Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

1 Corinthians 3

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1


I could not talk to you. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 2:14. MacKnight says: “From what is said in this chapter it appears, that the false teacher had represented St. Paul either as ignorant or as unfaithful, because he had not fully instructed the Corinthians before his departure. The same teacher had also boasted concerning himself, that he had given them complete instructions.” As Children. This was a severe blow to the pride of the Corinthians. They thought they “knew it all” already, but he tells them they were “children.” After one is put right with God, he must co-operate with the Spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Galatians 5:13-18; and see notes on “law” at the end of Romans 3:0).

Verse 2


I had to feed you milk. “I had to give you the elementary teachings of Christ, not the more difficult doctrines we teach to the spiritually mature.” And even now. They still are spiritually immature. The proof of this is the lives they live.

Verse 3


Because you still live. Their lives are no different from the unconverted. Doesn’t this prove? They are jealous and quarrel like men of the world. Compare Galatians 5:19-21.

Verse 4


When one of you says. The competition between them that grew out of their “party spirit” was proof of their worldly motives.

Verse 5


After all? Neither Paul nor Apollos were “the Lord” in matters of religion. They were simply God’s servants, working together to proclaim the Good News. The “party spirit” of the Corinthians contrasts sharply with the unity of Paul and Apollos. [MacKnight thinks the false teacher was taught and baptized by Peter, whom he honored instead of Paul (see note on 1 Corinthians 1:12); and that Paul here uses “Apollos” as a symbol of the false teacher.]

Verse 6


I planted the seed. “I planted you in God’s field, Apollos (and others) watered you, by teaching you, but it was God who made you grow.” [This shows there are two basic kinds of preachers: planting preachers and watering preachers.]

Verse 7


Really do not matter. The power and message come from God. The ones who proclaim it are only “common clay pots” (2 Corinthians 4:7). It is God who matters. He is the only important one, because he acted in history to make it all possible, and he makes the plant grow.

Verse 8


There is no difference. That is, in rank or importance. The work of each is equally important, and both are God’s servants. Neither one deserves any special honor. God will reward each one. Paul contrasts individual and community relationships. He forbids the man to either defy the community or to merge himself into it (and lose his individuality). Compare 1 Corinthians 12:5-11; 1 Corinthians 15:10-11; Galatians 6:2-5; Romans 14:7-10. According to the work. We are saved to do good works. Compare Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-28.

Verse 9


For we are partners. They are not rivals, as the Corinthians seemed to think. They are God’s workers, carrying out God’s mission. God’s field. Compare Matthew 13:3-30. God’s building. God’s temple is built of living stones (1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 2:19-22).

Verse 10


That God gave me. God himself made Paul an apostle. I did the work. As an apostle, Paul laid the foundation everywhere he went. He did this by proclaiming the Good News of God’s act in Christ to set men free. Another man. Apollos and the other teachers built on the foundation which Paul laid. Must be careful. The false teacher was also building on the foundation.

Verse 11


For God has already placed Jesus Christ. By God’s decree, Jesus Christ is the foundation, the CORNERSTONE (Ephesians 2:20) upon which the whole spiritual temple is constructed.

Verse 12


Some will use. Christ’s church is not built of doctrines, but people. MacKnight says the building materials represent disciples of Christ. Gold, silver, precious stones symbolize sincere believers. Wood, grass, straw symbolize those who have been taught false things.

Verse 13


And the quality. The real proof of each man’s work will be clearly demonstrated by the fire of persecution. The Day of Christ. MacKnight sees this as the severe persecution which would shortly come. Compare Luke 21:22. For that Day’s fire. MacKnight says: “That the fire of which the apostle speaks is the fire of persecution, I think evident from 1 Peter 4:12 . . .” The false teacher had built into the church some who were still wicked, such as the man guilty of incest, others who said the dead would not be raised, etc. Such would go back to the world when tested by persecution (unless they repented, as the man guilty of incest did).

Verse 14


Survives the fire. [Some, misunderstanding and thinking the Day of Christ to mean the Judgment, have taught that both the righteous and wicked will be burned in the fires of hell (purgatory); the wicked burnt up, and the righteous made pure.] If the disciples he has taught are faithful when persecuted, he will receive the reward mentioned in Daniel 12:3. See also notes on Matthew 20:13-15.

Verse 15


Is burnt up. If the disciples he has taught are unfaithful when persecuted, he will lose his reward (see 1 Corinthians 3:14). But he himself will be saved. This seems to imply the false teacher was sincere in his efforts, even though he was not properly preparing the disciples which he taught. Escaped through the fire. As a man who runs out of a burning house, losing everything but his own life.

Verse 16


You are God’s temple. You = the church of God in Corinth. God’s Spirit lives in you. See Ephesians 2:22.

Verse 17


So if anyone destroys. Here Paul speaks of those who purposely distort the truth of God (Galatians 1:6-9), but also of those who destroy the messianic community by their “party spirit” ( see 1 Corinthians 3:3-4). Compare 1 Timothy 6:3-5.

Verse 18


No one should fool himself. The false teacher at Corinth thought himself to be wise because he was able to get people to come to Christ through not telling them all the teachings of Christ, and misrepresenting some things. But as poor as this false teacher’s work might be, he did build on the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:14-15), But what he was doing was especially dangerous to him personally, because those who follow men’s wisdom may turn away from God. Read the warning in Hebrews 6:4-6. He should become a fool. By preaching “Christ on the cross” and all the other things that make up the Good News. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:23.

Verse 19


For what this world. See 1 Corinthians 1:20 and note. As the scripture says. Paul paraphrases Job 5:13 Septuagint. God lets men outsmart themselves! Compare 1 Corinthians 2:6.

Verse 20


And another scripture says. Paul paraphrases Psalms 94:11 Septuagint. “Man schemes, and God laughs.”

Verse 21


About what men can do. Since Paul, Apollos, and Peter are all God’s servants, no one should boast about being followers of one specific teacher. But especially, they had no reason to boast about the false teacher who brought “wicked men” into the church (1 Corinthians 3:18 and note). Actually everything belongs to you. From here through 1 Corinthians 3:23, Paul shows the reason why no one should boast about what men can do. By God’s decree, all things good and bad, present and future, belong to his people in the sense of helping them grow in this life, and making them happy in the next!

Verse 22


Paul, Apollos, and Peter. See 1 Corinthians 3:5. This world is the servant of God’s people (1 Corinthians 6:12). Life and death. Our time on earth, and even death, becomes our servant in Christ. The present and the future stretches it out over all possible times. All of these. Paul jubilantly repeats the thought that the totality of Creation is our blessing in Christ!!! See Romans 8:28.

Verse 23


And you belong to Christ. This is the climax! In Christ they have union with God!!! How foolish, then, the jealousy and quarrels of rival parties. This also is a statement of irony. “Lords of Creation, you are His slaves. All Creation does belong to you, but you are slaves of the true owner, the God of heaven.” No boasting here, because we are caretakers of God’s riches!

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.