INFANTS IN CHRIST (v. 1 – 9)
“for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (1 Corinthians 3:3)
After all that Paul said in Chapter 2, he states that his exhortation has no influence over the Corinthian church. Why? Paul calls them “people of the flesh” instead of spiritual people, going as far as to call them “infants in Christ.” They are not yet mature enough to hear his teachings. They are blinded by pride, selfishness, and jealousy. We can see here that Paul greatly desires to share deeper teachings with the church, yet is limited in feeding them “milk” because of their spiritual infancy.
Paul continues to rebuke the Corinthians’ way of thinking by proclaiming that although he and Apollos played different roles in ministering to people, they are insignificant because it is God who gave the growth. God is the only one who can move and convict people to repentance. He asks them why they are so concerned about who they follow when in fact, they should not be honoring man but God.
GOD’S WORKERS (v. 10 – 17)
“each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.” (1 Corinthians 3:13)
Paul says that every believer has a foundation laid down by Jesus; He then compares our lives to building upon this foundation with different materials, ranging from gold and precious jewels to hay and straw. When Jesus comes back, all of our work will be laid before him. It will then be tested through fire to reveal how we lived for God. Whether our work is burned up or not, Paul assures the Corinthians that they will be saved despite suffering loss because of the foundation they have from Jesus.
Paul then asks the Corinthians if they realize that the Spirit of God dwells within them, thus making them God’s temple. Paul writes to rebuke the Corinthian church; his love for them is evident. He not only challenges them to become more spiritually mature, but also reminds them of their sealed identity in Christ. He implores them to live as those with God’s spirit dwelling within them.
INCOMPARABLE WISDOM (v. 18 – 23)
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” (1 Corinthians 3:18)
Even the wisest man has wisdom that Paul calls futile compared to God’s wisdom. Paul instead flips the equation and says that in order to be wise, one must be a fool. He consistently emphasizes the importance of humility to the Corinthian church from the beginning of this chapter to the end. Pride is what keeps us as spiritual infants and makes us think we are one another’s saviors. Overall, he debunks the importance of man, including himself. Christ is the one with the power to save, Christ is the one who will judge on the final day, and Christ has wisdom that surpasses any human understanding. He ends the chapter by stating that we belong to God. At the end of the day, everything we do, everything we own, whatever we experience are all under the rulership of God. Therefore, a true understanding of this reality prompts a humble heart that also realizes one’s sanctity as the temple of God.