1 Corinthians 3
“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos’ are you not merely being human?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
By addressing the Corinthian christians as brothers, Paul is acknowledging that they have received Christ. In the previous chapter he talked of the “natural man” which would be someone who had not received Christ. In this chapter he begins by calling them brothers. This was his way of saying I know you believe in Christ. But then he jumps in to the fact that the Corinthian christians are not growing in Christ. They are not actively pursuing relationship with Christ, but instead they are still sustaining themselves on the basics of christianity. They are still trying to live in their old ways and they are behaving in only a human way. And if any of them are trying to even “do the right thing” they are trying to follow men (Paul and Apollos) and not Christ.
In verses 5 – 9 Paul explains the roles that he and Apollos had in their life. That Paul planted the seed for them. Paul was the one who had come and started the Corinthian church. Apollos watered, he was the one who was with them to minister to them and to help them grow but God is the one who actually gives the growth. It seems the people were trying to decide which of the men were more important and they wanted to follow the more important one. But Paul tells them plainly.
“He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:8-9)
My spiritual life grew by leaps and bounds when I found Beth Moore bible studies. I feasted on them for a long time and I have learned so much from her studies. But about the same time I was diving into Beth Moore studies, I had friends who were feasting on Kay Arthur studies. Both of these women have huge impactful ministries and have paved the way for other women, who create these studies. I have done more Beth Moore studies than probably any other bible teacher out there, however, I am so grateful that I have heard her say over and over in her studies not to stop with her, but to go out and find other studies by other bible teachers. She in no way wanted me or any other woman to put her on a pedestal in my mind. Jesus is the only one who belongs on our pedestal. Should we learn from the mere men or women? Absolutely! But if they are putting themself on a pedestal or if you are putting them on a pedestal in your own mind you can be certain they will fall off eventually. We are all fellow workers. We have fields and buildings to build.
The next verses (10-15) are in some ways a warning to the one who is building. We must be sure we are building in Christ. First the foundation has to be there. There has to be Jesus. There are people who are gifted in leading others to Christ. And as christians we are all supposed to be ready to lead others to Christ at any given time. Let me tell you, it is one of the greatest privileges of my life to have led someone to Christ. A lady who was in my bible study started asking some very hard questions of me. I assumed, she was coming to bible study she must have been a christian. However, as she began emailing me questions it became evident she had not accepted Christ as her personal savior. I would get an email from her and I would pray over my response before I hit send with fear and trembling. Then finally after several emails she and I met face to face. We met at a Barnes and Noble and sat in two chairs in a corner of the store for hours until she accepted Christ. She and I have lost touch but I pray for her. My job in her story was to plant seeds, I pray and I believe that God has put other people in her life to do the watering. If the foundation of our life is not Jesus it is just like building a building with straw and hay. The building will not stand in bad weather. Building a life on the foundation of Jesus is like building a building with stone, gold and silver. That building, that life will stand when the storms of life come at you.
“If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15)
This verse is basically saying our “work” will be tested by fire. We will be saved if we have the foundation of Christ in our life. But if we have not built on that foundation when we walk through the fires our “work” will be burned up. I truly do not know how people walk through this life without Christ. But even with Christ, life can be hard if we aren’t working on our buildings.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Our lives and our churches are God’s temple. The commentary says that because of the context of this passage that Paul here is referring more to the church. That the Corinthian christians in their arguing over who to follow and their human ways were destroying the temple. Paul was giving them a warning. The temple is holy. We should always be careful that we are not destroying the temple with our arguing and human ways within the temple.
Paul again addresses wisdom and folly in the last verses of this chapter. He is telling them, again, not to pursue worldly wisdom but to pursue God.
“For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ (1 Corinthians 3:19-20)
You can be sure that if you are putting more importance on the wisdom of the world than the wisdom of God, He will not leave you there and allow your building to stand on that.
“So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)
Let’s make sure that our boasting is done in Christ and not in our pastors, or our churches or our bible teachers. As long as they are building on the foundation of Christ they are all there for us to feast on!
Oh Lord, may we not follow men but Lord may the Bible teachers and pastors and scholars in our life only point us to You. Lord I pray that no one is on a pedestal in my mind that You belong on. Lord I pray that my building would be strong. I pray that all of our buildings would be strong