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Summary —The Proofs that the Corinthians were Yet Carnal. Not Able to Endure Strong Meat. The Work of Paul and Apollos. The Increase of God. The Church God's Building. The One Foundation. Perishable Materials Built on This. The Sin of Defiling God's Temple. The Glorious Estate of the Christians.
1–4. And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual. See verse 6 of the preceding chapter; also verse 14. The brethren at Corinth had not reached the state of “spiritual men.” 83They were carnal, undeveloped like babes. 2. I have fed you with milk. When he was at Corinth he treated them as babes, teaching them the simple, rudimentary principles. Milk. Simple teaching. Meat. Stronger and deeper doctrines. In the school of Christ, like all others, the teaching must be adapted to the advancement of the learner. 3. Ye are yet carnal. Hence, still not spiritual enough to receive the higher teaching, the “hidden wisdom,” the meat. The proof that they were yet carnal was the existence of divisions in the church. Walk as men. Exhibit the jealous and discordant spirit characteristic of men of the world. 4. When one saith, I am of Paul, etc. The fact that they are divided by following different human leaders, instead of all following Christ, demonstrated that they were yet carnal.
5–9. Who then is Paul and Apollos? Their carnal-mindedness shows itself in choosing and following these human leaders. One said he was a Paulite, etc. Hence he asks, Who is Paul, or Apollos? Only ministers, servants, subordinates, agents through whom they believed on Christ. As the Lord gave to every man. Gave to Paul and Apollos power to lead you to faith. 6. I have planted, etc. It was Paul's work given him to plant the seed of the kingdom; it was the work of Apollos to afterwards water or cultivate the Christian plants which had come forth, but God gave the growth; gave the seed its vitality and the plant its life. 7. So then neither is he that planteth, etc. The parts of Paul and Apollos were as nothing; the power was all of God, who gave growth to the seed and plant. 8. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one. They have kindred work, as servants, and each will be rewarded as a servant, according to his own labor. 9. For we are laborers together with God. The Revision gives the true meaning: “For we are God's fellow-workers.” They, he and Apollos, were fellow-laborers belonging to God (of God, not with God). They were fellow-laborers with each other, of God. The Corinthian church was God's field in which they labored. The Greek word means “tilled land.” Husbandry is obscure. Ye are God's building. The figure is now changed. Paul and Apollos are God's builders, and the church is the building they build. The leading idea is that they are only God's employees. How can Paul have a party, then, and Apollos another, when they are only employees of God?
10–15. According to the grace given to me. Given when? When he was called to be an 84apostle. I have laid the foundation. The figure of the building is retained. Paul is a discreet master-builder. He had laid the foundation at Corinth, when he was preaching Christ, and working through faith in him (2:4, 5). Notice it is not a foundation, but the foundation, because God's spiritual temple (v. 16) can have only one. Another buildeth thereon. After Paul left Corinth, Apollos and other teachers continued to build upon the foundation that Paul had laid. Let every man take heed how, etc. Since there is only one foundation of the temple, viz: Jesus Christ, there should be most careful and conscientious building upon it (verse 12). 11. Other foundation can no man lay, etc. There is only one foundation of the church (Matt. 16:16). This foundation-stone was laid by God (Isaiah 28:16). Paul's work under God was to point to this foundation, to induce them to believe, and thus to build them upon it. His preaching laid it in their hearts. To preach Christ is to preach the fundamental or foundation truth of the church. 12. If any man buildeth upon this foundation. There is only one foundation for all builders to build upon. The church or temple will be of the character of the material built upon it. If this material be precious and imperishable, if apostolic doctrines and men moulded into the image of Christ be this material, it is well. If erroneous doctrines and unstable men, wood, hay, stubble, this will all be revealed in due time. 13. Every man's work shall be made manifest. The kind of work that every builder does will be manifested. The day shall declare it. Probably the day of Christ's coming. As fire destroys wood, hay, stubble, but leaves gold, silver, precious stones, so the work of some builders, when tested, will vanish. They do not do solid work. 14. If any man's work shall abide. Shall stand the test of trial. Such a builder will be rewarded. There shall be stars in his crown. 15. If any man's work shall be burned. Shall perish as worthless. Such an one will forfeit his reward. So as by fire. He is saved, because he intended well, but is barely saved, like one who escapes from a burning house where all his property is consumed.
16, 17. If any man defile the temple of God. In verse 9 the apostle had said, “Ye are God's building.” Now he returns to that figure, and denounces the judgment of God upon all who would defile his house by their carnal divisions. In that temple the Spirit dwelt, as the Shekinah had dwelt in the temple of God at Jerusalem; it was therefore a holy temple, and an awful sin to defile it. Under the old dispensation, death was the penalty of polluting the temple.
18–23. Let no man deceive himself. A caution against the philosophical tendencies of the Apolloite party. If any man thinketh that he is wise. If he is wise in his own estimation and 85that of the world, let him choose what the world calls “foolishness,” in order that he may became “wise unto salvation.” 19. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. See chapter 1:20. For it is written. Job 5:13. 20. And again, the Lord knoweth, etc. Psalm 94:11. 21. Wherefore, let no man glory in men. In preachers like Paul, and Apollos, and Cephas. Above all, let them not form parties around human leaders. For all things are yours. All, the preachers as well as all beside, are ordained to prepare you for eternal glory. 22. Whether Paul, etc. See verse 5. Or the world. The world is not to be the master, but the servant of God's children. Or life. Life is given to do God's work and to insure life eternal. Or death. To the saint “death is gain.” Or things present. These, whatsoever they are, “shall work together for good to them that love God.” Or things to come. The things to come to the Christian are the presence of Christ, and the joys of the New Jerusalem. All are yours. What a climax! 23. And ye are Christ's. He had procured for us all things, but has bought us with a price. Christ is God's. God's Son, and belonging to the Father. All things are ours, but we are not our own! We own all else, but we do not own ourselves! Hence our duty to be consecrated to the service of Christ. 85
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