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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 23

Verse 23. And ye are Christ's. You belong to him; and should not, therefore, feel that you are devoted to any earthly leader, whether Paul, Apollos, or Peter. As you belong to Christ by redemption, and by solemn dedication to his service, so you should feel that you are his alone. You are his property, his people, his friends. You should regard yourselves as such, and feel that you all belong to the same family, and should not, therefore, be split up into contending factions and parties.

Christ is God's. Christ is the Mediator between God and man. He came to do the will of God. He was, and is still, devoted to the service of his Father; God has a proprietorship in all that he does, since Christ lived, and acted, and reigns to promote the glory of his Father. The argument here seems to be this: "You belong to Christ, and he to God. You are bound, therefore, not to devote yourselves to a man, whoever he may be; but to Christ, and to the service of that one true God, in whose service even Christ was employed. And as Christ sought to promote the glory of his Father, so should you in all things." This implies no inferiority of nature of Christ to God. It means only that he was employed in the service of his Father, and sought his glory—a doctrine everywhere taught in the New Testament. But this does not imply that he was inferior in his nature. A son may be employed in the service of his father, and may seek to advance his father's interests. But this does not prove that the son is inferior in nature to his father. It proves only that he is inferior in some respects—in office. So the Son of God consented to take an inferior office or rank; to become a Mediator, to assume the form of a servant, and to be a man of sorrows; but this proves nothing in regard to his original rank or dignity. That is to be learned from the numerous passages which affirm that in nature he was equal with God. See Barnes "Joh 1:1".

 

{a} "Ye are Christ's" Ro 14:8 ————————————————————————————————————-

 

REMARKS ON 1ST CORINTHIANS, CHAPTER 3

(1.) Christians, when first converted, may be well compared to infants, 1 Co 3:1. They are in a new world. They just open their eyes on truth. They see new objects, and have new objects of attachment. They are feeble, weak, helpless, And though they often have high joy, and even great self-confidence, yet they are in themselves ignorant and weak, and in need of constant teaching. Christians should not only possess the spirit, but they should feel that they are like children. They are like them not only in their temper, but in their ignorance, and weakness, and helplessness.

(2.) The instructions which are imparted to Christians should be adapted to their capacity, 1 Co 3:2. Skill and care should be exercised to adapt that instruction to the wants of tender consciences, and to those who are feeble in the faith. It would be no more absurd to furnish strong food to the new-born babe, than it is to present some of the higher doctrines of religion to the tender minds of converts. The elements of knowledge must be first learned; the tenderest and most delicate food must first nourish the body. And perhaps in nothing is there more frequent error than in presenting the higher and more difficult doctrines of Christianity to young converts; and because they have a difficulty in regard to them, or because they even reject them, pronouncing them destitute of piety. Is the infant destitute of life because it cannot digest the solid food which nourishes the man of fifty years? Paul adapted his instructions to the delicacy and feebleness of infantile piety; and those who are like Paul will feed with great care the lambs of the flock. All young converts should be placed under a course of instruction adapted to their condition, and should secure the careful attention of the pastors of the churches.

(3.) Strife and contention in the church is proof that men are under the influence of carnal feelings. No matter what is the cause of the contention—the very fact of the existence of such strife is a proof of the existence of such feelings somewhere, 1 Co 3:3,4. On what side soever the original fault of the contention may be, yet its existence in the church is always proof that some—if not all— of those who are engaged in it are under the influence of carnal feelings. Christ's kingdom is designed to be a kingdom of peace and love; and divisions and contentions are always attended with evils, and with injury to the spirit of true religion.

(4.) We have here a rebuke to that spirit which has produced the existence of sects and parties, 1 Co 3:4. The practice of naming sects after certain men, we see, began early, and was as early rebuked by apostolic authority. Would not the same apostolic authority rebuke the spirit which now calls one division of the church after the name of Calvin, another after the name of Luther, another after the name of Arminius? Should not, and will not, all these divisions yet be merged in the high and holy name of Christian? Our Saviour evidently supposed it possible that his church should be one, Joh 17:21-23; and Paul certainly supposed that the church at Corinth might be so united. So the early churches were; and is it too much to hope that some way may yet be discovered which shall break down the divisions into sects, and unite Christians, both in feeling and in name, in spreading the gospel of the Redeemer everywhere? Does not every Christian sincerely desire it? And may there not yet await the church such a union as shall concentrate all its energies in saving the world? How much effort, how much talent, how much wealth and learning are now wasted in contending with other denominations of the great Christian family! How much would this wasted—and worse than wasted—wealth, and learning, and talent, and zeal do in diffusing the gospel around the world! Whose heart is not sickened at these contentions and strifes; and whose soul will not breathe forth a pure desire to heaven, that the time may soon come when all these contentions shall die away, and when the voice of strife shall be hushed; and when the united host of God's elect shall go forth to subdue the world to the gospel of the Saviour?

(5.) The proper honour should be paid to the ministers of the gospel, 1 Co 3:5-7. They should not be put in the place of God; nor should their services, however important, prevent the supreme recognition of God in the conversion of souls. God is to be all and in all. It is proper that the ministers of religion should be treated with respect, (1 Th 5:12,13;) and ministers have a right to expect and to desire the affectionate regards of those who are blessed by their instrumentality. But Paul—eminent and successful as he was—would do nothing that would diminish or obscure the singleness of view with which the agency of God should be regarded in the work of salvation. He regarded himself as nothing compared with God; and his highest desire was that God in all things might be honoured.

(6.) God is the Source of all good influence, and of all that is holy in the church. He only gives the increase. Whatever of humility, faith, love, joy, peace, or purity we may have, is all to be traced to him. No matter who plants, or who waters—God gives life to the seed; God rears the stalk; God expands the leaf; God opens the flower, and gives it its fragrance; and God forms, preserves, and ripens the fruit. So in religion. No matter who the minister may be; no matter how faithful, learned, pious, or devoted; yet if any success attends his labours, it is all to be traced to God. This truth is never to be forgotten; nor should any talents or zeal, however great, ever be allowed to dim or obscure its lustre in the minds of those who are converted.

(7.) Ministers are on a level, 1 Co 3:8,9. Whatever may be their qualifications or their success, yet they can claim no pre-eminence over one another. They are fellow-labourers— engaged in one work, accomplishing the same object, though they may be in different parts of the same field. The man who plants is as necessary as he that waters; and both are inferior to God, and neither could do anything without him.

(8.) Christians should regard themselves as a holy people, 1 Co 3:9. They are the cultivation of God. All that they have is from him. His own agency has been employed in their conversion; his own Spirit operates to sanctify and save them. Whatever they have is to be traced to God; and they should remember that they are, therefore, consecrated to him.

(9.) No other foundation can be laid in the church except that of Christ, 1 Co 3:10,11. Unless a church is founded on the true doctrine respecting the Messiah, it is a false church, and should not be recognised as belonging to him. There can be no other foundation, either for an individual sinner, or for a church. How important, then, to inquire whether we are building our hopes for eternity on this tried foundation! How faithfully should we examine this subject, lest our hopes should all be swept away in the storms of Divine wrath! Mt 7:26,27. How deep and awful will be the disappointment of those who suppose they have been building on the true foundation, and who find, in the great day of judgment, that all has been delusion!

(10.) We are to be tried at the day of judgment, 1 Co 3:13,14. All are to be arraigned, not only in regard to the foundation of our hopes for eternal life, but in regard to the superstructure—the nature of our opinions and practices in religion. Everything shall come into judgment.

(11.) The trial will be such as to test our character. All the trials through which we are to pass are designed to do this. Affliction, temptation, sickness, death, are all intended to produce this result, and all have a tendency to this end. But pre-eminently is this the case with regard to the trial at the great day of judgment. Amidst the light of the burning world, and the terrors of the judgment; under the blazing throne, and the eye of God, every man's character shall be seen, and a just judgment shall be pronounced.

(12.) The trial shall remove all that is impure in Christians, 1 Co 3:14. They shall then see the truth; and in that world of truth, all that was erroneous in their opinions shall be corrected. They shall be in a world where fanaticism cannot be mistaken for the love of truth, and where enthusiasm cannot be substituted for zeal. All true and real piety shall there abide; all which is false and erroneous shall be removed.

(13.) What a change will then take place in regard to Christians. All probably cherish some opinions which are unsound; all indulge in some things now supposed to be piety, which will not then bear the test. The great change will then take place from impurity to purity; from imperfection to perfection. The very passage from this world to heaven will secure this change; and what a vast revolution will it be, thus to be ushered into a world where all shall be pure in sentiment, all perfect in love.

(14.) Many Christians may be much disappointed in that day. Many who are now zealous for doctrines, and who pursue with vindictive spirit others who differ from them, shall then "suffer loss," and find that the persecuted had more real love of truth than the persecutor. Many who are now filled with zeal, and who denounce the comparatively leaden and tardy pace of others; many whose bosoms glow with rapturous feeling, and burn, as they suppose, with a seraph's love, shall find that all this was not piety—that animal feeling was mistaken for the love of God; and that a zeal for sect, or for the triumph of a party, was mistaken for love to the Saviour; and that the kindlings of an ardent imagination had been often substituted for the elevated emotions of pure and disinterested love.

(15.) Christians, teachers, and people should examine themselves, and see what is the building which they are rearing on the true foundation. Even where the foundation of a building is laid broad and deep, it is of much importance whether a stately and magnificent palace shall be reared on it, suited to the nature of the foundation, or whether a mud-walled and a thatched cottage shall be all. Between the foundation and the edifice in the one case, there is the beauty of proportion and fitness; in the other, there is incongruity and unfitness. Who would lay such a deep and broad foundation as the basis on which to rear the hut of the savage, or the mud cottage of the Hindoo? Thus in religion. The foundation to all who truly believe in the Lord Jesus is broad, deep, firm, magnificent. But the superstructure—the piety, the advancement in knowledge, the life—is often like the cottage that is reared on the firm basis, that every wind shakes, and that the fire would soon consume. As the basis of the Christian hope is firm, so should the superstructure be large, magnificent, and grand.

(16.) Christians are to regard themselves as holy and pure, 1 Co 3:16,17. They are the temple of the Lord—the dwelling-place of the Spirit. A temple is sacred and inviolable. So should Christians regard themselves. They are dedicated to God. He dwells among them. And they should deem themselves holy and pure; and should preserve their minds from impure thoughts, from unholy purposes, from selfish and sensual desires. They should be, in all respects, such as will be the fit abode for the Holy Spirit of God. How pure should men be in whom the Holy Spirit dwells! How single should be their aims! How constant their self-denials! How single their desire to devote all to his service, and to live always to his glory! How heavenly should they be in their feelings; and how should pride, sensuality, vanity, ambition, covetousness, and the love of gaiety, be banished from their bosoms! Assuredly, in God's world there should be one place where he will delight to dwell —one place that shall remind of heaven; and that place should be the church which has been purchased with the purest blood of the universe.

(17.) We see what is necessary if a man would become a Christian, 1 Co 3:18. He must be willing to be esteemed a feel; to be despised; to have his name cast out as evil; and to be regarded as even under delusion and deception. Whatever may be his rank, or his reputation for wisdom, and talent, and learning, he must be willing to be regarded as a fool by his former associates and companions; to cast off all reliance on his own wisdom; and to be associated with the poor, the persecuted, and the despised followers of Jesus. Christianity knows no distinctions of wealth, talent, learning. It points out no royal road to heaven. It describes but one way; and whatever contempt an effort to be saved may involve us in, it requires us to submit to that, and even to rejoice that our names are cast out as evil.

(18.) This is a point on which men should be especially careful that they are not deceived, 1 Co 3:18. There is nothing on which they are more likely to be than this. It is not an easy thing for a proud man to humble himself; it is not easy for men who boast of their wisdom to be willing that their names should be cast out as evil. And there is great danger of a man's flattering himself that he is willing to be a Christian, who would not be willing to be esteemed a fool by the great and the gay men of this world. He still intends to be a Christian and be saved, and yet to keep up his reputation for wisdom and prudence. Hence everything in religion which is not consistent with such a reputation for prudence and wisdom he rejects. Hence he takes sides with the world. As far as the world will admit that a man ought to attend to religion, he will go. Where the world would pronounce anything to be foolish, fanatical, or enthusiastic, he pauses. And his religion is not shaped by the New Testament, but by the opinions of the world. Such a man should be cautious that he is not deceived. All his hopes of heaven are probably built on the sand.

(19.) We should not overvalue the wisdom of this world, 1 Co 3:18,19. It is folly in the sight of God. And we, therefore, should not over-estimate it, or desire it, or be influenced by it. True wisdom on any subject we should not despise; but we should especially value that which is connected with salvation.

(20.) This admonition is of especial applicability to ministers of the gospel. They are in special danger on the subject; and it has been by their yielding themselves so much to the power of speculative philosophy that parties have been formed in the church, and that the gospel has been so much corrupted.

(21.) These considerations should lead us to live above contention, and the fondness of party. Sect and party in the church are not formed by the love of the pure and simple gospel, but by the love of some philosophical opinion, or by an admiration of the wisdom, talents, learning, eloquence, or success of some Christian teacher,.Against this the apostle would guard us; and the considerations presented in this chapter should elevate us above all the causes of contention and the love of sect, and teach us to love as brothers all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.

(22.) Christians have an interest in all things that can go to promote their happiness. Life and death, things present and things to come—all shall tend to advance their happiness, and promote their salvation, 1 Co 3:21-23.

(23.) Christians have nothing to fear in death. Death is theirs, and shall be a blessing to them. Its sting is taken away; and it shall introduce them to heaven. What have they to fear? Why should they be alarmed? Why afraid to die? Why unwilling to depart and to be with Christ?

(24.) Christians Should regard themselves as devoted to the Saviour. they are his, and he has the highest conceivable claim on their time, their talents, their influence, and their wealth. To him, therefore, let us be devoted, and to him let us consecrate all that we have.

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