Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 CORINTHIANS - Chapter 3

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1 Corinthians 3

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  PARTY SPIRIT  1, 10 -- 4, 21 (continued)

3, 1-4:  They Cannot Receive Full Doctrine.    1.  Little ones: spiritually immature.    3.  Jealousy and strife are mentioned among "the works of darkness" in Rom. 13, 13; among the works of the flesh in Gal. 5, 20.

3, 5-9:  The Office of God's Ministers.    5.  Of him whom: the Greek text has "servants through whom you have believed."    6.  Planted . . . watered: Paul first preached the gospel, sowing the seed of faith (Acts 18, 1 ff); Apollos later by his preaching nourished the seed (Acts 18, 27); but God gave faith, grace and growth in the spirit.    7.  In comparison to God the preachers are of no account.    8.  Are one: either have the one office of servant, or are united; therefore there should be no division by reason of them (cf. 16, 12).  Reward: wages, hence, by good works with grace we can merit.  Labor: refers to the personal effort; "work" in the following verses refers to the external product.    9.  Tillage: cultivated field for which God and His helpers work.  This leads up to 22-23.  Paul now changes to the metaphor of a building, developed in the following verses.

3, 10-17:  Their Responsibility and Reward.    10 f.  Builder: literally a master-builder.  Paul laid the foundation, the doctrine of Christ and Him crucified (2, 2); others built by further doctrinal instruction.    12.  Gold, silver, precious stones represent solid and fruitful doctrines; wood, hay, straw help to build and hence are not errors or heresies, but are flimsy materials, such as frivolous teachings, useless stories or light ramblings that have little influence for good.    13.  The day of the Lord: i.e., the last judgment.  The day is to be revealed in fire: this probably refers to the fire of the final general conflagration (2 Pet. 3, 7).  This suggests the metaphor of final judgment by fire with is developed in the following verses.    14 f.  Reward: since this reward is distinct from salvation it must refer to the special reward for preaching.  Yet so as through fire: when fire breaks out in the building those who are constructing with perishable materials will be scorched by the burning of their work.  Purgatory is not here referred to directly, since this is the last day when purgatory will cease.  But by analogy this implies that those who die before the last day will have to suffer for their venial sins before gaining salvation.  It is possible that the comparison is suggested because of fire in purgatory, but the fire cannot be proved from this text.    16 f.  God dwells in the Corinthians individually and collectively: God's dwelling is the temple.  Those who attempt to destroy God's temple (third class of workers) by teaching errors will be deprived of eternal salvation.

3, 18-23:  Pride Not to Be Taken in Man.    18 f.  Cf. 1, 25.    19.  The worldly wise who are ready for anything (Greek text) for their own gain are often trapped in their devices.    20.  Ps. 93, 11 has "thoughts of men."  Paul adapts the wording while keeping the sense.    21 f.  All persons, things, and occasions are given us to reach God through Christ.    23.  Christ's human nature is subject to God (15, 28).

Confraternity Bible:

They Cannot Receive Full Doctrine  1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men but only as carnal, as to little children in Christ.  2 I fed you with mild, not with solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Nor are you now ready for it, for you are still carnal.  3 For since there are jealousy and strife among you, are you not carnal, and walking as mere men?  4 For whenever one says, "I am of Paul," but another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men?

The Office of God's Ministers  5 What then is Apollos?  What indeed is Paul?  They are the servants of him whom you have believed---servants according as God has given to each to serve.  6 I have planted, Apollos watered, but God has given the growth.  7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the growth.  8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, yet each will receive his own reward according to his labor.  9 For we are God's helpers, you are God's tillage, God's building.

Their Responsibility and Reward  10 According to the grace of God which has been given to me, as a wise builder, I laid the foundation, and another builds thereon.  But let everyone take care how he builds thereon.  11 For other foundation no one can lay, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus.  12 But if anyone builds upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw--- 13* the work of each will be made manifest, for the day of the Lord will declare it, since the day is to be revealed in fire.  The fire will assay the quality of everyone's work: 14 if his work abides which he has built thereon, he will receive reward; 15* if his work burns he will lose his reward, but himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  17 If anyone destroys the temple of God, him will God destroy; for holy is the temple of God, and this temple you are.

Pride Not to Be Taken in Man  18 Let no one deceive himself.  If any one of you thinks himself wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may come to be wise.  19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, "I will catch the wise in their craftiness."  20 And again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are empty."  21 Therefore let no one take pride in men.  22 For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; or the world, or life, or death; or things present, or things to come---all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.


13: The day of the Lord: the day of judgment.

15: Lose his reward: he will lose the special reward of preaching but will be saved if his conscience is otherwise clear.  The teaching of this verse implies the teaching of Christian tradition on purgatory.  If the venial offenses of preachers are punished on the last day, similarly other venial sins will be punished after the particular judgment.