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1 Corinthians, Chapters 3 and 4 - Believers, One in Christ

INTRODUCTION: The Apostle Paul wanted the believers at Corinth to be careful to grow in knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ from the Hebrew Scriptures; and from the many testimonies of those who witnessed Christ's signs and wonders right up to the cross, and then of his victorious resurrection. He warned that it would be foolish to follow only one specific teacher, and to become separated from other believers through that practice. Those who have accepted the gospel are to become one in Christ. The only way to have the Word of God truly within the heart is to have faith and trust in Christ alone. It does not come from our own prideful knowledge and understanding of scripture, nor should we hold to the exclusive teaching of any one man or of his followers. Paul applied this principal even to his own teaching.

NOTE: All scripture is from the Bible in Basic English.


1 Corinthians 3 "1 And the teaching I gave you, my brothers, was such as I was able to give, not to those who have the Spirit, but to those who are still in the flesh, even to children in Christ. 2 I gave you milk and not meat, because you were, then, unable to take it, and even now you are not able; 3 Because you are still in the flesh: for when there is envy and division among you, are you not still walking after the way of the flesh, even as natural men? 4 For when one says, I am of Paul; and another says, I am of Apollos; are you not talking like natural men? 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are but servants who gave you the good news as God gave it to them. 6 I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God gave the increase. 7 So then the planter is nothing, and the waterer is nothing; but God who gives the increase. 8 Now the planter and the waterer are working for the same end: but they will have their separate rewards in the measure of their work. 9 For we are workers with God: you are God's planting, God's building. 10 In the measure of the grace given to me, I, as a wise master-builder, have put the base in position, and another goes on building on it. But let every man take care what he puts on it."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that he had more that he could have taught them about faith in Christ, but after his eighteen months with them, they were still in the early stages of spiritual growth. The report he received sometime after he left them indicated that they used their own judgment through envy and division when they chose to exclusively follow different teachers. Paul told them such characteristics were evidence of a lack of maturing in the faith. When someone says they are of Paul, or of Apollos, or of Cephas; they are attributing too much to a man, and not giving all glory to Christ. Even the most respected teacher, with great honors among men, is just a servant of Christ if his teaching is about the true gospel of God. Whatever phase of teaching is delivered by any man, it is God who gives the increase in spiritual growth. Any man who takes part in this process must be very careful how they add to the base foundation of doctrine which consists of the prophets and apostles, as those set apart men are precisely aligned to Christ the cornerstone.


1 Corinthians 3 " 11 For there is no other base for the building but that which has been put down, which is Jesus Christ. 12 But on the base a man may put gold, silver, stones of great price, wood, dry grass, cut stems; 13 every man's work will be made clear in that day, because it will be tested by fire; and the fire itself will make clear the quality of every man's work. 14 If any man's work comes through the test, he will have a reward. 15 If the fire puts an end to any man's work, it will be his loss: but he will get salvation himself, though as by fire. 16 Do you not see that you are God's holy house, and that the Spirit of God has his place in you? 17 If anyone makes the house of God unclean, God will put an end to him; for the house of God is holy, and you are his house. 18 Let no man have a false idea. If any man seems to himself to be wise among you, let him become foolish, so that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolish before God. As it is said in the holy Writings, He who takes the wise in their secret designs: 20 And again, The Lord has knowledge of the reasonings of the wise, that they are nothing. 21 So let no one take pride in men. For all things are yours; 22 Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23 And you are Christ's; and Christ is God's."

COMMENTS: In a figure of speech all believers become part of the building of Christ, as their time comes to lay their works upon the choice foundation. But each Christian must be aware that they have responsibility to conduct their lives so they can present works accomplished with the gifts given by God to become part of the massive "building" to glorify God. All futile and worldly achievements will be destroyed as if by fire. The wisdom of the world that does not give glory to God is utter foolishness before the LORD. It is far better to be judged as foolish in the eyes of the godless, than TO BE known as foolish by the LORD of Glory!

The advice from Paul to Christians is to be careful not to place uplifting pride even in men such as he was. He emphasized that believers are Christ's; and Christ is God. God has equipped those who faithfully teach the Word, and God also has given various gifts to each believer. All other things as well are from God: whether life or death, or things present, or things to come.

Another passage reinforces the fact that all things that have good and lasting value comes from God. . James 1 "16 Do not be turned from the right way, dear brothers. 17 Every good and true thing is given to us from heaven, coming from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change or any shade made by turning."

Christ spoke to religious leaders who rejected him as one who blasphemed God by his words, yet he is the key to our salvation and our growth in faith. John 5 "36 But the witness which I have is greater than that of John: the work which the Father has given me to do, the very work which I am now doing, is a witness that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father himself who sent me has given witness about me. Not one of you has ever given ear to his voice; his form you have not seen. 38 And you have not kept his word in your hearts, because you have not faith in him whom he has sent. 39 You make search in the holy Writings, in the belief that through them you get eternal life; and it is those Writings which give witness about me. 40 And still you have no desire to come to me so that you may have life. 41 I do not take honour from men; 42 But I have knowledge of you that you have no love for God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father's name, and your hearts are not open to me. If another comes with no other authority but himself, you will give him your approval. 44 How is it possible for you to have faith while you take honour one from another and have no desire for the honour which comes from the only God?"


1 Corinthians 4 "1 Let us be judged as servants of Christ, and as those who are responsible for the secret things of God. 2 And it is right for such servants to be safe persons. 3 But it is a small thing to me that I am judged by you or by man's judging; I am not even a judge of myself. 4 For I am not conscious of any wrong in myself; but this does not make me clear, for it is the Lord who is my judge. 5 For this reason let there be no judging before the time, till the Lord comes, who will make clear the secret things of the dark, and the designs of the heart; and then will every man have his praise from God. 6 My brothers, it is because of you that I have taken Apollos and myself as examples of these things, so that in us you might see that it is not wise to go farther than what is in the holy Writings, so that no one of you may be lifted up against his brother. 7 For who made you better than your brother? Or what have you that has not been given to you? But if it has been given to you, what cause have you for pride, as if it had not been given to you? 8 For even now you are full, even now you have wealth, you have been made kings without us: truly, I would be glad if you were kings, so that we might be kings with you. 9 For it seems to me that God has put us the Apostles last of all, as men whose fate is death: for we are put on view to the world, and to angels, and to men. 10 We are made to seem foolish for Christ, but you are wise in Christ; we are feeble, but you are strong; you have glory, but we have shame. 11 Even to this hour we are without food, drink, and clothing, we are given blows and have no certain resting-place; 12 And with our hands we do the hardest work: when they give us curses we give blessings, when we undergo punishment we take it quietly; 13 When evil things are said about us we give gentle answers: we are made as the unclean things of the world, as that for which no one has any use, even till now."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted to be known only as a servant of Christ responsible to share the secrets things of God. It is right for such servants to have safety, and yet Paul was not immune from being judged by other men. He said he did not even judge himself because that could not clear him of any guilt, since God is the only true judge. When the Lord comes, he will make clear the secret things of the dark, and the designs of the heart; and only then will praise come from God.

Paul addressed his readers as brothers, and said he had taken Apollos and himself as examples of these things, so through men they knew and respected they might see it is not wise to go farther than what is in the holy Writings. None of them should feel they were better than any other brother. For who made each person, and what does anyone have that has not been given to them? If all things are gifts, what cause does anyone have for pride or boasting, as if it had not been given to them? Paul said they were acting as though they were filled up, having wealth as though they had been made kings. Paul said he would be glad if that could be true, so the Apostles would also be kings. But that is not the case for Apostles. Instead they are in view before the world, and to angels, and to men: made to seem foolish for Christ.

Paul told The Corinthians they were acting as though they were wise in Christ, while the Apostles seemed foolish. They had strength while the Apostles were feeble; they had glory, but the Apostles had shame. Even as Paul was writing, there was inadequate food, drink, and clothing for them. They endured blows, and had no certain place to rest. They did hard work with their own hands. When they were given curses, blessings were given in return, when they underwent punishment they took it quietly; when evil things were said about them they gave gentle answers. They were made as the unclean things of the world, as that for which no one has any use, even till now. Such a description for those set apart by the Lord should be more than sufficient for every believer to understand our lasting comfort and hope is not at all related to our conditions in this life, but in the life to come given by Christ!


1 Corinthians 4 "14 I am not saying these things to put you to shame, but so that, as my dear children, you may see what is right. 15 For even if you had ten thousand teachers in Christ, you have not more than one father: for in Christ Jesus I have given birth to you through the good news. 16 So my desire is that you take me as your example. 17 For this cause I have sent Timothy to you, who is my dear and true child in the Lord; he will make clear to you my ways in Christ, even as I am teaching everywhere in every church. 18 Now some are full of pride, as if I was not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you in a short time, if it is pleasing to the Lord, and I will take note, not of the word of those who are full of pride, but of the power. 20 For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 21 What is your desire? Is my coming to be with punishment, or is it to be in love and a gentle spirit?"

COMMENTS: Paul said his intention was not to put the readers to shame for their stance, but it was probably not easy to consider this as loving observations and advice when the words were read in an assembly. His following comments were intended to assure them of his father-like endearment for them since he was first to bring a clear message of Jesus as the Messiah and the very Son of God who gives new life by faith in him alone. Paul said he wanted to be taken as an example, and that is why he was sending Timothy to them. He had a very special relationship with Timothy who had heard the gospel of salvation through Paul; and could personally make clear to them Paul's ways in Christ, even as Paul taught everywhere in every church. Paul made a firm point that there were some at Corinth full of pride as though Paul would not come there. But he said he would come in a short time, if it was pleasing to the Lord, and he would take note, not of the word of those who are full of pride, but of the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. He told them to consider whether his coming would be with punishment, or to be in love and a gentle spirit. These strong words may have made it a little more difficult for Timothy after they were heard, but at the same time they may have moved the hearts of those who wanted to have a right relationship with the Lord. Those were the ones Paul wanted to reach.


I thank you LORD that I have access to the Scriptures of the prophets and Apostles contained in the Old and the New Testaments to provide a standard to examine those things taught to me by other men. I want to observe the admonition from Paul to be careful not to go beyond what is written, by following the teaching of certain men that can cause pride, and separate me from unity with other believers. I know there are those who can help me in my spiritual growth, and there may be times when I can help others if I keep Christ as the firm foundation. Help me Lord to have true humility, not a veiled method of trying to impress others, as I acknowledge that I have nothing that has not been given to me by my Lord and Savior. I want to avoid pride that can lead to a fall away from my God, and I want to accept any of the extreme conditions as described by Paul, knowing you will make all things new at the end of life in this mortal body. Help me to remember to ask every day for renewed spiritual strength from my Savior. Amen.

Published 21 February 2018