Our First Study we will look at is 1 Corinthians 3. Here are a few questions about it.
Does this chapter really teach the Judgment Seat of Christ?
I will challenge you with “NO.” Once we see the context of these scriptures, the judgment seat of Christ will fade from understanding.
Are we saying there is no Judgment seat of Christ?
By all means no. However, that is not the lesson Paul will teach in these chapters. I submit the following to you to ponder; since the first 2 chapters of 1 Corinthians deal with the main subject of wisdom, then should we not contend that this chapter is the Holy Spirit’s continuance of that thought?
Let’s look at this scripture in the exact context and not with the traditional teaching that some have taught. You’ll be amazed at what the scripture says.
1 Corinthians Chapter 3 Study
3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
This verse is very discouraging at first but Paul is patient as all of God’s ministers should be. Paul had some deeper things to speak to the Corinthian church body, but they weren’t ready for it. This seems to echo Jesus’ words to the disciples when He said “I have yet many things yet to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” John 16:12. Spiritual wisdom cannot be understood by carnal men in the same way that a calculus problem cannot be explained and solved by a first grader. There must be growth. Line upon line and precept upon precept.
3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
Paul is basically saying the same here as in verse 1 but with the idea that he has taken on a role of responsibility; i.e., a parent, caretaker. He is letting them know that he loves them and is caring for them while at the same time sharing the truth of the stunting of their spiritual growth.
3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Here Paul is exposing their spiritual condition, which is not too spiritual. If envying, strife and divisions are still in your life, it’s a sign that you are a baby in the Lord and compared to the world (carnal). The exaltation of denomination is a sign of spiritual infancy. These things mentioned will stunt your spiritual growth.
3:4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
This verse reveals the details of verse 3. The Corinthian church was in strife and divisions because Paul had converted some, while Apollos others. Evidently envying was brought about because either Paul or Apollos was esteemed higher than the other to the church. Division: Some would say that denomination was nonexistent in the early church, but here is a church divided not by “Methodists or Pentecostals,” but “of Apollos” and “of Paul.” If you’re more concerned about pushing your denomination that Jesus Christ, then you are still in spiritual infancy. The man or woman who led you to the Lord is not your foundation, neither is the denomination you were saved in, but the ONE who saved you.
3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
The establishing of who Paul and Apollos were. Corinth was plagued with idolatry. Some of this mindset may have influenced them to esteem man above the level they were. Paul is saying here that they (He and Apollos) were nothing but men that God had used to cultivate their faith.
3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
Paul is placing himself and Apollos back in their proper place; men who have only labored. The Corinthian church was bent on placing more emphasis on these men than they should have. It’s okay to respect a man, but do not exalt him. God is the giver of increase. Paul knew full well that if it wasn’t the Lord doing the work, then all the labor would be in vain. Paul and Apollos are the farmers; the Corinthian church is the garden or planting.
3:7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
Here Paul is saying that the man is nothing, whosoever he is! Whether it’s me or whether it’s you or someone else. It’s all about the one who is giving the increase. God is the one who is increasing you so it is God who gets all the glory!
3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
Now Paul is bringing them (He and Apollos) back to their proper place. Paul and Apollos, ministers, i.e., preachers, spiritual leadership, are men working together for the same result just as farmers work in the fields. Some farmers are planting while others are watering. All who labor will receive a reward. The planter will be rewarded for his planting while the waterer will be rewarded for his watering. Compare this to verse 14.
3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
Here Paul contrasts the laborers from the vineyard. Paul and Apollos are laborers together and the Lord is laboring with them! Hallelujah!! You are God’s husbandry (vineyard), not ours. This is the Lords work not ours. Now at this very moment, Paul turns the thoughts of the rest of the chapter from the Corinthian church being compared to the planting of a vineyard, to the constructing of a “building.” I have missed this very pivotal verse so many times while reading. This changes the entire thoughts of the remainder of the chapter. The failure to see this important verse has caused so many to be driven to other opinions about what Paul is referring to in the remaining verses. But again, don’t miss this important part; Paul and Apollos are still the laborers here, not the vineyard and not the building. This is key to understanding the balance of the chapter.
3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
By the grace of God, Paul was entrusted with the task of building the church. Jesus declared in Matthew 16, “Upon this Rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it!” Many things have come and gone in this world but one thing remains; the church! Paul was chosen to be the masterbuilder! He wasn’t just a carpenter laying block, he was the chief architect. The architect was responsible, not for design the building, but to understand the design to make sure it was built to its intended design. God used this man in such a mighty way! Here is something else vital. Paul did not hew the foundation, but he did lay it! Paul could not form the foundation stone! It was hewn out, not with hands. Man had nothing to do with this foundation. But what is important here is that Paul did lay the foundation. By Paul saying that another will build thereon, he means that another builder (preacher; minister) will come after him and continue the construction and will most likely be a pastor that the Lord will raise out of the people. This man had better take heed how he builds thereon! This speaks volumes to me. Apostle Paul preached a lot of things that most preachers today say have been done away with. They say that these things have ceased. In saying that, we’ve basically said that the grunt carpenter knows more than the wise master builder. If you build on Christ, you better make sure you build according to the word of God. Paul revealed to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 2:19-21 that the were …of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. There’s one thing for certain, Jesus is the foundation! Praise God! This was the purpose of all apostles; to lay the foundation. To proclaim Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone! Paul didn’t say that Jesus was “a” foundation, he declare that other foundation can no man lay. That’s it! It’s Jesus or nothing! Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hall shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. A cornerstone has three points of reference for the building. both sides can be found by stretching a line from the sides of the cornerstone. The third point of reference is the height. The edge of the cornerstone forms a line upward so that a plummet line can be stretched vertically. The cornerstone means everything to the house! It is the main focus!
3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
Don’t miss this very important truth here. This is Paul’s attempt to warn all “builders”(preachers); not the building (church), but the builders that the materials used to place upon this foundation would make the difference whether the “building” would stand or fall! This also speaks to the idea that there is a distinction between the builder and the wise master builder. Paul was given the blueprints, we are just carpenters doing the grunt work. The Spirit of God laid out the plans of the church in the writings of the apostles. They are the blueprints. Preachers are to make sure the church looks like the blueprints. The builders can’t build upon the foundation unless they study the blueprint. The building again is the Corinthian church, verse 10. Paul and every preacher, pastor, or spiritual leader who comes behind Paul will build upon the foundation that Paul has laid! What materials will you choose, preacher? Will you use material that will not hold up to the fire or will it stand long after the fire is gone? This is a practical application of Paul’s case he has already made in the second chapter referring to the difference between worldly wisdom and Spiritual wisdom; the wisdom of men versus the power of God. Paul didn’t want their faith to stand in the wisdom of men. As a matter of fact, it could not stand; it would eventually fall when persecution came. The preaching of the cross is this wisdom of God, or “Hidden Wisdom.” The power of God moves in the preaching of the cross. Do we still wonder why the cross isn’t popular behind the pulpit? This is the message that Satan does not want preached. This message brings forth the power of God to annihilate everything in the kingdom of darkness. Another thing about this is the builders or ministers would build “upon” the foundation that Paul laid. The height of the building would represent the layers of work that would be built in ages to come. This gives us more evidence to be confident that the building or the people of God in ages to come should be preaching the exact doctrine that the early church preached, with the same power and anointing.
3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
The “man” is still referring to the builder; i.e., the minister. The man’s “work” is referring back to the building, i.e., the believers. The work is gonna be manifest. The church will reveal what kind of materials that the builder used to build upon the foundation. The fire will declare what the man used by the strength or weakness of the building. If the material burns up, then the house will fall. If the building remains firm, then the materials were fireproof. This “fire” has been explained by so many bible scholars and teachers as the day of the Lord when our works will be tried by God’s fire. I believe this fire is referring to things that will take place in this present time to try to destroy the church. If the building is the church, then will God destroy the church? The church is a foreign entity in this world and is likened unto a temple. God has not ever destroyed His temple. It is the enemy armies who have always sought to destroy it. Satan is the sender of fire in this verse. He seeks to destroy God’s building and the time is now when this verse is referring to; this age. If the “builder” has built it using God’s design and God’s materials, then it will not perish in the devils fire.
3:14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
This let’s us know that the way the pastors and preachers build upon Jesus Christ, and if the building remains after the fire, then the man will receive a reward. The work abiding is referring to the church that will stand in persecution. The reward is the reward given to the builder by the Lord.
3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
If the work is burned, meaning the church, if it is destroyed, then the builder or minister, will suffer loss, but he will not be burned in the fire. This tells me that the man himself can be made out of spiritual things, even though he chose to build the church with worldly or perishable things (earthly wisdom). And this meaning that the minister was born again and his material fireproof. So here is the question; can a man be born again but yet build upon the foundation people who are standing in the wisdom of men instead of the power of God? The answer is sadly yes. This is where Satan comes in and deceives the preacher so that He places things in the church that are not of the Spirit.
3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
Paul is now going back to the building! He’s directing his attention back to the building, not the builder. The Spirit abides in you; the believer; the real and glorious church.
3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
Back to the man or builder again now. Is it possible for the builder to build with perishable materials and not “defile” the temple? The answer is yes! A person can be truly born again and be taught worldly wisdom the rest of their christian life. Paul has made a distinction between earthly materials and a defiling of the temple. The builder may innocently use materials that will not hold up to the fire, but that is totally different than defiling it. Sin will defile the temple. Paul, under no certain terms is saying here something very powerful. If the builder defiles the temple, God will destroy him. This is gravely obvious that the builder can become a Balaam and through his preaching, cause sin to enter into the temple and defile it. This is vastly different than what teachers are portraying this verse to mean. The same as Balaam taught Balac how to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel to cause sin to enter into them and thus causing Balac to gain victory over them, preachers have been used by Satan to cast stumbling blocks before the church and causing the devil to gain victory over it! God will not destroy the building, but He will destroy the builder! Preachers, we are the builders. We must take heed to this.
3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
Now he goes back to the man; the builder. This is also a carry over from chapter one and two regarding wisdom. The phrase; “if any man among you” is the recipient of this advice. Don’t think yourself so wise that you deceive your own selves. Worldly wisdom does not constitute the wisdom of God. There is a worldly wisdom and there is a spiritual wisdom. The worldly materials are the attempts of the builder to use his worldly wisdom to build the church. It won’t work! The church is a spiritual entity. Worldly wisdom is useless! We must return to asking the Lord to show us how to build upon this foundation. What’s so wrong with saying we don’t know. God will honor your inability with His wisdom. But we have to be humble enough to say Lord I don’t know what to do, please show me. James 1:5. If we ask the Lord, He will show us.
3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
This is all too often the type of wisdom that man uses to build the church today. It is nothing more than foolishness to God! This is the reason why people start out with the Lord but cannot continue. This reference to Job 5:13 that God will reveal just how foolish to man that his worldly wisdom is by trapping the man with it and revealing to himself that he is a fool!
3:20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
Psalm 94:11, Paul calls on the Old Testament scripture again. He no doubt is writing by the leadership of the Holy Ghost to declare unto the church the terrible wickedness of worldly wisdom. James declared that the wisdom of this world is earthly, sensual, devilish. What do you mean devilish? It’s this simple! If the wisdom you and I possess within ourselves is not given to us by the Lord, then it is of this world, and if of this world then it is devilish; it is demonic. This is why man’s wisdom should not be displayed in the pulpit. It will eventually drag the church into a realm that the church is not supposed to be in. The church is of the Spirit of God.
3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
Don’t swell up with the pride of your own wisdom. Paul goes back to the beginning of the chapter and the beginning of the epistle for that matter. The Corinthian church thought more of Paul and Apollos than they should have. You are not indebted to man, God has given all these things to you for your benefit.
3:22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
Basically he is saying here that no matter who has labored the gospel to you whether it be Paul, Apollos, Peter. Also, he is declaring that whatever happens to you, we are the Lord’s. Paul is making his every effort to remove from the Corinthian church their unrealistic view of the apostles. Even though they were used mightily by the Lord, the church was not to place them as an object of worship. Paul is not the foundation, nor is Apollos; but Jesus Christ. Christ is the one you need to be trusting in!
3:23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
You belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Son belongs to the father. Bluntly, we are all on the same playing field. Don’t exalt man above his position. Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. We are all the same and that is under Christ.
You are welcome to submit you comments and interpretations. I will publish them as they are submitted. Otherwise, we will continue on with this study.
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