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1 Corinthians 3
1 Corinthians 3
1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ. 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. Jn. 16:12; Heb 5:12; 1Pet 2:2; 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? Mk. 9:33,34; 1Cor 1:11; Gal 5:19; Jas 3:16; 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 1Cor 1:12;
5 Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? Acts 18:24; 1Cor 1:12; 1Cor 16:12; 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. Jn 4:37,38; Acts 18:26; Acts 19:1; 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. Ps 62:12; Jer 17:10; Jer 32:19; Matt 16:27; Rom 2:6; Rom 14:12; 2Cor 5:10; Gal 6:5; Rev 2:23; Rev 22:12; 9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building. 2Cor 6:1; Eph 2:20; Col 2:7; 1Pet 2:5; 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.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Isa 28:16; Matt 16:16-18; 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 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. Isa 8:20; Isa 48:10; Jer 23:29; 1Pet 1:7; 1Pet 4:12; 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. Mt. 25:14-24; 15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? Jn. 2:19-21; 1Cor 6:19; 2Cor 6:16; Heb 3:6; 1Pet 2:5; 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.
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. Prov 3:7; Isa 5:21; Mt. 11:25; Acts 20:19; 1Cor. 4:10; 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. Job 5:13; 20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Ps 94:11; Lk. 16:15;
21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23 And ye are Christ's; and Christ [is] God's. Mt. 23:8; TOC
1 Corinthians 3 - Because of the carnal, divided state of the people at Corinth, the apostle was obliged to treat them as children in the knowledge of sacred things, 1Co. 3:1-3. Some were for setting up Paul, others Apollos, as their sole teachers, 1Co. 3:4. The apostle shows that himself and fellow apostles were only instruments which God used to bring them to the knowledge of the truth; and even their sowing, and watering the seed was of no use unless God gave the increase, 1Co. 3:5-8. The Church represented as God’s husbandry, and as God’s building, the foundation of which is Christ Jesus, 1Co. 3:9-11. Ministers must beware how and what they build on this foundation, 1Co. 3:12-15. The Church of God is his temple, and he that defiles it shall be destroyed, 1Co. 3:16, 1Co. 3:17. No man should depend on his own wisdom; for the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, 1Co. 3:18-20. None should glory in man as his teacher; God gives his followers every good, both for time and eternity, 1Co. 3:21-23. — Clarke
1 Corinthians 3 -
In this chapter the apostle, I. Blames the Corinthians for their carnality and divisions (1Co. 3:1-4). II. He instructs them how what was amiss among them might be rectified, by remembering, 1. That their ministers were no more than ministers (1Co. 3:5). 2. That they were unanimous, and carried on the same design (1Co. 3:6-10). 3. That they built on one and the same foundation (1Co. 3:11-15). III. He exhorts them to give due honour to their bodies, by keeping them pure (1Co. 3:16, 1Co. 3:17), and to humility and self-diffidence (1Co. 3:18-21). IV. And dehorts them from glorying in particular ministers, because of the equal interest they had in all (1Co. 3:22 to the end). — Henry
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. — MHCC
Here, I. Paul blames the Corinthians for their weakness and nonproficiency. Those who are sanctified are so only in part: there is still room for growth and increase both in grace and knowledge, 2Pe. 3:18. Those who through divine grace are renewed to a spiritual life may yet in many things be defective. The apostle tells them he could not speak to them as unto spiritual men, but as unto carnal men, as to babes in Christ, 1Co. 3:1. They were so far from forming their maxims and measures upon the ground of divine revelation, and entering into the spirit of the gospel, that is was but too evident they were much under the command of carnal and corrupt affections. They were still mere babes in Christ. They had received some of the first principles of Christianity, but had not grown up to maturity of understanding in them, or of faith and holiness; and yet it is plain, from several passages in this epistle, that the Corinthians were very proud of their wisdom and knowledge. Note, It is but too common for persons of very moderate knowledge and understanding to have a great measure of self-conceit. The apostle assigns their little proficiency in the knowledge of Christianity as a reason why he had communicated no more of the deep things of it to them. They could not bear such food, they needed to be fed with milk, not with meat, 1Co. 3:2. Note, It is the duty of a faithful minister of Christ to consult the capacities of his hearers and teach them as they can bear. And yet it is natural for babes to grow up to men; and babes in Christ should endeavour to grow in Stature, and become men in Christ. It is expected that their advances in knowledge should be in proportion to their means and opportunities, and their time of professing religion, that they may be able to bear discourses on the mysteries of our religion, and not always rest in plain things. It was a reproach to the Corinthians that they had so long sat under the ministry of Paul and had made no more improvement in Christian knowledge. Note, Christians are utterly to blame who do not endeavour to grow in grace and knowledge.
II. He blames them for their carnality, and mentions their contention and discord about their ministers as evidence of it: For you are yet carnal; for whereas there are among you envyings, and strifes, and divisions, are you not carnal, and walk as men? 1Co. 3:3. They had mutual emulations, and quarrels, and factions among them, upon the account of their ministers, while one said, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos, 1Co. 3:4. These were proofs of their being carnal, that fleshly interests and affections too much swayed them. Note, Contentions and quarrels about religion are sad evidences of remaining carnality. True religion makes men peaceable and not contentious. Factious spirits act upon human principles, not upon principles of true religion; they are guided by their own pride and passions, and not by the rules of Christianity: Do you not walk as men? Note, It is to be lamented that many who should walk as Christians, that is, above the common rate of men, do indeed walk as men, live and act too much like other men.
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, 1Co. 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, 1Co. 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, 1Co. 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 (1Co. 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, sunergoi - co-workers, fellow-labourers (1Co. 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, 1Co. 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.
Here the apostle informs us what foundation he had laid at the bottom of all his labours among them - even Jesus Christ, the chief corner-stone, Eph. 2:20. Upon this foundation all the faithful ministers of Christ build. Upon this rock all the Christians found their hopes. Those that build their hopes of heaven on any other foundation build upon the sand. Other foundation can no man lay besides what is laid - even Jesus Christ. Note, The doctrine of our Saviour and his mediation is the principal doctrine of Christianity. It lies at the bottom, and is the foundation, of all the rest. Leave out this, and you lay waste all our comforts, and leave no foundation for our hopes as sinners. It is in Christ only that God is reconciling a sinful world to himself, 2Co. 5:19. But of those that hold the foundation, and embrace the general doctrine of Christ's being the mediator between God and man, there are two sorts: -
I. Some build upon this foundation gold, silver, and precious stones (1Co. 3:12), namely, those who receive and propagate the pure truths of the gospel, who hold nothing but the truth as it is in Jesus, and preach nothing else. This is building well upon a good foundation, making all of apiece, when ministers not only depend upon Christ as the great prophet of the church, and take him for their guide and infallible teacher, but receive and spread the doctrines he taught, in their purity, without any corrupt mixtures, without adding or diminishing.
II. Others build wood, hay, and stubble, on this foundation; that is, though they adhere to the foundation, they depart from the mind of Christ in many particulars, substitute their own fancies and inventions in the room of his doctrines and institutions, and build upon the good foundation what will not abide the test when the day of trial shall come, and the fire must make it manifest, as wood, hay, and stubble, will not bear the trial by fire, but must be consumed in it. There is a time coming when a discovery will be made of what men have built on this foundation: Every man's work shall be made manifest, shall be laid open to view, to his own view and that of others. Some may, in the simplicity of their hearts, build wood and stubble on the good foundation, and know not, all the while, what they have been doing; but in the day of the Lord their own conduct shall appear to them in its proper light. Every man's work shall be made manifest to himself, and made manifest to others, both those that have been misled by him and those that have escaped his errors. Now we may be mistaken in ourselves and others; but there is a day coming that will cure all our mistakes, and show us ourselves, and show us our actions in the true light, without covering or disguise: For the day shall declare it (that is, every man's work), because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is, 1Co. 3:13. The day shall declare and make it manifest, the last day, the great day of trial; see 1Co. 4:5. Though some understand it of the time when the Jewish nation was destroyed and their constitution thereby abolished, when the superstructure which judaizing teachers would have raised on the Christian foundation was manifested to be no better than hay and stubble, that would not bear the trial. The expression carries in it a plain allusion to the refiner's art, in which the fire separates and distinguishes the dross from the gold and silver; as it also will silver and gold and precious stones, that will endure the fire, from wood and hay and stubble, that will be consumed in it. Note, There is a day coming that will as nicely distinguish one man from another, and one man's work from another's, as the fire distinguishes gold from dross, or metal that will bear the fire from other materials that will be consumed in it. In that day, 1. Some men's works will abide the trial - will be found standard. It will appear that they not only held the foundation, but that they built regularly and well upon it - that they laid on proper materials, and in due form and order. The foundation and the superstructure were all of a piece. The foundation-truths, and those that had a manifest connection with them, were taught together. It may not be so easy to discern this connection now, nor know what works will abide the trial then; but that day will make a full discovery. And such a builder shall not, cannot fail of a reward. He will have praise and honour in that day, and eternal recompence after it. Note, Fidelity in the ministers of Christ will meet with a full and ample reward in a future life. Those who spread true and pure religion in all the branches of it, and whose work will abide in the great day, shall receive a reward. And, Lord, how great! how much exceeding their deserts! 2. There are others whose works shall be burnt (1Co. 3:15), whose corrupt opinions and doctrines, or vain inventions and usages in the worship of God, shall be discovered, disowned, and rejected, in that day - shall be first manifested to be corrupt, and then disapproved of God and rejected. Note, The great day will pluck off all disguises, and make things appear as they are: He whose work shall be burnt will suffer loss. If he have built upon the right foundation wood and hay and stubble, he will suffer loss. His weakness and corruption will be the lessening of his glory, though he may in the general have been an honest and an upright Christian. This part of his work will be lost, turning no way to his advantage, though he himself may be saved. Observe, Those who hold the foundation of Christianity, though they build hay, wood, and stubble, upon it, may be saved. This may help to enlarge our charity. We should not reprobate men for their weakness: for nothing will damn men but wickedness. He shall be saved, yet so as by fire, saved out of the fire. He himself shall be snatched out of that flame which will consume his work. This intimates that it will be difficult for those that corrupt and deprave Christianity to be saved. God will have no mercy on their works, though he may pluck them as brands out of the burning. On this passage of scripture the papists found their doctrine of purgatory, which is certainly hay and stubble: a doctrine never originally fetched from scripture, but invented in barbarous ages, to feed the avarice and ambition of the clergy, at the cost of those who would rather part with their money than their lusts, for the salvation of their souls. It can have no countenance from this text, (1.) Because this is plainly meant of a figurative fire, not of a real one: for what real fire can consume religious rites or doctrines? (2.) Because this fire is to try men's works, of what sort they are; but purgatory-fire is not for trial, not to bring men's actions to the test, but to punish for them. They are supposed to be venial sins, not satisfied for in this life, for which satisfaction must be made by suffering the fire of purgatory. (3.) Because this fire is to try every man's works, those of Paul and Apollos, as well as those of others. Now, no papists will have the front to say apostles must have passed through purgatory fires.
Here the apostle resumes his argument and exhortation, founding it on his former allusion, You are God's building, 1Co. 3:9, and here, Know you not that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile (corrupt and destroy) the temple of God, him shall God destroy (the same word is in the original in both clauses); for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. It looks from other parts of the epistle, where the apostle argues to the very same purport (see 1Co. 6:13-20), as if the false teachers among the Corinthians were not only loose livers, but taught licentious doctrines, and what was particularly fitted to the taste of this lewd city, on the head of fornication. Such doctrine was not to be reckoned among hay and stubble, which would be consumed while the person who laid them on the foundation escaped the burning; for it tended to corrupt, to pollute, and destroy the church, which was a building erected for God, and consecrated to him, and therefore should be kept pure and holy. Those who spread principles of this sort would provoke God to destroy them. Note, Those who spread loose principles, that have a direct tendency to pollute the church of God, and render it unholy and unclean, are likely to bring destruction on themselves. It may be understood also as an argument against their discord and factious strifes, division being the way to destruction. But what I have been mentioning seems to be the proper meaning of the passage: Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? It may be understood of the church of Corinth collectively, or of every single believer among them; Christian churches are temples of God. He dwells among them by his Holy Spirit. They are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit, Eph. 2:22. Every Christian is a living temple of the living God. God dwelt in the Jewish temple, took possession of it, and resided in it, by that glorious cloud that was the token of his presence with that people. So Christ by his Spirit dwells in all true believers. The temple was devoted and consecrated to God, and set apart from every common to a holy use, to the immediate service of God. So all Christians are separated from common uses, and set apart for God and his service. They are sacred to him - a very good argument this against all fleshly lusts, and all doctrines that give countenance to them. If we are the temples of God, we must do nothing that shall alienate ourselves from him, or corrupt and pollute ourselves, and thereby unfit ourselves for his use; and we must hearken to no doctrine nor doctor that would seduce us to any such practices. Note, Christians are holy by profession, and should be pure and clean both in heart and conversation. We should heartily abhor, and carefully avoid, what will defile God's temple, and prostitute what ought to be sacred to him.
Here he prescribes humility, and a modest opinion of themselves, for the remedy of the irregularities in the church of Corinth, the divisions and contests among them: “Let no man deceive himself, 1Co. 3:18. Do not be led away from the truth and simplicity of the gospel by pretenders to science and eloquence, by a show of deep learning, or a flourish of words, by rabbis, orators, or philosophers.” Note, We are in great danger of deceiving ourselves when we have too high an opinion of human wisdom and arts; plain and pure Christianity will be likely to be despised by those who can suit their doctrines to the corrupt taste of their hearers, and set them off with fine language, or support them with a show of deep and strong reasoning. But he who seems to be wise must become a fool that he may be wise. He must be sensible of his own ignorance, and lament it; he must distrust his own understanding, and not lean on it. To have a high opinion of our wisdom is but to flatter ourselves, and self-flattery is the very next step to self-deceit. The way to true wisdom is to sink our opinion of our own to a due level, and be willing to be taught of God. He must become a fool who would be truly and thoroughly wise. The person who resigns his own understanding, that he may follow the instruction of God, is in the way to true and everlasting wisdom. The meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way, Psa. 25:9. He that has a low opinion of his own knowledge and powers will submit to better information; such a person may be informed and improved by revelation: but the proud man, conceited of his own wisdom and understanding, will undertake to correct even divine wisdom itself, and prefer his own shallow reasonings to the revelations of infallible truth and wisdom. Note, We must abase ourselves before God if we would be either truly wise or good: For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, 1Co. 3:19. The wisdom which worldly men esteem (policy, philosophy, oratory) is foolishness with God. It is so in a way of comparison with his wisdom. He chargeth his angels with folly (Job. 4:18), and much more the wisest among the children of men. His understanding is infinite, Psa. 147:5. There can be no more comparison between his wisdom and ours than between his power and being and ours. There is no common measure by which to compare finite and infinite. And much more is the wisdom of man foolishness with God when set in competition with his. How justly does he despise, how easily can he baffle and confound it! He taketh the wise in their own craftiness (Job. 5:13), he catches them in their own nets, and entangles them in their own snares: he turns their most studies, plausible, and promising schemes against themselves, and ruins them by their own contrivance. Nay, He knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain (1Co. 3:20), that they are vanity, Psa. 94:11. Note, God has a perfect knowledge of the thoughts of men, the deepest thoughts of the wisest men, their most secret counsels and purposes: nothing is hidden from him, but all things are naked and bare before him, Heb. 4:13. And he knows them to be vanity. The thoughts of the wisest men in the world have a great mixture of vanity, of weakness and folly, in them; and before God their wisest and best thoughts are very vanity, compared, I mean, with his thoughts of things. And should not all this teach us modesty, diffidence in ourselves, and a deference to the wisdom of God, make us thankful for his revelations, and willing to be taught of God, and not be led away by specious pretences to human wisdom and skill, from the simplicity of Christ, or a regard to his heavenly doctrine? Note, He who would be wise indeed must learn of God, and not set his own wisdom up in competition with God's.
Here the apostle founds an exhortation against over-valuing their teachers on what he had just said, and on the consideration that they had an equal interest in all their ministers: Therefore let no man glory in men (1Co. 3:21) - forget that their ministers are men, or pay that deference to them that is due only to God, set them at the head of parties, have them in immoderate esteem and admiration, and servilely and implicitly follow their directions and submit to their dictates, and especially in contradiction to God and the truths taught by his Holy Spirit. Mankind are very apt to make the mercies of God cross their intentions. The ministry is a very useful and very gracious institution, and faithful ministers are a great blessing to any people; yet the folly and weakness of people may do much mischief by what is in itself a blessing. They may fall into factions, side with particular ministers, and set them at their head, glory in their leaders, and be carried by them they know not whither. The only way to avoid this mischief is to have a modest opinion of ourselves, a due sense of the common weakness of human understanding, and an entire deference to the wisdom of God speaking in his word. Ministers are not to be set up in competition with one another. All faithful ministers are serving one Lord and pursuing one purpose. They were appointed of Christ, for the common benefit of the church: “Paul, and Apollos, and Cephas, are all yours. One is not to be set up against another, but all are to be valued and used for your own spiritual benefit.” Upon this occasion also he gives in an inventory of the church's possessions, the spiritual riches of a true believer: “All is yours - ministers of all ranks, ordinary and extraordinary. Nay the world itself is yours.” Not that saints are proprietors of the world, but it stands for their sake, they have as much of it as Infinite Wisdom sees to be fit for them, and they have all they have with the divine blessing. “Life is yours, that you may have 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 that will fetch you to your Father's house. Things present are yours, for your support on the road; things to come are yours, to enrich and regale you for ever at your journey's end.” Note, If we belong to Christ, and are true to him, all good belongs to us, and is sure to us. All is ours, time and eternity, earth and heaven, life and death. We shall want no good thing, Psa. 84:11. But it must be remembered, at the same time, that we are Christ's, the subjects of his kingdom, his property. He is Lord over us, and we must own his dominion, and cheerfully submit to his command and yield themselves to his pleasure, if we would have all things minister to our advantage. All things are ours, upon no other ground than our being Christ's. Out of him we are without just title or claim to any thing that is good. Note, Those that would be safe for time, and happy to eternity, must be Christ's. And Christ is God's. He is the Christ of God, anointed of God, and commissioned by him, to bear the office of a Mediator, and to act therein for the purposes of his glory. Note, All things are the believer's, that Christ might have honour in his great undertaking, and God in all might have the glory. God in Christ reconciling a sinful world to himself, and shedding abroad the riches of his grace on a reconciled world, is the sum and substance of the gospel. — Henry
1Cor. 3:15: Roman Catholics often invoke this text in seeking to support purgatory, yet even the note in their own official NAB Bible states, “The text of 1 Cor 3:15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this.” [Note: place mouse cursor over Scripture refernces to view.]
The first reason given for purgatory is that believers must become good enough to enter Heaven and be with the Lord, for if they are yet "imperfectly purified," then "after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." (CCC 1030) This salvation process flows from the foundational error of Rome that teaches that God justifies the believer by actually making him holy enough for Heaven through regeneration effected by baptism (even if the souls canot repent and believe as God requires for baptism: Acts 2:38; 8:36,37). Thus if one fails to have that perfect moral condition at death, then they must go through suffering in purgatory to obtain it.
However, the believer is already already accepted in the beloved and spiritually made to sit together with Christ in the heavenly realm, (Eph. 1:6; 2:6) and has direct access into the very holy of holies by the sinless shed blood of the Lord Jesus, (Heb. 10:19) and thus to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, (Phil. 1:34; 2Cor. 5:8) and freed from this carnal "body of death" Paul wanted to shed, (Rm. 7:24) to realize the full holiness they desired.
The second reason Rome invokes for purgatory is that believers must also atone for sins which the believer was not sufficiently chastised for in this life to compensate for them, and thus Rome teaches that such must atone these sins "in the life beyond through fire and torments or purifying' punishments." (Indulgentiarum Doctrina; cp. 1. 1967)
However, the only postmortem suffering of believers the Scripture manifestly teaches is that of the Lord's displeasure (grievous for sure) and loss of rewards based upon the manner of workmanship they built the church with, but which one is saved despite of, not because of. (1Cor. 3:8-15ff) And which judgment takes place at the Lord's return, not commencing at death. This is expanded upon below.
The overall context of chapters 3-5 is what manner of men the Corinthians were following and building His church with, and the Corinthians were, like as Rome promotes, thinking of instruments of God “above what it written” (1Cor. 4:6, and “written” almost always refers to Scripture), and also counting manifestly gross sinners as members, which Paul proceeds to chasten them for. (1Cor. 5) Seeing as the fire of 1 Cor. 3 would exclude such, so were they to exclude such now. (1Cor. 5:11-13)
The judgment of 1 Cor. 3:15 will reveal what manner of workmanship they were building church with, for “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire,” and while saving faith is one that characteristically walks in the obedience of faith, (Heb. 5:9) believers may suffer loss of rewards due to their manner of workmanship.
The fire is not about making expiation for sin and or being personally purified (likely for an extended time) upon departing from this life as per the doctrine of purgatory, but instead this judgment is when the Lord returns (see below), and the fire consumes the false building material - with the believer being saved despite this burning, not because of it - and the suffering is the consequential suffering of loss of rewards (1Cor. 3:15) and thus the Lord's disapproval for building the church with bad material, versus stones like Peter who efectually confessed the Lord Jesus.
The fire burns up the fake stones, which like the tares of Mt. 13:40 at the end, are represented here as wood, hay or stubble, while the precious stones with fire-tried faith (1Pt. 1:7) endure, and gain rewards for the instruments of their faithfulness. Thus Paul says to the Thessalonians, "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? " (1 Thess. 2:19; cf. Rv. 3:11) And to the Corinthians, “we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 2Cor. 1:14) And to the Philippians, that being “my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” (Phil. 4:1)
And which texts and others also reveal that the judgment of believers which 1 Cor. 3 describes only takes place at His return, (1Cor. 4:5; 2Tim. 4:1,8; Rev.11:18; Mt. 25:31-46; 1Pt. 1:7; 5:4) versus purgatory, which has souls suffering upon death. This fact alone disallows 1 Cor. 3 from referring to purgatory. [Going further into eschatology, the Bible most apparently teaches that the resurrected/raptured saints (who have part in the first resurrection - the resurrection of life:” Jn. 5:29a; Rev. 20:6,7,14) will return with the LORD from Heaven to execute judgment, and to reign with with Him for the 1,000 year millennium. (Rv. 2:27; 19:15; 20:6 - and during which the Jews shall be tested): “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 1:14-15; cf. Mal. 3:18; Mt 16:27; 19:28; Mt 24:30,31; 25:31; Lk. 22:20; 2Th 1:7,8; Re 1:7; 5:10; 19:6-20; 20:4) “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Mt. 13:43) And as stars differs from one another in glory, (1Cor. 15:41) it is not unreasonable to suppose that in eternity some saints might shine brighter than another, depending upon how single their eye was on earth, (Mt. 6:22) and how they responded to the light and grace they received. (Lk. 12:48)]
Nowhere does Scripture tell of believers being in a place of suffering for a time commencing at death, but while the tormented postmortem state of the lost is clear, in accordance with accountability, and relevant to grace given, (Lk. 10:12-14; 12:48; Rv. 20:11-15) the only clear references to the postmortem place elect souls go to refers to them being with the Lord.
Not only did the penitent criminal go to "paradise" (Lk. 23:43; cf. 2Cor. 12:4; Rv. 2:7) as did Stephen, (Acts 7:59) but so would Paul and co. be with the Lord once absent from the body (Phil. 1:23,24) - even though Paul told the Philippians that was he not “already perfect.” (Phil. 3:12).Likewise he stated to the Corinthians, "We [plural] are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8) and so would every resurrected Corinthian believer (1Cor. 15:51ff) or Thessalonian if the Lord returned in their lifetime, “to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1Thess. 4:17) - even though in the former case at least believers were in need of greater purification. (2Cor. 7:1)
But whom Rome would send to purgatory. Faced with the fact that the only texts which clearly speak of the believers postmortem or post-earth existence show it to be with the Lord, the RC must engage in special pleading (the "good thief" somehow became good enough on the cross to enter Heaven directly while others can take centuries), and forcing texts which speak of chastisement in this life, or which speak of the lost, as referring to the postmortem existence of believers.
Like religions in general and as under the Law, final salvation according to Rome is that of actually becoming Good enough by one's own holiness to be with God, except that it claims this is by grace, while denying the grace that purifies hearts of believers and spiritually places them in Heaven upon believing, and with direct access into the very holy of holies by the sinless shed blood of the Lord Jesus, and thus to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and freed from this carnal body of death, to realize the full holiness they desired.
In addition, Paul describes the passing from this life as being “clothed upon with our house which is from heaven,” to be with the Lord, which is something to earnestly be desired, and is in contrast to our groaning on earth. (2Cor. 5:1-4)
Furthermore, Scripture only reveals growth in grace and overcoming as being realized in this world, with its temptations and trials, (1 Peter 1:6-7; 1Jn.2:14; 5:4,5; Rv. 2.7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21) where alternatives to submitting to God can be made (suffering itself does not make one mature) and thus it was here that the Lord Himself was made “perfect,” (Heb. 2:10) as in being “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)
Thus what Scripture teaches is that it is on earth that testing and overcoming takes place, and that the elect go to be with the Lord upon death, or at His return, whichever comes first, and then they are judged as to the manner of works, reflecting their faith, and rewarded or suffer loss of rewards.
While perfection of character in this life. Mt 5:48 is invoked in support of this perfection being needed to be with God (which in context refers to treating your enemy benevolently), yet this does not teach that the achievement of absolute moral perfection in this life is a perquisite for salvation, which idea requires redefining salvation as to mean progressing to a state of being just enough by moral perfection to be with the Lord, and that being absent from the body means present in purgatory, not with the Lord, contrary to what is expressly stated. And which is akin to placing one under the Law, (Gal. 3:10) versus justification by imputed righteousness (justfying the unGodly by faith: Rm. 4:5) appropriated by a faith,, but a faith which effects holiness.
For while salvific faith is one which characteristically effects the “obedience of faith” toward its Object (which faith in any moral authority will do), and which is an overcoming kind of faith, (Rv. 2,3), and grows towards the maturity which is called perfection, (Col. 1:28; 4:12; Ja. 1:4; 3:2; 1Jn. 4:17) and which faith has “great recompense of reward,” (Heb. 10:35), yet Scripture states that believers (being of true faith) are presently saved (Titus 3:5), and positionally perfect (Heb. 10:14) and seated in Heaven. (Eph. 2:6) And thus Christ can dwell with them now - "Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27) - and as shown, they can and will go to be with the Lord at death, or at the Lord's return.
Thus while salvific faith is a faith characterized by following Jesus, (Jn. 10:27,28) a postmortem further refinement of character is not necessary for believers of true faith to eternal life, nor it such provided. The soul who is saved is one who choses light over darkness and so comes to Christ, (Jn. 3:19-21) and who responds to conviction of sin by repentance, (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 1Thes. 1:9; 2Cor. 7:10,11) who therefore rest upon Christ and His blood for salvation, (Rm. 3:25; 4:5) but whose faith requires him to be one who “hateth his life in this world” (Jn. 12:25) in preference to serving the Lord whose kingdom is not of this world, (Jn. 18:36) and to repent when convicted of not being so, as he seeks to serve his LORD, (Mk. 8:35) including sharing the faith, following the Lord with others of such faith. (1Thes. 1:2-8) And seeking to be approved of Christ as He will judge and recompense all, (2Cor. 5:7-11) and who by patience and faith endure persecutions and tribulations because of his faith, as well as chastisement needed for holiness. (Heb. 12:7-9; 1Cor. 11:32) And who wants to be free from the power of sin, (Rm. 7:24) and be like His LORD, and be changed from his vile body to be clothed upon with his new body from heaven, (2Cor. 5:2) and who looks forward to the coming of Christ, (1Thes. 1:10) who shall be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe. (2Thes. 1:10)
Therefore, while one may claim salvation and yet hate his brother, the faith that saves is one that characteristically walks on the narrow path of righteousness in love for God and others, (1Jn. 3:10-17; 4:11,19-21; 5:13); and confesss sin and repents when convicted of doing otherwise. (1Jn. 1:7-9; Ps. 32:5; 34:18; 2Cor. 7:8-11; James 5:16)
And as the sinful nature will not enter glory, and those who do enter glory are those who want to be freed from that, having fought it during their voyage on earth, and once they are freed from that weight, I do not think they would sin even if they could. And again, while the need for purgatory is argued on the basis that repentance on earth can require restitution, God can count the heart to do so as the deed.
Those who lack characteristic practical holiness in the obedience of faith, which (like David) includes repentance when convicted of sin, (1Jn. 1:7-9) but who assent to a different gospel (such as based upon morally earning it: Gal. 5:1-4) or who deny the faith (1Tim. 5:8) by knowingly continuing impenitently in sin, departing from the living God, (Heb. 3:6,12,14; 10:25-39) evidence they have rejected true faith (or never had it) and will be lost if they die in that state, and not go to purgatory.
And again, while there are consequences for sin for believers, and there will be postmortem accountability for how a believer lived his life, (Rm. 14:10-12; 2Cor. 5:10) yet 1 Cor. 3 reveals the only postmortem suffering of the saints, which is that of the loss of rewards, and which would also be the realizing the Lord's disapproval. And meeting the Lord's disapproval will not be a light thing, part of which I surmise will be the grief at realizing how much our lack in “the obedience of faith” cost souls and robbed God of the glory we and they could have given to their sacrificial Lord and Savior.
None of this involves purgatory, which is primarily based upon traditions of men, and perpetuates one erroneous view among others. And which can only find support by extrapolating their ideas of a postmortem period of purification out of some ambiguous texts. They also fail of the required “unanimous consent of the fathers,” who had some various disparate views, and which is why the Eastern Orthodox reject the purgatory of Roman Catholicism, though they, like it, are a church and tradition-based faith.
1Cor. 4:21: As in 1Cor. 1:34 and 3Jn. 1:14; these words of Christ's earthly ambassadors relating to their visit can be applied the coming of the LORD from Heaven.
See New Testament Table of Contents, and please read the Introductory Notes here.