1 Corinthians 3

Describe the three kind of men that God recognizes.

    The natural man—the unregenerate man.

    The carnal man—the Christian who is ruled by the flesh.

    The spiritual man—the believer controlled by the Holy Spirit.

The carnal man though not making spiritual progress was not anti-spiritual. They were babes, spiritually immature, lacking in spiritual understanding.

Because of this condition Paul fed them with milk. There is only one period in our Christian life that we can rightly be called babes.

To remain a babe is to be carnal. The marks of a carnal believer are jealousy, strife, and divisions. If we display these traits (sins) we are walking according to human standards.

v. 5-8—In these verses the Spirit of God cuts down to size those men whom the carnal had places at the head of the faction. They are servants and are nothing in God’s estimation. As servants or instruments they planted and watered, but God, who is everything, gave the increase.

v. 8—There were those who believed that the servants named were not in fellowship with each other. Paul refutes that “we are one.”

Each servant will be rewarded for his own work.

v. 9—The dignity of our calling and position in Christ. We are God’s fellow-workers. We, the church, are God’s cultivated field. We are God’s building.

v. 10—This verse sets the context for what follows. Paul has in mind here the Corinthian assembly. He says that as an architect he laid the foundation. Then others came along and built on it. Then comes the admonition, “But let every man take heed.”

v. 11—Paul reveals the foundation—Jesus Christ. The Person, the one who “came forth from the Father.” This is not the fundamentals of the faith. Christ is the foundation.

v. 12—The builders and their building materials. The builders would refer to the teachers, genuine and otherwise. Their ministry adds to the building that which is valuable by divine standards, or what is worthless. The teacher who can minister divine principles to profit, and edify the church. His teaching is represented under the figures of gold, silver, and precious stones. The gold would set forth the attributes of the Godhead, the fullness of which dwells in Christ. The silver would symbolize the redemption wrought by God through Christ. The precious stones would represent those truths which set forth the excellencies of the Person and character of Christ.

Examples of wood, hay, and stubble have been given already. “Persuasive words of man’s wisdom.” “The wisdom of men.” The “Words which man’s wisdom teaches.” The metaphors would include anything subversive or contrary to the truth. Anything done in the energy of the flesh is in a carnal way.

v. 13—There’s a day of judgment coming for the believer. At the judgment seat of Christ the material contributed, service rendered, will be revealed in its true character. It will be revealed by fire. The fire would suggest God’s holiness, when evil is brought into contact with this holiness it is consumed. The fire will separate the destructible from the indestructible.

v. 14—Those whose work remains after the testing will receive a reward.

v. 15—Those whose works are destroyed will suffer loss. Yet they themselves will be saved.

You can see here the havoc which will be wrought by ministry given in the wisdom of man, instead of in demonstration of the spirit and of power.

v. 16—“Know ye not.” This is the first of a series of appeals in this epistle.

    5:6—“Know ye not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”

    6:2—“Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?”

    6:3—“Know ye not that we will judge angels?”

    6:9—“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?”

    6:15—“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?”

    6:16—“Know ye not that he that is joined to a harlot is one body?”

    6:19—“Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?”

    9:24—“Know ye not that they who run in a race all run?”

The appeal in these passages is to a fact which the reader should have acknowledged.

“Know ye not that ye are God’s temple?” This metaphor would apply to the local church. The word used for temple is a specific word meaning the inner sanctuary, the holiest of all. An assembly is depicted as a company set apart for God, a place of worship, a communion of saints characterized by holiness, in whom is seen the glory and the beauty of the character of Christ.

The divisions at Corinth were the negation of all this.

“And the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” The emphasis is on the “in you.”

We can only be holy, set apart, a place of worship, a place where Christ’s glory is seen, as the Holy Spirit is given liberty among us.

v. 17—The same word is used in the original for “defile” and “destroy”. If any man defile the assembly by corrupting it, by unprofitable teaching, or defiling it in any way and leading it away from the state of holiness God expects, God will punish the offender by divine retribution.

“For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

Holy—separated from sin and consecrated to God.

Anyone who ministers the Word should be careful to minister to the edifying of the Church.

v. 18—“Let no man deceive himself.”

This would be a warning to those mentioned in the previous verse. The contrast in the remaining part of the verse is between worldly wisdom and true wisdom from God. Before we can become wise for God we must become a fool in the world’s estimation. See 1:18-25.

v. 19—This verse tells us what God thinks of the wisdom of the world. The rest of verses 19 and 20 suggest that God knows the craftiness or the unscrupulous conduct of teachers who use worldly wisdom to obtain their own needs. This had happened at Corinth, hence the factions.

v. 21—“Therefore, let no man glory in men.” That put all leaders of divisions in their proper place, and admonished all in fellowship at Corinth.

“All things are yours.”

Not just that which is given you by a special leader. They belong to Christ therefore they belong to you.

v. 23—Every blessing is the believer in Christ’s portion. In the world, in life, in death, in the present circumstances, or in the future, all are yours.

v. 28—Best of all “you are Christ’s.” John 10:27-28.