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1 Corinthians Chapter Three


1 Corinthians 3

They were not natural men; but they were carnal (not spiritual) men, so that the apostle had to feed them with milk and not with meat which was only fit for those that were of full age. That with which they nourished their pride was a proof of this-their divisions into schools of doctrine. Paul, no doubt, had planted; Apollos watered. It was well. But it was God alone who gave the increase. Moreover the apostle had laid the foundation of this building of God, the assembly at Corinth; others had built since-had carried on the work of the edification of souls. Let every one take heed. There was but one foundation; it was laid. But in connection with it, they might teach things solid or worthless and form souls by one or the other-perhaps even introduce souls won by such vain doctrines among the saints. The work would be proved, sooner or later, by some day of trial. If they had wrought in the work of God, with solid materials, the work would stand; if not, it would come to nothing. The effect, the fruit of labour, would be destroyed-the man who had wrought be saved, because he had built on the foundation-had true faith in Christ. Yet the shaking, caused by the failure of all that he had thought genuine, [1] would be apt, for himself, to shake the consciousness of his connection with, and confidence in, the foundation. He should be saved as through the fire. He who had wrought according to God should receive the fruit of his labour. If any one corrupted the temple of God-introduced that which destroyed fundamental truths, he should be destroyed himself.

The subject then is ministerial labour, carried on by means of certain doctrines, either good, worthless, or subversive of the truth; and the fruits which this labour would produce. And there are three cases; the work good as well as the workman; the work vain, but the workman saved; the corrupter of God's temple-here the workman would be destroyed.

Finally, if any one desired to be wise in this world, let him become unintelligent in order to be wise. God counted the wisdom of the wise as foolishness, and would take them in their own craftiness. But in this the saints were below their privileges. All things were theirs, since they were the children of God. "All things are yours"-Paul, Apollos, all things-you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.


[1] Remark here, the very important instruction as to the assembly viewed as God's building. In Matthew 16 we have Christ's building, and Satan's power cannot prevail against it. This building will go on till complete at the end. Hence in 1 Peter 2 and Ephesians 2 we have no workman, and the stones come, and the building grows. It is Christ's own work: He builds, and the building is not yet complete. Here it is God's building; but there is a builder, and man's responsibility comes in. There is a wise master-builder, or it may be those who build with wood, hay, and stubble-yea, even those who corrupt. In Ephesians 2 there is also a present building, but it is the fact viewed abstractedly. Here the responsibility is formally stated. The confusion of Christ's building (not yet finished) and man's building, the applying the promise made to one to the other which rests on man's responsibility and is a present building on earth, is one grand source of Popish and Puseyite errors. Against Christ's work nothing can prevail. Man may build with wood and hay and stubble, and his work be destroyed, as it will.

── John DarbySynopsis of 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 3

Chapter Contents

The Corinthians reproved for their contentions. (1-4) The true servants of Christ can do nothing without him. (5-9) He is the only foundation, and every one should take heed what he builds thereon. (10-15) The churches of Christ ought to be kept pure, and to be humble. (16,17) And they should not glory in men, because ministers and all things else are theirs through Christ. (18-23)

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

(Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

The most simple truths of the gospel, as to man's sinfulness and God's mercy, repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, stated in the plainest language, suit the people better than deeper mysteries. Men may have much doctrinal knowledge, yet be mere beginners in the life of faith and experience. Contentions and quarrels about religion are sad evidences of carnality. True religion makes men peaceable, not contentious. But it is to be lamented, that many who should walk as Christians, live and act too much like other men. Many professors, and preachers also, show themselves to be yet carnal, by vain-glorious strife, eagerness for dispute, and readiness to despise and speak evil of others.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:5-9

(Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

The ministers about whom the Corinthians contended, were only instruments used by God. We should not put ministers into the place of God. He that planteth and he that watereth are one, employed by one Master, trusted with the same revelation, busied in one work, and engaged in one design. They have their different gifts from one and the same Spirit, for the very same purposes; and should carry on the same design heartily. Those who work hardest shall fare best. Those who are most faithful shall have the greatest reward. They work 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. They are employed in his husbandry and building; and He will carefully look over them.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

(Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

The apostle was a wise master-builder; but the grace of God made him such. Spiritual pride is abominable; it is using the greatest favours of God, to feed our own vanity, and make idols of ourselves. But let every man take heed; there may be bad building on a good foundation. Nothing must be laid upon it, but what the foundation will bear, and what is of a piece with it. Let us not dare to join a merely human or a carnal life with a Divine faith, the corruption of sin with the profession of Christianity. Christ is a firm, abiding, and immovable Rock of ages, every way able to bear all the weight that God himself or the sinner can lay upon him; neither is there salvation in any other. Leave out the doctrine of his atonement, and there is no foundation for our hopes. But of those who rest on this foundation, there are two sorts. Some hold nothing but the truth as it is in Jesus, and preach nothing else. Others build on the good foundation what will not abide the test, when the day of trail comes. We may be mistaken in ourselves and others; but there is a day coming that will show our actions in the true light, without covering or disguise. Those who spread true and pure religion in all its branches, and whose work will abide in the great day, shall receive a reward. And how great! how much exceeding their deserts! There are others, whose corrupt opinions and doctrines, or vain inventions and usages in the worship of God, shall be made known, disowned, and rejected, in that day. This is plainly meant of a figurative fire, not of a real one; for what real fire can consume religious rites or doctrines? And it is to try every man's works, those of Paul and Apollos, as well as others. Let us consider the tendency of our undertakings, compare them with God's word, and judge ourselves, that we be not judged of the Lord.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:16,17

(Read 1 Corinthians 3:16,17)

From other parts of the epistle, it appears that the false teachers among the Corinthians taught unholy doctrines. Such teaching tended to corrupt, to pollute, and destroy the building, which should be kept pure and holy for God. Those who spread loose principles, which render the church of God unholy, bring destruction upon themselves. Christ by his Spirit dwells in all true believers. Christians are holy by profession, and should be pure and clean, both in heart and conversation. He is deceived who deems himself the temple of the Holy Ghost, yet is unconcerned about personal holiness, or the peace and purity of the church.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18-23

(Read 1 Corinthians 3:18-23)

To have a high opinion of our own wisdom, is but to flatter ourselves; and self-flattery is the next step to self-deceit. The wisdom that wordly men esteem, is foolishness with God. How justly does he despise, and how easily can he baffle and confound it! The thoughts of the wisest men in the world, have vanity, weakness, and folly in them. All this should teach us to be humble, and make us willing to be taught of God, so as not to be led away, by pretences to human wisdom and skill, from the simple truths revealed by Christ. Mankind are very apt to oppose the design of the mercies of God. Observe the spiritual riches of a true believer; "All are yours," even ministers and ordinances. Nay, the world itself is yours. Saints have as much of it as Infinite Wisdom sees fit for them, and they have it with the Divine blessing. Life is yours, that you may have a season and opportunity to prepare for the life of heaven; and death is yours, that you may go to the possession of it. It is the kind messenger to take you from sin and sorrow, and to guide you to your Father's house. Things present are yours, for your support on the road; things to come are yours, to delight you for ever at your journey's end. If we belong to Christ, and are true to him, all good belongs to us, and is sure to us. Believers are the subjects of his kingdom. He is Lord over us, we must own his dominion, and cheerfully submit to his command. God in Christ, reconciling a sinful world to himself, and pouring the riches of his grace on a reconciled world, is the sum and substance of the gospel.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 3

Verse 1

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

And I, brethren — He spoke before, 1 Corinthians 2:1, of his entrance, now of his progress, among them.

Could not speak to you as unto spiritual — Adult, experienced Christians. But as unto men who were still in great measure carnal, as unto babes in Christ - Still weak in grace, though eminent in gifts, 1 Corinthians 1:5.

Verse 2

[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.

I fed you, as babes, with milk - The first and plainest truths of the gospel. So should every preacher suit his doctrine to his hearers.

Verse 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?

For while there is among you emulation in your hearts, strife in your words, and actual divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk according to men - As mere men; not as Christians, according to God.

Verse 4

[4] For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

I am of Apollos — St. Paul named himself and Apollos, to show that he would condemn any division among them, even though it were in favour of himself, or the dearest friend he had in the world.

Are ye not carnal — For the Spirit of God allows no party zeal.

Verse 5

[5] Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

Ministers — Or servants. By whom ye believed, as the Lord, the Master of those servants, gave to every man.

Verse 7

[7] So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

God that giveth the increase — Is all in all: without him neither planting nor watering avails.

Verse 8

[8] Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

But he that planteth and he that watereth are one — Which is another argument against division. Though their labours are different. they are all employed in one general work, - the saving souls. Hence he takes occasion to speak of the reward of them that labour faithfully, and the awful account to be given by all. Every man shall receive his own peculiar reward according to his own peculiar labour - Not according to his success; but he who labours much, though with small success, shall have a great reward. Has not all this reasoning the same force still? The ministers are still surely instruments in God's hand, and depend as entirely as ever on his blessing, to give the increase to their labours. Without this, they are nothing: with it, their part is so small, that they hardly deserve to be mentioned. May their hearts and hands be more united; and, retaining a due sense of the honour God doeth them in employing them, may they faithfully labour, not as for themselves, but for the great Proprietor of all, till the day come when he will reward them in full proportion to their fidelity and diligence!

Verse 9

[9] For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.

For we are all fellowlabourers — God's labourers, and fellowlabourers with each other.

Ye are God's husbandry — This is the sum of what went before: it is a comprehensive word, taking in both a field, a garden, and a vineyard.

Ye are God's building — This is the sum of what follows.

Verse 10

[10] 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.

According to the grace of God given to me — This he premises, lest he should seem to ascribe it to himself.

Let every one take heed how he buildeth thereon — That all his doctrines may be consistent with the foundation.

Verse 11

[11] For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

For other foundation — On which the whole church: and all its doctrines, duties, and blessings may be built.

Can no man lay than what is laid — In the counsels of divine wisdom, in the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament, in the preaching of the apostles, St. Paul in particular.

Which is Jesus Christ — Who, in his person and offices, is the firm, immovable Rock of Ages, every way sufficient to bear all the weight that God himself, or the sinner, when he believes, can lay upon him.

Verse 12

[12] Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

If any one build gold, silver, costly stones — Three sorts of materials which will bear the fire; true and solid doctrines.

Wood, hay, stubble — Three which will not bear the fire. Such are all doctrines, ceremonies, and forms of human invention; all but the substantial, vital truths of Christianity.

Verse 13

[13] 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.

The time is coming when every one's work shall be made manifest: for the day of the Lord, that great and final day, shall declare it - To all the world.

For it is revealed — What faith beholds as so certain and so near is spoken of as already present.

By fire; yea, the fire shall try every one's work, of what sort it is — The strict process of that day will try every man's doctrines, whether they come up to the scripture standard or not. Here is a plain allusion to the flaming light and consuming heat of the general conflagration. But the expression, when applied to the trying of doctrines, and consuming those that are wrong, is evidently figurative; because no material fire can have such an effect on what is of a moral nature. And therefore it is added, he who builds wood, hay, or stubble, shall be saved as through the fire - Or, as narrowly as a man escapes through the fire, when his house is all in flames about him. This text, then, is so far from establishing the Romish purgatory, that it utterly overthrows it. For the fire here mentioned does not exist till the day of judgment: therefore, if this be the fire of purgatory, it follows that purgatory does not exist before the day of judgment.

Verse 14

[14] If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

He shall receive a reward — A peculiar degree of glory. Some degree even the other will receive, seeing he held the foundation; though through ignorance he built thereon what would not abide the fire.

Verse 15

[15] If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

He shall suffer loss — The loss of that peculiar degree of glory.

Verse 16

[16] Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Ye — All Christians.

Are the temple of God — The most noble kind of building, 1 Corinthians 3:9.

Verse 17

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

If any man destroy the temple of God — Destroy a real Christian, by schisms, or doctrines fundamentally wrong.

Him shall God destroy — He shall not be saved at all; not even as through the fire."

Verse 18

[18] 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.

Let him become a fool in this world — Such as the world accounts so.

That he may become wise — In God's account.

Verse 19

[19] For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

For all the boasted wisdom of the world is mere foolishness in the sight of God.

He taketh the wise in their own craftiness — Not only while they think they are acting wisely, but by their very wisdom, which itself is their snare, and the occasion of their destruction. Job 5:13.

Verse 20

[20] And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

That they are but vain — Empty, foolish; they and all their thoughts. Psalms 94:11.

Verse 21

[21] Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;

Therefore — Upon the whole.

Let none glory in men — So as to divide into parties on their account.

For all things are yours — and we in particular. We are not your lords, but rather your servants.

Verse 22

[22] Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;

Whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas — We are all equally yours, to serve you for Christ's sake.

Or the world — This leap from Peter to the world greatly enlarges the thought, and argues a kind of impatience of enumerating the rest. Peter and every one in the whole world, however excellent in gifts, or grace, or office, are also your servants for Christ's sake.

Or life, or death — These, with all their various circumstances, are disposed as will be most for your advantage.

Or things present — On earth.

Or things to come — In heaven. Contend, therefore, no more about these little things; but be ye united in love, as ye are in blessings.

Verse 23

[23] And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.

And ye are Christ's — His property, his subjects. his members.

And Christ is God's — As Mediator, he refers all his services to his Father's glory.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on 1 Corinthians


1 Cor. 3:6~7Source of Spiritual Growth

        Some years ago, a study was done by an agricultural school in Iowa. It reported that production of a hundred bushels of corn from one acre of land required 4,000,000 lbs. of water, 6,800 lbs. of oxygen, 5,200 lbs. of carbon, 160 lbs. of nitrogen, 125 lbs. of potassium, 75 lbs. of yellow sulphur, and other elements too numerous to list. In addition to these ingredients are required rain and sunshine at the right times. Although many hours of the farmer’s labor are also needed, it was estimated that only 5 percent of the produce of a farm can be attributed to the efforts of man.

        So it is in spiritual realms: God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6~7).


Chapter 3. The Only Foundation

God's Field
God's Building

I. Three Steps to Be God's Fellow Workers

  1. Some Plant
  2. some Water
  3. God Makes It Grow

II. The Test of Fire

  1. The Foundation of Building
  2. Materials of Building
  3. The Work of Building

III. Believers Are God's Temple

  1. Do Not Destroy
  2. Do Not Deceive
  3. Do Not Boast
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament
Chapter Three General Review
1) To see the proper place of preachers and teachers in relation to
   their work
2) To appreciate God's view of the church as the temple of God
Paul continues to deal with the problem of division in this chapter.
Its seriousness is seen in its carnality, which prevented Paul from
being able to speak as to spiritually mature people (1-4).   To help
them see the folly of exalting preachers over each another, Paul shows
their relation to one other and to their work, which is building the
temple of God (5-17).  To the warning not to defile the temple of God,
Paul adds another not to glory in the wisdom of this world nor in men
      1. Prevented Paul from speaking to them as to spiritual people
      2. Their carnality indicated that they were still babes in 
         Christ, unable to receive solid food (1b-2)
      1. The envy, strife, and divisions among them (3)
      2. As expressed in their calling themselves after men (4)
      1. Ministers given the opportunity to serve God in various ways
      2. But it is God who gives the increase (6b-7)
      1. United in their  work, though their labor and rewards may
         differ (8)
      2. Fellow workers with God, they work on God's building (9)
         a. Laying the foundation (as Paul did) of Jesus Christ (10-11)
         b. Building upon the foundation, using various materials to be
            tested at the Last Day (12-15)
      3. A strong warning, since this building is the temple of God and
         indwelt by the Spirit (16-17)
      1. You will only deceive yourself (18)
      2. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (19-20)
      1. All things (including men) are yours (21-22)
      2. You are Christ's, and Christ is God's (23)
1) List the main points of this chapter
   - The Carnal Nature Of Division (1-4)
   - Relation Of Preachers To Their Work (5-17)
   - Avoid Glorying In Worldly Wisdom Or Men (18-23)
2) What prevented Paul from speaking to the Corinthians as unto
   spiritual people? (1-3)
   - They were carnal, still babes in Christ
3) What manifested their carnality? (3-4)
   - Their envy, strife, and divisions, as manifested in calling
     themselves after men
4) Who was more important, he that planted, or the one that watered?
   - Neither, it was God who gave the increase
5) Upon what foundation is the church built? (11)
   - Jesus Christ
6) When will the work of ministers be fully made manifest? (13)
   - At the last Day
7) If those converted by preachers are lost, will the preachers be
   lost? (14-15)
   - No, but their reward will not be as great
8) What sort of building is the church? (16)
   - The temple of God, indwelt by His Spirit
9) What is the wisdom of this world to God? (19)
   - Foolishness
10) Why should we not glory in men? (21-22)
   - Because they are but instruments of God used to benefit us
11) And to whom do we belong? (23)
   - Christ


--《Executable Outlines


The Only Foundation

God’s Field

God’s Building


I.  Three Steps to Be God’s Fellow Workers

1.    Some Plant

2.    Some Water

3.    God Makes It Grow

II.The Test of Fire

1.    The Foundation of Building

2.    Materials of Building

3.    The Work of Building

III.       Believers Are God’s Temple

1.    Do Not Destroy

2.    Do Not Deceive

3.    Do Not Boast

-- Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament