“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the some judgment.11For l have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.12Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ ”
THE CORRECTION NEEDED 1:10
The Appeal 1:10a
Paul frames his appeal as an exhortation. It is important to catch the flavor of the word exhort. The basic idea in the word is that of encouragement, not command. When writing to Philemon, Paul says he has the confidence to order him but instead appeals to him (Philemon 8-9). The word translated appeal is the same as exhort in I Corinthians 1:10. An exhortation is an encouragement to make a willing choice. God’s word is not meant to be a club to beat us into submission; it is rather meant to be a teacher that convinces us to make right choices based on the understanding of truth.
The Details 1:10b
The exhortation that you all agreeis literally that you all say the same thing. The Corinthians needed to have harmony of viewpoint. Unity was to be achieved by doctrinal agreement, not doctrinal compromise.
From the negative standpoint, there are to be no divisions among you. The word divisions is schismaand refers to different or wrong opinion (John 7:40-43, 9:16, l0:l9). The term made complete is used in medical literature for mending a broken limb. It was also used for the repair of fishing nets. Healing needs to take place in Corinth.
THE CARNALITY DEFINED 1:11-12
In General 1:11
The general problem is defined by the single word quarrels, which denotes bitter discussion and bitter words. It is specifically said to be a product of the sin nature in Galatians 5:20 and is translated strife in that verse. Its widespread existence in Corinth is beyond question because the words have been informed were used in the papyri for official evidence.
In Particular 1:12
The problem involved everyone in the church and centered about personalities. Peter and Paul did not differ doctrinally in any way; yet parties had been built around them in the Corinthian church. Note that no guilt is placed on those around whom these parties had been built. It is possible that the four parties are not literal groups. This may be the meaning of I Corinthians 4:6 where Paul says “I have figuratively applied (these things) to myself and Apollos for your sakes….”
Why would Paul select these four names, or why would Christians in Corinth have aligned themselves with these four? The answer lies in that each of the four would reflect a particular facet of the dissension problem. How would each one do so? Since Paul was the founder of the church, he would stand especially high in the eyes of some. In Acts 18:24 Apollos is described as eloquent, which would explain why a group might gather about him. Cephas (Peter) was Jewish, energetic, and always in the middle of things, which would explain his appeal. The Christ party would describe the exclusivists of the church—“We are above the rest; we serve only Christ!” The whole problem literally bristled with ego. Each of the four statements begins with the emphatic personal pronoun I. With I Corinthians 1:13 Paul begins to give us the solutions to these dissensions.
UNITY IS ACHIEVED BY CONSIDERING THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST 1:13-17
“Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucifiedfor you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?14I thank God that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius, 15that no man should say you were baptized in my name. 16Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.”
There Is Only One Christ
The word divided means to distribute or portion out.Jesus Christ is one person and is fully shared by all believers. There is no such thing as Christ for one group and Christ for another group. The question is stated in such a way as to expect a “no” answer— “Christ is not portioned out is He?” Dissension is not only sinful, it is absurd! One Christ argues unity among those who are truly His.
There Is Only One Cross
Only one person died a death that brings salvation to men. One single cross argues for unity and against dissension. Every believer has this is common: The salvation of each is totally dependent on the cross work of Jesus Christ.
There Is Only One Baptism
The word in found in the words in the name of Paul is literally into and therefore speaks of union and fellowship and allegiance. The mention of baptism leads Paul to make the comments of verses 14-17. He first comments on those he baptized; he then comments on the nature of his mission as an apostle. When Paul says he was not sent to baptize, he does not mean he did not baptize certain ones, as the immediate context makes clear; but rather, baptism was not his primary mission. Paul’s primary mission was to preach the gospel.
As Paul carried out the mission of preaching the gospel, he did so using a definite method. He did not present the gospel in cleverness of speech. The word cleverness is the Greek word sophia, which means wisdom. Wisdom was very important to the Greeks. It referred to any well conceived philosophy that gave explanation of God, man, and the universe. Paul did not cater to man’s desire for a philosophical system. Eloquent and powerful speech was also important to the Greeks. Great emphasis was placed on selling one’s message by all sorts of rhetorical devices. Paul set all of these aside and proclaimed the gospel in simple terms because to do otherwise is to destroy its inherent power. More of this appears in Chapter 2.
UNITY IS ACHIEVED BY CONSIDERING THE TRUE NATURE OF THE GOSPEL 1:18-25
“For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.19For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ 20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.22For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified,to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
The Two Evaluations of the Cross 1:18
The phrase word of the crossis important. Word is logos, which means message or doctrine. The doctrine of the cross becomes the theme of I Corinthians from here to the end of Chapter 2. Think of it as the caption that stands over I Corinthians 1:18-2:16. What is the doctrine of the cross? The doctrine of the cross is the teaching that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died a death wherein the guilt and penalty of man’s sin was placed on Him, making it possi- ble for salvation to be extended to those who believe in Christ.
The Evaluation of the Perishing 1:18a
The word perishing is a present tense participle. The present tense emphasizes that they will not merely perish in the future, but they are on the way to destruction now. They are named relative to their destiny just as the saved are designated as to their destiny.
The perishing view the cross as foolishness. The Greek word is moriaand carries two ideas with it. First, it refers to anything that does not appear to fit the framework of human logic. Second, it refers to anything that is considered to be the product of a feeble mind.
The Evaluation of the Saved 1:18b
The saved view the cross from the standpoint of what it displays— the power of God.This is why the message does not need the adorn- ment of human eloquence or the approval of human wisdom. In the evaluation of the perishing, the gospel is measured by man’s intellect and is rejected. Those who are saved measure it by its effectiveness and thus believe it. In the first, man is the measure; in the second, God is the measure.
The Two Evaluations Analyzed 1:19-25
The Evaluation of the Perishing Explained 1:19-22
HIS ATTITUDE IS PROPHESIED BY SCRIPTURE 1:19 Paul quotes from Isaiah 29:14. This passage in Isaiah deals with what may be called judicial blindness. It centers about the fact that there are consequences for coming into contact with truth and rejecting it. It was a judgment that was to come about through the preaching of the prophet (Isaiah 6:9-10). The more Isaiah spoke the truth, the less intelligible it became to those who heard it. Men are always free to refuse God’s truth, but they are not free to do so without consequences. Wisdom that does not seek God is turned into the highest sort of ignorance.
HIS ATTITUDE IS PROVED BY EXPERIENCE 1:20 The logic of this verse is as follows. If the doctrine of the cross is true, as it is, and human wisdom rejects it, as it does, what can we conclude about human wisdom? The answer is found in the last part of verse 20—God has made it foolish. The point is enforced by rhetorical questions. “Where is the wise man?” This would be a reference to the Greek philosopher. How many of them understood and believed the message of the cross? “Where is the scribe?” points to the Jewish thinker. The debater of this age combines the Jewish and Greek logicians (Acts 6:9, 17:18).
HIS ATTITUDE IS JUDGED BY GOD 1:21 God has judged human wis- dom because of its failure to achieve the highest good—to know God. As a consequence, God saves men by a message that insults human wisdom and pride. It will hear nothing of man’s logic and will have nothing of his works.
HIS ATTITUDE IS MANIFESTED IN HIS PURSUITS 1:22 The Jews seek for signs, which refers to tangible evidence that satisfies the senses; the Greeks seek for wisdom, which refers to that which satisfies man’s intellect. Both of these demands are brazen in that they set up human criteria that God must meet! God responds by offering a salvation through one who died with criminals and presents Him as the only Savior.
The Evaluation of the Saved Explained 1:23-25
THE FEATURES OF THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS 1:23A First, it is a procla- mation of fact, not a discussion of theory. The word translated preachmeans to proclaim an objective message.Second, its content concerns the person and work of Jesus Christ. The word crucified points to the completeness of His work in that it is a perfect tense verb. Perfect tense refers to past completed action. The word also points to the present effectiveness of His work in that the perfect tense is past completed action with abiding results.
THE RESPONSE TO THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS 1:23B-24 First, it is a stumbling block to some. The word refers to anything that offends. What is so offensive about the message of the cross? It is offensive because it shows the gravity of man’s sin. God had to “pull out all the stops” in order to save us—God gave His utmost for man’s salvation. Man’s problem is not minor; it is of gravest proportions. Another aspect of the offensiveness of the cross is it reveals man’s total inability to save himself and thus leaves no room for the pride of human accomplishment. Second, to others it is foolish, revealing the two enemies of the cross: religious pride and intellectual pride.
THE GREATNESS OF THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS 1:25 What does Paul mean by the foolishness of God and the weakness of God? This must be answered because in reality there is no foolishness or weakness in God. The solution lies in that each word is a neuter adjective pre- ceded by a definite article. We could therefore translate “the foolish act of God (as man views it) and the weak act of God (as man views it).” Nothing of human accomplishment even begins to rival the power of the cross to save men.
UNITY IS ACHIEVED BY VIEWING THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE CHURCH 1:26-31
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh,not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, 29that no man should boast before God.30But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ ”
How Can Viewing the Membership of the Corinthian Church Contribute to Unity?
Discord often finds its roots in someone thinking he is superior to others. These verses will remind the Corinthians that they are all “nothings,” and no one has any real basis for boasting. The church was not made up of the noble and the mighty but of the “unknowns” in Corinth.
Taking a Look at the Kinds of People Found in the Corinthian Church Directory
Those Who Did Not Make Up the Corinthian Church 1:26
THE EDUCATED CLASSES WERE IN THE MINORITY The words not many point to the scarcity of these kinds of people; it does not, however, exclude them. Acts 17:34 speaks of a believer named Dionysius who was an Areopagite, which referred to the most important governmental body in Athens. Its major function was the supervi- sion of education. Romans 16:23 speaks of a believer named Erastus who was the city treasurer. Nonetheless, these were very much in the minority as far as the church was concerned. The words according to translate the Greek preposition kata, which is used to introduce a norm or a standard. According to human standards, the church did not have many people of reputation.
THE RULING CLASSES WERE IN THE MINORITY The word translated mightyis a term that was used for those in the ruling class.
THE ARISTOCRATIC CLASSES WERE IN THE MINORITY The word noble is a compound Greek word made up of eu, meaning good or well, and genas, meaning born. Literally, not many well born were in the church. As is known to one familiar with the teaching of Scripture, God is never impressed with human greatness. As a matter of fact, as seen in these verses, it could well be viewed as a spiritual disad- vantage. This is all basic to God’s manner of dealing with man on a grace basis without regard to man’s merit or demerit.
Those Who Did Make Up the Corinthian Church 1:27-28
A THEME TO BE NOTED IN THE REST OF CHAPTER 1 Not only do we learn here who made up the church, but we are also told that it was the plan and purpose of God for things to be this way. This is seen in the purpose clauses found in these verses. Greek introduces pur- pose clauses with the word hina, and there are four of them in these closing verses of Chapter 1. Verse 27 has two of them translated to shame. Verse 28 has one translated that, and verse 31 begins with one that is also translated that.
THE THREE SETS OF “WHO’S” AND “WHY’S” Who has God chosen? He has chosen the foolish things of the world.Why has God done this? He has done this to shame the wise. This is our first purpose clause showing that this choosing is part of God’s sovereign plan and purpose. Who else has God chosen? He has chosen the weak things of the world. The repeated expression of the world means they are weak as the world views them. Why has God done this? He has done this to shame the things which are strong.Again we have a pure purpose clause—it is the purpose of God for things to be this way. At this point we should begin to ask, Why is this God’s purpose? We will get our answer twice before we end the chapter. Who are the concluding ones that God has called? He has chosen the base things…and the despised. The word base should be compared to the word noble in verse 26 because there is a play on words here. As we noted, noble is eugenas, meaning high-born; and base is agenas— no-born! With the words the things that are not, we have reached the bottom—the zeroes with the circle rubbed out.
Why Has God Chosen as He Has? 1:29-31
GOD’S PURPOSE STATED IN NEGATIVE TERMS 1:29 The reason is simple: God will not tolerate human boasting. For that reason, He chooses those who have nothing to boast about.
GOD’S PURPOSE STATED IN POSITIVE TERMS 1:30-31 God desires for man to find all of his worth in Christ. Verse 30 begins with an emphatic phrase translated but by His doing. The Greek text starts with a preposition meaning out of as a source (ek), followed by the pronoun Him. The believer’s dignity is not derived from his earthly position, whether it be his education, his wealth, or his lineage. The word youis also an emphatic personal pronoun and thus should be stressed. Paul’s point is that you (emphatic) as believers are differ- ent from all others. The items of our personal worth are wisdom, righteousness, sanctification,and redemption.The crowning purpose of God is His own honor and glory, and believers are the vessels chosen to reflect it.
UNITY IS ACHIEVED BY CONSIDERING THE NATURE OF
TRUE WISDOM 2:1-3:4
Powerful Preaching: Its Content and Method 2:1-5
“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.2For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.4And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
I Corinthians 1 and 2 stand together around the theme of the mes- sage of the cross. We noted that I Corinthians 1:18 contains the words that summarize the content of the first two chapters of the book. Their theme is “the word (message) of the cross.” In approaching Chapter 2, then, the topic remains the same.
I Corinthians 1 and 2 stand in contrast as to how the message of the cross is viewed. In Chapter 1 Paul calls the doctrine of the cross by the name men give it, i.e., foolishness (1:18, 21, 23). In Chapter 2 this changes, for Paul now begins to call the doctrine of the cross by its true nature, i.e., wisdom (I Corinthians 2:6-7).
The Nature of Paul’s Preaching 2:1-4
WHAT PAUL’S PREACHING WAS NOT It was not structured after human rhetoric (2:1). This is conveyed by the words superiority of speech or of wisdom. The first expression refers to rhetorical skill and has to do with his method of preaching. The second item refers to philosophical depth and pertains to the content of his preaching.
It was not encumbered (2:2). The single issue of his preaching was the person and the work of Christ. This was all part of a predeter- mined choice. Paul was highly educated and could easily have been eloquent and philosophical, but he chose not to and for good reasons. It was not persuasive (2:4). Paul presented truth in a simple way, and the Holy Spirit did the persuading. Paul’s oratory and manner of delivery was not compelling in itself.
WHAT PAUL’S PREACHING WAS It was a declaration of fact (2:1). This is seen in the word proclaiming, which is used for the simple announcement of fact. It is in the present tense, showing that this was Paul’s habitual practice. This is also conveyed by the word testimony, which takes us into the court-room. It incorporates the statement of objective truth.
It centered in the person and work of Christ (2:2). This simple presentation was the result of a conscious decision that Paul made sometime prior to his arrival in Corinth. Just prior to this arrival, Paul had been in Athens and had preached his sermon on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17:19-32). In this sermon Paul approaches the eloquence of the philosophers. Could it be that this caused Paul to say “never again” to that kind of preaching? The words Jesus Christ, and Him crucifiedtell several things. Jesus tells us He was a historical person; Christ tells us He was a prophesied person; crucifiedtells us He was a saving person. The word crucifiedis perfect tense, which points to the completeness of His work and its abiding results.
It was proclaimed against a background of personal weakness (2:3). When Paul describes himself as among them in weakness, he uses a word that is used to describe his own physical ailment (II Corinthians 12:7-9; Galatians 4:13) and to describe his physical unattractiveness (II Corinthians 10:10). When Paul speaks of his fear and trembling, he is not referring to shame over the message that he preached or to anxiety over his personal safety, but rather to the grave responsibility that is his in preaching the gospel. It was proclaimed in dependence upon the Holy Spirit for results (2:4). Paul was the proclaimer; the Holy Spirit was the persuader. It was that straightforward and simple.
The Purpose of Paul’s Preaching 2:5
The contrast involved here is not between the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God, but rather between the wisdom of men and the power of God. The emphasis, therefore, is not on what they know, but rather on how firm and well-grounded their faith is. Only that which is divinely done is permanent.
True Wisdom: Its Content and Source 2:6-3:4
Where True Wisdom Is not Found 2:6-9
“Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, howev- er, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucifiedthe Lord of glory; 9but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ ”
TRUE WISDOM CANNOT BE DISCOVERED BY HUMAN REASON 2:6-8 To this point, Paul has made it clear that he renounces wisdom (2:1); but now he tells us he proclaims wisdom (2:6). There is no contradic- tion here when we realize that wisdom is of two kinds: divine and human. Human wisdom is spoken of in verse 6, divine wisdom in verse 7. Human wisdom is viewed as to its temporal significance— of this age; its source—rulers of this age; and its destiny— passing away. Paul rejects this wisdom as temporal, human, and doomed.
God’s wisdom stands in total contrast, indicated by the first word of verse 7 which is but and is an emphatic adversative. God’s wisdom is not some kind of abstract thinking because Paul says he speaks it, which means God’s wisdom comes to us through the vehicle of human language, an idea that is developed in verses 10-13. The divine source of these words is indicated by the word God, which is emphatic. The word wisdom has no article in Greek, which means the emphasis is on its nature, its essence, its character. God’s wisdom is different in character than man’s, but in what way is it different? The word revealed in verse 10 gives us our answer. God’s wisdom is revealed in the words of Scripture. It is not the product of human thought or ingenuity.
Verses 7 and 8 tell us five things about God’s wisdom. First, we are told the form of His wisdom by the words a mystery. The word mystery as used in the New Testament refers to previously unknown truth that is now known. Second, we are told of the concealment of God’s wisdom in the word hidden. Verse 7 has told us from whom it was hidden—namely, the rulers of this age. Third, we learn of the eternity of God’s wisdom, for it was predestined before the ages.Fourth, the words for our glory point to the intent of God’s wisdom. Finally, verse 8 focuses on the opponents of God’s wisdom. Those who crucified Christ would not have willingly submitted to the carrying out of God’s plan of salvation through the cross of Christ.
TRUE WISDOM CANNOT BE DISCOVERED BY HUMAN RESEARCH 2:9 The eye, ear, and heart refer to organs of perception. Spiritual truth, the only true wisdom, has never entered the mind of man. This prepares us for the biblical doctrine of revelation found here in I Corinthians 2:10-13.
Where True Wisdom Is Found 2:10-13
“For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 13which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”
THE SOURCE OF REVELATION 2:10A The doctrine of revelation is the “top-side-down” doctrine. It means the order is strictly God to us. Notice that the verb has no object (them is not in the original). This means that Paul is not emphasizing what God revealed but that God revealed. The content of the revelation is not the point here; the focus is on the divine act of revelation.
THE AGENT OF REVELATION 2:10B-12 The agent of revelation is the Holy Spirit. His qualifications are expressed by the words searches all things, even the depths of God. The act of searching means to investigate something with a view to fathoming it. Since the Holy Spirit knows all things, His investigation is complete and success- ful.
How could we illustrate that only the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God? Verse 11 shows us. The word man occurs two times and has the definite article the with it in both cases. Stress is on the individual, specific, particular man. Paraphrased, we could say, “What person knows the thoughts of another particular man except that particular man?” If we cannot read the mind of another human being, how could we possibly expect to know the mind of God? The only one who knows God’s mind is God; the Holy Spirit is God and therefore knows God’s mind, which qualifies Him as the agent of revelation.
The Holy Spirit is not only the agent of revelation, but He is the one who illumines us to that revelation called “the things freely given to us by God (2:12).” The Holy Spirit illumines to what has been revealed, not beyond what has been revealed. Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit wherein He enables us to understand the word of God in terms of submission and obedience.
THE PRODUCT OF REVELATION 2:13 The words we speak do two things. First, they confine revelation. The pronoun we does not refer to just anyone; it refers to Paul and other apostles. An apostle was a divinely chosen man called to be the instrument of God’s revela- tion. Second, they define revelation. Revelation is couched in human language.
Three features of divine revelation are found here. First, God’s revelation is not expressed in words chosen by man. This is made clear as we are told that what Paul spoke “was not in words taught by human wisdom.” God did not reveal truth to Paul without supervising the words Paul used to express that truth. Second, God’s revelation is expressed in words chosen by the Holy Spirit. Notice that the Holy Spirit gave words, not concepts. We call this verbal inspiration of Scripture. Third, the words of Scripture fit the truth revealed perfectly. The word translated combining means to join something together in a perfect fit.The truth God chose to reveal is expressed perfectly in the words of the Bible. This conviction is the basis for expository preaching, the only method that fully honors the inspiration of Scripture. It is only in the word of God that wisdom and words find perfect union with one another.
Man’s Response to God’s Wisdom 2:14-3:4
THE RESPONSE OF THE PERISHING 2:14
“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
Who is the natural man? The word natural always denotes the life of the natural world in contrast to the supernatural world (James 3:15). It refers to anything that is at home with Satan and his world system. It also refers to one who lives solely on the material plane—to one who is untouched by the Spirit of God (Jude 19). The absence of the Holy Spirit is prima-facie evidence that the natural man is an unbeliever for “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him (Romans 8:9).”
What are the deficiencies of the natural man? In the first place, he is one who “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” The word accept means to welcome something or someone; to take something willingly.He may understand what is said, but he does not appreci- ate what is said. But his condition is more serious than this: He does not welcome spiritual things because he cannot welcome spiritual things. The reason for his inability is the absence of the Holy Spirit. The word translated appraised was used of investigat- ing evidence in a judicial proceeding and arriving at a conclusion. With the Holy Spirit absent, one does not have the ability to investi- gate and conclude correctly in the spiritual realm.
THE RESPONSE OF THE SAVED 2:15-3:4
“But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16For who has known the mind of theLORD, that he should instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.3:1And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh,as to babes in Christ. 2I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3for 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?4For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?”
First, the Spiritual Believer 2:15-16
Who is the spiritual? He is the man who is indwelled and con- trolled by the Holy Spirit. Indwelling alone does not make a spiri- tual Christian. The Corinthians were indwelt (3:16), but they were not spiritual (3:1). The Greek word for spiritual ends in an ikossuffix, which refers to the character of something. The Holy Spirit characterizes the spiritual believer. In contrast to the unbeliever he is able to come to correct conclusions in the spiritual realm.
In verse 16 we have a syllogism. Major premise: No one can instruct God. Minor premise: We have God’s mind. Conclusion: None can instruct us. This is not arrogance; this is spiritual logic. It is by God’s grace that we possess God’s word. True wisdom is God’s wisdom; God’s wisdom is revealed in the word of God; how can those who reject that word instruct those who possess it?
Second, the Fleshly Believer 3:1-4
Who is the fleshly believer? First, he is described in terms of his limitations. He has limited capacity to take in God’s wisdom as contained in the word of God. He can only take milk, not solid food. But what is the difference between milk and meat? In one sense, all of God’s word is milk (I Peter 2:2). It appears that Paul’s figure focuses on effort expended to consume. Twenty minutes with a T-bone steak is reasonable; the same time with a glass of milk is not. The fleshly believer does not expend time and effort to ingest God’s word.
Milk and solid food may also be viewed another way. Milk could be fundamental understanding of truth, and solid food could be appreciation of foundational truth in terms of seeing its full impli- cations. All truth has implications; the spiritual believer sees those implications on a higher level than the fleshly believer. Solid food then is not superior truth; it is basic truth seen in its fuller implica- tions.
Second, he is viewed in terms of his manifestations. These are stated in general in verse 3 and in particular in verse 4. Jealousy and strife are specifically called the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:20). The pronoun I in verse 4 is emphatic in each case, showing it was said with great pride and emphasis.
UNITY IS ACHIEVED BY CONSIDERING THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE 3:5-4:21
The Worker Is Only a Servant in the Hands of God 3:5-9
“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.6I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.7So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.8Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.9For we are God’s fellow-workers; you are God’s field,God’s building.”
The Focal Point of the Question Is the Word“What’’
The word is a neuter indefinite pronoun. It means we are to focus on the position held, not the man who holds it. Some older transla- tions obscure this fact by translating who.
The Place of Paul and Apollos in Relationship to the Corinthians
EACH IS A SERVANT WHO IS AN INSTRUMENT 3:5A They were God’s instruments to bring the Corinthians to faith. The believing referred to here is not only initial faith in the gospel, but faith that brought about growth in the Christian life. Paul was primarily responsible for the former; Apollos for the latter. What does this fact have to do with the dissension in the church? It is when the instrument is idolized that the church is fragmented. Paul and Apollos did not compete with one another, they complemented one another.
EACH IS A SERVANT WHO IS ASSIGNED A POSITION 3:5B The word oppor- tunityis not part of the original text but is supplied by the transla- tors. The last half of verse 5 reads literally, “even as the Lord gave to each one.” What the Lord gave is left to the reader to supply. This means Paul believed there was sufficient context to know what to supply. Verses 6 and 7 tell what God gave to Paul and Apollos. God gave them results in the ministry—He caused the seed sown to grow. God assigned a position to Paul, and He assigned a position to Apollos and gave each one results as it pleased Him.
APrinciple Stated 3:6
This verse states a simple fact: Results are entirely God’s work. First, we have the human part of service—Paul had planted and Apollos had watered.Paul was the first to proclaim the gospel in Corinth making him the planter. The historical account of this is found in Acts 18:1-11. Apollos nurtured what Paul had planted. The historical account of the work of Apollos is found in Acts 18:27-28, 19:1. The work of each man was distinct but at the same time inseparable from the other.
Second, we have the divine part of service—God was giving the increase. There are three verbs in verse 6. The first two, planted and watered, are aorist tense, pointing to a task completed and no longer in progress. The third verb, was causing the increase, is an imperfect tense, which points to continuous results in time past. This means that the planting and watering came to an end, but the giving of increase was continuous. Paul planted the word and went his way, but the results continued to come in after he planted.
Some Conclusions Made 3:7-9
THE WORKER IS NOTHING 3:7A First, this is true in the sense that all of God’s servants eventually die. God’s servants will be buried, but His work will go on. Second, this is true in the sense that God’s servants cannot produce spiritual results.
GOD IS EVERYTHING 3:7B God gave the seed and also produced the results; the worker only put the seed in the ground. The Greek text is dramatic. Literally, we have “but the giver of the increase— God!” Paul and Apollos are one in their nothingness, one in their message, one in their place as servants, and one in the aim. Rivalry is absurd.
EACH WILL BE REWARDED ON THE BASIS OF INDIVIDUAL EFFORT 3:8-9 Paul makes this point to hedge off a possible false conclusion that since all are one and since God gives the increase, quality of service makes no difference. This sets the stage for the teaching of verses 10-17. In approaching these verses, Paul restates the metaphors that he is using The statement that believers are God’s field fits verses 5-9; the statement that believers are God’s building fits verses 10-17.
All Service Will Be Rewarded in Accordance with Its Quality 3:10-17
The Foundation of the Church at Corinth 3:10-11
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.11For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
THE PERSON WHO LAID THE FOUNDATION The word master builder is the Greek word architecton, our word architect.What makes a good architect in the spiritual realm? The answer was provided I Corinthians 2:1-2.
THE PERSON WHO COMPLETES THE FOUNDATION The word another points to Apollos and all other teachers who followed Paul. The word how introduces the idea of quality.
THE PERSON WHO COMPRISES THE FOUNDATION The words other than are important. They translate a single Greek preposition para, which conveys two ideas. First, it carries the idea of substitution. Second, it carries the idea of addition. There is no substitute for the person of Christ, and there is to be no addition to the person of Christ.
The Superstructure of the Church at Corinth 3:12-17
“Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire;and the fireitself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.15If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.16Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.”
THE PROCESS OF BUILDING The keynote in this process is quality. The issue Paul is developing is that of quality of teaching, not differenceof teaching. The same truth may be taught well or it may be taught poorly.
THE QUALITY OF MATERIALS 3:12 First, the six materials fall into two categories of three each. What is the basic difference between the two categories? One might answer that value is the difference. While this is true, verse 15 dictates that the distinction is between consumable materials and non-consumable materials. One stands the fire test; the other does not.
Second, the types of materials were consistent with the times in which Paul lived. His imagery could have been taken from the temple at Jerusalem or the buildings of Athens where there was much gold, silver, and precious stone. It is also true that the ordi- nary houses were made of wood with hay and straw for walls and roofs.
THE TESTING OF MATERIALS 3:13 First, we are told of the time and the event that will reveal the quality of service to the Lord. Quality is not revealed now but at the return of Christ. Paul will apply this idea in Chapter 4 where he warns of judging and evaluation before the return of Christ. Second, this verse teaches us that we should build with the return of Christ constantly in mind. Third, this verse teaches us to take present human evaluation lightly. This is another idea that Paul will develop in 4:3-4.
THE RESULTS OF BUILDING 3:14-15 There is to be reward for what remains. Notice that we are not told what the reward will be. The reward is apparently found in the reality that one’s work lasts. Permanent results of one’s efforts are certainly adequate reward for those whose desire is the honor of the Lord.
There is to be loss for what remains. Once again, we are not told what the loss is to be. We are, however, told what the loss will not be—it will not be loss of salvation. Perhaps the loss is in the effort that was expended to no eternal purpose.
THE WARNING ABOUT THE BUILDING 3:16-17 First, the temple referred to here is not the individual believer but the whole church. The pronoun you occurs three times and is plural each time. They all go together to form a single temple. Paul does not say “You (singular) are temples (plural)”; he says, “You (plural) are a temple (singular).” The temple was the local church at Corinth. How were they destroying that temple? They were destroying it by their dissension (I Corinthians 1:10-12).
Second, since the temple is God’s residence, attack on it is attack on God. God takes offense at those who do this and “will destroy him (them)….”
The Worker Must be Assessed by God’s Standards, not Man’s 3:18-23
The Problem of Self-deception 3:18
“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise.”
THE REALITY OF SELF-DECEPTION 3:18A Deception is the creation of a belief in one’s own mind or the mind of another that is contrary to fact. It is possible to deceive oneself by practicing mental dishon- esty and fantasy. Spiritual fantasy is the activity of the sin nature that allows us to practice in the mind that which we fear to practice in reality. All men are deceived to the extent that their mind is devoid of the word of God.
THE EVIDENCE OF SELF-DECEPTION 3:18B The key here lies in the words among you and in this age. The Corinthians were deceived in that they did not see the absolute difference between the church and the world. In particular, they were so in love with human wisdom that they did not see that it stands in total antithesis to God’s wisdom.
THE REMEDY FOR SELF-DECEPTION 3:18C The way up is down. The believer must let loose of human wisdom and embrace God’s wisdom. This world does not embrace God’s wisdom and views those as fools who do. The believer must be willing to bear this onus if he is to be freed by the truth.
The Problem of Human Wisdom 3:19-20
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’; 20and again, ‘The LORDknows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.’ ” •The wise are already engaged in carrying our their plans when God interferes (3:19). •God knows the plans of the wise will come to nothing before they start to execute them 3:20
The Application of this Truth 3:21-23
“So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.”
The first application is this: We should not glory in man. Man is not the source of true wisdom, and to treat him as such is to detract from the glory of God. The second application is this: We should glory in our spiritual possessions. God gives teachers such as Paul and Apollos and Cephas; all things are ours in Christ, and here is where our delight should be.
The Basic Issue in Service Is Faithfulness 4:1-5
“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.3But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not
by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.5Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
The Place of the Servant 4:1
HE IS A “SERVANT OF CHRIST” The word translated servant here is different from the same English word in 3:5. It is a word that referred to the one who rowed in the lower level of a trireme. It is used of the most lowly and humble servant.
HE IS A “STEWARD OF THE MYSTERIES OF GOD” The word steward means household manager.It shows the relationship of Paul to those whom he teaches.
The Requirement of a Servant 4:2
FAITHFULNESS CARRIES THE IDEA OF CORRECTNESS One is faithful only if he does something as he is told to do it.
FAITHFULNESS CARRIES THE IDEA OF PERSISTENCE Faithfulness knows no quitting.
FAITHFULNESS CARRIES THE IDEA OF SELFLESSNESS A servant concerns himself with his duty to another; his own interests are secondary.
The Evaluation of a Servant 4:3-4
THREE WHO ARE UNQUALIFIED TO EVALUATE
First, fellow believers are not qualified to evaluate. Whether or not Paul is exonerated or condemned by the Corinthians is inconse- quential to him. This does not mean he is arrogant or irresponsible. It means human judgment is just that— human judgment.
Second, unbelievers are not qualified to evaluate. This is expressed in the reference to any human court.
Third, Paul himself is not qualified to evaluate. Paul says his con- science is clear, but this is not sufficient because conscience is not the final judge. Our judgment of ourselves is still human judgment.
ONE WHO IS QUALIFIED TO EVALUATE
Final judgment can take place only before the Lord. The necessary quality for judgment and evaluation is knowledge of all of the facts. Therefore, only the Lord qualifies.
The Obligation to the Servant 4:5
First, there must be a proper time, 4:5a.
Second, there must be a proper judge, 4:5b. Third, there must be a proper knowledge, 4:5.
Pride Has No Place in Service to the Lord 4:6-8
“Now these things, brethren, I have figurativelyapplied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.7For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?8You are already filled,you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and would indeed that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.”
The Method of Paul’s Teaching 4:6a
The words these things point back to the content of 4:1-5. The essence of these verses lies in the command not to judge before the time.
The words figurativelyapplied mean to give to something the form or shape of something else. The persons who had received another form are Paul and Apollos. The meaning, then, is that Paul had used himself and Apollos for examples, making them representative of others. Verses 1-5 teach how the Corinthians are to treat all believ- ers, not just Paul and Apollos.
The Standard of Paul’s Teaching 4:6b
When told they are not to exceed what is written, Paul is saying their attitudes are to be determined and bounded by the word of God. The words what is written are found so far in I Corinthians 1:19, 31; 3:19-20.
The Intent of Paul’s Teaching 4:6c
Notice that the key to dealing with arrogance is alignment of the mind with the word of God.
The Argument of Paul’s Teaching 4:7
To the question “Who regards you as superior?” the answer should obviously be, “No one.” What, however, if someone answers that they are superior? If so, the next question will settle the issue. “What do you have that you did not receive?” This notes that even if one has a gift that elevates them above others, that gift is not innate but rather supplied by God’s grace.
The Rebuke of Paul’s Teaching 4:8
This verse gives helpful insight into carnality. Carnality is a state wherein one thinks he has arrived spiritually. It is this attitude that Paul ridicules here.
The verb filledmeans to be satiated, to be gorged.The perfect tense points to a settled state. If they are gorged, how can they be fed? Further, since they see themselves as already rich, who can give them anything? If they have already become kings, who can chal- lenge them to gain a crown?
A Worker Must Realize that Suffering Will be Involved in
His Ministry 4:9-21
The Apostolic Example 4:9-13
THE APOSTLES WERE DISPLAYED 4:9
“For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.”
With verse 9 the tone of Paul’s letter changes. To this point he has argued that discord reveals an incorrect view of Christ, the gospel, true wisdom, and the place of man in God’s service. Paul now begins a personal appeal for unity.
That the apostles were last of all fits in well with the fact that in Roman processionals, criminals who were condemned to death were at the end of the processional. Notice, however, in noting their pitiful condition that Paul has not lost sight of God’s sover- eignty, for God is the subject of the verb exhibited.
The words condemned to death translate a single Greek word used only here in the New Testament. In the Septuagint it was used of conspirators who were thrown, two at a time, to the lions. It was also used of criminals who were hurled to their death from the Capitoline Hill in Rome. The word spectacle is theatron, our word for theater.It must be remembered that in the times of the Greeks and the Romans, it was considered a delight to observe the suffering of slaves, criminals, and conquered people. To them it was a delight- ful sport.
The mention of angels reminds us of two things. First, unless stated otherwise, references to angels are to good ones. Second, angels observe the activities of believers (I Corinthians 11:10; Hebrews 1:14, 13:2).
THE APOSTLES WERE DESPISED 4:10-13
“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11Tothis present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12and we toil working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”
Notice that these verses revolve about a “we-you” contrast and describe two sets of attitudes. First, the world sees the apostles as fools, weak, and without honor. Second, the Corinthians viewed themselves as prudent, strong, and distinguished. Both sets of atti- tudes or opinions are incorrect.
Paul now enumerates the items of the apostle’s suffering. First, items showing their poverty (4:11a)—food, drink, and clothing are basic needs of life. Second, items showing their physical abuse (4:11b). Third, items showing their personal abuse (4:12-13). These two verses are an excellent example of Christian reaction to abuse. Making a divine viewpoint adjustment to mistreatment is evidence of great maturity.
The Apostolic Authority 4:14-21
THE INTENT OF FATHERLY INSTRUCTION 4:14
“I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.”
First, the intent is stated negatively. What Paul has written so far would certainly make the Corinthians hang their heads in shame. How could one read the words of verses 9-13 and not feel shame? What does Paul mean when he says he does not wish to shame them? The answer lies in observing that Paul’s ultimate aim is good.
Second, the intent is stated positively. The word admonish is a compound Greek word made up of a verb meaning to put or place and a noun meaning mind. Literally, it means to place in the mind. It always denotes instruction and is repeatedly used in a father-child context. Shame is not Paul’s aim; instruction and soundness of mind is his aim. It is important to remember that it is possible to shame believers without healing believers. Preaching is not intended to create a guilt complex among believers; preaching is intended to edify and build up believers.
THE BASIS OF FATHERLY INSTRUCTION 4:15
“For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”
The reminder that they have only one father is explained by the words in Christ Jesus. Paul was their father in the sense that he proclaimed the gospel through which they believed. The spiritual sperm was the gospel, indicating that it is a life creating message.
THE MODEL OF FATHERLY INSTRUCTION 4:16-17
“I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me. 17For this reason I have sent to you Timothy,who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.”
First, we have its pattern. The word translated imitators is the Greek word mimatai, our English word mimic. There are four entities of which this word is used in the New Testament. We are to imitate Paul (I Corinthians 4:17); we are to imitate other churches in their faith (I Thessalonians 2:13-14); we are to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1); and finally, we are to imitate stable believers (Hebrews 6:12).
Second, we have its implementation. Here we have another mani- festation of carnality. Carnality has a poor memory when it comes to spiritual realities. Timothy is going to remind them of those realities. In the mention of other churches, Paul is reminding them that he is not asking for something unusual but something that should be a normal part of every church.
THE VISIT OF FATHERLY INSTRUCTION 4:18-21
“Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall findout, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power.20For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.21What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?”
Paul declares that he will give arrogant words no attention because they contain no power. Paul’s teaching now concludes by leaving the Corinthians with a choice to make. He leaves them with the option to go either way—they know his desire; they know his preference; but the choice is theirs, and that is where Paul con- cludes the issue. This is wise exhortation for there is no real growth until each of us personally, volitionally, and individually responds to the word of God. The mention of the rod introduces the subject of discipline which becomes the theme of I Corinthians 5.
APPLICATIONS FOR LIVING
Since the gospel displays the power of God, our method of proclaiming it should be that of presentation, not argumentation.The gospel has its own inherent power and needs no embellishments or enhancements. Why should we argue that the sword is sharp when its sharpness can be displayed by simple use?
Since the word of God is the revelation of the wisdom of God, which is found nowhere else, the study and assimilation of Scripture should be our number one priority, both personally and in the pulpit.
Unlike any other book, we must sustain a right relationship to the author of Scripture, God the Holy Spirit.The Corinthians were not able to take in the word of God because they were fleshly and thus improperly adjusted to the Spirit of God. Self-examination should always precede Bible study. Bible study should be done in a prayerful and dependent and believing attitude.
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