1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3:1

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.

(a) Brethren. In the New Testament, the word brethren typically refers to Christian brothers and sisters (see entry for Heb. 2:11).

(b) Spiritual men and women are those who have been born of the Spirit and have the Spirit of God (John 3:5, Rom. 8:9).

(c) As to men of flesh. Unspiritual and ordinary men, more conscious of earthly things than spiritual things.

(d) Infants in Christ. Just as a toddler needs to learn how to walk, a new Christian needs to learn how to walk in the new way of the Spirit. The Corinthians had not yet learned. They were still walking after the old ways of the flesh. See entry for The Flesh.

1 Corinthians 3:3

for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

You are still fleshly. Although they were Christians, some of the Corinthians were acting in a fleshly or worldly manner. They were walking after the old ways of the flesh and remained infants in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1).

1 Corinthians 3:8

Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

(a) Each will receive his own reward. The original word for reward means pay or wages. Although all the blessings of God come to us by grace alone, there is one kind of work that earns a payment.

(b) According to his own labor. In the economy of grace, we are rewarded on account of what Christ has done. Yet there are rewards to planting and watering the gospel seed, and that reward is people – spiritual children and eternal friends. Outside of the Lord himself, there is no greater reward than co-laboring with the Holy Spirit to reproduce the life of Christ in others (1 Th. 2:19–20).

Further reading: “Rewarded for their labor?

1 Corinthians 3:9

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

God’s building; see entry for 2 Cor. 6:16.

1 Corinthians 3:10

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.

According to the grace of God which was given to me. Although Paul was an educated Pharisee, it was the grace of God that qualified and empowered him to be a gospel herald and a minister of the new covenant (1 Cor. 15:10). Similarly, the grace of God empowered the apostles (Acts 4:33), Stephen (Act 6:8), and every believer since (Rom. 12:6, 1 Pet. 4:10).

1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

(a) Do you not know? This was one of Paul’s rhetorical trademarks. “Do you not know? By now you should know!” He uses this phrase ten times in this letter (1 Cor. 3:16, 5:6, 6:2, 6:3, 6:9, 15, 16, 19, 9:13, 24) and four times in Romans (Rom. 6:3, 16, 7:1, 11:2).

(b) You are a temple of God. The Most High does not dwell in a temple made with human hands (Acts 7:48), but he dwells in the body of believers. The word “you” is plural signifying that God dwells in the church (2 Cor. 6:16). Later Paul will say that God dwells in individual believers (1 Cor. 6:19).

1 Corinthians 3:17

If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

(a) The temple of God in this context is the body of Christ (see 1 Cor. 3:16). It can also be interpreted as the individual believer (1 Cor. 6:19).

(b) If any man destroys. The original word for destroy means defile. Under the old covenant, defiling the temple was a serious sin. If you brought something unclean into the temple, you could get in trouble. Paul had some experience of this when he was falsely accused of bringing Gentiles into the temple (Acts 21:27-29). The Jews nearly killed him.

The old law was a shadow of a new covenant reality. God takes a dim view of those who defile his temple (the body of Christ) by promoting dead works and unbelief in Jesus.

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