1 Corinthians 3 – 2019-10-30
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1 CORINTHIANS 3 – COMMENTARY
vv.1-4 “The contrast between ‘spiritual’ and ‘worldly’ in 3:1-4 thus differs from the contrasts in 2:6-16. ‘Worldly’ in verse 1 is a slightly different Greek word than in verse 3, but both are pejorative. The KJV translates both as ‘carnal,’ that is, ‘fleshly’ or dominated by one’s sinful nature, in this context manifested by jealousy and quarreling. ‘Spiritual’ must therefore mean not merely having the Spirit but having the Spirit in charge. Even at the end of Paul’s one-and-one-half-year stay in Corinth, he had expected these young Christians to be more transformed in their behavior. Now, a full three years later, their squabbling is that much more inexcusable. Their immaturity resembles that of adults acting like infants by still eating only baby food (v.2).”
“But to remain worldly, in rebellion against God’s Spirit, for too long a period of time calls into question one’s salvation, while to claim not to have sinned for some equally long interval trivializes the amount of conscious and unconscious violations of God’s perfect standards which all humans regularly commit.
“The current debate over ‘lordship salvation’ presents similar pitfalls. On the one hand, there is no biblical justification for a two-stage process in which one accepts Christ as Savior at one point in life but acknowledges him as Lord only at another point. No one may come to Christ who does not surrender his or her entire self in allegiance to a new master. On the other hand, this call must not be presented in such a way that it appears as if one must understand or be able to anticipate everything that will be involved in following Jesus. Similarly, inability to conquer sin in certain, specific areas must not automatically call one’s salvation into question. The seemingly paradoxical statement that encapsulates the biblical balance is that salvation is absolutely free but it costs people their entire lives.”
vv.5-9 “The theme in verses 5-9a of the fundamental equality of Christians, including Christian leaders in particular, must be stressed in order to make sense of Paul’s teaching about judgment in verses 8 and 12-15. From a human perspective, it is natural to imagine that the great evangelists and faithful sufferers among God’s people deserve much more than the convicted criminal who converts on death-row. But to demand what we deserve is to wind up defeated from the outset. Compared to the perfection God requires, the differences among his people are like the differences in elevation between Mt. Everest in the Himalayas and the Mariana Trench in the West Pacific—seemingly vast from an earth-bound perspective yet negligible when viewed from another planet! There is diversity of performance to be sure but not at expense of this ultimate leveling factor (v.7).”
“Paul now goes right to the heart of the matter. What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Some looked up to one, some to the other: but Paul is quite clear—we are both servants, diakonoi (Greek = deacons). We wait at tables to serve you; we wait on God for his instructions. As we obey his wishes, so you are blessed. We move at his bidding. He has assigned to us our responsibilities.
“I planted, Apollos watered (6). Both activities are vital. Each depends on the other. It is no good one planting seeds where the other cannot water them, and the one who waters does not achieve much if he waters everywhere else except where the seeds have been sown. Both functions are important, but useless unless God gives the growth. Both he who plants and he who waters are completely dependent on God—and on each other: ‘God’s fellow workers’ (9), equal in his sight and equal in value (8). Both need to work hard and both can expect to be rewarded at the end (cf. 14): each shall receive his wages according to his labor (8).”
vv.12-13 “Interpreters of verse 12 must guard against allegorizing the six individual building materials. Their significance is collectively to contrast three relatively fireproof elements with three that quickly burn up. Nor may this fire be interpreted literally. […] Doubtless all will have varying degrees of praise and blame from Christ on Judgment Day, but nothing in this passage even remotely suggests that such differing responses are somehow perpetuated throughout all eternity.
“A misinterpretation of the judgment seat of Christ is often bound up with a misrepresentation of carnality. The apparent injustice of being able to profess faith but never show any fruit of it and still be saved seems to be ameliorated by assuming that such a person will in some sense not get as much out of heaven. If one recognizes that neither verses 1-4 nor 13-15 admit such a person to be a Christian at all, then the tension is relieved by stressing that such people are not even saved.
“We must exercise great care, therefore, not to use the category of carnal Christian to give false hope to people that perpetual ‘backsliddenness’ is a viable option for those who want to spend eternity with the Lord.”
v.13 “But ‘the Day’ is not easily turned into anything other than the universal, public reckoning which all people must face on Christ’s return (cf. Matt. 25:31-46, in which pronouncements of salvation and condemnation are combined with an assessment of the works that demonstrate the presence or absence of faith). Given that all believers are potentially leaders in some small sphere of ministry, and that all ultimately contribute in one way or another to the growth or stagnation of the church, it seems far too restrictive to limit the judgment of these verses to any select group of Christians.”
vv.14-15 “Reward is promised here. Paul takes the normal practice of workers being paid for a job well done and projects that the same will be true at the last judgment.”
“No doubt every Christian’s work is mixed in quality; no doubt we all shall have the awesome sadness of seeing much of our work burned up. This should inspire all Christians to take more thorough care how we are building. Yet, whatever the extent of the loss we shall suffer, nothing in the eternal justice of that fire can tear us away from the love of God or from his salvation. Because of what Jesus Christ has done on the cross, it has ‘pleased God […] to save those who believe’ in him (1:21).
vv.16-17 “The transition between verses 9b-15 and 16-17 seems to be as follows: God will indeed respond differently to different kinds of believers on Judgment Day, but the real danger to fear is the eternal destruction of those who would divide and tear down the church now. […] What is important is that Paul does not take for granted that every church member is a true disciple of Jesus, particularly when someone’s behavior remains fundamentally contrary to the spirit of unity that the gospel promotes.
“The term for ‘destroy’ (v.17) must not be watered down to refer merely to temporal judgment nor taken as support for any doctrine of annihilation, in light of the consistent testimony of Paul elsewhere, the rest of the New Testament, first-century Judaism, and the Apostolic Fathers. The reason Paul chose this term, over against more common terms for eternal condemnation, is to show that the punishment fits the crime. They who would do away with God’s sacred enterprise will themselves perish. Overall these two verses form the strongest warning in all the New Testament ‘against those who would take the church lightly and destroy it by worldly wisdom and division.’”
vv.21b-23 “In order to appreciate the impact of this conclusion, we need to know that it was a universal maxim of Greco-Roman popular philosophy—particularly among the Cynics and Stoics—that ‘the wise man possesses all things.’
“Those at Corinth who boast in their possession of an exalted wisdom that claims to lift them above the rabble and give them possession of all things are making one fatal error: they are leaving God out of their assessment. But Paul insists that all things are God’s, including the church—God’s field, God’s building, God’s temple. Insofar as the wise at Corinth belong to Jesus Christ, they must acknowledge that they do not even belong to themselves. They, like Paul and Apollos, are servants of a common master who owns them all. God is sovereign over all creation and all time. The sooner that truth sinks in, the sooner they will begin to live in the real world rather than in the utopian fantasy of their own wisdom.”
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 72.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 82-83.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 78.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985) 57.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 79-80.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 79.
 Paul J. Sampley, “The First Letter to the Corinthians,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. X (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 830.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985) 60.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 81.
 Richard B. Hays, “1 Corinthians,” Interpretation (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997) 60-61.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (ESV)
1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 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? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
God [What truths about God’s person, activity or character does the text reveal?]
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