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On Divisions in the Corinthian Church


And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,

“He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

20 and again,

“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,

that they are futile.”

21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

11. For other foundation can no man lay This statement consists of two parts; first, that Christ is the only foundation of the Church; and secondly, that the Corinthians had been rightly founded upon Christ through Paul’s preaching. For it was necessary that they should be brought back to Christ alone, inasmuch as their ears were tickled with a fondness for novelty. It was, too, of no small importance that Paul should be recognized as the principal, and, so to speak, fundamental master-builder, from whose doctrine they could not draw back, without forsaking Christ himself. The sum is this — that the Church must by all means be founded upon Christ alone, and that Paul had executed this department of duty so faithfully that nothing could be found to be wanting in his ministry. Hence, whoever may come after him, can in no other way serve the Lord with a good conscience, or be listened to as ministers of Christ, than by studying to make their doctrine correspond with his, and retain the foundation which he has laid. Hence we infer, that those are not faithful workmen for building up the Church, but on the contrary are scatterers of it, (Matthew 12:30,) who succeed faithful ministers, but do not make it their aim to conform themselves to their doctrine, and carry forward what has been well commenced, so as to make it quite manifest 174174     “En sorte qu’on puisse voir a l’oeil;” — “So that one may see with the eye.” that they are attempting no new work. For what can be more pernicious than by a new manner of teaching to harass believers, who have been well instructed in pure doctrine, so that they stagger in uncertainty as to the true foundation. Now the fundamental doctrine, which it were unlawful to undermine, is, that we learn Christ, for Christ is the only foundation of the Church; but there are many who, while they make use of Christ’s name in pretense, tear up the whole truth of God by the roots. 175175     “Arrachent et renversent entierement;” — “They tear up and entirely overthrow”

Let us observe, then, in what way the Church is rightly built upon Christ. It is when he alone is set forth for righteousness, redemption, sanctification, wisdom, satisfaction and cleansing; in short, for life and glory; or if you would have it stated more briefly, when he is proclaimed in such a manner that his office and influence are understood in accordance with what we found stated in the close of the first chapter. (1 Corinthians 1:30.) If, on the other hand, Christ is only in some degree acknowledged, and is called a Redeemer only in name, while in the meantime recourse is had to some other quarter for righteousness, sanctification and salvation, he is driven off from the foundation, and spurious 176176     “Et non eonvenantes;” — “And not suitable.” stones are substituted in his room. It is in this manner that Papists act, who rob him of almost all his ornaments, leaving him scarcely anything but the bare name. Such persons, then, are far from being founded on Christ. For as Christ is the foundation of the Church, because he is the only source of salvation and eternal life — because in him we come to know God the Father — because in him we have the source of every blessing; if he is not acknowledged as such he is no longer regarded as the foundation

But it is asked — “Is Christ only a part, or simply the commencement of the doctrine of salvation, as the foundation is merely a part of the building; for if it were so, believers would have only their commencement in Christ, and would be perfected without him. Now this Paul might seem to intimate.” I answer that this is not the meaning of the words; otherwise he would contradict himself when he says elsewhere, that “in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3.) He, then, who has learned Christ, (Ephesians 4:20,) is already complete in the whole system of heavenly doctrine. But as Paul’s ministry had contemplated rather the founding of the Corinthians than the raising up among them of the top-stone of the building, he merely shows here what he had done in respect of his having preached Christ in purity. With respect to himself therefore, he calls him the foundation, while at the same time he does not thereby exclude him from the rest of the building. In fine, Paul does not put any kind of doctrine in opposition to the knowledge of Christ, but on the contrary there is a comparison between himself and the ministers.

12. Now if any man build upon this foundation He pursues still farther the metaphor. It would not have been enough to have laid the foundation if the entire superstructure did not correspond; for as it were an absurd thing to raise a structure of vile materials on a foundation of gold, so it were greatly criminal to bury Christ under a mass of strange doctrines. 177177     “Ce seroit vne chose mal seante que Christ lust suffoque en mettant et meslant auec luy quelques doctrines estranges;” — “It were an unseemly thing that Christ should be choked by placing upon him and mixing up with him some strange doctrines.” By gold, then, and silver, and precious stones, he means doctrine worthy of Christ, and of such a nature as to be a superstructure corresponding to such a foundation. Let us not imagine, however, that this doctrine is apart from Christ, but on the contrary let us understand that we must continue to preach Christ until the very completion of the building. Only we must observe order, so as to begin with general doctrine, and more essential articles, as the foundations, and then go on to admonitions, exhortations, and everything that is requisite for perseverance, confirmation, and advancement.

As there is an agreement thus far as to Paul’s meaning, without any controversy, it follows on the other hand, that by wood, stubble and hay, is meant doctrine not answering to the foundation, such as is forged in men’s brain, and is thrust in upon us as though it were the oracles of God. 178178     “On vent a force faire receuoir pour oracles et reuelations procedees de Dieu;” — “They would force us to receive it as if it were oracles and revelations that have come forth from God.” For God will have his Church trained up by the pure preaching of his own word, not by the contrivances of men, of which sort also is that which has no tendency to edification, as for example curious questions, (1 Timothy 1:4,) which commonly contribute more to ostentation, or some foolish appetite, than to the salvation of men.

He forewarns them that every man’s work will one day be made manifest of what sort it is, however it may be for a time concealed, as though he had said: “It may indeed happen, that unprincipled workmen may for a time deceive, so that the world does not perceive how far each one has labored faithfully or fraudulently, but what is now as it were buried in darkness must of necessity come to light, and what is now glorious in the eyes of men, must before the face of God fall down, and be regarded as worthless.”

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