1Corinthians Chapter Three


This chapter has a very serious tone to it. Paul has made the point in the previous chapter that the Corinthians have a wrong concept of true spirituality, and in this chapter he comes straight out and tells them that they are unspiritual. He calls them babies that cannot digest spiritual food, and need o be fed on milk. This simply means that what they are processing in their ‘spiritual’ behavior is just human reasoning and self focused ambition, and as a diet for the soul this will bring no spiritual growth whatsoever.

He cannot tolerate their compulsion to attach themselves to either himself or Apollos or Peter as personalities to ‘belong’ to. He then uses the illustration of life and growth as being like a seed that is planted and grows when it is watered. He says that he planted the seed (of God’s word) and Apollos watered it and that only God can bring growth. This is a subtle reference to the idea of partnership and cooperation. He is saying that he and Apollos are part of a team that work with God. This is unlike them (the Corinthians), who work independently and against one another and therefore against God.

He then brings the very heavy message to them that one day their individual efforts and behavior that goes into their growth as a spiritual community will be judged and evaluated by Christ. Anything that is independent from God and rooted in selfish ambition will get scorched by fire and come to nothing, and this will be painful (in one way or another – most likely not physically). But if they work with God they will build with precious materials like gold and silver etc. that will withstand any kind of purifying fire, whatever that may be.

In doing this he is ‘heaping coals of fire upon their heads’ in the sense that he is making them accountable for the mighty gift of a shared life with Jesus that cannot be trifled with and used for one’s own advantage. It is to be esteemed and enjoyed wholeheartedly, and it is not to be burdensome, but it must be respected and energized by love and faith. This love and faith builds a spiritual temple which is a community of shared lives, of love and faith, which is church, no more, no less. This is God’s home and God will jealously guard it.

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1. And friends, I could not even talk to you as I would to spiritual people but as if you were fleshly and unspiritual, even like babies who can hardly talk.

2. I have had to keep you on a milk diet and not solid food because even up till now you can’t digest anything else.

3. For you are still fleshly and unspiritual as long as there is competition and contention amongst you. Don’t you think you deserve to be called unspiritual if you allow divisions to remain amongst you?

4. While ever some of you say ‘I follow Paul’ and others say ‘I follow Apollos’ doesn’t that mean you are fleshly and unspiritual?

5. After all, who is Paul, and who is Apollos? Aren’t we simply servants through whom you heard and believed, just as God wants everybody to hear?

6. I might have planted the seed and Apollos watered the seed, but it is God who makes the seed grow and have life.

7. So then it is not the one who plants that is significant, or the one that waters what is planted, but it is God who is significant, because he causes the life and growth to occur.

8. Furthermore, the one that plants and the one that waters are just the same in God’s sight, and each will receive their own reward from God according to how faithfully they have applied themselves to the work.

9. And we work together with God. You are like the farm, or like a building for example.

10. And I am like a skilled master builder, equipped and enabled by God. I might lay the foundation, but someone else can come along and build upon it. But let everyone be careful as to what and how he builds upon that foundation.

11. Because there is no other foundation that can be laid, than that of Jesus Christ.

12. And depending on what a person uses to build upon this foundation, whether it is gold and silver and precious stones, or wood, hay and stubble,

13. Every person’s work will be seen for what it is, because on the day of judgment it will be as though fire would scorch the building materials to test whether they survive the fire, and see how worthwhile they are.

14. And if any person’s work survives the fire, they will receive a reward.

15. But if a person’s work gets consumed by the fire, that person will suffer a sense of loss, but they themselves will be saved, but knowing they have been scorched and purified from their worthless works.

16. Do you realize that you are the temple of God and that you are the dwelling place for God’s Spirit on the earth?

17 If any one harms this temple God will harm them, because God’s temple is sacred, and you collectively are that temple.

18. Don’t let anyone fool you. If anyone seems to be a know-all in this world let him become as if he was ignorant, so that he might be willing to learn something useful.

19. Because the wisdom of this world makes no sense when compared to God’s wisdom. The Scripture says that God trips people up in their own empty pretense of wisdom.

20. The Scriptures also say that The Lord knows the thoughts of the pretentious, that they are fooling themselves.

21. So don’t any of you give undue glory to man, depending on man’s wisdom, because God has made everything available to you.

22. Whether it is Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or living in God or dying in God, or the here and now or the future. God has made all of this belong to you.

23. And you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.


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