Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
Last week we considered the topic “Paul's Reliance upon the Spirit” and that the church (you and I) must rely on the Holy Spirit. We concluded by saying that the Christian life can only be lived successfully in the power and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. And so we must therefore learn to depend on and walk with Him daily. In today’s study we shall be looking at the topic “Foundations for Living.”
A. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 [AMP] – The Result of Immaturity
However, brothers and sisters, I could not talk to you as to spiritual people, but [only] as to worldly people [dominated by human nature], mere infants [in the new life] in Christ! I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Even now you are still not ready. You are still worldly [controlled by ordinary impulses, the sinful capacity]. For as long as there is jealousy and strife and discord among you, are you not unspiritual, and are you not walking like ordinary men [unchanged by faith]? For when one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” and another, “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” are you not [proving yourselves unchanged, just] ordinary people?
Paul starts off by rebuking the Corinthians for their carnality and divisions. He pointed out that because they had failed to grow, he could not speak to them as unto spiritual men, but as unto carnal men, as to babes in Christ still under the command of carnal and corrupt affections; evidenced by is jealousy, strife and divisions. The Corinthian church had received some of the first principles of Christianity, but had not grown up to maturity of understanding in them, or of faith and holiness; and yet they were very proud of their wisdom and knowledge. It is very common among those who have little knowledge and understanding to have a great measure of self-conceit.
What other learnings can we draw up from these first four verses?
B. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 [AMP] – Misdirected Attentions
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Just servants through whom you believed [in Christ], even as the Lord appointed to each his task. I planted, Apollos watered, but God [all the while] was causing the growth. So neither is the one who plants nor the one who waters anything, but [only] God who causes the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one [in importance and esteem, working toward the same purpose]; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building.
Paul then addresses the reason for the strife and division in the church – the idolizing of ministers! He made them realize that the ministers (himself) included were just servants; mere instruments used by the God of all grace. He, by so doing de-emphasized laying importance on ministers but on the Almighty instead! Everyone has their own task (calling). His was to plant, Apollos was to water but growth and fruitfulness is not given to any man but God Himself. He then makes the Corinthian church see that the “planter” and the “waterer” are one. Although they may have their different gifts, these gifts all come from one and the same Spirit. They are fellow-labourers in the same work; employed by one Master, and are in harmony with one another. Care should be taken because they may be set in opposition to each other by contentious party-makers.
He then talks about rewards which does not only apply to “ministers” but to every one of us! Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour. Every one’s own work shall have its own reward. Those that work hardest will fare best. Those that are most faithful shall have the greatest reward.
Note that the work referred to here is not the work of salvation – Christ already did that!
What other learnings can we draw up from these next five verses?
C. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 [AMP] – Building with Care and with the Right Materials
According to the [remarkable] grace of God which was given to me [to prepare me for my task], like a skilful master builder I laid a foundation, and now another is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be clearly shown [for what it is]; for the day [of judgment] will disclose it, because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality and character and worth of each person’s work. If any person’s work which he has built [on this foundation, that is, any outcome of his effort] remains [and survives this test], he will receive a reward. But if any person’s work is burned up [by the test], he will suffer the loss [of his reward]; yet he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has barely escaped] through fire.
Paul kicks this section off by giving the glory to God about his ability of being a skilful master builder. Though he gives himself such a “title”, it is not to gratify his own pride, but to magnify divine grace. He was a wise master-builder, but the grace of God made him such. He then proceeds to advise that great care should be employed, not only to lay a sure and right foundation, but to erect a regular building upon it. Nothing must be laid upon it but what the foundation will bear, gold and dirt must not be mingled together. The learning point here is that ministers of Christ should take great care that they do not build their own fantasies or false reasoning on the foundation of divine revelation. What they preach should be the plain doctrine of their Master, or what is perfectly agreeable with it.
He then describes two classes of builders: those who build upon this foundation using gold, silver, and precious stones. These are those who receive and propagate the pure truths of the gospel, who hold nothing but the truth as it is in Jesus, and preach nothing else. They teach the doctrines Jesus taught, in their purity, without any corrupt mixtures, without adding or diminishing. Then Paul refers to others who build with wood, hay, and stubble, on this same foundation; that is, though they adhere to the foundation, they depart from the mind of Christ in many particulars, substitute their own fantasies and inventions but their works will not bear the trial by fire, and will be consumed in it.
What other learnings can we draw up from these next six verses?
D. 1 Corinthians 3:15-23 [AMP] – Purity and True Wisdom
Do you not know and understand that you [the church] are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells [permanently] in you [collectively and individually]? If anyone destroys the temple of God [corrupting it with false doctrine], God will destroy the destroyer; for the temple of God is holy (sacred), and that is what you are.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool [discarding his worldly pretensions and acknowledging his lack of wisdom], so that he may become [truly] wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness (absurdity, stupidity) before God; for it is written [in Scripture], “[He is] The one who catches the wise and clever in their craftiness;” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the [humanly] wise, that they are useless.” So let no one boast in men [about their wisdom, or of having this or that one as a leader]. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas (Peter) or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things are yours, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
Finally, Paul gets really serious with the Corinthians talking about how seriously God expects us to protect our temples! If we destroy our bodies, God will destroy us! Then he prescribes humility, and a modest opinion of themselves, for the remedy of the divisions and contests among them; advising them not to be led away from the truth and simplicity of the gospel by pretenders to science and eloquence, by a show of deep learning, or a flourish of words, by rabbis, orators, or philosophers.
He then addresses being wise; advising that he who “seems to be wise” must become a fool that he may be wise. The way to true wisdom is to de-emphasize our wisdom and be willing to be taught of God. The person who resigns his own understanding, that he may follow the instruction of God, is in the way to true and everlasting wisdom. Ps. 25:9 says: “The meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way”
What other learnings can we draw up from these next nine verses?
In this chapter, we learnt from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church how NOT to live. He addressed and condemned carnality and divisions as well as failure to grow!
• As believers we should therefore be governed by the Spirit. Romans 8: 6 says: “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
• We should dwell together in unity because that is where God ordains His blessings. Psalms 133:1&3 says: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the dew of [Mount] Hermon coming down on the hills of Zion; for there the Lord has commanded the blessing: life forevermore.”
• We should grow and bear fruits. Matt.7:19 says: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
He also condemned partisan spirit! Praise singers and men pleasers! Ministers must be careful not to encourage such for two reasons:
• They inadvertently cause factions in church! The Bible condemns those who do this. Titus 3:10 says: “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,”
• They idolize you and place you at risk. Acts 12:22-23 says of Herod: “The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, "It's the voice of a god, not of a man!" Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
Paul also talked about rewards based on the way we build on the foundation. If you build upon the right foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, etc. when your work is tried (by a quality, character and worth test) using fire, it will survive this test, and you will receive a reward. But if you build upon the right foundation using wood and hay and stubble, although you will be saved, out of the fire, the flame will consume your work and you will suffer loss. Note that the fire referred to here is not hell fire but it’s symbolical; used as a test of one’s works in determining their reward. So, it is not that he or she shall lose their salvation (because this is a free gift, not a "reward" or wages), because he or she remains still on the foundation. But building on any other foundations apart from the one which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ leads to damnation!
Finally, he addresses the issues of purity and true wisdom; advising that we should take good care of our bodies and that to be truly wise, we have to be taught of God!