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Sermon Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 3

 

 

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Verse 11

1 Corinthians 3:11

Consider how Christ is the True foundation.

I. The nature of Christ. It was Godhead divested of its circumstance. His great power, the secret of His wonderful, unparalleled career, was not His Godhead, but the immeasurableness of the Holy Spirit which was in Him, which, never being grieved by the slightest approach of sin, wrought in Him infinitely. But He was a man generally subject to the same physical and spiritual laws as any other divinely commissioned and supernaturally furnished messenger of God. And this entire manhood of Christ is one of our foundations.

II. The work of Christ. It was complete. Sealed with the anointings of the Father for this very end, He worked out sacrificially as a Priest what now He gives and applies royally as a King. When that representative Man died, it was the same as if the whole race of mankind, which He was representing, died at that moment, in His death. So the debt is more than paid, the ransom is more than equivalent, the justice of God is more than satisfied. This is the work of Christ, and this again is the element of our Christianity.

III. And, thirdly, the claim of Christ. What return has not such a work a right to ask? As God, He demands His own twice-created work, your body, soul, and spirit—all you have and all you are to be His and only His, to love Him, to serve Him, to glorify Him for ever and ever. If the foundation is once set, our life will have in it that triple power, without which it is not worth living. (1) There will be a mind at rest. (2) The composure of a soul at ease will sustain a confidence which always commands success. (3) From that foundation by secret processes, there will be continually emanating over the whole man a hidden influence, strengthening, uniting, filling him, as for every duty here, so to be able to bear the weight of the glory in heaven.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 5th series, p. 83.


References: 1 Corinthians 3:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1494; B. J. Snell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 56; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 8th series, p. 116.


Verses 11-13

1 Corinthians 3:11-13

Life as a Structure.

I. There is a foundation laid. The idea couched in this figure is the radical idea, which runs through the whole of Scripture, that something must be done out of and apart from the man, to enable him even to begin his proper life before God. Jesus Christ is the foundation. We cannot take these words too literally. The foundation of all this world's hopes, in the plan of God and of every man's salvation, is Jesus Christ Himself, the personal historical Christ, who was born in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth and died on Calvary. This is the stone which was rejected of the builders, but which God has made the head of the corner. In contending for the literal meaning we do not exclude the doctrinal. All true doctrinal meanings are included. The deity, the humanity, the vicariousness, the righteousness, the love, the sorrow, tears and blood, and death and resurrection and victorious ascent "through all heavens to fill all things." All these things, with many besides, are included in the simple historical yet grand and joyful language, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

II. There is a building to be raised. A foundation without a building is a solecism, a name. One place of the world is just as much a foundation as another, unless you see a rising structure. The structure in this case is to be raised by the man. He may build a house; he ought to build a temple. The Apostle seems to refer to ordinary houses when he speaks of "wood, hay, stubble." These are the materials used for common houses. Each man's life and soul ought to be a temple of God—nothing less. Surely a noble calling that each of us believing in Christ, is required and expected and will be helped of God in building up his whole existence into a living temple for the habitation of God through the Spirit!

III. There is a time given to finish the work. And when the limit of that time shall come, not one stone more can be laid by the builder, not one touch more given to the edifice in any of its parts before the trial. The Master will never tell us when our work is to end and its recompense is to come. But He tells us this, that we are building day by day. Let us see that we live for Christ, that we grow into His image, and that we work and work in the moral construction of our life which angels will crown and God will bless.

IV. "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." Let us remember that nothing in us, pertaining to the heart or life or character, which is truly Christian, can fall in those flames at last. All Christian principles and all Christian works are indestructible. He whom you serve will gather up all the fragments, so that nothing shall be lost. He is gathering them day by day, and building them compactly together against the day of trial. And when that day shall come, when its fires shall be lighted, when what is inflammable in our lives shall catch and kindle at the first touch of the flame, we shall rejoice with an awful joy as we behold emerging from those fires that fair structure which will be incorruptible, undefiled, and which will never fade away.

A. Raleigh, Quiet Resting Places, p. 272.


References: 1 Corinthians 3:12.—Homilist, vol. ii., p. 355; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 80. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.—R. Davey, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 262; vol. xxv., p. 84.


Verses 12-15

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

This is an awful passage; one whose import no man to whom has been committed the care of souls can realise without trembling. But it has a lesson for all—laity as well as clergy—on whom God has laid responsibility of any kind. St. Paul was much troubled by an account which had reached him of the state of things at Corinth. He had laid the foundation of a flourishing church there, and God had greatly prospered His work; but dissensions had arisen. The Apostle's authority was decried. Rival teachers were set up; rival parties formed. There was already exhibited on a small scale the spirit of disunion and division by which the Church in these latter days has unhappily been distracted. St. Paul remonstrates with them on this state of things. It is an evidence, he tells them, of the imperfection of their Christian attainments.

I. We have here, first, the builders. These are primarily religious teachers, preachers of the Word, ministers. Such only seem to have been before the Apostle's mind. But in a secondary sense the passage has a lesson for private Christians also; forasmuch as every Christian has a building to build for God in his own soul, on the foundation first laid at his baptism. It may be in the souls of others also; and woe worth him, if through his negligence, either building be consumed in the day of trial.

II. Next we have the foundation. This the Apostle describes in one word—Jesus Christ. On the cardinal truth of Christ's crucifixion the hopes of the Church, the hopes of every individual Christian, rest. Let us look to ourselves that we do not lose hold of it.

III. The superstructure which St. Paul supposes to be built on this foundation. This, speaking generally, is the complex result of each man's ministry—of his doctrine and of his labour—its result, as manifested in the lives and conversations of the converts whom he has won, or of the people who have been committed to his charge. The Apostle sets before us two distinct superstructures, the foundation being the same in both. Some builders he represents as raising a solid and substantial fabric, gold, silver, costly stones. Their doctrine and the result of it were in keeping with the great truth which himself had laid as the foundation; the doctrine uncorrupt—the result, holiness of life and conversation on the part of those who received it, and what he may be thought to have had specially in view—a spirit of charity and brotherly love, as opposed to the spirit of contention and division, which was so unhappily prevalent at Corinth, and which no doubt was in part what he meant by that "wood, hay, stubble," which others were building. I say, in part, not the whole; for, as appears from the Epistle, there were other evils, both doctrinal and practical, of which he had to complain, or rather over which he had to mourn; some of them, indeed, as incongruous with the original foundation as a heathen temple or a Mahometan mosque built upon the site of a Christian Church.

IV. Notice next the day of which the Apostle speaks—the day which will declare, will make manifest, before men and angels, the character of each man's work. In many cases, no doubt, that character is only too apparent on the instant. The unsoundness and worthlessness of the building are open beforehand, going before to judgment. But in others they follow. After a specious show, conformity with the popular taste and the like gain them a wide acceptance, while true and honest work is depreciated and condemned. The day in which the Lord will come will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.

V. What is meant by the fire, of which it is said, "The day shall be revealed, and by which every man's work will be proved"? This some have understood of persecution, and no doubt persecution has many times served as a test, sifting the Church and separating the wheat from the chaff. But it is a test which has only partially been applied. Many workmen have never had their work subjected to it, and even where it has been applied, it has not always proved an infallible test; there have been confessors and martyrs to heresy as well as to the truth. But St. Paul is speaking of a trial to which every man's work shall be subjected, and of a test whose searching scrutiny no unsoundness or dishonesty in the work will escape. The fire of which the Apostle speaks is doubtless that searching scrutiny, repeatedly referred to elsewhere in Scripture, to which at the great and dreadful day of judgment every man's work will be subjected, when the great white throne shall be set, and the dead, small and great, shall stand before God, and the books shall be opened, and the dead shall be judged out of those things that are written in the books according to their works; and among these works, the work of each man's ministry, in the case of God's ministers, will hold, we may be sure, the very foremost place.

VI. The Apostle, when he speaks of the unskilful builder being saved, must of course be understood to do so on the presumption that the man himself has personally retained his hold on Christ, and that for Christ's sake the failure of his work—whether owing to ignorance, infirmity, or any less pardonable cause—is mercifully forgiven. Such a one, the Apostle says, shall lose his reward. He will appear before the Lord empty-handed, with no offering to present of souls won from Satan's kingdom or strengthened and confirmed in faith and holiness. He will be happy only in this, that while he takes with shame the lowest place and marvels, while he takes it, that such grace should be extended to him, that place is still within his Father's house.

C. Heurtley, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, Nov. 4th, 1880.


Verse 14-15

1 Corinthians 3:14-15

Two Builders on One Foundation.

I. Consider, first, the two builders and their work. The original application of these words is distinctly to Christian teachers. The wood, hay, and stubble are clearly not heresies, for the builder who uses them is on the foundation; and if Paul had been thinking of actual heresies, he would have found sharper words of condemnation with which to stigmatise them than those which merely designate them as flimsy and unsubstantial. But what is meant is the unprofitable teaching which good men may present, when "the hungry sheep look up and are not fed"; while, on the other hand, the gold and silver and precious stones are the solid and permanent and soul-satisfying truths which are revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

II. Think of the twofold effects of the one work. The flame plays round both the buildings. What fire is it? The text answers the question for us—"the day shall declare it." The Apostle does not think that he needs to say what day. They know well enough what day he means. The day is the day when Christ shall come. And the fire is but the symbol that always attends the Divine appearance in the Old and in the New Testament. That fire reveals, and it tests. What abides the test is glorified thereby; what does not is burned up and annihilated. The builders have been working, if I may say so, as you see builders sometimes nowadays, under special circumstances and in great buildings—working night-work, with some more or less sufficient illumination. The day dawns, and the building at which they have been toiling in the dim light stands out disclosed in all its beauty or deformity. Its true proportions are manifest at last.

III. Look at the twofold effect on the builders. The one gets a reward; the other suffers the loss of all his toil; gets no wages for work that did not last, is dragged through the fire and the smoke, and just saved from being burned up. He stands there, amazed and impoverished, amidst the ruins of his home. These two are like two vessels, one of which comes into harbour with a rich freight and flying colours, and is welcomed with tumult of acclaim; the other strikes on the bar. "Some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship, all come safe to land"; but ship and cargo and profit of the venture are all lost. "He shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved."

A. Maclaren, Christ in the Heart, p. 157.


Reference: 1 Corinthians 3:15.—T. Binney, Tower Church Sermons, p. 173.



Verse 16

1 Corinthians 3:16

Consider the Offices of the Holy Ghost.

I. It is the office of the Holy Ghost to effect such a change that the sinner may be described as born again and made a new man in Christ Jesus. The decayed frame of the soul is rebuilded, its lost powers restored, blind prejudice is removed from the understanding, and the bias of the will turned from the tendency to evil, and thus he who has been brought up a child of wrath with unruly passions and inclinations, and loving nothing but what God disapproves, is transformed into a child of God, with a capacity to apprehend spiritual things, a disposition to entertain them and strength to pursue them. And as it is through the work of the Holy Ghost that man is first created anew to God in righteousness and true holiness, so it is owing to this Divine Agent that he is afterward enabled to pursue steadfastly the Christian course. It were even nothing that Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree, if there were no supernatural agency to apply to ourselves the expiatory virtue of Christ's sacrifice. It is the office of the Spirit to translate us from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God's dear Son.

II. Having wrought this wondrous change, the Holy Spirit does not leave its subject to himself, for he needs unremitting assistance, and never, while on earth, attains a point at which his own strength suffices for his safety. He must continually pray, and he knows not what to pray for as he ought; he must labour after holiness, and he finds another law in his members warring against the law of his mind; he must count all things but loss that he may win Christ, but the objects of sight have a vast advantage over the objects of faith, and it is intensely difficult to give to what is future the required predominance. But in all these duties and difficulties it is the office of the Spirit to communicate strength sufficient for the occasion, and the Spirit carries on to a gracious consummation the work which He has begun in the man's heart. It rebuilds the fallen and desecrated fabric; it ministers continually at its altars, and makes its walls flash with the hope of immortality.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2067.

I. Every Christian is a dwelling-place of God. This is not a metaphor. It was the outward temple that was the metaphor. The reality is that which you and I, if we are God's children in Jesus Christ, experience. That God should dwell in my heart is possible only from the fact that He dwelt in all His fulness in Christ, through whom I touch Him. That Temple consecrates all heart-shrines; and all worshippers that keep near to Him partake with Him of the Father that dwelt in Him.

II. As temples all Christians are to be manifesters of God. The meaning of the Temple of all temples is that there the indwelling Deity shall reveal Himself, and if it be true that we Christian men and women are, in deep and blessed reality, the abiding-places and habitations of God, then it follows that we shall stand in the world as the great means by which God is manifested and made known, and that in a twofold way—to ourselves and to other people.

III. As temples all Christian lives should be places of sacrifice. The difference between all other and lesser nobilities of life and the supreme beauty of a true Christian life is that the sacrifice of the Christian is properly a sacrifice—that is, an offering to God, done for the sake of the great Love wherewith He hath loved us. As Christ is the one true Temple and we become so by partaking of Him, so He is the one Sacrifice for sins for ever, and we become sacrificers only through Him.

IV. This great truth of the text enforces the solemn lesson of the necessary sanctity of the Christian life. The first plain idea of the temple is a place set apart and consecrated to God. Christianity is intolerant. There is to be one image in the shrine. One of the old Roman Stoic emperors had a pantheon in his palace, with Jesus Christ upon one pedestal and Plato on the one beside Him; and some of us are trying the same kind of thing—Christ there, and somebody else here. Remember, Christ must be everything or nothing. Stars may be sown by millions, but for the earth there is but one sun. And you and I are to shrine one dear Guest, and one only, in the inmost recesses of our hearts.

A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, May 6th, 1886.

Christians the Temple of God.

I. A temple is a place in which Deity is supposed specially to dwell, and in which He may be approached in worship. It supposes the existence of God and His willingness to hold intercourse with His creatures, and these are truths which have been universally admitted. The true dwelling-place of spirit is spirit; the true temple of Jehovah is the human soul. Christ appears not to abolish sacredness, but to extend it; not to defile holy ground, but to make all the earth holy; not to demolish temples, but to multiply them by making human souls more truly God's habitation than ever had been the sanctuary upon the sacred hill. And thus our Apostle—Jew though he was—drew attention from the outward and visible, saying, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"

II. Glance at the past history of this temple. It is in ruins. The lamps have gone out, and the altar is overturned. No incense rises from the censer, no anthem swells from the choir. Majestic, it is still lovely even in decay; but the wind is wailing amid the colonnades, the filth defacing the chiselled relics, the screech owl nestling in the ivy, and the viper hissing among the rank weeds that grow round a few shattered columns that are still erect. Ah! how eloquently these things declare, "Know ye not that man was once the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God did dwell in him? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy."

III. Consider the reconstruction of the temple. This was Christ's great work. He himself was a temple. This world has been consecrated by Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the universe. Not only so; He makes us individually temples. We were polluted—polluted by sin; but He cleanses the temple from its pollution. We are led under the influence of the Spirit of God to deplore the desolation, to long for the reconstruction of the temple, and when this change in our heart is produced the temple is rebuilt. Christ is the builder of it; He is the chief corner stone. Because sin polluted, God forsook it; but because Christ has purified it, God has returned to it, dwells in it, makes it glorious with His presence; but lest we should again pollute it, and a worse thing happen, the solemn voice comes forth to us from the most holy place, "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 will God destroy."

Newman Hall, Penny Pulpit, No. 3890.

References: 1 Corinthians 3:16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 124; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 327; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 38; Hutchings, The Person and Work of the Holy Ghost, p. 118.


Verse 16-17

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

I. When the fall of man broke down the altar within him and scattered the fire, and his vision of God became dim, it did not follow that the Holy Spirit withdrew from the world because the aberration of man's will was allowed to banish Him from the human heart. Whatever belonged to Him as the Giver of Life went on still. "The whole creation," says one father, "is surrounded by the Spirit of God." "The grain of wheat that falls into the ground," says another, "and comes to dissolution, springs up manifold through the Spirit of God that sustaineth all things." And whenever the veering compass of man's will, utterly perturbed by sin, pointed again to the pole of heaven and guided him truly, though but here and there for a season, again was the light seen; the love warmed again, and it was felt that God was still near.

II. We are thus able to infer from the benefits conferred on all Christians by the Holy Ghost what was the blessedness of our original inheritance lost by the fall. He guides into all truth, teaches all things, and brings all things to remembrance, whatsoever Christ has said. Love and joy, peace and longsuffering, all holy and gentle thoughts, does He work in us. So, then, He pervades the intellect and the spirit of man; all that is distinctive of man as above the other creatures is under His control. Farther even than that does His sway reach; man's higher powers are grafted upon the lower, the motions of his spirit blend with, whilst they rise above, the laws of his physical life. And He that governs the higher elements controls the lower also.

III. It is at the very root of all worship to believe not only that God is near us, but that He has made a temple within us. Every faculty we have is but the reflection of His light in us; our wisdom and our love, that seem so truly ours, are really His, as children believe that windows are in flame when their elders know that it is but the beam of the declining sun reflected back from them. All that is good in us—body or mind—is the present work of the Creator; nothing is ours but sin. What love must not this awaken in me towards Him who is my Father indeed! What an atmosphere of glory and sanctity invests every other soul that is or might be the possessor of the same excellent privilege!

Archbishop Thomson, Lincoln's Inn Sermons, p. 278.


Reference: 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 49.



Verse 17

1 Corinthians 3:17

I. The human soul God's truest temple. This truth expresses one of the great changes introduced by Christianity. The question to be answered, in order to illustrate its meaning, is this: Why has Christianity abolished the one local house, broken down the holy place, and consecrated man himself as the dwelling-place of the Most High? To show why this must be—why only man can be the true temple—we must trace it from two of the great principles of Christianity; for unless we see how this truth arises from the foundation facts of Christianity, we shall not see clearly into its meaning and power. (1) The first principle is—God equally present everywhere. I call that a great Christian fact: though recognised in Judaism and uttered by the prophets, it never broke forth into its wonderful glory until Christ appeared. And as you look at the whole tendency of Christ's teaching and life, you will find that Christianity is emphatically the revelation of the near and all-surrounding God. Christ showed that nature was no dead machine, but the living work of an ever-present Father. (2) God is most clearly manifested in humanity. This is obviously embodied in the incarnation of Christ. There in Christ was the holy of holies. There was the altar which made every other altar fire grow pale and expire. The Man, the Divine Man, sorrowful and sacrificed, became the temple of Jehovah. Bring, now, these two principles together: God equally present everywhere—the old Temple vanished; God most highly manifested in humanity—the Christian soul the temple of God—therefore temples of God ye are!

II. The manner of realising it. Of course it can be attained only through the indwelling of the Divine Spirit in man. In man there is a trinity of power—thought, emotion, action. In order to become a temple, all these must be consecrated. (1) Intellect to realise God's presence. (2) Emotion—the fire of impassioned devotion. (3) Action. Thought and feeling are both vain without this.

III. The results of the realisation. (1) God manifested to the world. (2) Elevation of life above the sinful, trifling, earthly. Realise the Divine within you, and you will not defile the temple of God. Let immortal hope glorify your work. His is no vain life who has, through the Spirit, become a temple of Jehovah.

E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 286.


References: 1 Corinthians 3:17.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 258; E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 246. 1 Corinthians 3:18.—H. Hird, Church of England Pulpit, vol. x., p. 426; A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 415.


Verse 18-19

1 Corinthians 3:18-19

The Self-wise Inquirer.

Let us inquire what is the vain wisdom of the world, and then we shall the better see how it leads men astray.

I. Now, when it is said that to trust our own notions is a wrong thing and a vain wisdom, of course this is not meant of all our notions whatever; for we must trust our own notions in one shape or other, and some notions which we form are right and true. The notions which we may trust without blame are such as come to us by way of our conscience, for such come from God. Such are the opinions and feelings of which a man is not proud. What are those of which he is likely to be proud? Those which he obtains, not by nature, but by his own industry, ability, and research; those which he possesses, and others not. Every one is in danger of valuing himself for what he does, and hence truths (or fancied truths) which a man has obtained for himself after much thought and labour, such he is apt to make much of and rely upon, and this is the source of that vain wisdom of which the Apostle speaks in the text.

II. How shall a sinner, who has formed his character upon unbelief, trusting sight and reason rather than conscience and Scripture, how shall he begin to repent? What must he do? Is it possible he can overcome himself, and new make his heart in the end of his days? It is possible—not with man, but with God, who gives grace to all who ask for it; but only in one way, in the way of His commandments, by a slow, tedious, toilsome self-discipline; slow, tedious, and toilsome, that is, to one who has been long hardening himself in a dislike of it, and indulging himself in the rapid flights and easy victories of his reason. There is but one way to heaven, the narrow way; and he who sets about to seek God, even in old age, must enter it at the same door as others. He must retrace his way and begin again with the very beginning as if he were a boy. And so proceeding-labouring, watching, and praying—he seems likely after all to make but little progress during the brief remnant of his life.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i., p. 215.


References: 1 Corinthians 3:21.—J. Pulsford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 312. 1 Corinthians 3:21, 1 Corinthians 3:22.—Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 422.


Verses 21-23

1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Consider:—

I. How Christ's servants are men's lords. "All things are yours: Paul, Apollos, Cephas." These three teachers were all lights kindled at the central light, and therefore shining. Each was but a part of the mighty whole, a little segment of the circle. In the measure in which men adhere to Christ, and have taken Him for theirs, in that measure they are delivered from all undue dependence on, still more, all slavish submission to, any single individual teacher or aspect of truth. The true democracy of Christianity, which abjures swearing by the words of any teacher, is simply the result of loyal adherence to the teaching of Jesus Christ.

II. Christ's servants are the lords of the world. The phrase is used here, no doubt, as meaning the external material universe. These creatures around us, they belong to us, if we belong to Jesus Christ. That man owns the world who despises it. He owns the world who uses it as the arena, or wrestling-ground, on which, by labour, he may gain strength, and in which he may do service. Antagonism helps to develop muscle, and the best use of the outward frame of things is that we shall take it as the field upon which we can serve God.

III. Christian men who belong to Jesus Christ are the lords and masters of "life and death." Both of these words are here used, as it seems to me, in their simple physical sense, natural life and natural death. (1) In a fashion we all possess life, seeing that we are all alive. But that mysterious gift of personality, that awful gift of conscious existence, only belongs, in the deepest sense, to the men who belong to Jesus Christ. The true ownership of life depends upon self-control, and self-control depends upon letting Jesus Christ govern us wholly. (2) Even death, in which we seem to be so abjectly passive, and in which so many of us are dragged away reluctantly from everything that we care to possess, may become a matter of consent, and therefore a moral act. If we feel our dependence on Christ, and yield up our wills to Him, then we may be quite sure that death, too, will be our servant, and that our wills will be concerned even in passing out of life.

IV. Christ's servants are the lords of time and eternity, "things present or things to come." All things present, the light and the dark, the gains and the losses, all will be recognised if we have the wisdom that comes from submission to Jesus Christ's will as being ours, and ministering to our highest blessing. And then "all things to come"; the dim vague future shall be for each of us like some sunlit ocean stretching shoreless to the horizon; every little ripple flashing with its own bright sunshine, and all bearing us onwards to the Throne that stands on the sea of glass mingled with fire.

A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Dec. 2nd, 1886.

I. "Christ is God's." This is the greatest outgoing of infinite love. Unspeakable, inconceivable is the satisfaction of the Father in Christ as the substitute and advocate of men. The Father's delight in the Son incarnate is the uppermost link of the chain whereon all our hope for eternity hangs.

II. "Ye are Christ's"—His property and possession. Think of this in two aspects. (1) How He obtains His property, and (2) how He will use it. He obtains it (a) by the sovereign gift of God, (b) by the price of His own blood, (c) by the renewing of the Holy Spirit. He will use His own (a) as objects to exercise kindness on, (a) as servants to do His work, (c) as living epistles in which the world may read the riches of His grace, (d) as company at His coming.

III. "All things are yours." Here is a right royal promise. The shout of a King is in the camp of Christians. All the fulness of the Godhead bodily has been treasured up in Christ, expressly that it may be within the reach of His people. (1) The ministry. Not the greatest of Christ's gifts, in their own intrinsic value, but appearing the largest at the moment, as occupying the foreground of the view, foremost in the list of possessions belonging to the King's children, come Paul, and Apollos, and Cephas, ministers through whom they had believed. (2) "The world." The world is a birthplace for the new creature, and an exercise-ground for invigorating the spiritual life. (3) "Life." Life in the body possesses an unspeakable worth to the man who, being in Christ, lives anew and lives for ever. (4) "Death." When death is near the Christian meets it calmly, if not joyfully, as the dark, narrow door in the partition wall between time and eternity through which the children are led from the place of exile into the mansions of the Father's house. (5) "Things present or things to come." All things are yours, Christians, whether they lie within the horizon of time or beyond it in the unseen eternity. Whatsoever the Father owns becomes the portion of His children.

W. Arnot, Roots and Fruits, p. 119.


The Christian's Possession.

I. Look first at the main lesson of the text. It is one which the Churches of Christendom have not mastered yet. Must we not plead guilty to something which closely corresponds to the fierce and intolerant partisanship of the Corinthian Church? It is God's will that the unity of every Church should be made up of diversity, but one aspect after another of Divine truth should be periodically accentuated by a master-mind, and commended afresh to the consciences of men. It is by His appointment that now a St. Paul stands forth as the champion of faith and now a St. James as the champion of works. But the disastrous mistake so often repeated is to regard the teachers of these different types as antagonistic instead of being what God intends them to be, supplementary to each other.

II. Look at the items of the boundless wealth of which the Apostle has taken inventory: (1) The world, he says, is yours. There is, then, a sense in which we may gain the whole world and not lose our souls. Nay, St. Paul would say it is only through care of the soul that the world, in any true sense, can be gained at all. But observe, he is here speaking of the whole framework of creation, the whole handiwork of God, and he declares that this belongs to the Christian. Not only are the invisible forces and its mystic order overruled for us, but all its appliances, all its resources, are ours if we are Christ's. Centre your affections on these things, work for them, live in them apart from Christ, and they truly cease to be yours; they do not belong to you, but you to them. It is only a surrender to Christ that can teach any man the lofty use of this world. (2) "Life is yours." All it means, all it involves, all the stores of joy which it is treasuring daily, all that must grow out of it throughout eternity—all is yours. And why? Because every burden, every difficulty has been borne, every danger faced, the whole pressure of life's strain measured, by One who loved you with an infinite tenderness. (3) Death is yours—death, the last enemy that shall be destroyed, the most merciless and arbitrary of tyrants, whose awful sway it is so vain to dispute. Death is yours, despoiled of his terrors, handed over to you, your slave and not your master; for you belong to Him who has the keys of death and hell, and you share the fruits of His victory over the grave. "All things are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

R. Duckworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 145.


References: 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 408; J. Caird, Sermons, p. 247; J. Duncan, Pulpit and Communion Table, p. 221; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 49. 1 Corinthians 3:22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., Nos. 870, 875. 1 Corinthians 3:22-23.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 291. 1 Corinthians 3:23.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 12. 1 Corinthians 3:23.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 189.



 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/1-corinthians-3.html.

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