Study Notes

1Corinthians 3:1-23

3:1-4 Fleshly Babes In Christ

Now Paul addresses the hindrance of their spiritual understanding — the Corinthians he's writing to are saved — they have become spiritual, but they're just spiritual babies, not spiritual adults.

When someone first becomes a Christian, they're limited in their understanding. They're fed on milk. But over the course of time, they learn, they grow, they start walking, and begin to eat meat. The writer of the book of Hebrews said,

Hebr. 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

So what is the milk? It is the basic, elementary things of Christianity. Continuing on in Hebrews, we read,

Hebr. 6:1-2 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

What is the milk, the basic food that we start with? Repentance, faith, baptism, healing, the resurrection, and judgment. These are the "bare bones" doctrines that we begin to be fed on. But we are to grow as well — we are to grow into maturity — Godly living, denial of the flesh, crucifying self, living righteously, forsaking evil.

But these Corinthians were spiritually still in diapers, never weaned off of the milk and onto solid food. How did Paul know that? Is there some kind of Christian measuring stick that checks growth? Absolutely — it was their behavior. Jealousy, strife, and division — like toddlers fighting over a toy. Paul says, "I'd love it if you had grown up (you certainly have had the time), but look at you — I can't even talk to you like fellow adults."

3:5-8 Planting, Watering, and Growing

Now he addresses the issue they're fighting over — what man they each want to follow. "I follow Paul — he preaches grace!" "Well, I follow Apollos — he's a better teacher!" "So, I follow Peter — he's one of the originals!" And Paul says, "Give me a break! Who are we? Just men doing the work of the ministry! We're just servants all working in the same field, but it's God causing the growth — if you follow anybody, it should be Him!"

3:9-15 A Warning

Later on in chapter four Paul is going to admit,

1Cor. 4:6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes...

So we find out that the division wasn't really based on Paul, Apollos, and Peter. There were other teachers — teachers who had been drawing away disciples after themselves. And here Paul gives them a thinly veiled warning:

1Cor. 3:10 ...Let each man be careful how he builds upon (the foundation)...

"You guys had better watch our how you're building God's building."

God's Building

We, the church, are God's building. And God's workers — His servants, pastors, teachers, leaders, evangelists, and ministers — are building on the foundation which is Jesus Christ.

Of course, one of the most important things to adhere to when building a structure is to follow the fire codes. What am I making this building out of? Is it flammable? Am I building on this foundation with wood, hay and straw? If I am, this building's going to burn as soon as someone puts a match to it.

But if I make it out of gold, silver, and precious stones, it will be thoroughly fireproof. And what we build here must be fireproof, for once all this work passes through the fire, the reward is what comes out the other side.

Now this is all very metaphoric, picturesque language. But how do we actually and practically build on the foundation? In this way:

The leaders of the church build the building by equipping the saints to walk and to work (Eph 4:11-12). By authoritatively (2Cor 10:8; 2Cor 13:10) presenting the truth of Scripture.

The people of the church build the building by hearing the words of Christ and acting on them (Matt 7:24-27; Rom 10:17). By pursuing the things which make for peace with one another (Rom 14:19), and encouraging one another (1Thes 5:11).

As much as lies within me, I present to you the Word of God corporately twice a week and individually all the time. That is my part in building this structure. How about you? As you hear these teachings from the Bible, are you appropriating and applying them to your life? If you are, you can be sure that we're building a fireproof structure that will last for eternity.

3:16-17 The Temple of God

Paul is still speaking to the Corinthians about these teachers that they're following after. They were God's building, each one of them a temple of God. But when teachers come in building their houses of cards on the foundation of Christ, they destroy people.

Today people are being destroyed by all the unbiblical teaching which goes on in the churches today — the rigid religion based on rules and regulations — the experience-driven nonsense that passes for the Holy Spirit — the deadness of rituals and ceremony — by the Word of Faith movement — the building that these men are building on the foundation of Christ is a flammable house of cards, doomed to destruction. And Paul warns them:

1Cor. 3:17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him...

James also warned,

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.

Jesus taught in Luke 12,

Luke 12:42-46 ..."Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

This servant was the one assigned to feed the other servants. But instead of feeding them, he beat them. And he was cut in pieces and assigned a place with the unbelievers. The same is true for teachers and leaders in the church. There is a dreadfully stricter judgment on them. If you are feeling called to the ministry, make sure you count the cost — and make sure you fear the Lord every day that you stand before His people to feed them, to build them, to plant, water, and grow them. You will be held accountable for the awesome responsibility given to you — of giving food to His servants, of taking care of God's sheep, of building up His buildings, of teaching His children.

3:18-23 All Things Belong To You

As a Christian, all things belong to you. Paul belongs to you, Peter belongs to you, Apollos belongs to you. Life belongs to you. Death belongs to you. The present belongs to you. The future belongs to you. You see, there's no division there. If you're a Christian today, all of these things belong to all of us, not a section of this and a portion of that. In heaven, there won't be a special Calvary Chapel section, a Pentecostal section, a Presbyterian section. There's going to be the church of God, surrounding His throne, worshipping Him — all of us together. All things belong to all of us. And all of us belong to Christ.

Go to next study

Go to previous study