Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 3

Edwards' Family Bible New TestamentFamily Bible NT

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Verse 1

Spiritual ; advanced in spiritual knowledge, and prepared to understand and profit by the higher and more difficult truths of the gospel.

Carnal ; having little religious knowledge or spiritual discernment; being still much under the influence of evil. Christians when first converted are indeed born of God, and are in some measure like him, but they are infants, not men, in the divine life. They need such instructions as are suited to those who are young, feeble, and but just beginning spiritually to live.

Verse 2

Milk ; the plain, simple truths of the gospel; such as are adapted to those who are young and inexperienced in religion.

Meat ; truths suited to those who have made greater progress in divine things.

Not able ; not able rightly to apprehend and usefully to apply the more difficult parts of divine truth.

Verse 3

Carnal , and walk as men ; selfish and worldly in their feelings and conduct.

Verse 4

I am of Paul-I am of Apollos ; their division into parties and their violent contentions showed that they were still narrow in their views, and carnal in their feelings. Young Christians are exposed to be self-confident-to be influenced by feeling rather than judgment-to glory in men, and follow human leaders; not duly considering that they may be very zealous and earnest in efforts to increase the number and strength of their sect or party, and yet be far from that unity of spirit with Christ and his people which he requires.

Verse 5

Ministers ; servants of Christ engaged in one common work, and not designed to be heads of different parties. Their object then was to convert men, not to themselves, but to Christ.

Verse 6

I have planted ; Paul first preached the gospel to the Corinthians and gathered the church.

Apollos watered ; he came after Paul and further instructed the people.

God gave the increase ; all the success of both was from God.

Verse 7

He that planteth-he that watereth ; preachers of the gospel are not the cause, but, under God, the instruments of their success.

Verse 8

Are one ; they are engaged in one work, and for the promotion of one end, the glory of God, in the salvation of men. It is not proper, then, that they should be set up as the heads of different parties.

Shall receive ; from Christ, not from man.

His own reward according to his own labor ; the common Master of all will apportion to each his just reward, so that invidious comparisons between the different servants of Christ on the part of their fellow-Christians are entirely out of place. Ministers of Christ who are engaged in his work, are not laboring to attach men to themselves or to any human leader, but to Jesus Christ. They are all equally his servants, doing his work. And though their labor may be as needful to the salvation of men as is that of husbandmen in order to a harvest, yet their success is from God, and to him belongs the glory.

Verse 9

Laborers together with God ; he as the cause, we as the instruments.

Husbandry-building ; the church is here compared to a cultivated field, in which husbandmen labor and God causes things to grow; and also to a building, on which he gives artisans strength to labor, and crowns their labor with his blessing.

Verse 10

I have laid the foundation ; Paul first preached to the Corinthians Christ crucified, an atoning sacrifice for sin, as the only and all-sufficient foundation for human hope; and gathered such as appeared to believe on him into the church.

Another buildeth ; others afterwards preached to them, and admitted to their number such as professed to be converted.

Take heed ; let them be careful as to what doctrines they preach, and what practices they encourage; and see that both are according to the revealed will of God.

Verse 11

Jesus Christ ; he is the only sure foundation of human hope; and his true church is composed of such, and such only, as trust in him. Isaiah 28:16 ; Matthew 21:42 ; Acts 4:11 ; Eph 2:20 ; 2 Timothy 2:19 ; 1 Peter 2:6 . The only foundation of the true church is Jesus Christ; and none belong to it except those who believe on him. Others may have an outward connection as members, but they have no saving union with the Head. They are dead members, who will be cut off-dry branches, which bear no fruit, and will be taken away. John 15:2 .

Verse 12

Gold , silver , precious stones ; if he preach the pure truths of God, from love to him and in humble dependence on his grace, and thus build up the church.

Wood , hay , stubble ; if he preach error, or the speculations of men.

Verse 13

Made manifest ; shown to be what it really is.

The day ; the day of judgment will make it known.

Revealed by fire ; as fire shows the difference between gold and wood, or silver and stubble, so the day of judgment will show the difference between the works of different men. A day is coming when every man’s character and work will be tried. Those who have attempted to build a church on Peter or Paul, or any mere creature, or who are trusting for salvation to any outward connection with the church, without being justified by faith in Christ and governed by love to him, will be disappointed and condemned.

Verse 14

If any man’s work abide ; if his preaching and practice are approved, he shall receive a reward ; a reward of grace.

Verse 15

If any man’s work shall be burned ; if it be condemned as wrong, though he himself believed and is pardoned, he shall suffer loss ; he shall lose his labor, and much of the good which might have resulted from a different and better course of conduct.

He himself shall be saved ; yet so as by fire ; as he who escapes naked from his house on fire, is saved from being consumed, but suffers loss.

Verse 16

Ye are the temple of God ; elsewhere the apostle calls the bodies of individual believers the temples of the Holy Ghost, chap 1 Corinthians 6:19 . Compare Isaiah 57:15 ; Isaiah 66:1-2 . But here, as in Ephesians 2:20-22 ; 1 Peter 2:5 ; he has reference to the church of Christ, which is "God’s building." Each true member, quickened by God’s Spirit, is a living stone, and all united form a living temple, in which He dwells in a much higher and fuller sense than He dwelt in his temple of old.

Verse 17

Defile-destroy ; these two words are in the original the same. If by false doctrine or unholy practice any one should defile, and thus exert his influence to destroy the church or any of its members, he would incur great guilt, and expose himself to aggravated ruin.

Holy ; set apart and devoted to the service of God.

Verse 18

Deceive himself ; by a vain idea of his superior wisdom. Addressed especially to those who sought preeminence as leaders.

Seemeth to be wise ; seemeth in his own eyes, thinks himself wise.

Become a fool ; let him consent to be esteemed a fool by the men of the world-let him renounce dependence on that worldly wisdom for which he now values himself, feel his need of divine guidance, and seek the teaching of the Holy Ghost; receiving as true what he declares, and doing as right what he commands.

Verse 19

The wisdom of this world ; that of which worldly men are proud, and in which they glory.

For it is written ; Job 5:12-13 .

Verse 20

Again ; Psalms 94:11 .

Verse 21

Therefore ; as the result of what has been said.

Glory in men ; by setting up one teacher above others as his leader.

All things are yours ; not one teacher alone, but all the teachers of the church with all their varied gifts. And not only they, but all things else, in the sense that God makes all things work together for your good. Romans 8:28 .

Verse 23

Ye are Christ’s ; all united in one body under Christ, who has redeemed you by his blood, and to whom alone ye belong, not to any human leader.

Christ is God’s ; sent by the Father to redeem men, and always acting in his name and for his glory. Thus the unity in God’s holy family is complete. Compare John 17:8 ; John 17:21-23 , which is the best commentary on these wonderful words.

Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.