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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 3:12

 

 

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

Adam Clarke Commentary

If any men build - gold, silver, etc. - Without entering into curious criticisms relative to these different expressions, it may be quite enough for the purpose of edification to say, that, by gold, silver, and precious stones, the apostle certainly means pure and wholesome doctrines: by wood, hay, and stubble, false doctrines; such as at that time prevailed in the Corinthian Church; for instance, that there should be no resurrection of the body; that a man may, on his father's death, lawfully marry his step-mother; that it was necessary to incorporate much of the Mosaic law with the Gospel; and, perhaps, other matters, equally exceptionable, relative to marriage, concubinage, fornication, frequenting heathen festivals, and partaking of the flesh which had been offered in sacrifice to an idol; with many other things, which, with the above, are more or less hinted at by the apostle in these two letters.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Now if any man - If any teacher in the doctrines which he inculcates; or any private Christian in the hopes which he cherishes. The main discussion doubtless, has respect to the teachers of religion. Paul carries forward the metaphor in this and the following verses with respect to the building. He supposes that the foundation is laid; that it is a true foundation; that the essential doctrines in regard to the Messiah are the real basis on which the edifice is reared. But, he says, that even admitting that, it is a subject of vast importance to attend to the kind of structure which shall be reared on that; whether it shall be truly beautiful, and valuable in itself, and such as shall abide the trial of the last great Day; or whether it be mean, worthless, erroneous, and such as shall at last be destroyed. There has been some difference of opinion in regard to the interpretation of this passage, arising from the question whether the apostle designed to represent one or two buildings.

The former has been the more common interpretation, and the sense according to that is, “the true foundation is laid; but on that it is improper to place vile and worthless materials. It would be absurd to work them in with those which are valuable; it would be absurd to work in, in rearing a building, wood, and hay, and stubble, with gold, and silver, and precious stones; there would be a lack of concinnity and beauty in this. So in the spiritual temple. There is an impropriety, an unfitness, in rearing the spiritual temple, to interweave truth with error; sound doctrine with false.” See Calvin and Macknight. Grotius renders it, “Paul feigns to himself an edifice, partly regal, and partly rustic. He presents the image of a house whose walls are of marble, whose columns are made partly of gold and partly of silver, whose beams are of wood, and whose roof thatched with straw.” Others, among whom are Wetstein, Doddridge, Rosenmuller, suppose that he refers to two buildings that might be reared on this foundation - either one that should be magnificent and splendid; or one that should be a rustic cottage, or mean hovel, thatched with straw, and made of planks of wood.

Doddridge paraphrases the passage, “‹If any man builds,‘ I say, ‹upon this foundation,‘ let him look to the materials and the nature of his work; whether he raise a stately and magnificent temple upon it, adorned as it were like the house of God at Jerusalem, with gold and silver, and large, beautiful, and costly stones; or a mean hovel, consisting of nothing better than planks of wood roughly put together, and thatched with hay and stubble. That is, let him look to it, whether he teach the substantial, vital truths of Christianity, and which it was intended to support and illustrate; or set himself to propagate vain subtilties and conceits on the one hand, or legal rites and Jewish traditions on the other; which although they do not entirely destroy the foundation, disgrace it, as a mean edifice would do a grand and extensive foundation laid with great pomp and solemnity.” This probably expresses the correct sense of the passage. The foundation may be well laid; yet on this foundation an edifice may be reared that shall be truly magnificent, or one that shall be mean and worthless. So the true foundation of a church may be laid, or of individual conversion to God, in the true doctrine respecting Christ. That church or that individual may be built up and adorned with all the graces which truth is suited to produce; or there may be false principles and teachings superadded; doctrines that shall delude and lead astray; or views and feelings cultivated as piety, and believed to be piety, which may be no part of true religion, but which are mere delusion and fanaticism.

Gold, silver - On the meaning of these words it is not necessary to dwell; or to lay too much stress. Gold is the emblem of that which is valuable and precious, and may be the emblem of that truth and holiness which shall bear the trial of the great Day. In relation to the figure which the apostle here uses, it may refer to the fact that columns or beams in an edifice might be gilded; or perhaps, as in the temple, that they might be solid gold, so as to bear the action of intense heat; or so that fire would not destroy them - So the precious doctrines of truth, and all the feelings, views, opinions, habits, practices, which truth produces in an individual or a church, will bear the trial of the last great Day.

Precious stones - By the stones here referred to, are not meant “gems” which are esteemed of so much value for ornaments, but beautiful and valuable marbles. The word “precious” here τιμίους timiousmeans those which are obtained at a “price,” which are costly and valuable; and is particularly applicable, therefore, to the costly marbles which were used in building. The figurative sense here does not differ materially from that conveyed by the silver and gold. By this edifice thus reared on the true foundation, we are to understand:

(1)The true doctrines which should be employed to build up a congregation - doctrines which would bear the test of the trial of the last Day; and,

(2)Such views in regard to piety, and to duty; such feelings and principles of action, as should be approved, and seen to be genuine piety in the Day of Judgment.

Wood - That might be easily burned. An edifice reared of wood instead of marble, or slight buildings, such as were often put for up for temporary purposes in the East - as cottages, places for watching their vineyards, etc.; see my note at Isaiah 1:8.

Hay, stubble - Used for thatching the building, or for a roof. Perhaps, also, grass was sometimes employed in some way to make the walls of the building. Such an edifice would burn readily; would be constantly exposed to take fire. By this is meant:

(1)Errors and false doctrines, such as will not be found to be true on the Day of Judgment, and as will then be swept away;

(2)Such practices and mistaken views of piety, as shall grow out of false doctrines and errors - The foundation may be firm.

Those who are referred to may be building on the Lord Jesus, and may be true Christians. Yet there is much error among those who are not Christians. There are many things mistaken for piety which will yet be seen robe false. There is much enthusiasm, wildfire, fanaticism, bigotry; much affected humility; much that is supposed to be orthodoxy; much regard to forms and ceremonies; to “days, and months, and times, and years” Galatians 4:10; much over-heated zeal, and much precision, and solemn sanctimoniousness; much regard for external ordinances where the heart is missing, that shall be found to be false, and that shall be swept away on the Day of Judgment.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble.

Two widely held misconceptions are grounded on this verse, which is understood (1) as "applicable primarily, if not exclusively to teachers,"[18] and (2) as applying to DOCTRINES of two classes, (a) gold, etc., and (b) wood, etc. It is evident, of course, that the six kinds of building materials are of two classes: (1) the valuable and permanent and (2) the cheap and destructible; but the conviction of this writer is that the two kinds of people built into God's temple, the church, constitute the reality indicated here.

If these words had been directed primarily to Christian teachers, it seems inconceivable that Paul would have used the words "each man" and "any man" no less than six times in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Ministers as a class of persons different from the rank and file of Christians were not a feature of the churches of that era, every Christian being a builder in God's temple; and such is indicated by these words.

Regarding the view that the six classes of materials are various doctrines used in building God's temple, a view advocated by an unbelievably large number of scholars, was nevertheless refuted by Macknight thus:

As the apostle is speaking of the Christian church, consisting of the believers of all nations, of which church Christ is the foundation, it is evident that the materials built on this foundation (gold, silver, etc.) cannot represent the doctrines, but the disciples of Christ ... In no passage of scripture is the temple or church of God said to consist of doctrines, but of the disciples of Christ, who are called living stones built up of a spiritual house or temple (1 Peter 2:5,6)[19]

In addition to the views of Macknight cited here, there is also the consideration that all of the true doctrine of Christianity is comprehensively included in Christ himself, that the totality of his doctrine is the foundation, and that there remain no more doctrines of gold, silver, hay or stubble that are to be built into God's church by men. The two classes of materials must refer, therefore, to the two kinds of people built into God's temple (the church) by the advocates of Christianity, whether by ministers and teachers, or by the so-called laity. As for seeing only two classes in these six kinds of materials, McGarvey observed that:

The first three kinds were found in their fireproof temples, materials worthy of sacred structures; and the latter three were used in their frail, combustible huts, but which were in no way dedicated to divinity.[20]

McGarvey made the application of this verse as follows:

The church should be built of true Christians, the proper material; and not of worldly-minded hypocrites, or of those who estimate the oracles of God as on a par with the philosophies of men. The day of judgment will reveal the true character of all who are in the church.[21]

[18] John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids:. Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.

[19] James Macknight, Apostolical Epistles and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 52.

[20] J. W. McGarvey, op. cit., p. 64.

[21] Ibid.


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-corinthians-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Now if any man build upon this foundation,.... The different materials laid by one and the same man, on this foundation, or the different doctrines advanced upon it, are some of them comparable to

gold, silver, precious stones; for their intrinsic worth and value; for the purity and sincerity of them; for their weight, importance, solidity, and substantiality; for their durableness; for the great esteem they are had in by those, who know the worth of them; and for the great usefulness they are of unto them, being rich in themselves, and enriching to them; and these are the great, momentous, and valuable truths of the Gospel, which agree with and are suitable to the foundation they are built upon: so the JewsF13Koheleth Jaacob in Caphtor, fol. 109. 2. compare their oral and written law, the former to gold, and the latter to precious stones, but the metaphors much better suit the doctrines of the Gospel: others are like to

wood, hay, stubble; by which are meant, not heretical doctrines, damnable heresies, such as are diametrically opposite to, and overturn the foundation; for one and the same man builds the former, as these, and is himself saved at last; neither of which is true, of such that deliver doctrines of devils: but empty, trifling, useless things are meant; such as fables, endless genealogies, human traditions, Jewish rites and ceremonies; which through the prejudice of education, and through ignorance and inadvertency, without any bad design, might by some be introduced into their ministry, who had been brought up in the Jewish religion; as also the wisdom of the world, the philosophy of the Gentiles, oppositions of science falsely so called, curious speculations, vain and idle notions, which such who had their education among the Greeks might still retain, and be fond of; and through an itch of vain glory, mix with their evangelic ministrations; and in a word, everything that may now be advanced in the Gospel ministry, not so honourable to the grace of God, or so becoming the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, nor so consistent with the Spirit's work of grace, may be meant hereby; the same minister at different times, and sometimes at one and the same time in his ministry, lays the foundation, Christ, and builds on it for a while excellent valuable truths, raises a superstructure of gold, silver, and precious stones, and then covers the edifice with trifling, impertinent, and inconsistent things, with wood, hay, and stubble; and so at last, of this promising fine stately building, makes a thatched house,


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

6 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

(6) Thirdly he shows that they must take heed that the upper part of the building is answerable to the foundation. That is that admonitions, exhortations, and whatever pertains to the edifying of the flock, is answerable to the doctrine of Christ, in the matter as well as in form. This doctrine is compared to gold, silver, and precious stones: of which material Isaiah also and John in the Revelation build the heavenly city. And to these are the opposites, wood, hay, stubble, that is to say, curious and vain questions or decrees: and to be short, all the type of teaching which serves to vain show. For false doctrines, of which he does not speak here, are not correctly said to be built upon this foundation, unless perhaps in show only.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

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 (Revelation 21:18, Revelation 21:19), 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 lost (1 Peter 1:7; compare 1 Corinthians 4:12). On the other hand, the lightest straw feeds the fire [Bengel] (Matthew 5:19).


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble (χρυσιον αργυριον λιτους τιμιουσ χυλα χορτον καλαμηνchrusionχορτοςargurionκαλαμηlithous timiousxulachortonkalamēn). The durable materials are three (gold, silver, marble or precious stones), perishable materials (pieces of wood, hay, stubble), “of a palace on the one hand, of a mud hut on the other” (Lightfoot). Gold was freely used by the ancients in their palaces. Their marble and granite pillars are still the wonder and despair of modern men. The wooden huts had hay (chortos grass, as in Mark 6:39) and stubble (kalamē old word for stubble after the grain is cut, here alone in the N.T., though in lxx as Ex 5:12) which were employed to hold the wood pieces together and to thatch the roof. It is not made clear whether Paul‘s metaphor refers to the persons as in God‘s building in 1 Corinthians 3:9 or to the character of the teaching as in 1 Corinthians 3:13. Probably both ideas are involved, for look at the penalty on shoddy work (1 Corinthians 3:15) and shoddy men (1 Corinthians 3:17). The teaching may not always be vicious and harmful. It may only be indifferent and worthless. A Corinthians-worker with God in this great temple should put in his very best effort.


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/1-corinthians-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

If any man build, etc.

It is important to have a clear conception of Paul's figure, which must be taken in a large and free sense, and not pressed into detail. He speaks of the body of truth and doctrine which different teachers may erect on the one true foundation - Jesus Christ. This body is the building. The reference is to a single building, as is shown by 1 Corinthians 3:16; not to a city with different buildings of different materials. The figure of Christ as the foundation of a city does not occur in the New Testament. To this structure different teachers (builders) bring contributions of more or less value, represented by gold, wood, hay, etc. These are not intended to represent specific forms of truth or of error, but none of them are to be regarded as anti-Christian, which would be inconsistent with building on the true foundation. It is plainly implied that teachers may build upon the true foundation with perishable or worthless materials. This appears in the history of the Church in the false interpretations of scripture, and the crude or fanatical preaching of sincere but ignorant men. The whole structure will be brought to a final and decisive test at the day of judgment, when the true value of each teacher's work shall be manifested, and that which is worthless shall be destroyed. The distinction is clearly made between the teacher and the matter of his teaching. The sincere but mistaken teacher's work will be shown to be worthless in itself, but the teacher himself will be saved and will receive the reward of personal character, and not of good building. Luther alluded to this verse in his unfortunate description of the Epistle of James as “an epistle of straw.”

Stubble ( καλάμην )

Not the same as κάλαμος areed. See Revelation 11:1; Revelation 21:15; and on 3 John 1:13. This word means a stalk of grain after the ears have been cut off. It was used for thatch in building. Virgil, “Aeneid,” 654, alludes to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus with its roof bristling with stubble.


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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/1-corinthians-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

If any one build gold, silver, costly stones — Three sorts of materials which will bear the fire; true and solid doctrines.

Wood, hay, stubble — Three which will not bear the fire. Such are all doctrines, ceremonies, and forms of human invention; all but the substantial, vital truths of Christianity.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-corinthians-3.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Gold, silver, &c. In other words, whatever materials he may incorporate in the Christian edifice, whether valuable and permanent, or destructible and worthless, the true character of his work would be revealed in a future day.


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Bibliography
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/1-corinthians-3.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

12.Now if any man build upon this foundation He pursues still farther the metaphor. It would not have been enough to have laid the foundation if the entire superstructure did not correspond; for as it were an absurd thing to raise a structure of vile materials on a foundation of gold, so it were greatly criminal to bury Christ under a mass of strange doctrines. (177) Bygold, then, and silver, and precious stones, he means doctrine worthy of Christ, and of such a nature as to be a superstructure corresponding to such a foundation. Let us not imagine, however, that this doctrine is apart from Christ, but on the contrary let us understand that we must continue to preach Christ until the very completion of the building. Only we must observe order, so as to begin with general doctrine, and more essential articles, as the foundations, and then go on to admonitions, exhortations, and everything that is requisite for perseverance, confirmation, and advancement.

As there is an agreement thus far as to Paul’s meaning, without any controversy, it follows on the other hand, that by wood, stubble and hay, is meant doctrine not answering to the foundation, such as is forged in men’s brain, and is thrust in upon us as though it were the oracles of God. (178) For God will have his Church trained up by the pure preaching of his own word, not by the contrivances of men, of which sort also is that which has no tendency to edification, as for example curious questions, (Titus 1:4,) which commonly contribute more to ostentation, or some foolish appetite, than to the salvation of men.

He forewarns them that every man’s work will one day be made manifest of what sort it is, however it may be for a time concealed, as though he had said: “It may indeed happen, that unprincipled workmen may for a time deceive, so that the world does not perceive how far each one has labored faithfully or fraudulently, but what is now as it were buried in darkness must of necessity come to light, and what is now glorious in the eyes of men, must before the face of God fall down, and be regarded as worthless.”


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-corinthians-3.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

Ver. 12. Wood, hay, stubble] Rhetorical strains, philosophical fancies, that tend not to edification. There are those who together with the gold, silver, and ivory of sound and savoury truths, have, as Solomon’s ships had, store of apes and peacocks, conceits and crotchets. Now if he that debases the king’s coin, deserve punishment; what do they that, instead of the tried silver of divine truths, stamp the name and character of God upon Nehushtan, their own base brazen stuff?


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

In these words the apostle speaks of two sorts of preachers, under the metaphor of builders.

1. Some that are sound and orthodox, who hold the foundation, and build upon it gold, silver, and precious stones; that is, such sincere and wholesome doctrine as will bear the touchstone and trial.

2. Others that are unsound and erroneous, who hold indeed the foundation of Christianity, but build upon it such doctrines as will not bear the trial, expressed by wood, hay, and stubble, which are not proof against the fire.

Learn hence, That the doctrine of Christ, and the truths of the gospel, are very excellent and exceeding precious; compared to gold, silver, and precious stones, for their usefulness and preciousness.

Learn, 2. That all errors and falsehoods in religion, all erroneous and false doctrines, though not fundamental, are yet no better than hay or stubble, vain and unprofitable, vile and contemptible.

Observe, 3. As a twofold event declared: some men's works, that is, their doctrines and practices, will abide the fire; others will be burnt up, and suffer loss.

Where by the fire, understand the word and Spirit of God. A probatory, not a purgatory fire, is here intended: because it is said to burn not the person but the action, and every action too, of every man. Now the popish purgatory fire tries not all persons, some are exempted, as martyrs: and not all actions neither, but wicked ones only; whereas this fire shall try every man's work.

The meaning is, that the light of God's word and Spirit will manifest the verity or vanity, the soundness or falseness, of doctrines delivered by all preachers. Sound doctrine, that, like good metal, will endure the furnace, shall be rewarded; but such doctrines as will not endure the trial, shall miss of the reward.

Learn hence, 1. That all the ways and works of wickedness in general, and all hidden and secret ways of false doctrine in particular, God will one day reveal and make manifest: Every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it.

Learn, 2. That the true and sincere doctrine of the gospel is firm and durable, and such as will abide the closest trial; yea, and will grow more illustrious and glorious thereby.

Learn, 3. That men may hold the foundation, and maintain the fundamentals of Christianity, and yet may so superstruct thereupon it, and superadd so many things unto it, whereby they may greatly endanger their own and others' salvation. They shall be saved, yet so as by fire: that is, with great difficulty, having exposed themselves to the utmost hazard and danger.

The speech is proverbial, and signifies both the greatness of the danger, and the difficulty of escaping it; intimating that errors in judgment endanger a person's salvation as well as ungodliness in practice.

He that has a due care of his soul's salvation, will be as well afraid of erroneous principles as he is of debauched practices; for error is as damnable as vice: the one is an open road, the other a by-path, to hell and destruction.


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Bibliography
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

12.] The δέ implies that though there can be but one foundation, there are many ways of building upon it.

To the right understanding of this verse it may be necessary to remark, (1) that the similitude is, not of many buildings, as Wetst. and Billroth,—but of one, see 1 Corinthians 3:16,—and that [one,] raised on Christ as its foundation;—different parts of which are built by the ministers who work under Him,—some well and substantially built, some ill and unsubstantially. (2) That gold, silver, &c., refer to the matter of the ministers’ teaching, primarily; and by inference to those whom that teaching penetrates and builds up in Christ, who should be the living stones of the temple: not, as Orig(3), Chrys., Theodoret, Theophyl., Phot(4), Aug(5), Jer(6), &c., to the moral fruits produced by the preaching in the individual members of the church,— εἴ τις κακὸν βίον ἔχει μετὰ πίστεως ὀρθῆς, οὐ προστήσεται αὐτοῦ ἡ πίστις εἰς τὸ μὴ κολάζεσθαι, Chrys. Hom. ix. p. 77. (3) That the builder of the worthless and unsubstantial is in the end SAVED (see below): so that even his preaching was preaching of Christ, and he himself was in earnest. (4) That what is said does not refer, except by accommodation, to the religious life of believers in general—as Olsh., Schrader, see also the ancient Commentators above:—but to the DUTY AND REWARD OF TEACHERS. At the same time, such accommodation is legitimate, in so far as each man is a teacher and builder of himself. (5) That the various materials specified must not be fancifully pressed to indicate particular doctrines or graces, as e.g. Schrader has done, “Some build with the gold of faith, with the silver of hope, with the imperishable costly stones of love,—others again with the dead wood of unfruitfulness in good works, with the empty straw of a spiritless, ostentatious knowledge, and with the bending reed of a continually-doubting spirit.” Der Apostel Paulus, iv. p. 66. This, however ingenious, is beside the mark, not being justified by any indications furnished in our Epistle itself. An elaborate résumé of the very various minor differences of interpretation may be seen in Meyer’s Comm. ed. 2, in loc. Cf. also Estius’s note; and Stanley’s.

λίθους τιμίους] Not ‘gems,’ but ‘costly stones,’ as marbles, porphyry, jasper, &c., compare 1 Kings 7:9 ff.

By the ξύλα, χόρτον, καλάμην, he indicates the various perversions of true doctrine, and admixtures of false philosophy which were current: so Estius, “doctrina non quidem hæretica et perniciosa, talis enim fundamentum destrueret: sed minus sincera, minusque solida; veluti si sit humanis ac philosophicis, aut etiam Judaicis opinionibus admixta plus satis: si curiosa magis quam utilis; si vana quadam oblectatione mentes occupans Christianas.” Comm. i. p. 268 B.


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/1-corinthians-3.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:12. δέ] continues the subject by contrasting the position of him who builds up with that of him who lays the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11). It is a mistake, therefore, to put 1 Corinthians 3:11 in parenthesis (Pott, Heydenreich, comp Billroth).

In connection with this carrying on of the figure, it is to be noted—(1) that Paul is not speaking of several buildings,(510) as though the θεμέλιος were that not of a house, but of a city (Billroth); against which 1 Corinthians 3:16 (see in loc(511)) is decisive, as is, further, the consideration that the idea of Christ’s being the foundation of a city of God is foreign to the N. T. (2) The figure must not be drawn out beyond what the words convey (as Grotius, e.g., does: “Proponit ergo nobis domum, cujus parietes sint ex marmore, columnae partim ex auro partim ex argento, trabes ex ligno, fastigium vero ex stramine et culmo”). It sets before us, on the contrary, a building rearing itself upon the foundation laid by the master-builder, for the erection of which the different workmen bring their several contributions of building materials, from the most precious and lasting down to the most mean and worthless. The various specimens of building materials, set side by side in vivid asyndeton (Krüger and Kühner, a(512) Xen. Anab. ii. 4. 28; Winer, p. 484 [E. T. 653]), denote the various matters of doctrine propounded by teachers and brought into connection with faith in Christ, in order to develope and complete the Christian training of the church.(513) These are either, like gold, silver, and costly stones (marble and the like), of high value and imperishable duration, or else, like timber, hay, stubble ( καλάμη, not equivalent to κάλαμος, a reed; see Wetstein and Schleusner, Thes.), of little worth and perishable,(514) so that they—instead of, like the former, abiding at the Parousia in their eternal truth—come to nought, i.e. are shown not to belong to the ever-enduring ἀλήθεια, and form no part of the perfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:12) which shall then emerge. So, in substance (explaining it of the different doctrines), Clemens Alexandrinus, Ambrosiaster, Sedulius, Lyra, Thomas, Cajetanus, Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Calvin, Piscator, Justiniani, Grotius, Estius, Calovius, Lightfoot, Stolz, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Heydenreich, Neander, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald, Maier. Comp Theodoret: τινὲς περὶ δογμάτων ταῦτα εἰρῆσθαι τῷ ἀποστόλῳ φασίν. Two things, however, are to be observed in connection with this interpretation—(1) that the several materials are not meant to point to specific dogmas that could be named, although we cannot fail to perceive, generally speaking, the graduated diversity of the constituent elements of the two classes; (2) that the second class embraces in it no absolutely anti-Christian doctrines.(516) To deny the first of these positions would but give rise to arbitrary definitions without warrant in the text; to deny the second would run counter to the fact that the building was upon the foundation, and to the apostle’s affirmation, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, 1 Corinthians 3:15. Billroth makes the strange objection to this interpretation as a whole, that χρυσόν κ. τ. λ(517) cannot apply to the contents of the teaching, because Paul calls the latter the foundation. But that is in fact Christ, and not the further doctrinal teaching. In reply to the invalid objections urged by Hollmann (Animadverss. ad cap. iii. et xiii. Ep. Pauli prim. ad Cor., Lips. 1819) see Heydenreich and Rückert. Our exposition is, in fact, a necessity, because it alone keeps the whole figure in harmony with itself throughout. For if the foundation, which is laid, be the contents of the first preaching of the gospel, namely, Christ, then the material wherewith the building is carried on must be the contents of the further instruction given. It is out of keeping, therefore, to explain it, with Origen, Augustine, Jerome, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Photius, and more recently, Billroth, “of the fruits called forth in the church by the exercise among them of the office of teaching” (Billroth), of the morality or immorality of the hearers (Theodoret: gold, etc., denotes τὰ εἴδη τῆς ἀρετῆς; wood, etc., τὰ ἐναντία τῆς ἀρετῆς, οἷς ηὐτρέπισται τῆς γεέννης τὸ πῦρ); or, again, of the worthy or unworthy members of the church themselves, who would be moulded by the teachers (Schott in Röhr’s Magaz. für christl. Pred. VIII. 1, p. 8 f., with Pelagius, Bengel, Hollmann, Pott). So, too, Hofmann in loc(518), and previously in his Schriftbeweis, II. 2, p. 124. Both of these interpretations have, besides, this further consideration against them, that they do not harmonize in meaning with the figure of the watering formerly employed, whereas our exposition does. Moreover, if the ἔργον, which shall be burned up (1 Corinthians 3:15), be the relative portion of the church, it would not accord therewith that the teacher concerned, who has been the cause of this destruction, is, notwithstanding, to obtain salvation; this would be at variance with the N. T. severity against all causing of offence, and with the responsibility of the teachers. Rückert gives up the attempt at a definite interpretation, contenting himself with the general truth: Upon the manner and way, in which the office of teaching is discharged, does it depend whether the teacher shall have reward or loss; he who builds on in right fashion upon a good foundation (? rather: upon the foundation) has reward therefrom; he who would add what is unsuitable and unenduring, only harm and loss. But by this there is simply nothing explained; Paul assuredly did not mean anything so vague as this by his sharply outlined figure; he must have had before his mind, wherein consisted the right carrying on of the building, and what were additions unsuitable and doomed to perish. Olshausen (comp also Schrader) understands the passage not of the efficiency of the teachers, but of the (right or misdirected) individual activity of sanctification on the part of each believer in general. Wrongly so; because, just as in 1 Corinthians 3:6 ff. the planter and waterer, so here the founder and upbuilder must be teachers, and because the building is the church (1 Corinthians 3:9), which is being built (1 Corinthians 3:9-10). And this conception of the church as a building with a personal foundation (Christ), and consisting of persons (comp 2 Timothy 2:20; 1 Peter 2:4 f.), remains quite unimpaired with our exegesis also (against Hofmann’s objection). For the further building upon the personal foundation laid, partly with gold, etc., partly with wood, etc., is just the labour of teaching, through which the development and enlargement of the church, which is made up of persons, receive a character varying in value. The ἐποικοδο΄εῖν takes place on the persons through doctrines, which are the building materials.


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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:12. εἰ) whether [But Engl. Ver. if]. Comp. of what sort, 1 Corinthians 3:13. There is an indirect question, which does not require the mark of interrogation. In 1 Corinthians 3:13, there is the apodosis, whether εἰ be taken as an interrogative, or means if.— χρυσόν, gold) He enumerates three kinds of things, which bear fire; as many, which are consumed by it; the former denote men that are true believers; the latter, hypocrites: Moreover, the abstract is included in the concrete, so that on the one hand true and solid doctrines, or, on the other hand, false and worthless doctrines are denoted together; in both cases, doctrines either of greater or less importance. Even a grain of gold is gold: even the lightest straw feeds the fire.— λίθους τιμίους, precious stones) This does not apply to small gems, but to noble stones, as marble, etc.— ξύλα, wood) In the world, many buildings are fitly constructed of wood; but not so in the building of God, comp. Revelation 21:18-19.— καλάμην) stubble.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/1-corinthians-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The apostle is discoursing metaphorically, he had compared the church of Corinth to a building, 1 Corinthians 3:9, and called them there God’s building; they were built upon the doctrine of the gospel, the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, who had preached Christ to them, this was the foundation; and had told us, that none, by any pretence of right, could lay any other foundation. But there was to be a superstructure upon this foundation, which might be of various materials: he names six; three very good and excellent,

gold, silver, and precious stones; three others vile and invaluable,

wood, hay, stubble. By these he either means good or bad works, or rather, good or bad doctrines. Good doctrine is signified by the gold, silver, and precious stones mentioned; bad doctrine by the wood, hay, and stubble mentioned; by which may be understood various degrees of bad doctrine, as some doctrines are more pernicious and damnable than others, though the others also be false, unprofitable, trivial, and of no significancy to the good of souls, but bad, as they are unprofitable.


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Gold, silver, precious stones; if he preach the pure truths of God, from love to him and in humble dependence on his grace, and thus build up the church.

Wood, hay, stubble; if he preach error, or the speculations of men.


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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Family Bible New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/1-corinthians-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

12. εἰ δέ τις ἐποικοδομεῖ ἐπὶ τὸν θεμέλιον. It must be remembered that it is not the conduct of Christians, however applicable the principles here enunciated may be to it, but the doctrine of teachers which is spoken of here. The materials mentioned are of two classes, those that will endure fire, and those that will not. We may dismiss from our consideration such preaching as is clearly dictated by vainglory or self-interest, for the simple reason that it is not building upon Christ at all. The two kinds of preaching thus become, on the one hand that which leads to permanent results, the glory of God and the real well-being of man; and on the other, that which, though the offspring of a genuine zeal, is too much mixed up with worldly alloy of one kind or another to be of any real use to Christ’s cause.

χρυσίον, ἀργύριον. These are the diminutives of χρυσός and ἄργυρος. The latter signify the metal, the former small pieces of the metal, hence generally gold and silver coin. Here the idea is not the abstract one of the metal, but rather of the portions of the metal added by each particular workman to the adornments of the building. It is easy to see how this subtle distinction may have escaped the copyists. See Critical Note.


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"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-corinthians-3.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

b. Every man’s work subject to the test of fire, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.

12. Any man—Any preacher of religion.

Gold—Paul mentions six materials: three incombustible and precious, and three combustible and inferior.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-corinthians-3.html. 1874-1909.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

12. But if any one build on the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble,


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Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/1-corinthians-3.html.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:12. Now if any man buildeth upon the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble. The highly artistic form of this statement should be noted.

Two triplets of materials are supposed to be built on the same true foundation. The one set of materials—as incombustible as they are valuable-represent those ministers of Christ whose teaching is sound and faithful; the other—as inflammable as they are inferior in value—represent those whose teaching is the reverse of the former; The figure is an old biblical one, used in Psalms 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head (stone) of the corner.” This our Lord appropriates to Himself, as rejected by the builders of His day (Matthew 21:42). And as Peter alludes to these same unworthy builders in Acts 4:11, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders,”—so, in his following words, we have the very point before us, “Neither is there salvation in any other,” etc. Now, since in all these places the foundation is “Jesus Christ,” it follows that what is “built thereupon” must mean what is taught regarding Him—considered as sound or unsound, wholesome or noxious. If so, then, those critics who—led away by a different set of passages, in which believers themselves are viewed as stones of the spiritual temple—understand the apostle to be treating of the admission of improper persons to Church privileges, misunderstand this passage. No doubt important lessons on that subject may be got from such a view of the passage. But it is not the subject here treated.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-corinthians-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 Corinthians 3:12. After the interjected caution to let the foundation alone, P. turns to the superstructure, to which the work of his coadjutors belongs; δὲ indicates this transition.— εἰ δέ τις ἐποικοδομεῖ, εἰ with ind(543) (as in 1 Corinthians 3:14 f. etc.),—a supposition in matter of fact, while ἐὰν with sbj(544) (as in 1 Corinthians 4:15) denotes a likely contingency. The doubled prp(545) ἐπί (with acc(546))—an idiom characterising later Gr(547), which loves emphasis—implies growth by way of accession: “if any one is building-on,—onto the foundation”; contrast ἐπὶ with dat(548) in Ephesians 2:20. The material superimposed by the present Cor(549) builders is of two opposite kinds, rich and durable or paltry and perishing: “gold, silver, costly stones—wood, hay, straw,”—thrown together “in lively ἀσύνδετον” (Mr(550)). The latter might serve for poor frail huts, but not for the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:17).— λίθοι τίμιοι, the marbles, etc., used in rearing noble houses; but possibly Isaiah 54:11 f. (cf. Revelation 21:18-21) is in the writer’s mind. The figure has been interpreted as relating (a) to the diff(551) sorts of persons brought into the Church (Pelagius, Bg(552), Hf(553)), since the Cor(554) believers constitute the θεοῦ οἰκοδομή (1 Corinthians 3:9), the ναὸς θεοῦ (1 Corinthians 3:16)—“my work are you in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:1; cf. Ephesians 2:20 ff., 2 Timothy 2:19 ff., 1 Peter 2:4 f.; also the striking parl(555) in Malachi 3:1 ff; Malachi 4:1); (b) to the moral fruits resulting from the labours of various teachers, the character of Church members, this being the specific object of the final judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 2:5-11; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13) and that which measures the work of their ministers (1 Thessalonians 2:19 ff., etc.)—so Or(556), Cm(557), Aug(558), lately Osiander and Gd(559); (c) to the doctrines of the diff(560) teachers, since for this they are primarily answerable and here lay the point of present divergence (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:10 f., Romans 14:15; 2 Corinthians 11:1 ff., 2 Corinthians 11:13 ff., Galatians 1:7, etc.)—so Clem. Al(561), and most moderns. The three views are not really discrepant: teaching shapes character, works express faith; unsound preaching attracts the bad hearer and makes him worse, sound preaching wins and improves the good (see 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:3; John 3:18 ff; John 10:26 f.). “The materials of this house may denote doctrines moulding persons,” or “even persons moulded by doctrines” (Ev(562)),—“the doctrine exhibited in a concrete form” (Lt(563)).


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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/1-corinthians-3.html. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Corinthians 3:12. If any man build upon this foundation — Thus firmly laid; gold, silver, precious stones — The most valuable materials in nature, the most solid, durable, and precious, and which can bear the fire. And here they stand for true, firm, and important doctrines; doctrines necessary to be known, believed, and laid to heart, and which, when so received, fail not to build up the people of God in faith, love, and obedience; rendering them wise unto salvation, holy and useful here, and preparing them for eternal life hereafter. The apostle mentions next, as materials wherewith some might possibly build, and with which indeed many have built in all ages, wood, hay, and stubble; materials flimsy, unsubstantial, worthless, if compared with the former, and which cannot bear the fire. And these are here put, not merely for false doctrines, condemned or unsupported by the word of God, or doctrines of human invention, but all ceremonies, forms, and institutions, which have not God for their author, and are neither connected with, nor calculated to promote, the edification and salvation of mankind: all doctrines that are unimportant, and not suited to the state and character of the hearers; all but the vital, substantial truths of Christianity. To build with such materials as these, if it do not absolutely destroy the foundation, yet disgraces it; as a mean edifice, suppose a hovel, consisting of nothing better than planks of wood, roughly put together, and thatched with hay and stubble, would disgrace a grand and expensive foundation, laid with great pomp and solemnity.


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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

-15

Now if any man build, &c. This is a hard place, says St. Augustine, lib. de fid. & Oper. chap. xvi. tom. 6. p. 180. The interpreters are divided, as to the explication and application of this metaphorical comparison, contained in these four verses. St. Paul speaks of a building, where it is evident, says St. Augustine, that the foundation is Christ, or the faith of Christ, and his faith working by charity. The difficulties are 1. Who are the builders. 2. What is meant by gold, silver, precious stones, and what by wood, hay, stubble. 3. What is meant by the day of the Lord. 4. What by fire, how every one's work shall be tried, and how some shall be saved by fire. As to the first, by the builders, as St. Paul had before called himself the first architect, who had laid the foundation of the faith of Christ among the Corinthians, interpreters commonly understand those doctors and preachers who there succeeded St. Paul: but as it is also said, that every man's works shall be made manifest, St. Augustine and others understand not the preachers only, but all the faithful. As to the second difficulty, if by the builders we understand the preachers of the gospel, then by gold, silver, &c. is to be understood, good, sound, and profitable doctrine; and by wood, hay, stubble, a mixture of vain knowledge, empty flourishes, unprofitable discourses; but if all the faithful are builders, they whose actions are pure, lay gold upon the foundation; but if their actions are mixed with imperfections, venial failings, and lesser sins, these are represented by wood, hay, stubble, &c. 3. By the day of the Lord, is commonly understood either the day of general judgment, or the particular judgment, when every one is judged at his death, which sentence shall be confirmed again at the last day. 4. As to fire, which is mentioned thrice, if we consider what St. Paul says here of fire, he seems to use it in different significations, as he many times does other words. First, he tells us, (ver. 13.) that the day of the Lord...shall be revealed; or, as it is in the Greek, is revealed in, or by fire; where, by fire, is commonly understood the just and severe judgments of God, represented by the metaphor of fire. Secondly, he tells us in the same verse, that fire shall try every one's work, of what sort it is. This may be again taken for the examining and trying fire of God's judgments: and may be applied to the builders, whether preachers only or all the faithful. Thirdly, he tells us, (ver. 14. and 15.) that some men's works abide the fire of God's judgments, they deserve no punishment, they are like pure gold, which receives no prejudice from the fire: but some men's works burn, the superstructure, which they built upon the faith of Christ, besides gold, silver, precious stones, had also a mixture of wood, hay, stubble, which could not stand the trial of fire, which met with combustible matter, that deserved to be burnt. Every such man shall suffer a loss, when his works are burnt, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. Here the apostle speaks of fire in a more ample signification: of a fire which shall not only try, and examine, but also burn, and punish the builders, who notwithstanding shall also, after a time, escape from the fire, and be saved by fire, and in the day of the Lord, that is, after life (for the time of this life is the day of men). Divers of the ancient fathers, as well as later interpreters, from these words, prove the Catholic doctrine of a purgatory, that is, that many Christians, who die guilty, not of heinous or mortal sins, but of lesser, and what are called venial sins, or to whom a temporal punishment from the sins they have committed, still remains due, before they can be admitted to a reward in heaven, (into which nothing defiled or unclean can enter) must suffer some punishments for a time, in some place, which is called Purgatory, and is such a manner, as is agreeable to the divine justice, before their reward in heaven. These words of the apostle, the Latin Fathers in the Council of Florence(1) brought against the Greeks to prove purgatory, to which the Greeks (who did not deny a purgatory, or a third place, where souls guilty of lesser sins were to suffer for a time) made answer, that these words of St. Paul were expounded by St. John Chrysostom and some of their Greek Fathers (which is true) of the wicked in hell, who are said to be saved by fire, inasmuch as they always subsist and continue in those flames, and are not destroyed by them: but this interpretation, as the Latin bishops replied, is not agreeable to the style of the holy Scriptures, in which, to be saved, both in the Greek and Latin, is expressed the salvation and happiness of souls in heaven. It may not be amiss to take notice that the Greeks, before they met with the Latins at Ferrara, of Florence, did not deny the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. They admitted a third place, where souls guilty of lesser sins, suffered for a time, till cleansed from such sins: they allowed that the souls there detained from the vision of God, might be assisted by the prayers of the faithful: they called this purgatory a place of darkness, or sorrow, of punishments, and pains, but they did not allow there a true and material fire, which the Council did not judge necessary to decide and define against them, as appears in the definition of the Council. (Conc. Labb tom. xiii. p. 515.) (Witham) --- The fire of which St. Paul here speaks, is the fire of purgatory, according to the Fathers, and all Catholic divines. (Calmet) --- St. Augustine, expounding Psalm xxxvii. ver. 1, gives the proper distinction between this fire of purgatory and that of hell: both are punishments, one temporary, the other eternal; the latter to punish us in God's justice, the former to amend us in his mercy.


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 3:12 But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble;

"any man"-The work of "anyone" coming after Paul was that of building on the foundation which he had already laid. "After the interjected caution to let the foundation alone, Paul turns to the superstructure." (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 791)

"gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble"-various views exist concerning what these materials represent.

Points to Note:

1. Paul is discussing "what" is built upon the foundation of "Jesus Christ". The materials that compose the church, are individual members. (1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 2:20 "having been built upon..") 1 Corinthians 9:1 "..are you not my work in the Lord?" (2 Timothy 2:19)

2. In this section a man"s work may be lost, but his own soul saved. ()

3. The materials listed are a studied scale of descending value. And the value under consideration seems to be the ability to endure. Some materials endure fire while others are consumed. In like manner, some converts endure to the end, while others give up. (Matthew 13:20-23)


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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/1-corinthians-3.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Now. = But.

if. App-118.

any man = any one. Greek. tis. App-123.

upon. App-104.

hay. Greek. chortos. Translated twelve times "grass", twice "blade", Matthew 13:26. Mark 4:28. Only here rendered "hay". Note the Figure of speech Asyndeton (App-6).

stubble. Greek. kalame. Only here. All these six things are perishable (1 Peter 1:7).


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-corinthians-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

Now [ de (Greek #1161)] - "But." The "gold, silver, precious stones," which all can bear fire (Revelation 3:18; Revelation 21:18-19; Isaiah 54:11), are teachings that will stand the test of judgment: "wood, hay, stubble," are those which cannot-not positive heresy, for that would destroy the foundation (which all admitted is Christ), 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, the reality of whose conversion, through the teachers' instrumentality, will be tested at the last day. Where there is the least grain of real faith, it shall never be lost (1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 4:12): the straw only feeds the fire (Matthew 5:19).


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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-corinthians-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(12) Now if any man . . .—Better, But if any man.

Precious stones.—Not gems, but grand and costly stones, such as marble. “Hay,” dried grass used to fill up chinks in the walls. “Stubble,” stalks with the ears of corn cut off, and used for making a roof of thatch.

Many ingenious attempts have been made to apply the imagery of this passage in detail to various doctrines or Christian virtues, but it seems best to regard it as broadly and in outline bringing before the reader the two great ideas of permanent and ephemeral work, and the striking contrast between them. The truth brought forward is primarily, if not exclusively, for teachers. The image is taken from what would have met the eye of a traveller in Ephesus where St. Paul now was, or in Corinth where his letter was to be first read. It is such a contrast as may be seen (though not in precisely the same striking form of difference) in London in our own day. The stately palaces of marble and of granite, with roof and column glittering with gold and silver decorations, and close by these the wretched hovels of the poor and outcast, the walls made of laths of wood, with the interstices stuffed with straw, and a thatched roof above. Then arose before the Apostle’s vision the thought of a city being visited by a mighty conflagration, such as desolated Corinth itself in the time of Mummius. The mean structures of perishable wood and straw would be utterly consumed, while, as was actually the case in Corinth, the mighty palaces and temples would stand after the fire had exhausted itself. Thus, says St. Paul, it will be with the work of Christian teachers when the “day of the Lord is revealed in fire.” The fire of that day will prove and test the quality of each work.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
gold
Psalms 19:10; 119:72; Proverbs 8:10; 16:16; Isaiah 60:17; 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 2:20; 1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 3:18
precious
Isaiah 54:11-13; Revelation 21:18
wood
Proverbs 30:6; Jeremiah 23:28; Matthew 15:6-9; Acts 20:30; Romans 16:17; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:2; Colossians 2:8,18-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-3,7; 6:3; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 3:7,13; 4:3; Titus 1:9-11; 3:9-11; Hebrews 13:9; Revelation 2:14

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-corinthians-3.html.

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

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.

In consistency with the context, gold, silver and precious stones, can only mean truth; and wood, hay and stubble, error. If by the foundation which Paul had laid were intended the first converts in Corinth, then the above terms would naturally be understood of good and bad members of the church. The sense would then be, ‘I laid the foundation of the church in Corinth by receiving true believers to its communion; let others take heed with what kind of members they build up the church.' But as the foundation which Paul laid is expressly declared to be Jesus Christ, or the truth concerning his person and work, the words above mentioned must refer to true and false doctrines. ‘I have laid the foundation of Christ crucified; do you take heed with what kind of doctrine you carry on the work.' Besides, the whole discussion has reference to preachers and their duties. Precious stones here mean stones valuable for building, such as granite and marble. Gold and silver were extensively employed in adorning ancient temples, and are therefore appropriately used as the symbols of pure doctrine. Wood, hay, and stubble are the perishable materials out of which ordinary houses were built, but not temples. Wood for the doors and posts; hay, ( קן ́ ספןע) dried grass mixed with mud for the walls; and straw, ( ךבכב ́ לח) for the roof. These materials, unsuitable for the temple of God, are appropriate symbols of false doctrines.

Every man's work shall be made (or, become) manifest. In this life it may be disputed whether a man's doctrines are true or false. He may have great confidence in their truth, and set himself above his brethren and even above the Bible. But his work hereafter will appear in its true character. For the day shall declare it. The day does not mean indefinitely time, ‘Time shall declare it;' nor the day of tribulation; nor the day of light and knowledge as distinguished from the present ignorance; but the great day, the day of judgment, or, as it is so often called, the day of the Lord. That day shall make manifest the truth or falsehood of the doctrines taught, because it is (i.e. is certainly to be) revealed by fire; literally, in or with fire ( ו ̓ ם נץסי ́). In 2 Thessalonians 1:8, it is said, "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed in flaming fire," i.e. in the midst of flaming fire. Fire is the constant symbol of trial and judgment. The meaning therefore is, that the day of the Lord will be a day of severe trial. Every work will then be subjected to a test which nothing impure can stand. The context shows that the word day, and not work, is the nominative to revealed. ‘The day of judgment shall declare every man's work, because that day shall be revealed with fire.'

And the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. The figure is that of a building on which many workmen are engaged. Some use proper materials, others wood, hay and stubble. The building is to be subjected to the test of fire. The wood, hay and stubble will be burnt up; only the solid materials will stand. False doctrine can no more stand the test of the day of judgment, than hay or stubble can stand a raging conflagration.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/1-corinthians-3.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

Some will use. Christ's church is not built of doctrines, but people. MacKnight says the building materials represent disciples of Christ. Gold, silver, precious stones symbolize sincere believers. Wood, grass, straw symbolize those who have been taught false things.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/1-corinthians-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

: But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble;

The six items in this verse demonstrate different types of builders (or ministers, verse6). In verses12-17 Paul also showed how builders (Christians) have varying degrees of success. Some are triumphant because their work "abides" (verse14). Others are not successful in this way because their work does not abide (verse15). Another type of builder is found in verse17. This type of worker destroys and decimates things. The information in verses12-17 mentions several types of builders, shows how these builders have different skills, but in the end there is only one foundation on which we can build (Jesus and His church, verse11). Whether a builder is successful, unsuccessful, or destructive, each has an impact on the church (the people). Christians should regard themselves as a type of "spiritual contractor."

In12a Paul spoke of "building on the foundation" (see again verse11), and here build is a present tense verb. The apostle realized that many materials could be used in Christ's church to further strengthen and expand it. These materials include gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, and stubble. Based upon the context (Jesus and His being the foundation for the church), these building materials are a metonymy for converts. The "church" is a body of people, not a physical building. Thus, the building supplies for the church (people) cannot be literal. Just as the word building in9b is a metaphor for the church, the gold, silver, hay, stubble, etc. are also figurative terms. When people obey the gospel they become part of God's "holy temple" ( Ephesians 2:21). In this spiritual temple (the church) we find some Christians who are like gold, others who are like silver, and we have all met those who are like hay and stubble.

Some have suggested, and this is popular with denominational commentators, that the gold, silver, stones, etc. describe doctrines. That Isaiah , the three expensive materials describe sound doctrine taught to and accepted by faithful Christians. The three valueless materials describe religious error. While this view is initially attractive, it must be rejected for three reasons: (1) The church of Christ is not built upon doctrines. (2) The15th verse says a man's work may be burned, but he himself will be saved. If Paul described different doctrines, he meant someone can teach false doctrine, but God will still save him. This is inconsistent with 2 Peter 2:1 (Peter affirmed that those who teach false doctrine will be destroyed). False doctrine is called demonic doctrine in 1 Timothy 4:1 (Timothy was told false doctrine would cause people to "fall away from the faith"). Can people follow false (Satanic) doctrine, be classified by God as an apostate and still be saved? (3) A final reason for rejecting this interpretation is the context; this chapter does not discuss "different doctrines."

Another explanation commonly found in denominational circles involves salvation. It has been argued that the valuable materials represent the "regenerate" (people who are saved) and the useless materials stand for the "unregenerate" (those who are lost). This explanation is hard to defend because the church is not composed of the unregenerate. Acts 2:47 (KJV) says Christ "added to the church daily such as should be saved." If this statement has any meaning at all, it tells us that Jesus does not add unregenerate people to His church. Another important passage in this regard is Titus 3:5. Paul speaks of the "saved" in this verse and then says this group of people has experienced regeneration. Regeneration (becoming saved) only applies to those who have become Christians. Still another false view is espoused by the Roman Catholic church (the wood, hay and stubble are venial sins while the other items describe mortal sins). Venial sin is said to be the "lesser" of the two types of sin (according to Catholic thought, not the Bible). Punishment for this lesser sin is alleged to take place in either this life or in "purgatory" (purgatory is another false doctrine dealt with in the commentary on verse15).

The explanation for the materials based on the context is what was previously stated. Paul was speaking about people (converts). In the previous verses Paul presented information about evangelism and church growth (building up the Lord's spiritual body). People are taught the gospel ( Romans 10:17) and this obedience allows them to be added to the church's foundation ( Acts 2:41; Acts 2:47). Here in 1 Corinthians 3:12 Paul continued the thought by affirming that different building materials represent different types of converts. Some Christians are like gold, silver, and costly stones (these materials were often used in sacred structures, some of which were fireproof temples. They were also used in royal palaces). Bengel (2:180) defined costly stones as "noble stones, as marble, etc." instead of small gems. Granite would be another example of a costly stone. These types of stones had to be quarried, shaped, and then carefully fit into the proper place.

Christians who are like gold, silver and costly stones are those individuals dedicated to Jesus and most probably a "pillar in the church" ( Galatians 2:9). Such people are usually very visible in a local congregation. They are loyal workers who help keep a congregation active and growing, and much of their work is often "behind-the scenes." Christians of this nature are often Bible class teachers (some teach two classes a week); they may do some fill-in preaching, be deacons, help clean the church building, conduct Bible studies, help coordinate weekly or monthly projects, prepare the church bulletin, are active in a visitation program or evangelistic efforts, maintain church bulletin boards, do church maintenance (including mowing the lawn), help in the church kitchen, send cards to those who are ill, make phone calls, welcome visitors, etc. When "the doors are open" they are always there. Most of this number face their fair share of discouragement, a lack of appreciation at times and even criticism, but they still persist in doing the Lord's work. Jesus described these people as "good soil" ( Matthew 13:8; Matthew 13:23).

Other converts are like wood, hay, and stubble (items that are cheap, perishable, and not long lasting). Christians such as this are not dedicated, involved, or very helpful. With this type of Christian one cannot say with confidence, "I will see you Sunday" because such a person is usually irregular in attendance and their sporadic presence is not due to health or work. If a congregation has two Sunday worship services, Christians in this category are typically not greeted with "I will see you tonight" because there is a high degree of probability that he or she will not come for the second service. When looking for volunteers to help with a project, this type of person is at the very bottom of the prospect list and perhaps not on it at all. In some cases the only time this type of Christian is heard from is when he or she is hospitalized and wants a "church visit," needs money, wants some type of reference, or wants to complain. A little persecution or small church problem will generally turn these people away almost instantly. When some of this persuasion do not get their way, they leave. Others never become dedicated Christians because they are simply selfish or covetous. Jesus described this type of Christian in Matthew 13:3-7; Matthew 13:19-22.

More than twenty years of church work has led me to conclude that there are basically two types of Christians: givers and takers. These categories are clearly very broad and both describe a wide range of people. Still, two decades of ministry have illustrated this conclusion again and again and Paul indicated a similar thing by listing only two types of converts. "Even a grain of gold is gold: even the lightest straw feeds the fire" (Bengel, ). Warren Wiersbe (First Corinthians, p580) offered a chart about the different kinds of converts.

Gold, silver, precious stones

Wood, hay, stubble

Permanent

Passing, temporary

Beautiful

Ordinary, even ugly

Valuable

Cheap

Hard to obtain

Easy to obtain

Later in the16th verse of this chapter, the church is likened to a temple. This additional metaphor is related to the material here. Temples were made of gold, silver, and costly stones, but the other three items (wood, hay and stubble) were not used to construct important and sacred structures. Wood, hay, and stubble were perishable items and used for houses. Wood was used for doors and posts. Today it is also often used for furniture, paper, cooking and heating. Hay (dried grass) was mixed with mud to make walls (this term is often translated "grass" in the New Testament. This can been seen from its use in Matthew 6:30; Matthew 13:26 ["blade"]; 14:19; James 1:10-11; 1 Peter 1:24; Revelation 8:7). Stubble ("a stalk of grain," CBL, GED, 3:224) was used for the roof (this term is found only here in the New Testament).

Since the church is a temple (16a), only materials fit for a temple are suitable construction supplies. The people who will be saved will be those who were dedicated to serving God. Converts like wood, hay, and stubble will perish. This shows that we cannot coast into heaven. Heaven is for those who strive to enter in by the narrow way ( Matthew 7:13-14). Wood, hay and stubble have no means to change into something more valuable, but all Christians can. If you are a child of God and your life is like wood, hay or stubble, you can not fool yourself into thinking, "I have become a Christian and God will save me" (Jews thought they were fine with Abraham, but a "family connection" was not enough, Matthew 3:8-9). As the parable of the talents shows ( Matthew 25:14-30), Christians must be faithful with what they have and use it to the best of their ability. Having a wood faith, a hay faith, or stubble faith will destroy us when Jesus comes in "flaming fire" ( 2 Thessalonians 1:7).

The information in verse12sets the stage for verse13. Paul knew a future time is coming when all people will be examined (judged). The people we help convert will be brought before the Lord to see what kind of Christian life they lived ( 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:16). At this time all who accepted but eventually rejected salvation, the half hearted, the hypocrites, and those like wood, hay, and stubble will be rejected and "burned" (15a). God will weed out from His kingdom all who need to be removed and this unsavory element will spend eternity with the devil and his angels ( Matthew 25:41-45). Those like silver, gold, and precious stones will be ushered into glory and saved for eternity (this is described by the word "abide," 14a).


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:12". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bpc/1-corinthians-3.html.

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