3:1 And 1 I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto a carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ.
(1) Having declared the worthiness of heavenly wisdom, and of the Gospel, and having generally condemned the blindness of mans mind, now at length he applies it particularly to the Corinthians, calling them carnal, that is, those in whom the flesh still prevails against the Spirit. And he brings a twofold testimony of it: first, because he had proved them to be such, in so much that he dealt with them as he would with ignorant men, and those who are almost babes in the doctrine of godliness, and second, because they showed indeed by these dissensions, which sprang up by reason of the ignorance of the power of the Spirit, and heavenly wisdom, that they had profited very little or nothing. 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with b meat: for hitherto ye were not c able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able.
(a) He calls them carnal, who are as yet ignorant, and therefore to express it better, he calls them "babes".
(b) Substantial meat, or strong meat. 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as d men?
(c) To be fed by me with substantial meat: therefore as the Corinthians grew up in age, so the apostle nourished them by teaching, first with milk, then with strong meat. The difference was only in the manner of teaching.
(d) Using the tools of mans intellect and judgment. 3:5 2 Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
(2) After he has sufficiently reprehended ambitious teachers, and those who foolishly esteemed them, now he shows how the true ministers are to be esteemed, that we do not attribute to them more or less than we ought to do. Therefore he teaches us that they are those by whom we are brought to faith and salvation, but yet as the ministers of God, and such as do nothing of themselves, but God so working by them as it pleases him to furnish them with his gifts. Therefore we do not have to regard or consider what minister it is that speaks, but what is spoken: and we must depend only upon him who speaks by his servants. 3:6 3 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
(3) He beautifies the former sentence, with two similarities: first comparing the company of the faithful to a field which God makes fruitful, when it is sown and watered through the labour of his servants. Second, be comparing it to a house, which indeed the Lord builds, but by the hands of his workmen, some of whom he uses in laying the foundation, others in building it up. Now, both these similarities are for this purpose, to show that all things are wholly accomplished only by Gods authority and might, so that we must only have an eye to him. Moreover, although God uses some in the better part of the work, we must not therefore condemn others, in respect of them, and much less may we divide or set them apart (as these factious men did) seeing that all of them labour in Gods business. They work in such a way, that they serve to finish the very same work, although by a different manner of working, in so much that they all need one anothers help. 3:9 For we are e labourers together with God: ye are Gods husbandry, [ye are] Gods building.
(e) Serving under him: now they who serve under another do nothing by their own strength, but as it is given them of grace, which grace makes them fit for that service. See ( 1 Corinthians 15:10 ; 2 Corinthians 3:6 ). All the increase that comes by their labour proceeds from God in such a way that no part of the praise of it may be given to the servant. 3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. 4 But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
(4) Now he speaks to the teachers themselves, who succeeded him in the church of Corinth, and in this regard to all that were after or will be pastors of congregations, seeing that they succeed into the labour of the apostles, who were planters and chief builders. Therefore he warns them first that they do not persuade themselves that they may build after their own fantasy, that is, that they may propound and set forth anything in the Church, either in matter, or in type of teaching, different from the apostles who were the chief builders. 3:11 5 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
(5) Moreover, he shows what this foundation is, that is, Christ Jesus, from whom they may not turn away in the least amount in the building up of this building. 3:12 6 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
(6) Thirdly he shows that they must take heed that the upper part of the building is answerable to the foundation. That is that admonitions, exhortations, and whatever pertains to the edifying of the flock, is answerable to the doctrine of Christ, in the matter as well as in form. This doctrine is compared to gold, silver, and precious stones: of which material Isaiah also and John in the Revelation build the heavenly city. And to these are the opposites, wood, hay, stubble, that is to say, curious and vain questions or decrees: and to be short, all the type of teaching which serves to vain show. For false doctrines, of which he does not speak here, are not correctly said to be built upon this foundation, unless perhaps in show only. 3:13 7 Every mans work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every mans work of what sort it is.
(7) He testifies, as indeed it truly is, that all are not good builders, not even all of those who stand upon this one and only foundation. However, this work of evil builders, he says, stands for a season, yet it will not always deceive, because the light of the truth appearing at length, as day, will dissolve this darkness, and show what it is. And as that stuff is tried by the fire, whether it is good or not, so will God in his time, by the touch of his Spirit and word, try all buildings, and so will it come to pass, that those which are found pure and sound, will still continue so, to the praise of the workmen. But they that are otherwise will be consumed and vanish away, and so will the workman be frustrated of the hope of his labour, who pleased himself in a thing of nothing. 3:15 If any mans work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but 8 he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
(8) He does not take away the hope of salvation from the unskilful and foolish builders, who hold fast the foundation, of which sort were those rhetoricians, rather than the pastors of Corinth. However, he adds an exception, that they must nonetheless suffer this trial of their work, and also abide the loss of their vain labours. 3:16 9 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
(9) Continuing still in the metaphor of building, he teaches us that this ambition is not only vain, but also sacrilegious: for he says that the Church is as it were the Temple of God, which God has as it were consecrated to himself by his Spirit. Then turning himself to these ambitious men, he shows that they profane the Temple of God, because those vain arts in which they please themselves so much are, as he teaches, many pollutions of the holy doctrine of God, and the purity of the Church. This wickedness will not go unpunished. 3:17 If any man f defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.
(f) Defiles it and makes it unclean, being holy: and surely they do defile it, by Pauls judgment, who by fleshly eloquence defile the purity of the Gospel. 3:18 10 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He g taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
(10) He concludes by the opposite, that they profess pure wisdom in the Church of God, who refuse and cast away all those vanities of men. Further, if they are mocked by the world, it is sufficient for them that they are wise according to the wisdom of God, and as he will have them to be wise.
(g) Be they ever so crafty, yet the Lord will take them when he will discover their treachery. 3:21 11 Therefore let no man h glory in men. For all things are i yours;
3:22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the 12 world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
(11) He returns to the proposition of the second verse, first warning the hearers, that from now on they do not esteem as lords those whom God has appointed to be ministers and not lords of their salvation. This is done by those that depend upon men, and not upon God that speaks by them.
(h) Please himself.
(i) Helps, appointed for your benefit.
(12) He passes from the persons to the things themselves, that his argument may be more forcible. Indeed, he ascends from Christ to the Father, to show that we rest ourselves not in Christ himself, in that he is man, but because he carries us up even to the Father, as Christ witnesses of himself everywhere that he was sent by his Father, that by this band we may be all united with God himself.