1 Corinthians 3

* The Corinthians reproved for their contentions. (1-4) The true

servants of Christ can do nothing without him. (5-9) He is the

only foundation, and every one should take heed what he builds

thereon. (10-15) The churches of Christ ought to be kept pure,

and to be humble. (16,17) And they should not glory in men,

because ministers and all things else are theirs through Christ.

(18-23)

1-4 The most simple truths of the gospel, as to man's

sinfulness and God's mercy, repentance towards God, and faith in

our Lord Jesus Christ, stated in the plainest language, suit the

people better than deeper mysteries. Men may have much doctrinal

knowledge, yet be mere beginners in the life of faith and

experience. Contentions and quarrels about religion are sad

evidences of carnality. True religion makes men peaceable, not

contentious. But it is to be lamented, that many who should walk

as Christians, live and act too much like other men. Many

professors, and preachers also, show themselves to be yet

carnal, by vain-glorious strife, eagerness for dispute, and

readiness to despise and speak evil of others.
5-9 The ministers about whom the Corinthians contended, were

only instruments used by God. We should not put ministers into

the place of God. He that planteth and he that watereth are one,

employed by one Master, trusted with the same revelation, busied

in one work, and engaged in one design. They have their

different gifts from one and the same Spirit, for the very same

purposes; and should carry on the same design heartily. Those

who work hardest shall fare best. Those who are most faithful

shall have the greatest reward. They work together with God, in

promoting the purposes of his glory, and the salvation of

precious souls; and He who knows their work, will take care they

do not labour in vain. They are employed in his husbandry and

building; and He will carefully look over them.
10-15 The apostle was a wise master-builder; but the grace of

God made him such. Spiritual pride is abominable; it is using

the greatest favours of God, to feed our own vanity, and make

idols of ourselves. But let every man take heed; there may be

bad building on a good foundation. Nothing must be laid upon it,

but what the foundation will bear, and what is of a piece with

it. Let us not dare to join a merely human or a carnal life with

a Divine faith, the corruption of sin with the profession of

Christianity. Christ is a firm, abiding, and immovable Rock of

ages, every way able to bear all the weight that God himself or

the sinner can lay upon him; neither is there salvation in any

other. Leave out the doctrine of his atonement, and there is no

foundation for our hopes. But of those who rest on this

foundation, there are two sorts. Some hold nothing but the truth

as it is in Jesus, and preach nothing else. Others build on the

good foundation what will not abide the test, when the day of

trail comes. We may be mistaken in ourselves and others; but

there is a day coming that will show our actions in the true

light, without covering or disguise. Those who spread true and

pure religion in all its branches, and whose work will abide in

the great day, shall receive a reward. And how great! how much

exceeding their deserts! There are others, whose corrupt

opinions and doctrines, or vain inventions and usages in the

worship of God, shall be made known, disowned, and rejected, in

that day. This is plainly meant of a figurative fire, not of a

real one; for what real fire can consume religious rites or

doctrines? And it is to try every man's works, those of Paul and

Apollos, as well as others. Let us consider the tendency of our

undertakings, compare them with God's word, and judge ourselves,

that we be not judged of the Lord.
16,17 From other parts of the epistle, it appears that the

false teachers among the Corinthians taught unholy doctrines.

Such teaching tended to corrupt, to pollute, and destroy the

building, which should be kept pure and holy for God. Those who

spread loose principles, which render the church of God unholy,

bring destruction upon themselves. Christ by his Spirit dwells

in all true believers. Christians are holy by profession, and

should be pure and clean, both in heart and conversation. He is

deceived who deems himself the temple of the Holy Ghost, yet is

unconcerned about personal holiness, or the peace and purity of

the church.
18-23 To have a high opinion of our own wisdom, is but to

flatter ourselves; and self-flattery is the next step to

self-deceit. The wisdom that wordly men esteem, is foolishness

with God. How justly does he despise, and how easily can he

baffle and confound it! The thoughts of the wisest men in the

world, have vanity, weakness, and folly in them. All this should

teach us to be humble, and make us willing to be taught of God,

so as not to be led away, by pretences to human wisdom and

skill, from the simple truths revealed by Christ. Mankind are

very apt to oppose the design of the mercies of God. Observe the

spiritual riches of a true believer; "All are yours," even

ministers and ordinances. Nay, the world itself is yours. Saints

have as much of it as Infinite Wisdom sees fit for them, and

they have it with the Divine blessing. Life is yours, that you

may have a season and opportunity to prepare for the life of

heaven; and death is yours, that you may go to the possession of

it. It is the kind messenger to take you from sin and sorrow,

and to guide you to your Father's house. Things present are

yours, for your support on the road; things to come are yours,

to delight you for ever at your journey's end. If we belong to

Christ, and are true to him, all good belongs to us, and is sure

to us. Believers are the subjects of his kingdom. He is Lord

over us, we must own his dominion, and cheerfully submit to his

command. God in Christ, reconciling a sinful world to himself,

and pouring the riches of his grace on a reconciled world, is

the sum and substance of the gospel.

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