Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 3

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Verse 1

1. ] κἀγώ , I also ; i.e. as well as the ψυχικός , was compelled to stand on this lower ground, he, because he cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God: I, because you could not receive them . Or perhaps better, with Stanley, ‘ καὶ ἐγώ , as in 1 Corinthians 2:1 , “What I have just been saying, was exemplified in our practice.” ’

σαρκίνοις is certainly the true reading, being, besides its manuscript authority, required by the sense. He was compelled to speak to them (this affirmative clause is to be supplied from the former negative one) as to men of flesh : not ὡς σαρκικοῖς , for that they really were , and he asserts them yet to be, 1 Corinthians 3:3 . I quite agree with Meyer (against De Wette) that the distinction between σάρκινοι and σαρκικοί is designed by the Apostle, and further regard it as implied in the very form of the sentences. Here, he says that he was compelled to speak to them as if they were only of flesh, as if they were babes , using in both cases the material comparison, and the particle of comparison ὡς . But in 1Co 3:3 he drops comparison, and asserts matter of fact ‘Are ye not still σαρκικοί (= ὡς σάρκινοι ), fleshly, carnal, living after the flesh, resisting the Spirit?’ q. d. ‘I was obliged to regard you as mere men of flesh , without the Spirit: and it is not far different even now: ye are yet fleshly ye retain the same character.’

Both the σάρκινοι , the mere men of the flesh, and the σαρκικοί , the carnally disposed, are included under the more general ψυχικοί , which therefore, as Meyer observes, is not here used, because this distinction was to be made.

ὡς νηπ . ἐν χρ .] The opposite term, τέλειοι ἐν χρ ., is found Colossians 1:28 , and in connexion with this, Hebrews 5:13-14 . Schöttgen (on 1Pe 2:2 ) and Lightfoot adduce the similar Rabbinical term תִּינוֹקוֹת , sugentes , used of novices in their schools. A recent proselyte also was regarded by them as a newborn infant.

He speaks of his first visit to Corinth, when they were recently admitted into the faith of Christ, and excuses his merely elementary teaching by the fact that they then required it. Not this , but their still requiring it , is adduced as matter of blame to them.

Verses 1-4

1 4. ] He could not speak to them in the perfect spiritual manner above described, seeing that they were carnal, and still remained so, as was shewn by their divisions .

Verses 1-23


Verse 2

2. ] See the same figure in Hebrews 5:12 . So also Philo de Agricult. § 2, vol. i. p. 301, ἐπεὶ δὲ νηπίοις μέν ἐστι γάλα τροφή , τελείοις δὲ τὰ ἐκ πυρῶν πέμματα , καὶ ψυχῆς γαλακτώδεις μὲν ἂν εἰεν τροφαὶ κατὰ τὴν παιδικὴν ἡλικίαν … τέλειαι δὲ καὶ ἀνδράσιν … Basil, Hom. i. p. 403, ed. Paris, 1638, cited by Meyer, explains, γάλα , τὴν εἰσαγωγικὴν κ . ἁπλουστέραν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου διδασκαλίαν : see also Hebrews 6:1 , τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ χριστοῦ λόγον .

On ἐπότισα … βρῶμα , Wetst. quotes νέκταρ τ ʼ ἀμβροσίην τε , τά περ θεοὶ αὐτοὶ ἔδουσι , Hes. Theogon. 640. See Hom. Il. θ . 546. Winer, edn. 6, § 66. 2. e.

οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε ] Either, for ye were not yet able (scil. βρῶμα ἐσθίειν ), or, for ye were not yet strong , δύναμαι being used absolutely, as in Demosth. 1187. 8, δυνάμενος τῷ τε πράττειν κ . τῷ εἰπεῖν , and 484. 25, τῶν πολιτευομένων τινὲς δυνηθέντες , and see other reff. in Meyer. In the former case, the ellipsis is harsh: the latter meaning seems preferable, though not found elsewhere in the N. T.

ἀλλ ʼ οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν , but neither even now … ; the οὔτε of the rec. is grammatically inadmissible, see Winer, edn. 6, § 55. 6.

Verse 3

3. ] On σαρκικοί , see above, 1 Corinthians 3:1 .

ὅπου , not = ἐπεί , but putting the assumption in a local form, see reff.

ζῆλος , emulation , in a bad sense; or as in reff., ‘ angry jealousy .’

κατὰ ἄνθρ ., see reff., according to the manner of (unrenewed and ungodly) man , = κατὰ σάρκα , Romans 8:4 ; see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 15:32 .

Verse 4

4. ] He names but two of the foregoing designations, ch. 1 Corinthians 1:12 ; intending, both there more fully, and here briefly, rather to give a sample of the sectarian spirit prevalent, than to describe, as matter of fact, any sects into which they were actually divided: see note there, and on ch. 1 Corinthians 4:6 . Meyer sees in the mention here of Paul and Apollos only, a reference to the two methods of teaching which have been treated of in this section: but as I have before said, the German Commentators are misled by too definite a view of the Corinthian parties.

ἄνθρωποι , i.e. walking κατὰ ἄνθρωπον , σαρκικοί .

Verse 5

5. ] οὖν follows on the assumption of the truth of the divided state of things among them: ‘ Who then ( What then ) …, seeing that ye exalt them into heads over you ?’ The question is not asked by an objector, but by Paul himself; when an objector is introduced, he notifies it, as ch. 1 Corinthians 15:35 ; Romans 9:19 .

ἐπιστεύσατε , as in reff.: ye became believers .

ἑκάστῳ ὡς , = ὡς ἔδωκ . ὁ κύρ . ἑκάστῳ , see reff. It refers, not to the teachers , but to the hearers , see below ὁ αὐξάνων θεός .

In the rec. text, the question is carried on to the end of the verse by ἀλλ ʼ ἤ , which is good Greek for ‘nisi,’ ‘præterquam,’ so οὐδὲ χρησόμεθα ἐξηγητῇ ἀλλ ʼ ἢ τῷ πατρῴῳ , Plato, Rep. p. 427, see Hartung, Partikellehre, ii. 44, but seems to have been inserted from not observing the form of the sentence.

Verses 5-15

5 15. ] He takes occasion, by example of himself and Apollos, to explain to them the true place and office of Christian teachers: that they are in themselves nothing ( 1Co 3:5-8 ), but work for God ( 1Co 3:9-10 ), each in his peculiar department (1 Corinthians 3:10 ; cf. 1Co 3:6 ), each requiring serious care as to the manner of his working, seeing that a searching trial of its worth will be made in the day of the Lord ( 1Co 3:10-15 ).

Verse 6

6. ] The similitude is to a tilled field ( γεώργιον , 1Co 3:9 ): the plants are the Corinthians, as members of Christ, vines bearing fruit: these do not yet appear in the construction: so that I prefer, with De Wette, supplying nothing after ἐφύτευσα and ἐπότισεν , regarding merely the acts themselves , as in E. V. If any thing be supplied, it must be ὑμᾶς , which would but ill fit 1 Corinthians 3:7 .

Apollos was sent over to Corinth after Paul had left it ( Act 18:27 ), at his own request, and remained there preaching during Paul’s journey through Upper Asia (ib. Act 19:1 ).

Verse 7

7. ] ἐστίν τι , either ‘ is any thing to the purpose ,’ as in λέγειν τι , &c., or absol. is any thing : which latter is best: compare εἰ καὶ οὐδέν εἰμι , 2 Corinthians 12:11 .

ἀλλ ʼ ὁ αὐξ . θεός , scil. τὰ πάντα ἐστί , to be supplied from the negative clauses preceding. Theophylact remarks: ὅρα πῶς ἀνεπαχθῆ ποιεῖ τὴν ἐξουδένωσιν τῶν προεστώτων ἐν Κορίνθῳ σοφῶν κ . πλουσίων , ἑαυτὸν κ . Ἀπολλὼ κατὰ τὸ φαινόμενον ἐξουδενώσας , κ . διδάξας , ὅτι θεῷ δεῖ μόνῳ προσέχειν , κ . εἰς αὐτὸν ἀνατιθέναι πάντα τὰ συμβαίνοντα ἀγαθά .

Verse 8

8. ] ἕν , in the nature of their ministry, generically, κατὰ τὴν ὑπουργίαν · ἀμφότεραι γὰρ τῷ θείῳ διακονοῦσι βουλήματι . Theodoret.

ἕκαστος δὲ ] Here he introduces a new element the separate responsibility of each minister for the results of his own labour, so that, though κατὰ τὴν ὑπουργίαν they are one , κατὰ τὸ ἔργον (ib.) they are diverse . The stress is twice on ἴδιον .

Verse 9

9. ] Proof of the last assertion, and introduction of Him , from Whom each λήμψεται . The stress thrice on θεοῦ : shall receive , &c., for it is of GOD that we are the fellow-workers (in subordination to Him , as is of course implied: but to render it ‘fellow-workers with one another , under God,’ as Estius prefers, and Olsh., al., maintain, is contrary to usage: see reff.; and not at all required, see 2 Corinthians 5:20 ; 2Co 6:1 ), of GOD that ye are the tillage, of GOD that ye are the building . This last new similitude is introduced on account of what he has presently to say of the different kinds of teaching, which will be more clearly set forth by this, than by the other figure.

Verse 10

10. ] κατὰ τ . χάρ . &c., as an expression of humility (reff.), fitly introduces the σοφός which follows. So Chrys.: ὅρα γοῦν πῶς μετριάζει . εἰπὼν γὰρ σοφὸν ἑαυτόν , οὐκ ἀφῆκεν αὐτοῦ τοῦτο εἶναι , ἀλλ ʼ ὅλον ἑαυτὸν πρότερον ἀναθεὶς τῷ θεῷ τότε ἑαυτὸν οὕτως ἐκάλεσε . Hom. viii. p. 69. The χάρις is not the peculiar grace of his apostleship for an apostle was not always required to lay the foundation, e.g. in Rome: but that given to him in common with all Christians ( 1Co 3:5 ), only in a degree proportioned to the work which God had for him to do.

σοφός , skilful , see reff., and many examples in Wetstein. The proof of this skill is given, in his laying a foundation : the unskilful master-builder lays none , see Luke 6:49 . The foundation ( 1Co 3:11 ) was and must be, JESUS CHRIST: the facts of redemption by Him (obj.), and the reception of Him and His work by faith (subj.).

The mascul. form ὁ θεμέλιος (sc. λίθος ) is said by Thomas Mag. (in Wetst.) to belong to the κοινὴ διάλεκτος the Attic form is θεμέλιον , or, if in the plur., οἱ θεμέλιοι : οἱ γὰρ θεμέλιοι παντοίων λίθων ὑπόκεινται , Thucyd. i. 93.

ἄλλος , ‘ whoever comes after me ,’ another : not only Apollos.

ἐποικοδομεῖ , pres. , as the necessary state and condition of the subsequent teacher, be he who he may. The building on, over the foundation , imports the carrying them onward in knowledge and intelligent faith.

πῶς , emphatic, = here, with what material . De Wette imagines that it also conveys a caution not to alter the foundations , and that the γάρ in 1Co 3:11 refers to this. But the identity of the foundation is surely implied in ἐποικοδομεῖ . On the γάρ , see below.

Verse 11

11. θ . γάρ ] q. d. ‘I speak of superimposing merely, for it is unnecessary to caution them respecting the foundation itself: there can be but one , and that one HAS ALREADY BEEN (objectively, for all, see below) LAID BY GOD.’ At the same time, in taking this for granted, he implies the strongest possible caution against attempting to lay any other.

δύναται , strictly can , not ‘ nemini licet ,’ as Grot., al., nor as Theophyl., οὐ δύναται θεῖναι , ἕως ἂν μένῃ σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων , ἐπεὶ ὅταν μὴ ᾖ τις σοφ . ἀρχ ., δύναται θεῖναι , κ . ἐκ τούτου αἱ αἱρέσεις : for it is assumed , that θεοῦ οἰκοδομή is to be raised and it can only be raised on this one foundation. All who build on other foundations are not συνεργοὶ θεοῦ , nor is their building θεοῦ οἰκοδομή at all.

ἄλλον παρά , see reff. and cf. Thucyd. i. 23, πυκνότεραι παρὰ τὰ ἐκ τοῦ πρὶν χρόνου μνημονευόμενα .

κείμενον ] not, ‘ by me ,’ but ‘ by God ,’ for universal Christendom; but actually laid in each place , as regards that church , by the minister who founds it. De Wette denies this universal reference, as introducing a new element into the context. But surely the reference in ὁ θεμέλιος ὁ κείμενος is too direct to the well-known prophecy of the divinely-placed foundation or cornerstone, to surprise any reader or divert his mind from the train of thought by a new element.

Ἰησοῦς χριστός , THE PERSONAL, HISTORICAL CHRIST, as the object of all Christian faith. If it be read as in rec., Ἰησοῦς ὁ χριστός , it need not necessarily be, that Jesus is the Christ , but may be in this case also, JESUS THE CHRIST; not any doctrine , even that of the Messiahship of Jesus, is the foundation, but JESUS HIMSELF (see var. readd.).

Verse 12

12. ] The δέ implies that though there can be but one foundation, there are many ways of building upon it .

To the right understanding of this verse it may be necessary to remark, (1) that the similitude is, not of many buildings , as Wetst. and Billroth, but of one , see 1 Corinthians 3:16 , and that [one,] raised on Christ as its foundation ; different parts of which are built by the ministers who work under Him, some well and substantially built, some ill and unsubstantially. (2) That gold, silver, &c., refer to the matter of the ministers’ teaching, primarily ; and by inference to those whom that teaching penetrates and builds up in Christ, who should be the living stones of the temple: not, as Orig [3] , Chrys., Theodoret, Theophyl., Phot [4] , Aug [5] , Jer [6] , &c., to the moral fruits produced by the preaching in the individual members of the church, εἴ τις κακὸν βίον ἔχει μετὰ πίστεως ὀρθῆς , οὐ προστήσεται αὐτοῦ ἡ πίστις εἰς τὸ μὴ κολάζεσθαι , Chrys. Hom. ix. p. 77. (3) That the builder of the worthless and unsubstantial is in the end SAVED (see below): so that even his preaching was preaching of Christ , and he himself was in earnest . (4) That what is said does not refer, except by accommodation, to the religious life of believers in general as Olsh., Schrader, see also the ancient Commentators above: but to the DUTY AND REWARD OF TEACHERS. At the same time, such accommodation is legitimate, in so far as each man is a teacher and builder of himself . (5) That the various materials specified must not be fancifully pressed to indicate particular doctrines or graces , as e.g. Schrader has done, “Some build with the gold of faith, with the silver of hope, with the imperishable costly stones of love, others again with the dead wood of unfruitfulness in good works, with the empty straw of a spiritless, ostentatious knowledge, and with the bending reed of a continually-doubting spirit.” Der Apostel Paulus, iv. p. 66. This, however ingenious, is beside the mark, not being justified by any indications furnished in our Epistle itself. An elaborate résumé of the very various minor differences of interpretation may be seen in Meyer’s Comm. Exodus 2:0 , in loc. Cf. also Estius’s note; and Stanley’s.

[3] Origen, b. 185, d. 254

[4] Photius, Bp. of Constantinople, 858 891

[5] Augustine, Bp. of Hippo , 395 430

[6] Jerome , fl. 378 420

λίθους τιμίους ] Not ‘ gems ,’ but ‘ costly stones ,’ as marbles, porphyry, jasper, &c., compare 1 Kings 7:9 ff.

By the ξύλα , χόρτον , καλάμην , he indicates the various perversions of true doctrine, and admixtures of false philosophy which were current: so Estius, “doctrina non quidem hæretica et perniciosa, talis enim fundamentum destrueret : sed minus sincera, minusque solida; veluti si sit humanis ac philosophicis, aut etiam Judaicis opinionibus admixta plus satis: si curiosa magis quam utilis; si vana quadam oblectatione mentes occupans Christianas.” Comm. i. p. 268 B.

Verse 13

13. ] Each man’s work (i.e. that which he has built: his part in erecting the οἰκοδομὴ θεοῦ ) shall (at some time) be made evident (shall not always remain in the present uncertainty, but be tested, and shewn of what sort it is): for the day shall make it manifest (the day of the Lord , as Vulg., ‘dies domini:’ see reff., and so most Commentators, ancient and modern. The other interpretations are (1) ‘ the day of the destruction of Jerusalem ,’ which shall shew the vanity of Judaizing doctrines: so Hammond (but not clearly nor exclusively), Lightf., Schöttg., al., against both the context, and our Apostle’s habit of speaking, and under the assumption, that nothing but Jewish errors are spoken of: (2) ‘ the lapse of time ,’ as in the proverb, ‘ dies docebit ;’ so Grot., Wolf, Mosheim, Rosenm., al., which is still more inconsistent with the context, which necessitates a definite day , and a definite fire : (3) ‘ the light of day ,’ i.e. of clear knowledge, as opposed to the present time of obscurity and night: so Calv., Beza, Erasm.: but the fire here is not a light-giving , but a consuming flame; and, as Meyer remarks, even in that case the ἡμέρα would be that of the παρουσία , see Romans 13:12 : (4) ‘ the day of tribulation :’ so Augustine, Calov.: but this again is not definite enough: μισθὸν λήμψεται can hardly be said of mere abiding the test of tribulation); because it (the day not, the work , as Theophyl., Œcum., al., which would introduce a mere tautology with the next clause) is (to be) revealed (the present ἀποκαλύπτεται expresses the definite certainty of prophecy: or perhaps rather the attribute of that day, which is, to be revealed, &c., as in the expressions ὁ πειράζων , ὁ σπείρων , &c.) in fire (‘accompanied,’ ‘clothed,’ ‘girt,’ ‘with fire;’ i.e. fire will be the element in which the day will be revealed. Cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 , and Malachi 3:2-3 ; Malachi 4:1 , to which latter place the reference is, see LXX. But notice, that this is not the fire of hell , into which the gold, silver, and costly stones will never enter, but the fire of judgment , in which Christ will appear, and by which all works will be tried . This universality of trial by fire is equally against the idea of a purgatorial fire , which lucrative fiction has been mainly based by the Romanists on a perversion of this passage. See Aug [7] de Civ. Dei, xxi. 26. 4, vol. vii. p. 745, who mentions the idea with ‘non redarguo, quia forsitan verum est.’ See Estius, who does not maintain the allusion to Purgatory here; and Bisping, who does), and each man’s work, of what kind it is, the fire itself shall try (this clause does not depend upon ὅτι , but ranges with the following futures. It is a question whether ἔργον is nom. or acc., of what kind each man’s work is (Meyer), or as above. In the only other places where Paul uses ὁποῖος , Galatians 2:6 , 1 Thessalonians 1:9 (see also Act 26:29 ), it commences a clause, as here if ἔργον be accus.; we have a very similar expression, Galatians 6:4 , τὸ ἔργον ἑαυτοῦ δοκιμαζέτω ἕκαστος : and it seems more natural that the action of the fire should be described as directly passing upon the work. For these reasons, I prefer the accus. τὸ πῦρ αὐτό , the fire itself, of its own power, being a πῦρ καταναλίσκον .

[7] Augustine, Bp. of Hippo , 395 430

Verse 14

14. ] If any man’s work shall remain (i.e. stand the fire, being of inconsumable materials. μεν εῖ fut. (so latt syrr coptt), is better than the pres. of rec., as answering to εἰ … κατακαήσεται below), which he built on the foundation, he shall receive wages (as a builder; i.e. ‘shall be rewarded for his faithful and effectual work as a teacher’):

Verse 15

15. ] if any man’s work shall be burnt up (i.e. consist of such materials as the fire will destroy: Stanley adds, “It is possible that this whole image, as addressed to the Corinthians, may have been suggested, or at least illustrated, by the conflagration of Corinth under Mummius: the stately temples (one of them remaining to this day) left standing amidst the universal crash and destruction of the meaner buildings”), he shall [ suffer loss (literally,) be mulcted . ζημιωθ ., scil. τὸν μισθόν , see ref. Matt., and Herod. vii. 39, τοῦ δὲ ἑνός , τοῦ περιέχεαι μάλιστα , τὴν ψυχὴν ζημιώσεαι , and Plato, Legg., vi. p. 774, εἰς μὲν οὖν χρήματα ὁ μὴ θέλων γαμεῖν τοσαῦτα ζημιούσθω ): but he himself shall be saved (having held, and built on, the true foundation Jesus Christ, he shall not be excluded from that salvation which is the free gift of God to all who believe on Christ, but shall get no especial reward as a faithful and effectual teacher. Cf. 2 John 1:8 , βλέπετε ἑαυτούς , ἵνα μὴ ἀπολέσητε ἃ εἰργασάμεθα , ἀλλὰ μισθὸνπλήρη ἀπολάβητε . Meyer remarks, that our Lord hints at such persons under the name of ἔσχατοι , Matthew 20:16 ; Mar 10:31 ), but so, as through fire : i.e. as a builder whose building was consumed would escape with personal safety, but with the loss of his work.

Chrys., Theophyl., Œc [8] , strangely understand it, that he shall be burnt for ever in the fire of Hell, unconsumed: οὐχὶ καὶ αὐτὸς οὕτως ἀπολεῖται ὡς τὰ ἔργα , εἰς τὸ μηδὲν χωρῶν · ἀλλὰ μενεῖ ἐν τῷ πυρί , Chrys. σώζεται , τουτέστι , σῶος τηρεῖται . δίκας αἰωνίους ὑπέχων , Theophyl. But (1) the fire of Hell is quite alien from the context (see above), and (2) the meaning given to σώζεσθαι is unexampled, and least of all could be intended where the coming of the Lord is spoken of: cf. inter alia , ch. 1 Corinthians 5:5 , παραδοῦναι κ . τ . λ .… ἵνα τὸ πνεῦμα σωθῇ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τ . κυρίου .

[8] Œcumenius of Tricca in Thrace, Cent y . XI.?

Grot., Elsn., al., explain ὡς διὰ πυρός as a proverb, ‘ tanquam ex incendio ,’ for ‘with difficulty.’ But this is needless here, as the figure itself is that of an ‘incendium:’ and ὡς is not tanquam ,’ but belongs to οὕτως , see reff.

The whole imagery of the passage will be best understood by carefully keeping in mind the key , which is to be found in the θεοῦ οἰκοδομή , and the ναὸς θεοῦ , as connected with the prophecy of Malachi 3:4 . There, ἐξαίφνης ἥξει εἰς τὸν ναὸν ἑαυτοῦ κύριος … αὐτὸς εἰσπορεύεται ὡς πῦρ χωνευτηρίου … καθιεῖται χωνεύων καὶ καθαρίζων ὡς τὸ ἀργύριον καὶ ὡς τὸ χρυσίον .… διότι ἰδοὺ ἡμέρα (add κυρίου A) ἔρχεται καιομένη ὡς κλίβανος , κ . φλέξει αὐτούς , καὶ ἔσονται … καλάμη , κ . ἀνάψει αὐτοὺς ἡ ἡμέρα ἡ ἐρχομένη . The Lord thus coming to His temple in flaming fire, all the parts of the building which will not stand that fire will be consumed: the builders of them will escape with personal salvation, but with the loss of their work, through the midst of the conflagration.

Verse 16

16. ] The foregoing figures, with the occasion to which they referred, are now dropped, and the οἰκοδομὴ θεοῦ recalled, to do further service. This building is now, as in Malachi 3:1 , and as indeed by implication in the foregoing verses, the temple of God ( ναὸς θεοῦ , with emphasis on ναός , not θεοῦ ναός ), the habitation of His Spirit .

οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι Are ye ignorant that … an expression of surprise arising out of their conduct.

καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν = ἐν ᾧ , τουτέστιν , ἐν ὑμῖν .

Meyer rightly remarks, that “ ναὸς θεοῦ is the temple of God, not a temple of God: for Paul does not conceive (as Theodoret, al.) of the various churches as various temples of God, which would be inconsistent with a Jew’s conception of God’s temple, but of each Christian church as, sensu mystico, the temple of Jehovah . So there would be, not many temples, but many churches, each of which is, ideally, the same temple of God.” And, we may add, if the figure is to be strictly justified in its widest acceptation, that all the churches are built together into one vast temple: cf. ἐν ᾧ καὶ ὑμεῖς συνοικοδομεῖσθε , Ephesians 2:22 .

Verses 16-23

16 23. ] The figure is taken up afresh and carried further: and made the occasion of solemn exhortation, since they were the temple of God, not to mar that temple, the habitation of His Spirit, by unholiness, or by exaltation of human wisdom: which last again was irrelevant, as well as sinful; for all their teachers were but their servants in building them up to be God’s temple, yea all things were for this end, to subserve them, as being Christ’s, by the ordinance, and to the glory of God the Father .

Verse 17

17. ] φθείρει , [ destroys , or] mars , whether as regards its unity and beauty , or its purity and sanctity : here, the meaning is left indefinite, but the latter particulars are certainly hinted at, by ἅγιος below.

φθερεῖ , either by temporal death (Mey.), as in ch. 1 Corinthians 11:30 ; or by spiritual death , which is more probable, seeing that the figurative temple is spoken of, not (as Mey.) the material temple: and as temporal death was the punishment for defiling the material temple (Exodus 28:43 . Lev 16:2 al. fr.), so spiritual death for marring or defiling of God’s spiritual temple.

ἅγιος , the constant epithet of ναός in the O. T., see Psalms 5:7 ; Psalms 10:5 (LXX). Habakkuk 2:20 , and passim.

οἵτινες , i.e. ἅγιοι , not, ‘ which temple are ye ,’ which would be tautological after 1 Corinthians 3:16 , and would hardly be expressed by οἵτινες , ‘ ut qui ,’ or ‘ quales .’ Meyer well remarks, that οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς is the minor proposition of a syllogism: ‘Whoever mars the temple of God, him will God destroy, because His temple is holy ; but ye also, as His ideal temple, are holy: therefore, whoever mars you, shall be destroyed by God.’

Verse 18

18. ] ἐξαπατάτω , not, as Theophyl., νομίζων ὅτι ἄλλως ἔχει τὸ πρᾶγμα καὶ οὐχ ὡς εἶπον : it is far more naturally referred to what follows, viz. thinking himself wise, when he must become a fool in order to be wise. If any man [ seemeth to be (i.e.,] thinks that he is ) wise among you in this world ( ἐν τῷ αἰ . τούτῳ belongs to δοκεῖ σοφ . εἶν . ἐν ὑμ ., to the whole assumption of wisdom made by the man, which as made in this present world , must be false: not (1) merely to σοφός , Grot., Rückert, al., as the arrangement of the words shews, nor (2) to μωρὸς γενέσθω , Orig [9] , Chrys., Luther, Rosenm., al., in which case, the stress being on μωρός , it must have been μωρὸς γενέσθω ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ ), let him become a fool (by receiving the gospel in its simplicity, and so becoming foolish in the world’s sight), that he may become (truly) wise .

[9] Origen, b. 185, d. 254

Verses 18-20

18 20. ] A warning to those who would be leaders among them, against self-conceit .

Verse 19

19. ] Reason why this must be : shewn from Scripture.

παρὰ θ ., in the judgment of God , reff.

ὁ δρασσ .] The sense of the Heb. is equally expressed by the Apostle and the LXX. The words are taken out of the context as they stand, which accounts for the participle, see Hebrews 1:7 . The sense is, ‘If God uses the craft of the wise as a net to catch them in, such wisdom is in His sight folly, since He turns it to their confusion.’ “ δρασσόμενος (possibly a provincialism) is substituted for καταλαμβάνων , as a stronger and livelier expression for ‘grasping,’ or ‘catching with the hand.’ ” Stanley. Cf. Jdt 13:7 .

Verse 20

20. ] The LXX have ἀνθρώπων (Heb. אָדָם ); the Psalmist however is speaking of the proud , 1 Corinthians 3:2 f., and such, when διαλογισμοί are in question, would be the worldly wise .

Verse 21

21. ] ὥστε , viz. seeing that this world’s wisdom is folly with God: or perhaps as a more general inference from what has gone before since ch. i., that as the conclusion there was, ὁ καυχώμενος , ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω , so now, having gone into the matter more at length, he concludes, μηδεὶς καυχάσθω ἐν ἀνθρώποις . This boasting in men is explained in ch. 1Co 4:6 to mean μὴ εἷς ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἑνὸς φυσιοῦσθαι κατὰ τοῦ ἑτέρου .

καυχάσθω after ὥστε is a change of construction. A somewhat similar change occurred in the parallel ch. 1 Corinthians 1:31 , ἵνα … καυχάσθω : but there, by the citation being adduced in its existing form.

πάντα γὰρ ὑμ . ἐστ .] ‘For such boasting is a degradation to those who are heirs of all things , and for whom all , whether ministers, or events, or the world itself, are working together: see Romans 8:28 ; Romans 4:13 .

Verses 21-23

21 23. ] A warning to them in general, not to boast themselves in human teachers .

Verses 22-23

22, 23. ] Specification of some of the things included under πάντα : and first of those teachers in whom they were disposed to boast , in direct reference to ch. 1 Corinthians 1:12 . But having enumerated Paul, Apollos, Cephas, he does not say εἴτε χριστός , but adding the world itself and its events and circumstances, he reiterates the πάντα ὑμῶν as if to mark the termination of this category, and changing the form, concludes with ὑμεῖς δὲ (not only one part of you) χριστοῦ · χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ (see below). The expressions ζωή , θάνατος , ἐνεστῶτα , μέλλοντα , have nothing to do with the teachers , as Chrys., Theophyl., Grot., ἡ ζωή , φησι , τῶν διδασκάλων δι ʼ ὑμᾶς ἔστιν ἵνα ὠφελῆσθε διδασκόμενοι · κ . ὁ θάνατος αὐτῶν δι ʼ ὑμᾶς · ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν γὰρ κινδυνεύουσι καὶ τῆς ὑμετέρας σωτηρίας , Theophyl., and “ præsentia , … linguarum et sanationum dona … futura , … rerum futurarum revelationes,” Grot., but are perfectly general.

ἐνεστῶτα is things actually present , see note on 2 Thessalonians 2:2 .

Verse 23

23. ] On the change of the possessives, see above: Christ is not yours , in the sense in which πάντα are, not made for and subserving you but ( δέ ) you are His , and even that does not reach the Highest possession: He possesses not you for Himself ; but ( δέ again) κεφαλὴ χριστοῦ ὁ θεός , ch. 1 Corinthians 11:3 .

CHRIST HIMSELF, the Incarnate God the Mediator, belongs to God, is subordinate to the Father, see John 14:28 ; John , 17 passim. But this mediatorial subordination is in no way inconsistent with His eternal and co-equal Godhead: see notes on Philippians 2:6-9 ; and on ch. 1 Corinthians 15:28 , where the subjection of all things to Christ, and His subjection to the Father, are similarly set forth.

There is a striking similarity in the argument in this last verse to that in our Lord’s prohibition, Matthew 23:8-10 .

See Stanley’s beautiful note.

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.