While still on the topic of divisions in the church, Paul points out frankly the spiritual condition of the Corinthians. The heart of the problem is their spiritual immaturity, which contributes to their boasting and idolizing of God’s workers. In the present passage, Paul teaches them and us how to view ourselves and our ministries properly, knowing that it is God to whom we ultimately answer.
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What metaphors does Paul use in this passage?Hide Answer
Infants (1); milk, solid food (2); planting, watering (6–8); fellow workers, field, building (9); foundation (10–12); gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw (12); fire (13); temple (16–17). “A skilled master builder” in verse 10 is a simile.
What do milk and solid food represent?Hide Answer
The same metaphors are also found in Hebrews 5:11–14 to contrast basic teachings as opposed to teachings for the spiritually mature. We may likewise apply this interpretation to the context of the current passage. The Corinthian believers, because of their spiritual immaturity, need to be taught once again the basic teachings about humility and the need to exalt God rather than man. They are not ready for harder teachings such as giving, sacrifice, and suffering for the Lord.
How do the jealousy and strife among the Corinthians reflect their spiritual state?Hide Answer
Their jealousy and strife reflect the fact that they are wise in their own eyes and unable to consider others as better than themselves. They are like infants who think only for themselves and fight over what they want. Their understanding of God and of themselves is also seriously lacking.
How is claiming allegiance to certain leaders in church a sign of “being merely human”?Hide Answer
In this passage, the expressions “behaving only in a human way” (vs. 3) and “being merely human” (vs. 4) are parallel to being of the flesh (vs. 3) and set in contrast to being spiritual (vs. 1). The implication, therefore, is that “being human” means walking according to the desires of the flesh. The idea is similar to the description in Ephesians of the believers’ former way of conduct, in which they were “following the course of this world” and being “like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2:1–4). Thus, the Corinthians’ idolizing of workers and their boasting constitute behavior that is like the rest of mankind which does not know God. Instead of giving glory to God as a believer ought to, they compete with each other and are jealous of each other.
Name some examples of behaving according to the flesh.(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
What characteristics are associated with being spiritual?Hide Answer
Paul summarizes the goal of Christian living as “be imitators of God” (Eph 5:1). In the passage that follows as well as in many other similar exhortations, the Bible shows us the God-like qualities that are worthy of our imitation (e.g. Eph 5:2–6:9; Rom 12:1–15:7; Gal 5:22–26; Php 2:1–18; Col 3:1–4:1;
1 Pet 2:1–4:19). These are all characteristics of being spiritual.
What does this segment teach about servants of God?Hide Answer
While servants of God may have done much work in their service to God, and they will certainly be rewarded by God according to their labor, they are not to be given the credit. They are instruments of God through whom we come to believe God. As important as they may be, they are not the object of our faith.
What does this segment teach about God’s place?Hide Answer
God is the One who brings to fruition the labor of His servants. He alone is worthy of all glory, and He alone is our Lord whom we may worship.
What is the message of verse 9?Hide Answer
Both servants of God as well as believers whom the workers of God serve belong to God (Note the repetitive “God’s”). God is the ultimate owner and master. Whether we are serving the believers or are benefiting from the service of others, we must bear in mind that we all answer to God.
Another lesson we may learn from this verse is the assurance that God is behind the ministries that we undertake and that He takes personal interest in our wellbeing. When we serve, we are working alongside God. He strengthens us in our weakness. As God’s field and building, we are confident that God watches over us and ensures that we flourish under His care.
Explain how the Lord Jesus is the only foundation.Hide Answer
The Bible teaches that we believers are members of Christ’s body and Christ is the head of the body (
1 Cor 12:12–13, 27; Eph 5:23; Col 1:18). Christ is the Savior of the church, the very reason for our spiritual existence, and in whom we grow spiritually (Eph 5:23; Col 3:4). Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption ( 1 Cor 1:30). He is the sole object of our faith and is the heart of the gospel message ( 1 Cor 2:1). In this sense, Jesus Christ is the only foundation of faith as well as of the church. He is the cornerstone upon which all believers are fitted together and grow together (Eph 2:19–22; 1 Pet 2:4–5).
What does it mean for us to build upon Jesus Christ the foundation?Hide Answer
Verse 14 mentions that on the last day each person whose work stands will receive a reward. The word for “reward” is the same as the word for “wages” in verse 8. Therefore, we may infer that the work Paul is speaking of is the labor one puts in for the sake of the Lord in building up the church, just as Paul planted and Apollos watered to help believers grow in their faith. Similarly, Colossians 2:7 and Jude 20 also speak of building up in Christ as meaning being established in our faith. Every believer has the responsibility to build ourselves up as well as build each other up (cf. Rom 14:19, 15:2;
1 Cor 14:12; 2 Cor 12:19; Eph 4:16; 1 Thess 5:11, where “edify” means “build up.”).
How do you measure the quality of your building materials and workmanship?Hide Answer
Human beings tend to look at performance and results, but God looks at the heart (cf.
1 Cor 4:5). Here are some of the ways for us to check the quality of our work in building up our faith as well as the faith of other believers:
1. Do I do all things willingly rather than under compulsion? (cf.
1 Pet 5:2)
How does the teaching here that believers together are God’s temple relate to the problem of division in the church?Hide Answer
Together, believers are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in them (vs. 16). This spiritual reality reveals the sanctity and splendor of the congregation of believers. He who loves the church loves God, and he who destroys the church sins against God (cf. Rom 14:20;
1 Cor 8:11–12). The divisions found in the Corinthian church destroyed the unity of the believers and were detrimental to the faith of the believers. But if we understand how sacred the body of Christ is, we would not allow divisions to destroy the church of God.
What kinds of actions are considered destructive to God’s temple?Hide Answer
When we misuse our knowledge or authority in the church, we can become destructive to the temple of God (cf.
1 Cor 8:11; 2 Cor 10:8, 13:10). This happens when we consider only our own good rather than the good of other believers. Even when we are diligently serving in church, if our actions are not out of love or in accord with God’s ways, we may do more harm than good.
How do we become a fool so that we may be wise (v. 18)?Hide Answer
Being a fool in the present context means being a fool by worldly standards, since Paul is contrasting the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of God (cf. v. 19). More specifically, Paul’s point is that we ought to be humble rather than boastful. Even though humility makes us appear foolish and weak to the world, it is being wise in God’s eyes. Applying this principle to unity in the church, we should love, respect, and serve each other in humility rather than think highly of ourselves and form factions to elevate ourselves.
How does the understanding that “all things are yours” remove boasting?Hide Answer
Paul reverses the boasting of the Corinthians. Whereas they claim to belong to workers they admire, saying, “I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos,” and “I am of Cephas,” Paul tells them that whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are theirs. As servants, Paul, Apollos, or Cephas belong to the believers, so there is no reason for believers to exalt these servants or boast in them. At the same time, since believers already have a noble status in Christ, it is needless to be ambitious like the people of the world and seek to outdo each other.
How does the understanding that “you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” remove boasting?Hide Answer
In the body of Christ we all belong to Christ just as Christ belongs to God. When God is our only master we worship and serve, there is no place for idolizing of workers or competition among believers.