1 Corinthians 3:1-23 NIV
The Church and Its Leaders
1Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each His task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, Who makes things grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the One already laid, Which is Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
16Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s Temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17If anyone destroys God’s Temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s Temple is sacred, and you together are that Temple.
18Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”a; 20and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”b 21So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephasc or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
1 Corinthians 3 - Carnal Christians and Godly Ministers
Carnality in the Corinthian church.
Paul confronts their condition.
1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.
a. These people are part of the family of God (he calls them brothers and sisters), and that is the problem. Though they have the Holy Spirit (unlike the natural man of 1 Corinthians 2:14) they are not behaving like spiritual people, but like carnal - that is, fleshly people, like immature Christians (babes in Christ).
i. There is a significant debate as if there can be such a thing as a carnal Christian. Some say it is a contradiction in terms, that Paul is really saying that these carnal ones are not Christians at all. Yet he clearly calls them brethren, and says they babes in Christ. How could these terms be used of someone who is not a Christian?
ii. These Christians, to some extent, are thinking and acting according to the flesh, not the Spirit. Of course, the flesh does not dominate every aspect of their life, or they would then have no evidence of being born again. But Paul is addressing issues where they clearly are thinking and acting in a carnal - that is, fleshly - manner.
iii. “The carnal Christian is a child of God, born again and on his way to heaven, but he is traveling third class.” (Redpath) Romans 7 is a portrait of the carnal Christian; indwelt by the Spirit, but mastered by the flesh.
b. There is a difference between being fleshy ( σάρκινος sarkinos, used in 2 Corinthians 3:3) and being fleshly (the Greek word σαρκικός sarkikos, used here in this passage).
i. Fleshy is simply “made of flesh”; it can speak of the weakness that is common to every fallen human.
ii. Fleshly, when used of a person, means “characterized by the flesh.” It speaks of the one who can and should do differently but does not. Paul says that the Corinthians were fleshly sarkikos.
c. Paul has spoken to us about three categories of men. There is the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14), who is patterned after Adam and rejects the things of the Spirit. There is the spiritual man (1 Corinthians 2:15), who knows the things of God. And there is the carnal man who knows the things of God, yet in some significant ways is still characterized by the flesh.
Which one are you?