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Book chapters «The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians»
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16
My readings
  • A spiritual man is one who does not behave according to the flesh or act according to the soulish life but lives according to the spirit, that is, his spirit mingled with the Spirit of God. Such a man is dominated, governed, directed, moved, and led by such a mingled spirit.

  • This is a stronger and more gross expression than fleshly in v. 3. Fleshy denotes being made of flesh; fleshly denotes being influenced by the nature of the flesh and partaking of the character of the flesh. In this verse the apostle considered the Corinthian believers to be totally of the flesh, to be made of the flesh, and to be just the flesh. What a strong word! Then in v. 3 the apostle condemned their behaving in jealousy and strife as fleshly, as being under the influence of their fleshly nature and partaking of the character of the flesh.

    This book reveals clearly that a believer may be one of three kinds of men:
    1) a spiritual man, living in his spirit under the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:25);
    2) a soulish man, living in his soul under the direction of the soul, the natural life (1 Cor. 2:14); or
    3) a fleshy and fleshly man, being of the flesh and living in the flesh under the influence of the nature of the flesh. The Lord desires that all His believers take His grace to be the first kind of man — a spiritual man.
    This was the goal of this book: to motivate the Corinthian believers who were soulish, fleshy, and fleshly to aspire to the growth in life that they might become spiritual (1 Cor. 2:15; 3:1; 14:37). As we have been called by God into the fellowship of Christ (1 Cor. 1:9), who is now the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), and as we are one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17), we can experience and enjoy Him only when we live in our spirit under the leading of the Holy Spirit. When we live in the soul or in the flesh, we cannot participate in Him or enjoy Him.

  • Although the Corinthian believers had received all the initial gifts in life and were lacking in none of them (1 Cor. 1:7), they did not grow in life after receiving them but remained infants in Christ, those who were not spiritual but fleshy. The apostle here pointed out their deficiency and their need, which was to grow in life to maturity, to be full-grown (1 Cor. 2:6; Col. 1:28).

  • To give milk to drink or food to eat is to feed others. Feeding is a matter of life; it differs from teaching, which is a matter of knowledge. What the apostle ministered to the Corinthian believers seemed to be knowledge; actually, it was milk (not yet solid food), and it should have nourished them.

  • Milk is mainly for infants; solid food is for the mature. See note Heb. 5:123b and note Heb. 5:131a.

  • This indicates that the Corinthian believers were not growing in life; they were still not able to receive solid food.

  • Jealousy and strife are expressions, characteristics, of the nature of the flesh. Hence, they show that those who are in the flesh are fleshly and that they walk according to the manner of man.

  • Every fallen man is just the flesh (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16 and note Gal. 2:162). Hence, to be according to the manner of man is to be according to the flesh. The jealousy and strife among the Corinthian believers show that they walked according to the flesh of the fallen man and not according to the human spirit regenerated by God. Hence, they were not spiritual but fleshly, and they walked not according to God but according to the manner of man.

  • To plant, to water, and to cause to grow are all related to the matter of life. This indicates that the believers are God's cultivated land (v. 9) to grow Christ. The ministers of Christ can only plant and water. Only God can cause the growth. The Corinthian believers overesteemed the planter and the waterer and neglected the One who causes the growth. Hence, they did not grow in Christ as their life.

    The Corinthian believers, under the prevailing influence of Greek philosophical wisdom, paid too much attention to knowledge, neglecting life. In this chapter Paul's intention was to turn their attention from knowledge to life, pointing out that to them he was a feeder and a planter; Apollos, a waterer; and God, the One who causes the growth. In 1 Cor. 4:15 he even told them that he was their spiritual father, who begot them in Christ through the gospel. From the view of life, the divine view, they were God's cultivated land to grow Christ. This was entirely a matter of life, a matter utterly missed by believers who are dominated by their soulish, natural life under the influence of their natural wisdom.

  • As far as the growth in life is concerned, all the ministers of Christ, whether planters or waterers, are nothing; God is everything. We must turn our eyes from them to God alone. This delivers us from the divisiveness that results from appreciating one minister of Christ above another.

  • The reward is an incentive to the ministers of Christ who labor by planting or watering on God's cultivated land.

  • God too is a worker. While the ministers of Christ, His fellow workers, are working on His cultivated land, He too is working. What a privilege and glory that men can be God's fellow workers, working together with God on His cultivated land to grow Christ!

  • I.e., farm. The believers, who have been regenerated in Christ with God's life, are God's cultivated land, a farm in God's new creation to grow Christ that precious materials may be produced for God's building. Hence, we are not only God's cultivated land but also God's building. Corporately, we as the church of God have Christ planted in us. Christ must grow in us and, in the sense of this chapter, produce out of us not fruit but the precious materials of gold, silver, and precious stones for the building of God's habitation on earth. Thus, the building of God, the house of God, the church, is the increase of Christ, the enlargement of Christ in His unlimitedness.

  • The Greek word means chief craftsman. In Matt. 16:18 the Lord said that He would build His church; yet here the apostle said that he was a builder, even a wise master builder. This indicates that the Lord builds the church not directly but through His ministers, even through every member of His Body, as revealed in Eph. 4:16. Although in vv. 5-7 the apostle admitted that he was nothing, here he frankly and faithfully made clear that by the grace of God he was a wise master builder who had laid the unique foundation, Christ, for others to build upon.

  • The church, the house of God, must be built with gold, silver, and precious stones, precious materials produced from Christ's growing in us. Yet there is a great possibility that we may build with wood, grass, and stubble produced by us in the flesh. Hence, each of us, every member of the Body, must take heed how he builds, that is, with what material he builds.

  • As the Christ and the Son of the living God, the Lord Jesus is the unique foundation laid by God for the building of the church (Matt. 16:16-18). No one can lay another foundation.

  • The foundation is unique, but the building may differ because different builders may use different materials. All the Corinthian believers had accepted Christ as the foundation. However, some Jewish believers among them attempted to build the church with their Judaistic attainments, and some Greek believers attempted to use their philosophical wisdom. They were not like the apostles, who built with their excellent knowledge and rich experiences of Christ. The intention of the apostle in this Epistle was to warn the believers not to build the church with the things of their natural background. They must learn to build with Christ, both in objective knowledge and in subjective experience, as Paul did.

  • Gold, silver, and precious stones signify the various experiences of Christ in the virtues and attributes of the Triune God. It is with these that the apostles and all spiritual believers build the church on the unique foundation of Christ. Gold may signify the divine nature of the Father with all its attributes, silver may signify the redeeming Christ with all the virtues and attributes of His person and work, and precious stones may signify the transforming work of the Spirit with all its attributes. All these precious materials are the products of our participation in and enjoyment of Christ in our spirit through the Holy Spirit. Only these are good for God's building.

    As God's cultivated land with planting, watering, and growing, the church should produce plants; but the proper materials for the building of the church are gold, silver, and precious stones, all of which are minerals. Hence, the thought of transformation is implied here. We need not only to grow in life but also to be transformed in life, as revealed in 2 Cor. 3:18 and Rom. 12:2. This corresponds with the thought in the Lord's parables in Matt. 13 concerning wheat, mustard seed, and meal (all of which are botanical) and the treasure hidden in the earth — gold and precious stones (minerals). See note Matt. 13:311b, note Matt. 13:333 and note Matt. 13:441.

  • Wood, grass, and stubble signify the knowledge, realization, and attainments that come from the believers' natural background (such as Judaism or other religions, philosophy, or culture) and the natural way of living (which is mainly in the soul and is the natural life). Wood, in contrast to gold, signifies the nature of the natural man; grass, in contrast to silver, signifies the fallen man, the man of the flesh (1 Pet. 1:24), who has not been redeemed or regenerated by Christ; and stubble, in contrast to precious stones, signifies the work and living that issue from an earthen source and have not been transformed by the Holy Spirit. All these worthless materials are the product of the believers' natural man together with what they have collected from their background. In God's economy these materials are fit only to be burned (v. 13).

  • The day of Christ's second coming, when He will judge all His believers (1 Cor. 4:5; Matt. 25:19-30; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12).

  • The fire of the Lord's judgment (Mal. 3:2; 4:1; 2 Thes. 1:7-8; Heb. 6:8), which will cause each believer's work to be manifest and will try and test his work. All the work of wood, grass, and stubble will be unable to stand that test and will be burned.

  • The work that remains must be of gold, silver, and precious stones, the product of faithful ministers of Christ. Such a work will be rewarded by the coming and judging Lord.

  • The reward is based on the believer's work after he is saved. It differs from salvation, which is based on faith in the Lord and His redemptive work. See note Heb. 10:351b.

  • The work of wood, grass, and stubble, which is fit only to be burned.

  • Loss of reward, not of salvation. To suffer loss here does not mean to perish.

  • The salvation that we have received in Christ is not by our works (Titus 3:5) and is eternal, unchangeable in nature (Heb. 5:9; John 10:28-29). Hence, those believers whose Christian works are not approved by the judging Lord and who suffer the loss of reward will still be saved. God's salvation as a free gift to all believers is for eternity, whereas the Lord's reward to those (not all) believers whose Christian works are approved by Him is for the kingdom age. The reward is an incentive for their Christian work. See note Heb. 12:281a.

  • Although those believers whose Christian works are not approved by the Lord at His coming back will be saved, they will be saved so as through fire. Through fire surely indicates punishment. However, this is altogether not the purgatory heretically taught by Catholicism in its superstitious twisting of this verse. Nevertheless, this word should be a solemn warning to us today concerning our Christian works.

  • The Greek word denotes the inner temple. The temple of God here refers to the believers collectively in a certain locality, such as Corinth, whereas the temple of God in v. 17 refers to all the believers universally. The unique spiritual temple of God in the universe has its expression in many localities on earth. Each expression is the temple of God in that locality.

    The temple of God is the explanation of God's building in v. 9. God's building is not an ordinary building; it is the sanctuary of the holy God, the temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. We, the builders of such a holy temple, should realize this, that we may be careful to build not with the worthless materials of wood, grass, and stubble but with the precious materials of gold, silver, and precious stones, which correspond with God's nature and economy.

  • Or, ruins, corrupts, defiles, mars. To destroy the temple of God is to build with the worthless materials of wood, grass, and stubble, as described in v. 12. This refers to certain Jewish believers who attempted to build the church with elements of Judaism, and to certain Greek believers who endeavored to bring philosophical elements into the building. All this tended to corrupt, ruin, defile, and mar the temple of God, that is, to destroy it. Using any doctrine that differs from the fundamental teachings of the apostles (Acts 2:42) or any ways and efforts that contradict God's nature, Christ's redemptive work, and the Spirit's transforming work is to corrupt, ruin, defile, mar, and destroy the church of God.

  • This implies at least the punishment unveiled in v. 15. All those who have corrupted, ruined, defiled, and marred the church of God by their heretical doctrines, divisive teachings, worldly ways, and natural efforts in building will suffer God's punishment.

  • Since the temple of God, the church, is holy, the materials, the ways, and the efforts by which we build it also must be holy, corresponding with God's nature, Christ's redemption, and the Spirit's transformation.

  • Such refers to the holy temple. The emphasis here is on holy, not on temple. Verse 16 stresses the temple, whereas v. 17 emphasizes the holy characteristic of the temple, as a reminder to the common Corinthian believers that they should be holy, having the holy characteristic of the temple of God.

  • Both the Judaizing believers and the philosophizing Greek believers deceived themselves by bringing the elements of Judaism and Greek philosophy into the building up of the church.

  • The apostle's thought here centered mainly on those Greek believers who highly esteemed the wisdom of their philosophy (1 Cor. 1:22).

  • To become foolish here is to forsake the wisdom of philosophy and receive the simple word concerning Christ and His cross (1 Cor. 1:21, 23).

  • To become wise here is to take the wisdom of God in making Christ everything to us (1 Cor. 1:24, 30; 2:6-8).

  • Meaning aimless.

  • All things, including the world and death, are ours and work for good to us (Rom. 8:28). The Corinthian believers said that they were of Paul or Apollos or Cephas (1 Cor. 1:12), but Paul said that he, Apollos, and Cephas were of them; all were theirs. They were the church, and all these things are for the church. The church is for Christ, and Christ is for God.

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