Paul puts things in Proper Perspective for the Corinthians
1 Corinthians 3:12-23 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 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. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 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. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. KJV
Paul has used several different methods of language in this early part of his epistle or letter to these believers in Corinth to put down the quarrels that have arisen and caused them to break up into mini-groups ascribing to the preaching or teaching approach employed by Paul over Apollos or Peter. Paul now narrows his focus down as a scientist or researcher would do in a laboratory in their examination of various items under the high powered lens of a microscope. Paul has already declared to them that his only purpose among them was to lay the steadfast, sure, and solid foundation that is our Lord Jesus Christ. The English word foundation Paul uses here in picturing for us what Christ is to them (the Corinthian believers) and all who turn to Him is translated by the Greek word themelios which means in one sense exactly what most everyone is accustomed to think of when the word “foundation” is used and that is something put down, that is, a substruction of a building, however, Paul referring to Christ as the “foundation” or “themelios” means He is the Preeminent One or the One and only first principles of Truth and outside of Him is only error, heresy, and lies.
Paul declares that every one of the Corinthian believers and all of us in every generation who Names the Name of Christ is either building upon Christ with love, prayers, witness, exhortation, purity, faithfulness, honesty, moral excellence, knowledge, brotherly kindness, self-control, and perseverance that stands up to His Piercing examination and remains forever or it is burned up by His Piercing examination and is turned into smoke like that from a furnace. The Apostle John when on the island of Patmos saw our Lord Jesus Christ in all His Glory and fell at His feet as dead and John described our Lord’s Eyes in this manner, “His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14) and it is with these eyes that He will examine every person’s life or walk with Him. Paul writes how our Lord Jesus is going to make plain, or make visible, or make apparent, or make open, or to disclose, or to reveal, or to take off the cover as one does of a pot on the stove to see the contents on the inside. Paul says it in this manner when writing to the believers in the city of Rome, Romans 2:16 “On the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” and no believer will escape this examination. The true motives and intents of the heart/inner man will be laid bear on the examination table as one is sprawled out on the operation table by a surgeon with scalpel in hand at the ready to make the first incision in the flesh, exposing all of the internal organs, so will each one of us be even more opened up internally by our Lord, Master, and Savior Jesus Christ.
Let us pay close attention to the English phrase Paul uses in verse 13 “of what sort” because this is the key to everything he has previously declared our Lord Jesus would do and this English phrase is translated by the Greek word hopoios which means of what kind or how great or excellent or of what quality. Paul declares to the Corinthian believers and to us that our Lord Jesus Christ primarily is going to test the “quality” of the labor or work and not the quantity. We human beings with these finite minds we have define “quality” as 1) A degree or grade of excellence or worth. 2) A characteristic property that defines the apparent individual nature of something. Bigger does not always indicate that which is best. Our Lord Jesus already knows the “nature” of every one of His Own and likewise He knows the “nature” or “quality” of every one of our individual lives since receiving Him as Lord and Savior. Paul immediately after making known to the Corinthian believers and to us that we will be rewarded for “work” that remains, but will “suffer loss” for work or labor that is burned under our Lord Jesus’ “Eyes like a flame of fire” says this to them, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. KJV
Why does Paul place these two statements at this point of his epistle or letter? Well, earlier in verse 9 Paul said that we are God’s “husbandry” and this English word is translated by the Greek word georgion which means a cultivated field. Paul also in that same verse called believers God’s “building” or “structure.” Paul uses these two verse 16 and 17 here to hammer home the point to these Corinthians and to us that our Lord’s Examination of His children is from within where He resides “in us” so there is no way to cover up or mask one’s true internal desires, deeds, and duties carried out in the smallest of things for our Lord Jesus’ Glory. The life we live in our bodies means so much to our Lord Jesus, not just for our good but mainly for His Glory. He saved us that He would receive Glory to Himself and a life lived in our bodies that dishonors where He Resides “His Temple” or “His Residence” (John 14:23) will not be allowed to continue in defilement without correction. The English word defile Paul uses is an ugly word translated from the Greek word phtheiro which means to spoil or to ruin (especially figuratively by moral influences, to deprave) or to corrupt yourself. Paul declares our Lord Jesus will not allow His Own children to so corrupt themselves morally before He steps in and destroys them, the child of God “he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Paul declares our Lord to be very serious about the lives He redeems or buys back from sin, darkness, and the devil be a vessel of honor bringing Glory to His Name in complete and stark contrast to the “vessels of wrath” (Romans 9:22) as so clearly written for all to understand by the Apostle John with these words, 1 John 3:9-10 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. NKJV Paul for the sixth time in this epistle or letter uses the word “foolishness” speaking again of those counting on or trusting in their human reasoning or understanding and declares to the Corinthian believers and to us that this is empty nothingness with God the Father.
Paul now summarizes all that he has written to them thus far with these words, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. NKJV Look you Corinthian brethren, “You have been made heirs of God as sons and daughters and the entire Universe and everything in it belongs to you ‘in Christ’ and there is no room for disputes, quarrels, wrangling, or arguments over people or any other thing.” This is how this same Apostle Paul wrote it to the brethren in Rome, Romans 8:14-18 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. KJV
“We are called upon to contribute our share to the building of saved souls which is rising through the ages, to be an habitation of God through the Spirit, Ephesians 2:21-22. But in addition, we must not neglect the building of our own character on the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ. God has placed Him to be the foundation of every structure which shall stand firm in all the tests of fire through which we are destined to pass. We must needs go on building day by day. Whatever we do or say is another stone or brick. It is for us to choose which heap of material we take it from; whether from that of the wood, hay, or stubble, or from that of the gold, silver, or precious stones.” F. B. Meyer
“‘The day shall declare it,’ that is the day on which Jesus Christ comes to be the Judge; and it, that is ‘the day,’ ‘shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall test every man’s work.’ Now, it is to be noticed that here we are moving altogether in the region of lofty symbolism, and that the metaphor of the testing fire is suggested by the previous enumeration of building materials, gold and silver being capable of being assayed by flame; and ‘wood, hay, stubble’ being combustible, and sure to be destroyed thereby. The fire here is not an emblem of punishment; it is not an emblem of cleansing. There is no reference to anything in the nature of what Roman Catholics call purgatorial fires. The allusion is simply to some stringent and searching means of testing the quality of a man’s work, and of revealing that quality.” Alexander MacLaren
“Paul wanted to make these believers see or recognize not only who they are now ‘in Christ’ (new creations), but also to remind them all they have received from their union with Christ and how our Lord Jesus outweighs any temporal things down here that would cause them conflict, strife, arguments, or disputes.” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…
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