We continue our study of Paul’s letters this week with 1 Corinthians 3. In the last two chapters, Paul explains how the wisdom of the world is foolish. At the end of 1 Corinthians 2, he says that the natural (carnal, fleshly, worldly) 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 discerned (1 Corinthians 1:14). This week, Paul explains that if we are walking in the flesh, instead of the spirit, we will not be able to understand and receive the things of the spirit.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I 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, 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? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
v. 1-4 (NASB)
The Bible tells us to walk by the Spirit, and we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). An infant believer’s mind is set on the desires of their flesh. A mature believer’s mind is set on the things of the Spirit. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). I read a wonderful short commentary on what it means to be an infant in Christ. It shows the importance of renewing our minds to be mature followers of Christ. You can follow this link to read this encouraging commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:1 by Andrew Wommack.
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
v. 5-9 (NASB)
It is okay to thank and acknowledge those who minister to us. But we must remember that it is God who causes the seed they plant or water to grow. We are nothing without God. There were times when God used me to meet a need, and the recipient saw me as the author of the blessing, rather than God. That’s why I prefer to give in secret, as Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:2-4, so the recipient can give the glory to God instead of me.
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. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 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.
v. 10-17 (NASB)
Paul was giving strict warning against wrong teachings. He was warning those who were building up the church to watch the motives of their hearts. Our motives won’t be pure if our hearts are not pure. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and some of the teachers of law for their defiled hearts in Mark 7:
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
“Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Mark 7:8-9, 14-16, 20-23 (NIV)
If we allow our hearts to be hardened by continually feeding our carnal appetites, rather than following the Spirit, we will destroy the temple that God desires to glorify Himself in.
Paul closes the chapter reminding us once again not to depend on the world’s wisdom by walking in the flesh, but to rely on God’s wisdom by walking in the Spirit:
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 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”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.” So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
v. 18-23 (NASB)
We praise You for residing in us. Remove everything that we have allowed in to defile and harden our hearts. Continually keep our hearts and minds pure so that nothing hinders You from glorifying Yourself in us. We praise You that we have this wonderful treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from You and not from us (2 Cor. 4:7).
In Jesus’ name, we praise You. Amen!
*This series will continue next week as we study 1 Corinthians 4. Have a blessed week walking in the Holy Spirit!