Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
ACCOUNT IN THE
1. And I--that is, as the natural (animal) man cannot receive,
so I also could not speak unto you the deep things of God,
as I would to the spiritual; but I was compelled to speak
to you as I would to MEN OF FLESH.
The oldest manuscripts read this for "carnal." The former (literally,
"fleshy") implies men wholly of flesh, or natural.
Carnal, or fleshly, implies not they were wholly
natural or unregenerate
but that they had much of a carnal tendency; for example their
divisions. Paul had to speak to them as he would to men wholly
natural, inasmuch as they are still carnal
in many respects, notwithstanding their conversion
babes--contrasted with the perfect (fully matured) in
Heb 5:13, 14).
This implies they were not men wholly of flesh, though carnal in
tendencies. They had life in Christ, but it was weak. He blames them
for being still in a degree (not altogether, compare
1Co 1:5, 7;
therefore he says as) babes in Christ, when by this time
they ought to have "come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the
stature of the fulness of Christ"
also the oldest manuscripts read, "I am a man of flesh."
milk--the elementary "principles of the doctrine of Christ."
3. envying--jealousy, rivalry. As this refers to their
feelings, "strife" refers to their words, and "divisions"
to their actions [BENGEL]. There is a
gradation, or ascending climax: envying had produced
strife, and strife divisions (factious parties) [GROTIUS]. His language becomes severer now as He
he had only said "contentions," he now multiplies the words (compare
the stronger term,
carnal--For "strife" is a "work of the flesh"
The "flesh" includes all feelings that aim not at the glory of God, and
the good of our neighbor, but at gratifying self.
walk as men--as unregenerate men (compare
"After the flesh, not after the Spirit" of God, as becomes you as
regenerate by the Spirit
Ga 5:25, 26).
are ye not carnal--The oldest manuscripts read, "Are ye not
men?" that is, "walking as men" unregenerate
5. Who then--Seeing then that ye severally strive so for your favorite
teachers, "Who is (of what intrinsic power and dignity) Paul?" If so
great an apostle reasons so of himself, how much more does humility,
rather than self-seeking, become ordinary ministers!
Paul . . . Apollos--The oldest manuscripts read in the reverse order,
"Apollos," &c. Paul." He puts Apollos before himself in humility.
but ministers, &c.--The oldest manuscripts have no "but." "Who is
Apollos . . . Paul? (mere) ministers (a lowly word appropriate here,
servants), by whom (not "in whom"; by whose ministrations)
as . . . Lord gave to every man--that is, to the
several hearers, for it was GOD that "gave the
6. I . . . planted, Apollos watered--
(Ac 18:1; 19:1).
Apollos at his own desire
was sent by the brethren to Corinth, and there followed up the work
which Paul had begun.
God gave the increase--that is, the growth
"Believed through grace." Though ministers are nothing, and God
all in all, yet God works by instruments, and promises the Holy Spirit
in the faithful use of means. This is the dispensation of the Spirit,
and ours is the ministry of the Spirit.
7. neither is he that . . . anything . . . but
God--namely, is all in all. "God" is emphatically last in the
Greek, "He that giveth the increase (namely), GOD." Here follows a parenthesis,
where "Let no man glory in men" stands in antithetic contrast to "God"
8. one--essentially in their aim they are one, engaged in one and
the same ministry; therefore they ought not to be made by you the
occasion of forming separate parties.
and every man--rather "but every man." Though in their service
or ministry, they are essentially "one," yet every minister is
separately responsible in "his own" work, and "shall receive
his own (emphatically repeated) reward, according to his own
labor." The reward is something over and above personal salvation
(1Co 3:14, 15;
He shall be rewarded according to, not his success or the amount of
work done, but "according to his own labor." It shall be said to him,
"Well done, thou good and (not successful, but) faithful
servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord"
9. Translate, as the Greek collocation of words, and the emphasis
on "God" thrice repeated, requires, "For (in proof that "each shall
receive reward according to his own labor," namely, from God) it is of
God that we are the fellow workers (laboring with, but under,
and belonging to Him as His servants,
2Co 5:20; 6:1;
of God that ye are the field (or tillage), of God that ye are the
building" [ALFORD]. "Building" is a new image
introduced here, as suited better than that of husbandry, to set forth
the different kinds of teaching and their results, which he is now
about to discuss. "To edify" or "build up" the Church of Christ is
(Eph 2:21, 22; 4:29).
10. grace . . . given unto me--Paul puts this first,
to guard against seeming to want humility, in pronouncing himself "a
WISE master builder," in the clause following
[CHRYSOSTOM]. The "grace" is that "given" to him
in common with all Christians
only proportioned to the work which God had for him to do [ALFORD].
wise--that is, skilful. His skill is shown in his
laying a foundation. The unskilful builder lays none
Christ is the foundation
another--who ever comes after me. He does not name
Apollos; for he speaks generally of all successors,
whoever they be. His warning, "Let every man (every teacher)
take heed how," &c., refers to other successors rather than Apollos,
who doubtless did not, as they, build wood, hay, &c., on the foundation
"I have done my part, let them who follow me see (so the Greek
for 'take heed') to theirs" [BENGEL].
how--with what material [ALFORD]. How far wisely, and in
buildeth thereupon--Here the building or superstructure
raised on Christ the "foundation," laid by Paul
is not, as in
Eph 2:20, 21,
the Christian Church made up of believers, the "lively stones"
but the doctrinal and practical teaching which the teachers who
succeeded Paul, superadded to his first teaching; not that they taught
what was false, but their teaching was subtle and speculative
reasoning, rather than solid and simple truth.
For--my warning ("take heed," &c.
is as to the superstructure ("buildeth thereupon"), not as to
the foundation: "For other foundation can no man lay,
than that which has (already) been laid (by God) Jesus Christ," the
person, not the mere abstract doctrine about Him, though the latter
also is included; Jesus, GOD-SAVIOUR; Christ, MESSIAH or
can--A man can not lay any other, since the only one recognized
by God has been already laid.
12. Now--rather, "But." The image is that of a building on a solid
foundation, and partly composed of durable and precious, partly of
perishable, materials. The "gold, silver, precious stones," which all
can withstand fire
(Re 21:18, 19),
are teachings that will stand the fiery test of judgment; "wood,
hay, stubble," are those which cannot stand it; not positive heresy,
for that would destroy the foundation, but teaching mixed up with human
philosophy and Judaism, curious rather than useful. Besides the
teachings, the superstructure represents also the persons
cemented to the Church by them, the reality of whose conversion,
through the teachers' instrumentality, will be tested at the last day.
Where there is the least grain of real gold of faith, it shall never be
On the other hand, the lightest straw feeds the fire [BENGEL]
13. Every man's work--each teacher's superstructure on the foundation.
the day--of the Lord
The article is emphatic, "The day," that is, the great day of
days, the long expected day.
declare it--old English for "make it clear"
it shall be revealed by fire--it, that is, "every man's work." Rather,
"He," the Lord, whose day it is
(2Th 1:7, 8).
Translate literally, "is being revealed (the present in the
Greek implies the certainty and nearness of the
Re 22:10, 20)
(Mal 3:3; 4:1).
The fire (probably figurative here, as the gold,
hay, &c.) is not purgatory (as Rome teaches, that is,
purificatory and punitive), but probatory, not
restricted to those dying in "venial sin"; the supposed intermediate
class between those entering heaven at once, and those dying in
mortal sin who go to hell, but universal, testing the godly and
This fire is not till the last day, the supposed fire of purgatory
begins at death. The fire of Paul is to try the works,
the fire of purgatory the persons, of men. Paul's fire causes
"loss" to the sufferers; Rome's purgatory, great gain, namely, heaven
at last to those purged by it, if only it were true. Thus this passage,
quoted by Rome for, is altogether against, purgatory. "It was not this
doctrine that gave rise to prayers for the dead; but the practice of
praying for the dead [which crept in from the affectionate but mistaken
solicitude of survivors] gave rise to the doctrine" [WHATELY].
14. abide--abide the testing fire
(Mt 3:11, 12).
which he hath built thereupon--which he built on the foundation.
reward--wages, as a builder, that is, teacher. His converts built
on Christ the foundation, through his faithful teaching, shall be his
"crown of rejoicing"
15. If . . . be burnt--if any teacher's work consist of such
materials as the fire will destroy [ALFORD].
suffer loss--that is, forfeit the special "reward"; not that he
shall lose salvation (which is altogether a free gift, not a
"reward" or wages), for he remains still on the foundation
saved; yet so as by fire--rather, "so as through fire"
"Saved, yet not without fire"
[BENGEL]. As a builder whose building, not the
foundation, is consumed by fire, escapes, but with the loss of his work
[ALFORD]; as the shipwrecked merchant, though he
has lost his merchandise, is saved, though having to pass
through the waves [BENGEL];
Mal 3:1, 2; 4:1,
give the key to explain the imagery. The "Lord suddenly coming to His
temple" in flaming "fire," all the parts of the building which will not
stand that fire will be consumed; the builders will escape with
personal salvation, but with the loss of their work, through the midst
of the conflagration [ALFORD]. Again, a
distinction is recognized between minor and fundamental doctrines (if
we regard the superstructure as representing the doctrines
superadded to the elementary essentials); a man may err as to the
former, and yet be saved, but not so as to the latter (compare
16. Know ye not--It is no new thing I tell you, in calling you "God's
building"; ye know and ought to remember, ye are the noblest kind of
building, "the temple of God."
ye--all Christians form together one vast temple. The expression is
not, "ye are temples," but "ye are the temple" collectively, and
God . . . Spirit--God's indwelling, and that of the Holy Spirit, are
one; therefore the Holy Spirit is God. No literal "temple" is
recognized by the New Testament in the Christian Church. The only one is
the spiritual temple, the whole body of believing worshippers in which
the Holy Spirit dwells
Joh 4:23, 24).
The synagogue, not the temple, was the model of the Christian
house of worship. The temple was the house of sacrifice, rather
than of prayer. Prayers in the temple were silent and individual
not joint and public, nor with reading of Scripture, as in the
synagogue. The temple, as the name means (from a Greek root "to
dwell"), was the earthly dwelling-place of God, where alone He
put His name. The synagogue (as the name means an assembly) was
the place for assembling men. God now too has His earthly temple, not
one of wood and stone, but the congregation of believers, the "living
stones" on the "spiritual house." Believers are all spiritual priests
in it. Jesus Christ, our High Priest, has the only literal priesthood
17. If any . . . defile . . . destroy--rather as the Greek verb
is the same in both cases, "destroy . . . destroy." God repays in
kind by a righteous retaliation. The destroyer shall himself be
destroyed. As temporal death was the penalty of marring the material
Da 5:2, 3, 30),
so eternal death is the penalty of marring the spiritual temple--the
Church. The destroyers here
(1Co 3:16, 17),
are distinct from the unwise or unskilful builders
(1Co 3:12, 15);
the latter held fast the "foundation"
and, therefore, though they lose their work of superstructure and the
special reward, yet they are themselves saved; the destroyers, on the
contrary, assailed with false teaching the foundation, and so subvert
the temple itself, and shall therefore be destroyed. (See on
[ESTIUS and NEANDER]. I think
Paul passes here from the teachers to all the members of the Church,
who, by profession, are "priests unto God"
As the Aaronic priests were doomed to die if they violated the old
so any Christian who violates the sanctity of the spiritual temple,
shall perish eternally
(Heb 12:14; 10:26, 31).
which temple ye are--rather, "the which (that is, holy) are ye"
[ALFORD], and, therefore, want of holiness on the part of any of you
(or, as ESTIUS, "to tamper with the foundation in teaching you")
is a violation of the temple, which cannot be let to pass with impunity.
GROTIUS supports English Version.
18. seemeth--that is, is, and is regarded by himself and others.
wise in this world--wise in mere worldly wisdom
let him become a fool--by receiving the Gospel in its unworldly
simplicity, and so becoming a fool in the world's sight
Let him no longer think himself wise, but seek the true wisdom from
God, bringing his understanding into captivity to the obedience of faith
19. with God--in the judgment of God.
it is written--in
The formula of quoting SCRIPTURE used here,
establishes the canonicity of Job.
He taketh . . . wise in . . . own
craftiness--proving the "foolishness" of the world's wisdom, since
it is made by God the very snare to catch those who think themselves so
wise. Literally, "He who taketh . . . the whole of the
sentence not being quoted, but only the part which suited Paul's
20. Quotation from
There it is of men; here it is "of the wise." Paul by
inspiration states the class of men whose "thoughts" (or rather,
"reasonings," as suits the Greek and the sense of the context)
the Spirit designated in the Psalm, "vanity," namely, the "proud"
and worldly-wise, whom God in
calls "fools," though they "boast themselves" of their wisdom in
pushing their interests
21. let no man glory in men--resuming the subject from
1Co 1:12, 31,
where the true object of glorying is stated: "He that glorieth, let him
glory in THE LORD." Also
"That no one of you be puffed up for one against another."
For all things--not only all men. For you to glory thus
in men, is lowering yourselves from your high position as heirs of
all things. All men (including your teachers) belong to Christ,
and therefore to you, by your union with Him; He makes them and all
things work together for your good
Ye are not for the sake of them, but they for the sake of you
(2Co 4:5, 15).
They belong to you, not you to them.
22. Enumeration of some of the "all things." The teachers, in whom they
gloried, he puts first
He omits after "Cephas" or Christ (to whom exclusively some at
professed to belong); but, instead, substitutes "ye are Christ's"
world . . . life . . . death . . .
things present . . . things to come--Not only shall they
not "separate you from the love of God in Christ"
(Ro 8:38, 39),
but they "all are yours," that is, are for you
and belong to you, as they belong to Christ your Head
things present--"things actually present"
23. ye are Christ's--not Paul's, or Apollos,' or Cephas'
"Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ"
Not merely a particular section of you, but ye all are Christ's
Christ is God's--
God is the ultimate end of all, even of Christ, His co-equal Son