1 Corinthians 3:1-4

1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ.
2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,
3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?
4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?

1 Corinthians 3:1-4 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO 1 CORINTHIANS 3

In this chapter the apostle returns to the charge of schisms and contentions upon the Corinthians, which were the occasion of the epistle; and reproves them for their divisions, which were about their ministers; and gives them their just and due character, and who, though they were useful and commendable in their places, were not to be gloried in; and especially it was a great piece of weakness and folly, to set up one against another, when they had an equal interest in them all. Having, in the latter part of the preceding chapter, made mention of the spiritual man, the apostle tells the Corinthians, to whom he writes, that he could not address them as spiritual, but as carnal; and not as perfect men, among whom he spake the wisdom of God, but as babes in Christ, 1Co 3:1 and this rudeness and ignorance of theirs account for his conduct towards them, in delivering the plain and easy, and not the sublime doctrines of the Gospel to them, because they were not able to bear them; nor were they yet able, notwithstanding the length of time, the proficiency they had made, and the many teachers they had had among them, 1Co 3:2 and to prove that they were carnal, and not spiritual, he instances in their envy, strife, and contentions, which were carnal works, or works of the flesh, 1Co 3:3 and gives some particulars of their contentions about their ministers, which put it out of all doubt that they were carnal, 1Co 3:4 and reproves them for such contentions, and argues the folly and sinfulness of them; partly from the character of their preachers, as servants and ministers, who were the instruments of their faith and conversion, through the grace of God, and therefore not to be set up at the head of them as their lords and masters, 1Co 3:5 and partly from the unprofitableness of their ministry, without a divine blessing, 1Co 3:6,7 and also from the unity and equality of the ministers among themselves, though their labours and reward were different, 1Co 3:8 and therefore parties and factions were not to be made on their account; and besides, as they were labourers with God, and the church were his husbandry and building, in which they were employed, 1Co 3:9, though they might differ in some superstructure points, yet they agreed in the foundation; and the apostle instances in himself under the character of a wise master builder, laying the foundation, and others building on it, 1Co 3:10 and declares what this foundation was, which he and other Gospel ministers agreed in laying; nor was there any other that could be laid, to any good purpose besides, which is Jesus Christ, 1Co 3:11 and then distinguishes between the different sorts of builders, the one laying on the foundation things of the greatest worth and value, and others things very trifling and useless, 1Co 3:12 and intimates that there would be a time, when there would be a revelation and declaration of every man's work, of what sort it is, 1Co 3:13 so that, according to their different structures, there will be a different reward, as is suggested, 1Co 3:8 for though both sorts of preachers are upon the foundation, and so their persons will be safe, yet what they have built upon that foundation, according to the nature of it, shall either abide or be destroyed, 1Co 3:14,15 wherefore inasmuch then as the church of Christ is a temple, a building laid on such a foundation as Christ, it ought not to be defiled by factions and divisions, by errors and heresies; especially since it is holy, and the Spirit of God dwells in it; and whoever does defile it shall surely be destroyed; and therefore the apostle dissuades from it, both from the turpitude of the action, and the danger of it, 1Co 3:16,17 he cautions against the wisdom of this world, which was the cause of their divisions; as being self-deceiving, and contrary to true wisdom, 1Co 3:18 and as being foolishness in the account of God, which he proves by some passages of scripture, 1Co 3:19,23 and concludes, therefore, that no man ought to glory in men, in the best of men, not even in ministers, 1Co 3:21 so as to separate and divide them, one from another, and set up one above another, since they, and all things else, were theirs, 1Co 3:22 the ground and evidence of which their right and property in them are given, they being Christ's, and Christ's God's, 1Co 3:23.

1 Corinthians 3:1-4 In-Context

1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ.
2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,
3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?
4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.
6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.
7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Greek Brothers.
  • [b]. Or to people who have the Spirit.
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