1 Corinthians 3

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Read 1 Corinthians 3

The Church and Its Leaders

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Go Deeper

In this chapter, Paul continues to lay out for the Corinthians where they need to course-correct. As we have picked up on already, he was unsettled by the reports he was getting about the behavior of its members and the trajectory on which the church at Corinth was headed. But Paul wasn’t just interested in behavior modification–he was far more interested in heart change. It’s one thing to tell somebody they should change their behavior. It’s another thing to explain to them why their behavior should change because of the gospel. 

Paul’s frustration with the Corinthians is that they weren’t living as people who believed what they claimed to believe; there was no distinction between them and the rest of Corinth. At the root of all of this was a lack of spiritual depth, with Paul calling them “mere infants in Christ” (verse 1). These internal disputes about who to follow (Paul, Apollos, or Peter) were indicative of the spiritual immaturity that was rampant in Corinth. The Corinthians had belief, but they hadn’t yet moved beyond belief into becoming true disciples of Christ. 

Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians is every bit as applicable to us nearly 2000 years later as it was to them. Too often, we come to faith in Jesus, but our progress stalls somewhere soon after belief. We become complacent or apathetic. We don’t develop into fully mature followers of Jesus. But we don’t have to settle for that. Instead, we can move on from milk to solid food because we’re ready for it. Living in community, practicing spiritual disciplines, and repenting and fleeing from sin are all tools at our disposal to chip away at those rough edges to help us develop into the disciples Jesus has called us to be.

  1. What sticks out to you most about Paul’s instructions in this chapter? 

  2. Paul calls out the jealousy and quarreling among the Corinthians. Where have you experienced this yourself in the church? How can you put to bed feelings of jealousy or any quarrels amongst you and other believers?

  3. Verses 6-9 are foundational in our understanding of how evangelism and discipleship work. Sometimes you’ll be planting seeds, sometimes you’ll be watering. Sometimes you’ll do both. But God is ultimately responsible for making things grow. How does understanding this concept affect how you go about living out the Great Commission?

Did You Know?

We don’t know exactly why some of the Corinthians favored Paul or Apollos or Peter more than the others, but we know it was divisive. It was common for each philosophical school in Greece to have a “chief teacher” and the competition among those teachers to be regarded as the best was often fierce. Paul’s point, however, is that there’s no place for that amongst servants of Christ.

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6 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 3”

  1. Paul addressed behaviors that far too often are evidenced in us today—worldliness, jealousy, quarreling, foolishness, and boasting. All of these characteristics reveal that we are spiritually unhealthy, immature and controlled by our sinful desires. They distract and break our fellowship with Christ and stunt our growth. I was reminded of the Parable of the Sower found in the gospels. The sower scatters seed highlighting 4 types of ground—hard, stony, thorny and good soil. These parallel & represent different responses to the gospel.
    GotQuestions describes it perfectly:
    • The hard ground represents someone who is hardened by sin; he hears but does not understand the Word, and Satan plucks the message away, keeping the heart dull and preventing the Word from making an impression.
    • The stony ground pictures a man who professes delight with the Word; however, his heart is not changed, and when trouble arises, his so-called faith quickly disappears.
    • The thorny ground depicts one who seems to receive the Word, but whose heart is full of riches, pleasures, and lusts; the things of this world take his time and attention away from the Word, and he ends up having no time for it.
    • The good ground portrays the one who hears, understands, and receives the Word—and then allows the Word to accomplish its result in his life.
    Today, may we recognize the condition of the “soil” of our hearts and take the necessary steps to tend it, so that it remains fertile ground to flourish and bear kingdom fruit.

    1. Ella,
      I enjoy all your takes on the daily scriptures . You are right on here, we all need to check our soil daily.
      Thanks for sharing your views …have a blessed week and Happy Thanksgiving to you and the Family.
      Keith Maberry

  2. As I am reading this, I see the importance of a mentor in a persons life. You may have become a believer in Christ and said now what? We just go along the way without speaking into another’s life and they are not even keeping their head above water. That was me when I got “saved”, I was 8 years old and went to church every time the doors were opened, but no one, not even my parents, spoke into my life for me to know what to do with this “saving” that happened. I had milk for many many years and still drink it.
    I envision Paul gathering all the people that he was ministering to every evening and speaking the “torrah” to them, teaching them, admonishing them in the “way”. Maybe that is not how it happened but he was in Corinth for 18 months speaking to them, teaching them. They still needed more, so we have to be very diligent with whomever we do speak to about Christ to make sure there is accountability for their growth. I don’t believe it is one and done. Mentorship so that they can grow into spiritual maturity.
    Ephesians 4:11-16 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

    God may I be a mentor who always directs Your person back to You. God help each one of the believers that read this to always put You first in their lives. God grant us the ability to be like Abraham, to just get up and go, not question the why’s but know deep in our knower that You are directing our path. May we be a whole body joined together to equip Your saints to grow up in love and not be be tossed to and fro by the world and deceitful schemes in Jesus name amen.

  3. Today’s reading challenges me to see all followers of Jesus as family. We all love and follow Jesus. We may prefer to listen to the teaching of one person or another. This should not be a point of division. May I celebrate that we follow Jesus and may we cheer each other on in our kingdom work.

  4. Diane Frances Rogers

    In today’s reading, Paul is teaching correction that is much needed to grow as disciples of Christ. Remaining teachable begins with humility. It begins with realizing that we are not perfect, and we need others to see our blind spots. Having a teachable heart leads us to Christ’s ways, not our own. Proverbs 10:17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. Pause and ask yourself, “Am I teachable?” I will seek accountability and advice from a godly person in my life. Aka: mentor
    God, give me a teachable heart and fill me with humility. I don’t want my pride to lead others astray. Place people in my life who will help guide and correct me using Your Word. Please show me how to accept correction and have a teachable spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

  5. This passage also speaks to me on the importance of being PLANTED. When people claim one pastor or teacher over another because of this reason or that, or they church hop because they didn’t like something one said or didn’t say, that just shows they are still human babies and not spiritual adults. One plants. One waters. They are all fellow workers. Only God brings the growth. Show some maturity and dig in, get planted, and help move the mission forward. Stop worrying about minor discrepancies. Because your work to help build a foundation will be tested!

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