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 1 Corinthians Chapter Three

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PostSubject: 1 Corinthians Chapter Three    Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:32 pm

1 Corinthians Chapter 3

1 Corinthians 3:1-4

However, this was not true of all at Corinth. When Paul came and preached Christ to them, they believed. By faith they were justified and granted peace with God (Rom_5:1-2). We see a reprimand from Paul to these Corinthians. He is saying, you have not grown in the Lord since you first began. You are still like a baby who has to be told everything to do. These people still had one foot in the world while proclaiming Christianity.
The cause of problems in the church was more than external, worldly influence. It was also internal carnality. The pressures of the world were combined with the weakness of the flesh. Carnal meaning that although Corinthian believers were no longer “natural,” they were not “spiritual” or fully controlled by the Holy Spirit. In fact, they were “carnal or controlled by the fallen flesh. Though all believers have the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:9), they still battle the fallen flesh.
Paul says the only message that he could bring them was the simple salvation message, because they were not ready to receive any weightier message. These people have not made their spirit rule over their flesh. They are still operating in the fleshly realm.
“Babes in Christ”: The carnality of those believers was indicative of their immaturity. They had no excuse for not being mature, since Paul implied that he should have been able to write to them as mature, in light of all he had taught them.
No doubt Paul taught them all the blessings that came to them as Christians, what Paul called milk. At that time their way of thinking and living was only beginning to be transformed (Rom_12:2). It seems as though they were criticizing the simple message that Paul has brought. He is saying, someone has to hold your hand in Christian matters. You have not fed your spirit with the Word that would have made you stronger. You still want someone else to do all the studying for you. You are like a little baby that needs to be fed milk and not meat. It seems that Paul is a little aggravated with them for not growing in the Lord.
“Milk”: meaning not a reference to certain doctrines, but to the more easily digestible truths of doctrine that were given to new believers. “Solid food”: The deeper features of the doctrines of Scripture. The difference is not in kind of truth, but degree of depth. Spiritual immaturity makes one unable to receive the richest truths.
They were still greatly influenced by worldly thinking and behavior — they were infants in Christ.
But “the message of the Cross” (1Co_1:18) concerned more than justification. It also concerned sanctification. It called for a renewal of attitude and action in response to God’s revelation. It called for righteousness in thought and deed (Heb_5:11-14). And this part of the message of “Christ… crucified” (1Co_2:2), this solid food (1Co_3:2), the Corinthians had spurned. As a result they were still worldly (1Co_3:3). We see in this that they are still operating in the flesh. They are acting the same way they did before they got saved. Men in the verse above, is meant worldly men. Notice that envy, strife, and divisions are worldly. They should have no place in the church.
“Envying, strife”: Carnality produces the attitude of envy, a severe form of selfishness, which produces the action of strife and the subsequent divisions. “Walk as men”: Apart from the will of the Spirit, hence carnal, not spiritual.
Instead of mature behavior characterized by humility and concern for others — obedience to God — the Corinthian were infantile, self-centered, and therefore divisive (1Co_3:4; cf. 1Co_1:12). Paul says, that just the fact that they are saying they are of Paul and of Apollos shows him that they do not truly understand Christianity.
Factionalism was the divisive product of carnality.
They wanted lives of exaltation (1Co_4:Cool without lives of humiliation (1Co_4:9-13) because they did not understand that “Christ… crucified” was a message concerned not only with justification but also with sanctification (cf. Php_2:1-Cool. This misunderstanding was at the root of their disunity (cf. 1Co_1:10; 1Co_3:4), which error Paul wanted to correct.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9

A Misunderstanding Of The Ministry
A second and related cause of division in their church concerned the ministry. The Corinthians had focused on men when in fact God alone was the source of blessing (1Co_3:5-9) and ministers were only servants accountable to Him (1Co_3:10-17). Since that was so, a minister needed to beware of cultivating the praise of men — as certain leaders in the Corinthian church apparently were doing (1Co_3:18-23), and needed instead to seek by faithful service to gain the praise of God (1Co_4:1-5). The problem, here, is their object of worship. They have their eyes on the people through whom they heard the gospel, rather than on the message that minister brought. The ministers should not be the object of worship. They are just a voice bringing the gospel message. Paul and Apollos are both servants of the Most High God themselves.
“Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos” is a humble but accurate assessment of the roles that ministers play. “The Lord gave”: meaning that it is the Lord alone who can give the faith to the spiritually ignorant and dead. Salvation is God’s work of grace to whom He chooses to give it.

Apollos and Paul were given their ministries by Christ (Eph_4:11). They were the means, not the cause, whereby the Corinthians believed (cf. 1Co_2:4-5). God alone produced results. God made the seed grow (1Co_3:6). Therefore God alone should get the credit (1Co_3:7). We see from this that it is not the one who brings the original message, or even the person who comes along and furthers the message, but God who quickens the message to their unbeliever’s heart. The destination is the kingdom. It really matters not too much who helped you get there.
Simply put, Paul is saying that he planted the seeds when he told them about the gospel. Apollos watered that seed as he continued to teach them the word. But ultimately it is God Himself who draws the repentant sinner to Himself so it is He alone who gives the increase, not those spreading the Gospel.
As servants, Paul and Apollos were not competing against each other but were complementing each other’s ministries (1Co_3:Cool. Their purpose was to bring the church to maturity, to Christ likeness (Eph_4:12-13). We see in this that the message carrier is not the important one. God is to be worshipped and He alone. He is the One who sent the messenger. When you get a telegram, the one who brings the message is not important. The message that he brings is the important thing. In accord with their faithfulness to that task would come their reward (cf. 1Co_4:2-5). God rewards the messenger that He sent, if the servant is obedient to take the message that God sent. God has rewards set up for all of His obedient servants. Your work may go unnoticed here on the earth, but if you do the exact job God sent you to do, there will be great rewards in heaven stored up for you, by God.
“Are one”: All the human instruments God uses to produce salvation life are equally considered and rewarded for their willingness to be used by God. But all the glory goes to Him, who alone saves.
For though a minister served the church he was basically responsible to God Paul and Apollos were fellow workers who belonged to God and worked for Him in His field, the church (1Co_3:9). Christians are the hands on this earth that carry out the tasks for God. The word husbandry, here, indicates that God has left us as overseers of His own. Husbandry normally means farmer, someone who cares for a crop which in this case, the Corinthians themselves.
We are to water them, dig around them, and even trim them from time to time. God wants the Christian ministers to care for His crop of believers here on the earth. We know that we are building blocks in God's house. Jesus is the chief Cornerstone, and we are stones fitted together to build God's house.
I Peter 2:5 "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

1 Corinthians 3:10

Paul then shifted metaphors for the church from a field to a building. Paul used in various ways the metaphor of Christians individually and collectively as a building in which God dwells, a temple. Jesus had referred to His physical body as a temple (Joh_2:19-22). In another letter Paul applied the same imagery to Christ’s spiritual body, the universal church (Eph_2:21). Paul also called the body of each individual Christian a temple (1Co_6:19). In this passage, however, it was the local church which he described as a building of God, a temple in which God’s Spirit lives (1Co_3:16).
Paul now further developed the theme of a minister’s accountability for his labor (1Co_3:Cool. Though it was true that every Christian in the Corinthian church was given at least one gift, or ability to minister in some way to other church members (1Co_12:11), it was primarily the leading ministers Paul was concerned about, who functioned in a capacity like that of Apollos and himself (cf. 1Co_3:5, 1Co_3:21-22).
Not every minister, however, labored to the same effect in this building process. Paul had laid a foundation in Corinth with the message of the Cross. Apollos too had labored beneficially in Corinth (Act_18:27-28). Apparently so also had Peter, whom Paul here called “Cephas” (1Co_1:12; 1Co_3:22). As we said above, the building is the spiritual house, which is also the priesthood. The High Priest is our Lord Jesus Christ and all believers in Christ are the priests. Jesus is the cornerstone of this building.
In Paul's building the foundation, he is saying that he was the one who started this church in Corinth. God used Paul to establish the groundwork for churches in Asia Minnor, Macedonia and Greece. Then others such as Timothy and Apollos built the churches up from his foundations.
He wants the followers who minister in this church to bring the same message that he had started. This is why he said "take heed how he buildeth".
This is the very same thing said above about one planting the seed, another waters it, and God gets the increase.
But as Paul wrote, someone else was ministering in Corinth, and Paul’s words to him and others like him were a warning.

1 Corinthians 3:11

Jesus Christ alone was the foundation, the basis of salvation (Act_4:12). But others had come to Corinth and preached a different gospel (2Co_11:4). Perhaps such a one was present in Corinth when Paul wrote this letter. Paul did not design the foundation, Christ did. He only laid it down by preaching Christ.
This building is to be built upon Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul went on to say, in another place that if anyone brought another message, let him be accursed.

1 Corinthians 3:12

In 1Co_3:12-17 Paul described three kinds of builders or ministers: the expert (1Co_3:14; cf. 1Co_3:10), the unwise (1Co_3:15), and the destructive (1Co_3:17). “If any man build”: This is first of all, in reference to the evangelists and pastors mentioned in verse 9, and then to all believers who are called to build the church through faithful ministry.
Gold, silver, precious stones, quality materials represent dedicated, spiritual service to build the church. These items become more pure when the fire is applied to them. This would be a lasting building built with these that symbolize the true church which could not be destroyed by the efforts of man.
Wood, hay, stubble are inferior materials implying shallow activity with no eternal value. They do not refer to activities that are evil. These would burn up if any heat was applied and symbolize a shallow form of Christianity which would fail under persecution.
The materials used in the building may be interpreted in at least four ways: (a) The gold, silver, costly stones refer to the enduring quality of the builder’s work; and the wood, hay, or straw suggest work that is temporary and valueless. This view is supported by “work” (1Co_3:13) and “what he has built” (1Co_3:14). (b) The three expensive materials suggest sound doctrine which the builder “builds” into people’s lives, and the three valueless materials are false doctrines. (c) The first three materials refer to the worker’s worthy motives, and the other three point to his unworthy motives (cf. 1Co_4:5). (d) The “gold, silver, costly stones” refer to believers who constitute the church (this is supported by similar uses of the metaphor in Eph_2:22; 2Ti_2:20; and 1Pe_2:5), and the “wood, hay, or straw” represent unregenerate people present in the church (chorton, rendered “hay” in 1Co_3:12, is used of unbelievers in Jas_1:10, where the NIV renders it “wild flower”).

1 Corinthians 3:13

The day of judgment is when Christ will judge the quality of His servants’ work (2Co_5:10). It is not a question of salvation which is a gift (Rom_6:23), or a matter of individual deeds (Eph_2:8-9), but of service which is judged on the basis of quality not quantity. Considerable apparent success can be had by dint of human effort and wisdom (cf. 1Co_2:4), but unless it is empowered by God in accordance with His plan it cannot last (Psa_127:1). The day, spoken of here, is speaking of that day when we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ at the Bema Judgment. This is the judgment for believers, not unbelievers. “Be revealed by Fire:” means the fire of God’s discerning judgment.
Fire is figurative for judgment, more specifically, the absolutely righteous judgment of God. Fire is used here to denote, not enlightening power, but consuming power. Of the six types of material mentioned, three are combustible and three are incombustible.

1 Corinthians 3:14-15

The image of fire associated with the coming of Christ is used elsewhere in the New Testament (2Th_1:7; Rev_18:Cool. What the reward for the expert builder consists of was not detailed, though praise (1Co_4:5) is certainly a part. Most people who have done mighty tasks for the Lord never are rewarded on this earth. Some of the early founders of Christianity gave their lives for what they believed in. Most of the Old Testament prophets were killed for doing the task God had set before them. We are told by historians that Isaiah was sawed in two. We know that James, the brother of John, was killed. We know that Stephen was stoned to death for speaking boldly of God. We must continue in the face of death, if we are to be counted among the faithful.
“If any man’s work abide”: All that which has been accomplished in His power and for His glory will survive. The “Reward” is not a judgment for sin. Christ has paid that price, so that no believer will ever be judged for sin. This is only to determine eternal reward.
The inept builder will see the loss of his labor, but he himself will be saved, like a burning stick snatched from a fire (Amo_4:11; Jud_1:23). Before such judgment the various materials may coexist and appear indistinguishable (cf. Mat_13:30). The key to this is that this man did a work for God. This man thought that he was doing a good work for God. Even though the work could not stand the heat of trials, God saved the man, because of the effort he had put forth to do the work. The workman is saved here, even though the work is burned. God looked on the heart of this man. The man wanted to do something to please God, and God saved him for his effort.
No matter how much is worthless, no believer will forfeit salvation.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

However, a local church (you here is pl.) might come to the point where its structure is so weak that it collapses entirely or exists in name only, that is, it is destroyed. Paul did not want this to happen in Corinth (2Co_11:3, 2Co_11:13). If it did, the false minister would be paid back in kind by God Himself (an application of the OT lex talionis [Gen_9:6; cf. 2Co_11:15]). The destroyer would be destroyed (Mat_13:41-42). The words don’t you know (1Co_3:16) are the first of 10 occurrences of the clause in this letter (cf. 1Co_5:6; 1Co_6:2-3, 1Co_6:9, 1Co_6:15-16, 1Co_6:19; 1Co_9:13, 1Co_9:24; each time it introduces an indisputable statement). We are actually the house that the Lord Jesus lives in upon this earth, if we are Christians.
Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
I Corinthians 6:19: "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" Here is a severe warning to any who would try to interfere with or destroy the building of the church on the foundation of Christ. See Matthew 18:6-7.
Anything that is done to the body of the believer is actually done to the Lord, as well. This should quiet some people who are constantly criticizing other Christians. You are attacking God, when you attack God's servant.

1 Corinthians 3:18-23

Those who defile the church and think they can succeed in destroying it by their human wisdom would be far better to reject that wisdom and accept the foolishness of Christ’s cross.
This is speaking of being won over by the foolishness of preaching. The wisest thing a person can do is become as a foolish man and come to God.
Luke 18:17 "Verily I say unto you whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."
Since this was so, Paul gave a pointed warning to ministers (1Co_3:18-20) and to the congregation in Corinth (1Co_3:21-23). Ministers could avoid self-deception by evaluating their ministries and realizing that the wisdom of this world reflects the mind of Satan (Eph_2:2) and is foolishness in God’s sight (1Co_3:19). With quotations from Job 5:13 and Psalm 94:11, Paul reinforces his point from chapter 1:18-25 by reminding them that human wisdom which cannot save, also cannot either build a church or prevent its growth.
A person must humble himself to receive God. Those who think themselves to be wise, do not know that they need a Savior.
The wisdom of man is foolishness to God. The wisest man in the world is the one who seeks God and humbly receives Him as his Savior.
The members needed to see that the practice of boasting (1Co_3:21) about ministers was similarly a self-centered spirit. Instead, they should boast in God (cf. 1Co_1:31) to whom they belonged (1Co_3:23; cf. 1Co_1:2, 1Co_15:28) and who was the source of their every blessing (cf. 1Co_1:30). “Glory in men”: Paul, Apollos, and all others receive no credit for the building of the church. “All things are yours”: All believers share equally in God’s most important and valuable provisions and glories; human boasting, therefore, is ludicrous as well as sinful.
We should not elevate man up to a position that he does not belong in. Just because someone is wealthy or has great influence, is no reason to elevate him up higher than anyone else. We are all exactly what God has allowed us to be. Although the universe is now in Satan’s grip, it is still the God given and God made possession of Christians. In the millennial kingdom and throughout eternity, however, believers will possess both the recreated and eternal earth in an infinitely more complete and rich way. (Matt. 5:5 and Rev. 21)
“Life”: Spiritual, eternal life. “Death”: Spiritual and eternal death. “Things present”: Everything the believer has or experiences in this life. “Things to come”: All the blessings of heaven. “All are yours”: In Christ, all good and holy things are for believers’ blessing and for God’s glory. (Eph. 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:3)
Paul is telling them, here, not to choose one of these men out and elevate him up. God has promised all believers the same inheritance. Paul is saying in this, just because he led you to the Lord is no reason to feel obligated to him. Regardless of who led you to the Lord, You belong to Christ. This is showing the chain of command. We belong to Christ, and Christ is God the Father's. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are all in total agreement.
Knowing that we believers belong to Christ and therefore to each other is the greatest incentive for unity in the church for believers.
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