1 Corinthians 3
Stop obsessing over church leaders
Babies get baby talk1 Dear family, when I came to you, I couldn’t talk to you like I talk to spiritual grown-ups. You were spiritual infants in your understanding of the Messiah. So I talked to you as people who understood mainly what you could see of this world with your own eyes. 2 I gave you milk because you weren’t ready for solid food. You’re still not ready. 3 You’re still focused on the stuff of this world. Can’t you see that all of your jealousy and arguing proves that you’re focused on this world? You’re acting like any other people on the street.
Stop saying “I’m with Paul”4 When some of you say, “I’m with Paul,” and others say, “I’m with Apollos,” isn’t that the kind of behavior we expect of other people outside the faith? 5 Come on now, who is Apollos? And who is Paul? We’re just a couple of servants on assignment from our leader. In time, you came to believe the message we brought to you. 6 I planted the spiritual seed in you. Apollos watered it. God is making it grow. 7 Don’t make a big deal about the person who does the planting or the person who does the watering. God is the big deal. He’s what makes it all grow. 8 The planter and the irrigator each have a job to do, and they will each get paid for the job they did. 9 We are just a couple of coworkers doing our job for God. You are the job. You are the field God is planting and the building he is constructing. 10 Because of God’s kindness, I was able to become a skilled master-builder who laid the foundation. Others are now building on that foundation. I hope those builders are careful.
Jesus is your foundation11 There’s only one true foundation anyone can lay. That foundation is Jesus the Messiah. 12 People can build on that foundation with any number of products: gold, silver, jewels, wood, grass, or straw. 13 How good of a job a person does will become known on Judgment Day. Fire will burn down the worthless stuff. 14 If the builder’s work survives, the builder will get a wonderful payday. 15 But if the builder’s work doesn’t survive, he’ll have wasted everything he invested, and he’ll suffer a huge loss. He’ll survive, but only as someone who barely made it through a fire.
You’re God’s temple16 You’re God’s temple. God’s Spirit lives in you. Don’t you know that? 17 I’m telling you, if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy the person who did that. God’s temple is that sacred to him. People, you are that temple.
Street savvy won’t cut it18 Don’t kid yourself. If you think you’re street savvy in the ways of this world, empty your head of that. The kind of wisdom you need is going to make you look like a fool to people of the world. 19 The kind of wisdom people of this world have makes them look like fools to God. The Bible says,
“He traps the wise with their own tricks.”20 The Bible also says,
“The LORD knows how wise guys try to figure things out. And he knows it’s a waste of time.”
Everything is yours to do with as you decide21 So stop bragging about which church leader you prefer. They all belong to you. Everything does. 22 Paul, Apollos, and Peter are all yours. So is the world. So is life and death. And so is the present and the future. It’s all yours to do with as you choose. 23 But remember this, you belong to the Messiah, and the Messiah belongs to God.
Often translated “grace.”
Many Bible experts say Paul is talking about only two types of material, not six. He is talking about combustible products of wood, grass, and straw. And he is talking about the kind of products that do not burn in the fire: gold, silver, and precious stones.
Some Bible experts say Paul may have had in mind this quote from his Bible, “You were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze” (Amos 4:11 New American Standard Bible). That ancient Hebrew saying is a bit like the English saying, “You were saved by the skin of your teeth.”
Paul used the Aramaic version of Peter’s name: Cephas. It means “rock.”
Paul told the Corinthian Christians “I couldn’t talk to you like I talked to spiritual grown-ups” (3:1). What do you think he meant by that? How do you talk to new Christians differently than you talk to veteran Christians?
What do you think Paul is talking about when he says “People can build on that foundation with any number of products: gold, silver, jewels, wood, grass, or straw” (3:12)?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul seems to have targeted most of this chapter at the conflict caused by people in the church preferring the leadership of one minister over another. Most of us who have spent much time in the church have seen people butt heads over turf. What do you think causes turf wars in the church? What’s the source of the problem?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul told the Corinthian Christians, “Don’t make a big deal about the person who does the planting or the person who does the watering. God is the big deal. He’s what makes it all grow” (3:7). Do you think Christians sometimes make too much of a big deal about their church leaders?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul turns a phrase nicely. He says, “The kind of wisdom you need is going to make you look like a fool” (3:18). Then he flips that to say, “The kind of wisdom people of this world have makes them look like fools to God” (3:19). What examples come to mind?