lasting impact (“still speaks,” Hebrews 11:4). See, too, Revelation 14:13 (our works “follow us”). When we realize the transitory nature of life and the importance of spiritual work, wisdom suggests (and we might say demands) that we try to do as much good as we can in the spiritual realm. We must “work while it is day” (John 9:4). One way we can continue to work after death is through life insurance. Christians have taken out large life insurance policies and upon their death allowed the proceeds help train preachers and evangelize the world. Other efforts, such as this commentary series, can be completed and left for future generations. Our time is limited and we must try to make full use of it.

A second point about God giving the growth is also important. As human beings there is only so much we can do in the area of evangelism. We can “plant” and “water,” but it is God who gives the increase. Many congregations have set evangelism goals. Perhaps we have been part of a congregation that said, “We want to convert ten people this year.” It certainly is good to have goals and it is God’s will that we reach people with the gospel. A more Bible centered evangelism goal would be, “We want to teach or expose 200 people to the gospel this year, do our best to nurture and encourage the people we contact, and pray that God would give us a bountiful increase.” Our job is to plant and water (sow and nurture the seed) while God gives the increase.

In the seventh verse we find that men (especially those who preach) are insignificant when compare to God. Evangelists are servants of God and only God causes His word to succeed. Thus, if men are going to exalt anyone or anything, it must be God and His word. Christians must exalt the one who causes the growth of the seed, not the ones doing the planting and watering. Bengel (2:179) noted that without God’s help (increase), “the grain from the first moment of sowing would be like a pebble.”

Up to this point the material in this letter has not been too difficult. The rest of this chapter and the rest of the book becomes more complex. Some of the passages where commentators often disagree include other parts of this chapter, chapters 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, and chapter 15. Ten of the chapters in this book are the basis for much controversy among Bible commentators, and the disagreements may be divided into two categories: doctrinal matters and matters of judgment. Doctrinal matters are items that affect a Christian’s faith, worship, and salvation. These differences limit and can even prohibit fellowship (2 John 1:9-11). Non-doctrinal matters are matters of judgment that Christians may disagree upon and still maintain fellowship with each other. This commentary attempts to help distinguish between matters of doctrine and matters of judgment. One non-doctrinal matter is found in the next two verses.

There are some general principles we may use to determine whether something is doctrinal or a matter of personal judgment. Some information about this subject is available in the introductory commentary on Romans 14:1-23 as well as the commentary on Colossians 3:17 (this latter reference also contains information about Bible authority and how the Scriptures authorize various activities). Here a few additional matters are listed for consideration. Some things are wrong because the Bible specifically prohibits them (Galatians 5:19-21 is an example, and notice that in verse 21 Paul said “and such like”).

If something is not explicitly dealt with in the Scriptures we may employ several principles. We may ask if a matter will hurt us or the congregation where we worship (Matthew 6:33; Ephesians 5:15). We must ask if the matter in question will bother our conscience (Romans 14:23) or the conscience of a fellow Christian (Romans 14:21). If something would harm us physically, it is wrong (1 Corinthians 6:19). We may also ask if an action damages our influence for the Lord (2 Corinthians 6:3) or causes us to worship contrary to spirit and truth (John 4:24). It is certainly necessary to consider whether an action somehow violates the “pattern” God has given to us in the New Testament Scriptures (2 Timothy 1:13). Would an action introduce religious error to us or in the place we worship? Would the matter we are considering put us in the “wrong crowd” (1 Corinthians 15:33)? Finally, in virtually any area of life, we can ask, “Would Jesus do this?” (1 John 2:6; John 8:12). Even if “all things are lawful,” not “all things are expedient” (1 Corinthians 6:12 and see the comments on this verse).

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
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Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians".

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

7. Neither is he that planteth anything It appears, nevertheless, from what has been already said, that their labor is of some importance. We must observe, therefore, why it is that Paul thus depreciates it; and first of all, it is proper to notice that he is accustomed to speak in two different ways of ministers, (161) as well as of sacraments. For in some cases he views a minister as one that has been set apart by the Lord for, in the first instance, regenerating souls, and, afterwards, nourishing them up unto eternal life, for remitting sins, (John 20:23,) for renewing the minds of men, for raising up the kingdom of Christ, and destroying that of Satan. Viewed in that aspect he does not merely assign to him the duty of planting and watering, but furnishes him, besides, with the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, that his labor may not be in vain. Thus (162) in another passage he calls himself a minister of the Spirit, and not of the letter, inasmuch as he writes the word of the Lord on men’s hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:6.)

In other cases he views a minister as one that is a servant, not a master — an instrument, not the hand; and in short as man, not God. Viewed in that aspect, he leaves him nothing but his labor, and that, too, dead and powerless, if the Lord does not make it efficacious by his Spirit. The reason is, that when it is simply the ministry that is treated of, we must have an eye not merely to man, but also to God, working in him by the grace of the Spirit — not as though the grace of the Spirit were invariably tied to the word of man, but because Christ puts forth his power in the ministry which he has instituted, in such a manner that it is made evident, that it was not instituted in vain. In this manner he does not take away or diminish anything that belongs to Him, with the view of transferring it to man. For He is not separated from the minister, (163) but on the contrary His power is declared to be efficacious in the minister. But as we sometimes, in so far as our judgment is depraved, take occasion improperly from this to extol men too highly, we require to distinguish for the purpose of correcting this fault, and we must set the Lord on the one side, and the minister on the other, and then it becomes manifest, how indigent man is in himself, and how utterly devoid of efficacy.

Let it be known by us, therefore, that in this passage ministers are brought into comparison with the Lord, and the reason of this comparison is — that mankind, while estimating grudgingly the grace of God, are too lavish in their commendations of ministers, and in this manner they snatch away what is God’s, with the view of transferring it to themselves. At the same time he always observes a most becoming medium, for when he says, that God giveth the increase, he intimates by this, that the efforts of men themselves are not without success. The case is the same as to the sacraments, as we shall see elsewhere. (164) Hence, although our heavenly Father does not reject our labor in cultivating his field, and does not allow it to be unproductive, yet he will have its success depend exclusively upon his blessing, that he may have the entire praise. Accordingly, if we are desirous to make any progress in laboring, in striving, in pressing forward, let it be known by us, that we will make no progress, unless he prospers our labors, our strivings, and our assiduity, in order that we may commend ourselves, and everything we do to his grace.

(161) Calvin will be found adverting to the same subject at considerable length, when commenting on 1 Corinthians 9:1. — Ed.

(162) “ Suyuant ceste consideration;” — “In accordance with this view.”

(163) “ Car en ces facons de parler Christ n’est point separe du ministre;” — “In these modes of expression Christ is not separated (or viewed apart) from the minister.”

(164) Calvin most probably refers here to the statements afterwards made by him, when commenting on Galatians 3:27, to the following effect: “ Respondeo, Paulum de Sacramentis bifariam solere loqui. Dum negotium est cum hypocritis, qui nudis signis superbiunt, tum concionatur, quam inanis ac nihili res sit externum signum: et in praeposteram fiduciam fortiter invehitur. Quare? non respicit Dei institutionem, sed impiorum corruptelam. Quum autem fideles alloquitur, qui rite utuntur signis, illa tunc conjungit cum sua veritate, quam figurant. Quare? neque enim fallacem pompam ostentat in Sacramentis, sed quae externa ceremonia figurat, exhibet simul re ipsa. Hinc fit, ut veritas, secundum Dei institutum, conjuncta sit cum signis;” — “I answer, it is customary with Paul to speak of the Sacraments in two different ways. When he has to do with hypocrites, who glory in mere symbols, he in that case proclaims aloud the emptiness and worthlessness of the outward symbol, and denounces in strong terms their absurd confidence. Why so? It is because he has in view, not the ordinance of God, but the corruption of it by wicked men. When, on the other hand, he addresses believers, who make a proper use of the symbols, he in that case views them in connection with the reality which they represent. Why so? It is because he does not make a show of any false splendor as belonging to the Sacraments, but presents before our view in reality what the outward ceremony represents. Hence it comes that, agreeably to the divine appointment, the reality is associated with the symbols.” The same subject is touched upon in the Institutes, volume 3. — Ed.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Let's turn now to I Corinthians, chapter 3.

Beginning with the fourteenth verse of chapter 2, Paul here separates men into three classifications. Starting in chapter 2 with the natural man, the unregenerate man, the man who knows not Jesus Christ. And concerning him, he said, "He cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned." So the natural man in darkness, not able to see, not able to know the things of God.

In realizing this, in praying for those who are not saved, it is important to realize that Satan, as Paul said, the god of this world has blinded their eyes that they cannot see the truth. So they cannot receive, neither can they know, because Satan has blinded them to the truth of God. And as Paul said to Timothy, "That we might take them from the captivity of the enemy who is holding them captive against their wills" ( 2 Timothy 2:26 ).

So the direction of our prayers for the natural man would be that God would open their eyes to the truth, that God would deliver them from that power of Satan by which they are held, that blindness that Satan has brought over their minds concerning God, and that Satan's work be bound in order that they might be freed and become a free moral agent capable, then, of receiving Jesus Christ.

It is a misnomer to declare that the natural man is a free moral agent. He is furthest from free moral agency. He is bound and he is blinded by the power of darkness. And so the thrust of the prayers are to deliver him from this power of darkness to make him a free moral agent, in order that he might believe.

Now in contrast to the natural man, you have the spiritual man. And Paul says, "But he that is spiritual understands or discerns all things though he is not understood by men. For who hath known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him, but we have the mind of Christ" ( 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 ).

So the spiritual man is a man whose mind is now controlled by the Spirit. Man, a threefold being: body, soul, spirit. If the body is uppermost, then your mind is controlled by the body needs and is occupied by your body needs and you have what Paul calls in Romans 8 , "the mind of the flesh" or "the carnal mind which is enmity against God, neither can it know Him."

When a person is born again by the Spirit of God he becomes spirit, soul and body. And when the spirit is uppermost, then you have the mind of the Spirit, the mind that is under the control of the Spirit, as Paul said here, "We have the mind of Christ." Now as we get into chapter 3, Paul introduces us to a third classification.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual ( 1 Corinthians 3:1 ),

Now he's talking to those in Corinth, those in the church in Corinth, those who are presumably born again. And yet, they are not spiritual, for he says, "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual,

but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ ( 1 Corinthians 3:1 ).

Now the issue arises, and people often question, is it possible to be a carnal Christian? A carnal Christian is one who has received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, but does not yet have victory over the flesh and thus, still walks, many times, under the control of the flesh. He does believe, he has received Jesus as his Savior, but not as his Lord, for the flesh is still ruling over him. And he needs deliverance from that power of the flesh that has a hold on his life. So Paul describes this as the conditions of those in Corinth.

He cannot talk to them as spiritual, for they are still carnal, but he does call them babes in Christ. And so he acknowledges that they are in Christ, but unfortunately, they are babes. There is a natural development and growth physically even as there is and should be a natural development and growth spiritually. There is a time when being a babe in Christ is a beautiful, glorious thing. I love to see natural babes in Christ.

To me it's beautiful when a person has just come to the realization that Jesus is Lord and their sins are washed away. And that enthusiasm, that love, that excitement that they have for the things of the Spirit, it's just something that's glorious to behold. And they're just fun to be around because the things of the Lord are just so exciting to them at that point, babes in Christ. But there is also a necessity of growing up into a fully matured relationship.

There are many marks of the babe in Christ, and Paul gives to us some of the marks. First of all, they need to be fed with milk because they are not able to endure the meat of the Word of God. So their first relationship is extremely experience-oriented. And thus, as they relate their experiences, they are usually relating them to the feelings that they have of excitement, of joy, of thrill as they come into the spiritual dimension, and for the first time begin to really discern or understand the things of the Spirit.

But as we grow and as we develop spiritually, it is God's desire that we come into a full maturity, as Paul the apostle declared to the Ephesians that they might come into that perfect man. And the word perfect is fully matured, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of the image of Christ. And so it is God's will that we grow up spiritually into the image of Jesus Christ as we become fully matured.

Now, when a baby is a baby and is supposed to be a baby, it is a beautiful, lovely sight. I don't know of anything that can tug at the heart of a person more than a baby. And the first words of a baby are always so exciting. The first time that your little children say, "da da," and they know what they are saying is a thrilling experience. I'll never forget. We were living in Tucson behind the church. And it was a Sunday evening. And we just had one big room that we partitioned off with curtains and Jan's crib was in the room there with us. And I think Kay was already out in church and I was going into the closet to grab my coat and Jan was over in her crib, and she said, "da da." And I yelled, I turned, I screamed, and I said "What did you say? What was that?" But of course she wouldn't repeat it. But she had the cutest, most knowing smile on her face like, "I said it," and from that time on she started calling me Da Da. But I could hardly wait to get a hold of Kay and tell her that our baby said, "da da," just as plain as could be. And it was always such a thrill in the morning to wake up and to look over to the crib. And when she'd wake up she'd say, "da da," and I loved it.

But now if I should go over to her house and I find her lying there in bed and giving me that beautiful smile and saying, "da da," it wouldn't thrill at this point. It would pain. Because you see, naturally she should have developed and matured, which, of course, she has. And it is thrilling to sit down with her and just to share with her, because she has such keen insights on so many things. But our communication now is on a much higher plane. And it should be, because in the process of time there should be the maturation, the development.

Now, when a person first is born again by the Spirit of God and they are spiritual babes, babes in Christ, it's just always beautiful to behold, that fresh work of the Spirit of God in their lives. But, if after fifteen years, twenty years, they're still in the crib state, they haven't matured, they haven't developed in their spiritual growth or maturity, then it is painful and it is tragic to behold. It is important that we grow up.

Now Paul said they were carnal, and because of that they weren't able to take the meat of the Word of God. They were interested only still in milk.

Another mark of their carnality,

was the envying, and the strife, and the divisions ( 1 Corinthians 3:3 ),

That existed among them. Envy, strife, divisions, marks of carnality, and Paul said as long as these exist,

are ye not carnal and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are you not carnal? ( 1 Corinthians 3:3-4 )

This party spirit or denominational spirit is a mark of carnality, to refuse to recognize the whole body of Christ. To break down the denominational barriers and be able to love another man even though he is a Baptist, or even though he is a Nazarene, or even though he is a Presbyterian. To be able to accept him as a brother in Jesus Christ is so important. That I not see these differences. And it is tragic to me that so many people, rather than identifying themselves with Jesus Christ, identify themselves with a particular church that they attend. "Are you a Christian?" "Oh, I'm a Baptist." "Are you a Christian?" "Well, I'm a Presbyterian." "Are you a Christian?" "Oh, I'm a Catholic." I think that's tragic. Rather than being able to identify with Jesus Christ. "Are you a Christian?" "You bet your life." "What church do you belong to?" "His church." "When did you join?" "I was born into it by the Spirit of God." To see the whole body of Christ.

The fierce dividing of the body into these quadrants is a mark of carnality. "Some say, 'I'm of Paul,' some say, 'I'm of Apollos.'" Paul said,

Who is Paul? who is Apollos? they are only servants by whom ye believe, even as the Lord gave to every man ( 1 Corinthians 3:5 ).

They are only the instruments that God used to bring you to a faith.

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but it is God who gives the increase ( 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ).

So Paul said, "Who am I? Who is Apollos? We are only instruments that God used. You shouldn't identify with us. You should identify with the Lord. It is God who gave life. All I did was plant seed, all Apollos did was water seed. All we were is instruments that God used to bring to you salvation. But it is God who gave to you your life and thus, you should identify with Him."

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one ( 1 Corinthians 3:8 ):

Apollos and I are one. Why are you trying to create a division? We are one.

and every man will receive his own reward according to that labor ( 1 Corinthians 3:8 ).

So Paul will receive his reward for planting. Apollos will receive his reward for watering. And that is the beautiful thing about serving the Lord, He does reward us for that work that we do, not for the results of the work, because the results belong to Him.

So I'm on a salary, I'm not commissioned at all. I'm not paid with a commission. I'm only salaried by the Lord to teach His Word; whatever comes of it is His and it's for His glory.

I cannot produce fruit in your life. All I can do is teach you the Word of God, water really. And maybe someone else has planted the seed, but here we are watering, cultivating, in some cases planting, great. But it's the work of God that counts. It's God who brings life and gives life to the Word, and thus, I just receive the reward for that which I have done, and I receive the reward whether or not anything comes of it, because I've been faithful to do what God called me to do.

And that's the thing that we need to really realize: that God rewards us for the work that He's called us to do, not for the results of that work. Sometimes we feel so discouraged, because, "I've witnessed to so many people, then none ever believe, you know. I haven't been able to lead one person to Jesus Christ and I've talked to so many." Hey, it doesn't matter. As far as your reward is concerned, God only asked you to talk to them.

God didn't commission us to argue people into a faith in Jesus Christ, to get into disputes with people over the inerrancy of the Bible or whatever. I find it rather pathetic that we so often are placed in the position of defending the Word of God. God didn't call you to defend His Word. God called you to use His Word.

If you were in a duel and you pulled your sword out of the sheath, you wouldn't say, "Now, you be careful, this sword is the sharpest sword in the world, you know. It can cut the hair on my arm, you know, and it's the singing sword," or whatever. "And it's the finest steel," and everything else. You're not going to defend your sword, you're going to use it. Don't defend the Word of God, just use it. The Lord will do the work.

Paul, speaking of Apollos and himself, said,

We are laborers together with God ( 1 Corinthians 3:9 ):

"You see, I planted, Apollos watered, but we are, both of us, working together with God." And that, to me, is always a glorious concept, to realize that I am a worker with God, co-laboring with God in His harvest field. You are God's husbandry, plantings, the vines. Jesus said, "I am the true vine, my Father is the husbandman, every branch in Me that bringeth forth fruit . . . "

So really,

you are God's husbandry ( 1 Corinthians 3:9 ),

He is cultivating your life in order that you might bring forth fruit for His glory. And then he goes on to say,

you are God's building ( 1 Corinthians 3:9 ).

You are the work of God. You're not the work of Chuck Smith or of Pastor Romaine or of any other pastor here. You are the work of God. It is God that has worked in your life through His Word. And so he who plants is nothing, he who waters is nothing, but it is God who gives life and brings increase. And so,

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereon ( 1 Corinthians 3:10 ).

"I planted; you are God's building." So he takes it from the farm to construction, from the field to a building now. "I planted. Apollos watered. I laid the foundation. Apollos came and build upon that foundation. For you are the building of God." But he warns, "Let every man take heed how he builds thereon."

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ ( 1 Corinthians 3:11 ).

Now the church is the building of God that has been built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. And no other foundation can any man lay than that which is laid.

It is a sad error of the Catholic Church to declare that Peter is the foundation upon which the church was built. Taking Matthew's gospel, chapter 16, where at Caesarea Philippi Jesus said, "Who do men say that I am?" And they began to say the current concepts that people had about Jesus.

Finally, Jesus said, "Who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Or, "You're the Messiah. You're the Son of the living God." And Jesus said, "Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto you, that you are Petros [you're a little stone], and upon this petra [the rock] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" ( Matthew 16:16-18 ).

So the rock upon which the church was built, the Catholics say, was Peter. He is the foundation. Not so. Jesus said, "You are Petros [a little stone], upon this petra I will build my church." What is the petra, the rock upon which the church was built? The confession of Peter that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. That's the foundation upon which the church was built, as Paul here declares, "No other foundation can any man lay than that which has already been laid, which is Jesus Christ."

He is the foundation of the church. He is the one upon whom the church is built. But, we must be careful even how we build on that foundation.

Now if any man build upon this foundation of gold, and silver, and precious stones, or wood, hay, and stubble; every man's work shall be manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereon, 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 ( 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ).

Christ, the foundation upon which the church is being built. Paul acknowledges that there are some who are building with wood, hay, and stubble. Others are building with gold, silver, and precious stones. But there is a day that is coming in which the building is to be tested. It's to be tested by fire, and when that day of testing comes, then it will be manifested, the materials that were used in the building.

Now, I do believe that many of the great religious systems today have been built with wood, hay, and stubble. I believe that we are living in an age when somehow we have lost true faith in God and in the ability of Jesus Christ to do what He said He was going to do. For He said to Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church." But somehow we've come to the idea that He cannot build His church without our help and our genius.

And so we're going to help the Lord build His church. And we're going to have fundraising campaigns, and we're going to develop tremendous programs whereby we're going to help the Lord build His church, because surely He wants to build His church, but He can't do it without our genius and our helping Him.

And so we go to Madison Avenue and we study their techniques. We study how to write a psychologically enticing letter that will encourage the person to immediately sit down and respond to our appeal. "And I'll trace my hand upon a napkin, and when you get it you put it on your forehead and pray. And if you send me one hundred dollars, you can get whatever you need." That oughta be good for a hundred bucks from these poor simple little people who can't think for themselves. Gimmicks.

Oh, how I long for the day of purity within the church again. That kind of purity when Ananias and Sapphira came in with a pretense and they got snuffed by the power of the Spirit of God. That kind of purity that when the tabernacle was set up and they began the worship, when the two sons of Aaron took false fire and went in to offer it before the Lord, the fire from the altar consumed them.

There's a lot of false fire today being offered before the Lord: wood, hay, stubble. One day it is all to be tested by the fire, and much of the work that has been done in the name of Jesus Christ is going to be consumed and perish. Be careful how you build on the foundation. Make sure that you are using gold, silver, precious stones. We're the building of God. The church is the building of God. Christ the foundation, but be careful how you build. The day will come when it will be tested, our works, what sort they are.

You remember Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, chapter 6, "Take heed to yourself that you do not your righteousness before men to be seen of man." In other words, take heed that you're not doing things in such a way as to receive the recognition and the reward from man. For He said unto you, "You have your reward." So when you pray, don't make a big public demonstration of it. Don't be always telling others about it so that they know what a prayer warrior you are. For Jesus said, "You have your reward." When you give, don't do it in such a public demonstration that everybody knows what you gave, for you have your reward. When you fast, don't put on the appearance of sackcloth and ashes and long mournful faces so that everybody knows how spiritual you are because you fast.

But do these things rather to your Father, before your Father, in secret before Him, and you'll receive your reward from Him. But Jesus is saying that in the acknowledgment that you receive from man in doing things in a public display, that will be the only reward that you'll get from them, that which comes from man. So our works will be judged, what sort they are as the motives of our hearts will be judged when we stand before God.

Now, a lot of beautiful, marvelous things that are done, we will be shocked when we realize the motive behind those things. You know, I've done some things that just really, totally failed. I mean, it was just a total flop. But yet, the motive of my heart was right. So it isn't really so much what I've done, but what was the motive behind what I did.

Now Paul goes from the building to the individual,

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God ( 1 Corinthians 3:16 ),

Two Greek words for temple, the word hieron referred to the entire temple complex. It included the buildings, the courts, the porches, even the temple mount. Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, the hieron.

The other Greek word for temple is naos, which is the inner sanctuary, the holy place. It is the word that Jesus used when the Pharisees asked for a sign and He said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it again." He used the word naos, this inner sanctuary, this holy place.

"You," Paul said, "are the naos of God." The inner sanctuary was the place of divine activity. That's where God revealed Himself to man. That's where man came into a relationship with God, for the Shekinah dwelt in the naos, in that inner sanctuary. "You," Paul said, "are the naos of God." Therefore, your life becomes the center of divine activity. Your life is the instrument through which God reveals Himself to man today. Your life is the dwelling place of God, your body.

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God,"

and that the Spirit of God is dwelling in you? ( 1 Corinthians 3:16 )

Every believer in Jesus Christ has the Spirit of God dwelling in him. The moment you ask Jesus Christ to come into your life, the Spirit of God begins to indwell you. Paul said, "Don't you know you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God is dwelling in you?" And then he goes on to declare,

If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy ( 1 Corinthians 3:17 );

Now in the sixth chapter he tells us some of the ways by which the temple of God can be defiled, as he tells us there your body is the naos of God. And if I commit fornication, Paul said I am then sinning against my body, my body, the temple of God, member of Jesus Christ, joined unto Him.

And if I then join it unto a harlot, I am actually bringing Christ into participation in that relationship, sinning against the body, defiling the temple of God. And the warning here is, "He who defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy." I believe that we need to honor and respect our bodies as the temple of God. I believe that we should take care of our bodies. I believe that we should seek to eat nutritious food. I think that we should stay away from junk food as much as possible, because I believe that we can defile the temple of God with harmful food products and other harmful things.

But basically, though it isn't primarily physical, but spiritual defiling of the temple of God, it is important that we keep ourselves pure and holy. "For if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy;"

for the temple of God [the naos of God] is holy, which temple ye are ( 1 Corinthians 3:17 ).

So it is a call to a holy, righteous life.

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he might be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God: for it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness ( 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 ).

There is a growing realization that science is a hoax and that men of science are guilty of, many times, perpetrating hoaxes as they are supposedly dealing with absolutes. And science is supposed to be the accumulation of absolutes and facts.

But one of the greatest to arise, Einstein, said, "There is nothing that is absolute; it's all relative." And so there is quite an interesting movement now among the intellectuals, as again, we're beginning to discover that not all science is science and that there's a lot of hoax in scientific circles.

Now, to me the biggest hoax that men, supposedly of science, are trying to perpetrate upon people is that of the theory of evolution. Supposedly a scientific theory, very credible, and every science accepts it as fact according to those who espouse it so heartily. Even though there are many scientists who are arising now and say, "Wait a minute. There are too many gaps, unexplainable things here." And evolution is not a satisfactory explanation of the existence of life.

But there are men who claim to be scientists who are trying to perpetrate the hoax of evolution upon society. And, admittedly, they have been quite successful in the perpetration of this hoax. But it's not science at all. It doesn't really possess the necessary empirical evidence to prove it as a science.

They have not yet demonstrated how that in a closed system you can have a spontaneous generation of life. In fact, we have billions of evidences that show that you cannot have spontaneous generation of life within a closed system. Now, think for a moment, if life could be spawned in a closed system, every time you went to the store and bought a can of sardines, or tuna, or peaches, or whatever, you would never know what might come out of that closed system of the spontaneous generation of life within it.

There you have a closed system, there you have billions and billions and billions of cans of goods that have been sold, and we have confidence in the inability of a closed system to spontaneously generate life, and so we do can our foods, and we seal them up in order that they might be preserved in that state, in order that life forms may not form within it.

Now, unfortunately, there are times when they were not correctly sealed, or they were not correctly sterilized and life forms can develop in them. And when we were working in the market, quite often in the dog food we would find there was a spontaneous generation of life. And whenever the cans would be puffed and pushing out at the end, we'd always toss them back for the salesman when he came, to give them back to him, because somehow it wasn't sterilized completely when they canned it, and there was this formation going on inside that was pushing out the ends of the can. And every once in a while you'd get one that would pop in the box and you'd have to send the whole box back because it would just explode and get all over the rest of the cans.

Yet, it's being offered to us as scientific fact. It's a hoax in the name of science. And, "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. He takes the wise in their own craftiness."

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

Now Paul is saying, "Don't glory in Paul, don't glory in Apollos, don't glory in man. Man at his best is an empty show. The thoughts of the wise are empty. Don't glory in men."

for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, 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 ( 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ).

So I can learn and I can gain from Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, or whoever else. Everyone has something to offer. Of course, with some you've got to sift through so much before you find something that's worthwhile, that it's easier just not to listen.

But all things are yours, and so learn to gain from the whole world around you.


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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Fellow workers under God 3:5-9

"Besides evidencing a misapprehension of the gospel itself, the Corinthians’ slogans bespeak a totally inadequate perception of the church and its ministry." [Note: Fee, The First . . ., p. 129. See Jay E. Smith, "Slogans in 1 Corinthians," Bibliotheca Sacra 167:655 (January-March 2010):68-88.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

5. The role of God’s servants 3:5-17

Paul turned next to a positive explanation of how his readers should view him and his fellow workers.

"At issue is their radically misguided perception of the nature of the church and its leadership, in this case especially the role of the teachers." [Note: Fee, The First . . ., p. 128.]

"In the first place, they have not understood the nature and character of the Christian message, the true wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 3:4). In the second place, their sectarian spirit indicates that they have no real understanding of the Christian ministry, its partnership under God in the propagation of the truth (1 Corinthians 3:5 to 1 Corinthians 4:5)." [Note: Johnson, p. 1231.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Obviously God deserved more credit for the church in Corinth than either its planter or its nurturer. Next to Him the others were nothing. Human laborers are all equal in that they are human laborers with human limitations. Nevertheless the Lord will reward each one at the judgment seat of Christ because of his or her work. Note that it is our labor that will be the basis of our reward, not the fruit of our labor.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

So then, neither is he that planteth anything,.... Not that he is the happy instrument of beginning the good work:

neither he that watereth; who is the means of carrying of it on: not that they are simply and absolutely nothing, without any restriction and limitation; they are men, they are Christians, they are ministers, and useful ones, by whom others believe; they are labourers together with God, ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, and so to be accounted of; but they are nothing in themselves, nor in their own account, or with respect to God: they are nothing of themselves as ministers; they have nothing but what they have received; all their gifts are from God, nor can they exercise them aright without the grace of God, not being able to think a good thought as of themselves; nor are they anything in making their planting and watering effectual; and so no glory belongs to them; nothing is to be ascribed to them, they have no part or lot in these things:

but God that giveth the increase; he gives them their abilities, assists them in the exercise of their gifts, makes their ministrations useful, and he has, as he ought to have, all the glory.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Mutual Agreement of Ministers. A. D. 57.

      5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?   6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.   7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.   8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.   9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.   10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

      Here the apostle instructs them how to cure this humour, and rectify what was amiss among them upon this head,

      I. By reminding them that the ministers about whom they contended were but ministers: Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom you believed? Even as the Lord gave to every man,1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 3:5. They are but ministers, mere instruments used by the God of all grace. Some of the factious people in Corinth seem to have made more of them, as if they were lords of their faith, authors of their religion. Note, We should take care not to deify ministers, nor put them into the place of God. Apostles were not the authors of our faith and religion, though they were authorized and qualified to reveal and propagate it. They acted in this office as God gave to every man. Observe, All the gifts and powers that even apostles discovered and exerted in the work of the ministry were from God. They were intended to manifest their mission and doctrine to be divine. It was perfectly wrong, upon their account, to transfer that regard to the apostles which was solely to be paid to the divine authority by which they acted, and to God, from whom they had their authority. Paul had planted and Apollos had watered,1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 3:6. Both were useful, one for one purpose, the other for another. Note, God makes use of variety of instruments, and fits them to their several uses and intentions. Paul was fitted for planting work, and Apollos for watering work, but God gave the increase. Note, The success of the ministry must be derived from the divine blessing: Neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth, but God who giveth the increase,1 Corinthians 3:7; 1 Corinthians 3:7. Even apostolical ministers are nothing of themselves, can do nothing with efficacy and success unless God give the increase. Note, The best qualified and most faithful ministers have a just sense of their own insufficiency, and are very desirous that God should have all the glory of their success. Paul and Apollos are nothing at all in their own account, but God is all in all.

      II. By representing to them the unanimity of Christ's ministers: He that planteth and he that watereth are one (1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:8), employed by one Master, entrusted with the same revelation, busied in one work, and engaged in one design--in harmony with one another, however they may be set in opposition to each other by factious party-makers. They have their different gifts from one and the same Spirit, for the very same purposes; and they heartily carry on the same design. Planters and waterers are but fellow-labourers in the same work. Note, All the faithful ministers of Christ are one in the great business and intention of their ministry. They may have differences of sentiment in minor things; they may have their debates and contests; but they heartily concur in the great design of honouring God and saving souls, by promoting true Christianity in the world. All such may expect a glorious recompence of their fidelity, and in proportion to it: Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour. Their business is one, but some may mind it more than others: their end or design is one, but some may pursue it more closely than others: their Master also is one, and yet this good and gracious Master may make a difference in the rewards he gives, according to the different service they do: Every one's own work shall have its own reward. Those that work hardest shall fare best. Those that are most faithful shall have the greatest reward; and glorious work it is in which all faithful ministers are employed. They are labourers with God, synergoi--co-workers, fellow-labourers (1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 3:9), not indeed in the same order and degree, but in subordination to him, as instruments in his hand. They are engaged in his business. They are working together with God, in promoting the purposes of his glory, and the salvation of precious souls; and he who knows their work will take care they do not labour in vain. Men may neglect and vilify one minister while they cry up another, and have no reason for either: they may condemn when they should commend, and applaud what they should neglect and avoid; but the judgment of God is according to truth. He never rewards but upon just reason, and he ever rewards in proportion to the diligence and faithfulness of his servants. Note, Faithful ministers, when they are ill used by men, should encourage themselves in God. And it is to God, the chief agent and director of the great work of the gospel, to whom those that labour with him should endeavour to approve themselves. They are always under his eye, employed in his husbandry and building; and therefore, to be sure, he will carefully look over them: "You are God's husbandry, you are God's building; and therefore are neither of Paul nor of Apollos; neither belong to one nor the other, but to God: they only plant and water you, but it is the divine blessing on his own husbandry that alone can make it yield fruit. You are not our husbandry, but God's. We work under him, and with him, and for him. It is all for God that we have been doing among you. You are God's husbandry and building." He had employed the former metaphor before, and now he goes on to the other of a building: According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. Paul here calls himself a wise master-builder, a character doubly reflecting honour on him. It was honourable to be a master-builder in the edifice of God; but it added to his character to be a wise one. Persons may be in an office for which they are not qualified, or not so thoroughly qualified as this expression implies Paul was. But, though he gives himself such a character, it is not to gratify his own pride, but to magnify divine grace. He was a wise master-builder, but the grace of God made him such. Note, It is no crime in a Christian, but much to his commendation, to take notice of the good that is in him, to the praise of divine grace. Spiritual pride is abominable: it is making use of the greatest favours of God to feed our own vanity, and make idols of ourselves. But to take notice of the favours of God to promote our gratitude to him, and to speak of them to his honour (be they of what sort they will), is but a proper expression of the duty and regard we own him. Note, Ministers should not be proud of their gifts or graces; but the better qualified they are for their work, and the more success they have in it, the more thankful should they be to God for his distinguishing goodness: I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. As before he had said, I have planted, Apollos watered. It was Paul that laid the foundation of a church among them. He had begotten them through the gospel,1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 4:15. Whatever instructors they had besides, they had not many fathers. He would derogate from none that had done service among them, nor would he be robbed of his own honour and respect. Note, Faithful ministers may and ought to have a concern for their own reputation. Their usefulness depends much upon it. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon. This is a proper caution; there may be very indifferent building on a good foundation. It is easy to err here; and great care should be used, not only to lay a sure and right foundation, but to erect a regular building upon it. Nothing must be laid upon it but what the foundation will bear, and what is of a piece with it. Gold and dirt must not be mingled together. Note, Ministers of Christ should take great care that they do not build their own fancies or false reasonings on the foundation of divine revelation. What they preach should be the plain doctrine of their Master, or what is perfectly agreeable with it.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:7". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.