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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 3:9



For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

Adam Clarke Commentary

For we are laborers together with God - We do nothing of ourselves, nor in reference to ourselves; we labor together in that work which God has given us to do, expect all our success from him, and refer the whole to his glory. It would perhaps be more correct to translate Θεου γαρ εσμεν συνεργοι, we are fellow laborers of God; for, as the preposition συν may express the joint labor of the teachers one with another, and not with God, I had rather, with Bishop Pearce, translate as above: i.e. we labor together in the work of God. Far from being divided among ourselves, we jointly labor, as oxen in the same yoke, to promote the honor of our Master.

Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building - Θεου γεωργιον, Θεου οικοδομη εστε· The word γεωργιον, which we translate husbandry, signifies properly an arable field; so Proverbs 24:30; : I went by the Field, γεωργιον, of the slothful; and Proverbs 31:16; : The wise woman considereth a Field, γεωργιον, and buyeth it. It would be more literal to translate it, Ye are God's farm: γεωργιον in Greek answers to שדה sadeh in Hebrew, which signifies properly a sown field.

Ye are God's building. - Ye are not only the field which God cultivates, but ye are the house which God builds, and in which he intends to dwell. As no man in viewing a fine building extols the quarryman that dug up the stones, the hewer that cut and squared them, the mason that placed them in the wall, the woodman that hewed down the timber, the carpenter that squared and jointed it, etc., but the architect who planned it, and under whose direction the whole work was accomplished; so no man should consider Paul, or Apollos, or Kephas, any thing, but as persons employed by the great Architect to form a building which is to become a habitation of himself through the Spirit, and the design of which is entirely his own.

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These files are public domain.

Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For we are labourers together with God - Θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί Theou gar esmen sunergoiWe are God‘s co-workers. A similar expression occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:1, “We then as workers together with him,” etc. This passage is capable of two significations: first, as in our translation, that they were co-workers with God; engaged with him in his work, that he and they cooperated in the production of the effect; or that it was a joint-work; as we speak of a partnercy, or of joint-effort among people. So many interpreters have understood this. If this is the sense of the passage, then it means that as a farmer may be said to be a co-worker with God when he plants and tills his field, or does that without which God would not work in that case, or without which a harvest would not be produced, so the Christian minister cooperates with God in producing the same result. He is engaged in performing that which is indispensable to the end; and God also, by His Spirit, cooperates with the same design. If this is the idea, it gives a special sacredness to the work of the ministry, and indeed to the work of the farmer and the vinedresser. There is no higher honor than for a man to be engaged in doing the same things which God does, and participating with him in accomplishing his glorious plans. But doubts have been suggested in regard to this interpretation:

(1) The Greek does not of necessity imply this. It is literally, not we are his co-partners, but we are his fellow-laborers, that is, fellow-laborers in his employ, under his direction - as we say of servants of the same rank they are fellow-laborers of the same master, not meaning that the master was engaged in working with them, but that they were fellow-laborers one with another in his employment.

(2) there is no expression that is parallel to this. There is none that speaks of God‘s operating jointly with his creatures in producing the same result. They may be engaged in regard to the same end; but the sphere of God‘s operations and of their operations is distinct. God does one thing; and they do another, though they may contribute to the same result. The sphere of God‘s operations in the growth of a tree is totally distinct from that of the man who plants it. The man who planted it has no agency in causing the juices to circulate; in expanding the bud or the leaf; that is, in the proper work of God - In 3 John 1:8, Christians are indeed said to he “fellow-helpers to the truth” συνεργοὶ τῆ ἀληθεία sunergoi tē alētheiathat is, they operate with the truth, and contribute by their labors and influence to that effect. In Mark also Mark 16:20, it is said that the apostles “went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them” ( τοῦ κυρίου συνεργοῖντος tou kuriou sunergointos), where the phrase means that the Lord cooperated with them by miracles, etc. The Lord, by his own proper energy, and in his own sphere, contributed to the success of the work in which they were engaged.

(3) the main design and scope of this whole passage is to show that God is all - that the apostles are nothing; to represent the apostles not as joint-workers with God, but as working by themselves, and God as alone giving efficiency to all that was done. The idea is, that of depressing or humbling the apostles, and of exalting God; and this idea would not be consistent with the interpretation that they were joint-laborers with him. While, therefore, the Greek would hear the interpretation conveyed in our translation, the sense may perhaps be, that the apostles were joint-laborers with each other in God‘s service; that they were united in their work, and that God was all in all; that they were like servants employed in the service of a master, without saying that the master participated with them in their work. This idea is conveyed in the translation of Doddridge, “we are the fellow-laborers of God.” So Rosenmuller, Calvin, however, Grotius, Whitby, and Bloomfield, coincide with our version in the interpretation. The Syriac renders it “We work with God.” The Vulgate, “We are the aids of God.”

Ye are God‘s husbandry - ( γεώργιον geōrgion); margin, “tillage.” This word occurs no where else in the New Testament. It properly denotes a “tilled” or “cultivated field;” and the idea is, that the church at Corinth was the field on which God had bestowed the labor of tillage, or culture, to produce fruit. The word is used by the Septuagint in Genesis 26:14, as the translation of צבדה ‛abudaah“For he had ‹possession‘ of flocks,” etc.; in Jeremiah 51:23, as the translation of צמד tsemed“a yoke;” and in Proverbs 24:30; Proverbs 31:16, as the translation of שׂדי saadeh“a field;” “I went by the ‹field‘ of the slothful,” etc. The sense here is, that all their culture was of God; that as a church they were under his care; and that all that had been produced in them was to be traced to his cultivation.

God‘s building - This is another metaphor. The object of Paul was to show that all that had been done for them had been really accomplished by God. For this purpose he first says that they were God‘s cultivated field; then he changes the figure; draws his illustration from architecture, and says, that they had been built by him as an architect rears a house. It does not rear itself; but it is reared by another. So he says of the Corinthians, “Ye are the building which God erects.” The same figure is used in 2 Corinthians 6:16, and Ephesians 2:21; see also Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:5. The idea is, that God is the supreme agent in the founding and establishing of the church, in all its gifts and graces.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Corinthians 3:9

For we are labourers together with God.

Labourers together with God

I. The immediate application of the text.

1. Believers though they were, Paul could not address the Corinthians as spiritual persons, for they moved in the lower, earthly region of man’s nature, where strife and division have place, and into which it was impossible to introduce exalted subjects.

2. He then proceeds to show on what a mistake this party feeling proceeded. The different teachers were but humble instruments in the hand of one and the same God, who commissioned each with spiritual gifts, and who alone prospered their work. Paul might have taken a different course. He might have urged on his own party to more determined action. But, instead of that, he deprecated the existence of any parties, and bade all rise into that higher region in which they would discern that different spiritual teachers were working together with one God, and for the same spiritual results.

3. Oh, that these words had been heeded by the Church since! They would have rendered impossible most of the divisions which have been, and are still, its weakness and its curse. All of us “labourers together with God!” No thought could be more exalted. Well might anybody who felt it protest against what else might be deemed the honour of leading a party.

II. The wider application. For is it not profoundly true that, since we ale Divinely made, and since we live in a Divine world, all the work we any of us do here is for Divine purposes, and by Divine energy, and so is a “labouring together with God”?

1. It may be said: On this view all other things work for God. True; for “fire and hail, snow and vapour, stormy wind, fulfil His Word.” It would be a healthy Christian thing to see God’s ministers in all the forces of nature, whether silent, like those at work in an opening flower and decaying leaf, or imposing, like those revealed in earthquakes and volcanoes. It is a deeply Christian and a deeply scientific thought, too, to see God at work in these law-abiding and universal changes; and unchristian and unscientific is the too common thought that, in general, things go on of themselves, hut that sometimes, in answer to prayer, God steps in to interfere with them and work special providences. That idea sets God apart from His universe, supposes it can go on without Him, and sees His presence only in irregularities. The other belief supposes God at work always and everywhere, and recognises His intelligence as displayed in the glorious order of His works. The unconscious energies of nature, then, are working together with God. The universe “is God’s husbandry and God’s building.”

2. But, if so, the same may be said, with much higher emphasis, of men. On what a far higher level of being do they live and work, possessed of spiritual faculties resembling those of their Maker, and entrusted by Him with a certain independence in little spheres of activity! So that they can delightfully feel that they are co-operating with Him, or idly neglect to do so, or wilfully oppose His will. The region in which we can help or hinder God’s plans is a narrow one indeed; but, to have such a power at all, how wonderful and great! There is work for us to do--no grand, famous work, but sacred daily duty. (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)

Labourers together with God

I. In spiritual husbandry. Now it is the province of the husbandman to plant and to water, but neither dexterity in planting can ensure the striking of the root, nor diligence in watering command the ripening of the fruit. In the spiritual husbandry of the Church all is God’s; the field--the world; the plants--men; the instruments wherewith the clods are broken--the appointed ordinances Of grace; the plan for the direct combination of labour--His Word; the water--the purifying influence of His Spirit; the sunbeams--the quickening and cheering manifestations of His love. As in nature the husbandman “waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth, and hath long patience, until he receive the early and latter rain,” relying implicitly on the Divine pledge, so the faithful minister of Christ pursues his spiritual husbandry in patience and in faith.

II. In spiritual building. Here, too, the labour is of man, but the power of God. In the spiritual temple of the Church the foundation is of God’s laying, the material of God’s preparing, the plan of God’s contriving, the proportions of God’s adjusting; and if ministers of Christ may be said, in the gathering or the raising, in the cementing or compacting, in the edifying or carrying up, m the roofing or covering in, to “build up lively stones into a spiritual temple, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” yet the quickening, pervading power of God is continually recognised throughout. For what could impart life to the stone except a miracle of grace? Conclusion: From this, then, it will follow that while, with St. Paul, we exalt the office of the Christian ministry, at the same time, with St. Paul, we abase the individuals who exercise it. Let them be, like Apollos, “mighty in the Scriptures”; let them be, like St. Paul, mightier still in “signs and wonders,” &c., yet, like Paul and Apollos, in themselves they are nothing. (T. Dale, M. A.)

Working together with God

We are delighted with the sweet invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour,” &c. We sometimes forget that the same Saviour invites us also to labour. “Go, work in My vineyard.”

I. Work--

1. Strengthens faith (John 7:17). Christian experience fortifies against infidelity. The man of scientific ability cannot convince me, against my years of experience, that water is unwholesome, or that its Creator is a blunderer.

2. Strengthens spiritual life. The little child craves activity quite as much as food. Such a child may be never so well fed, and clothed, and sheltered, yet, if it have not opportunity to exercise, it will be a dwarf. So work is a means of spiritual development and growth to every child of God.

3. Purifies the life. Society is kept pure by activity, just as the ocean and atmosphere are kept pure by the winds and waves. The Church in which all minds and hands are busy planning and executing will not have time to criticise, complain, or gossip.

4. Employment and enjoyment go hand in hand. The working Church is the happy Church, and the happy Church helps to keep members from backsliding.

II. Together. We may say this is the difficult problem. There are so many wills and tastes--so great difference in culture and habit--that “working together” is almost impracticable.

1. And yet when we look at the Christian at the time of surrender, it will not seem so difficult. Every true convert begins the service of the Lord with the question, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? “and this becomes the first, middle, and ending question of the converted man’s life. He becomes a member of the body of which Jesus Christ is head. As the members of a human body are controlled by the will--the head--so must be also the members of Christ’s body. No jealousies between such members. No complaining one of another, but each bearing the burden assigned.

2. And then nothing will help to unite workers so much as a high appreciation of the work to be done. One soul is worth more than all the world beside, and millions perish daily for lack of the bread of life.

3. In view of the fact that Jesus prayed that His disciples might be one.

III. With God. No man has a right to engage in a work in which he cannot ask God’s presence and blessing. Much more must we realise God’s presence and blessing in the advancement of His kingdom. We may be sure that God will not allow the Son’s mission to fail. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” (R. Moffett.)

God’s co-labourers

I. The basis of this co-operation is the high and holy relation between the Christian heart and God. The Christian is united to Him as a child is to a parent, more by affection than by mere external ties. He is united to God, likewise, by a fervent sympathy with the Divine character. God’s holiness is exceedingly attractive to him. Besides, a Christian has truly and persistently submitted his will to God’s will, feeling that the Divine will includes all that is wisest, purest, noblest. A Christian, furthermore, holds his soul and his thoughts in daily communion with God, so that affections are interchanged with Him.

II. Its nature. The Christian accepts--

1. The Divine idea of his own development of character, and labours to produce in himself those things which God seeks.

2. The Divine order in this world, and endeavours to secure among men that intelligence and goodness for which God endlessly works, and causes nature to work.

3. All his powers and affections in stewardship, and undertakes to use himself for God’s work, His personal influence, his property, his children, his friends--all these he throws in, as it were, to the common stock, and administers them for God, and not for himself.

4. The duty to love all that which God loves, to promote all that God is seeking to promote, to hate what God hates, and to destroy it if he can.

III. Practical lessons.

1. This view consoles in our conscious weakness. There is no man that, when he looks upon the courses of God in the world; the results that he is to achieve in himself; to seek among his fellows, that does not often come to a consciousness that he is weakness itself. Sometimes it makes one feel utterly worthless, discourages endeavour, and leads one to desire to fly away and be at rest, because they think it will make no difference whether they live or die. What is a drop of water of itself? What is weaker? But when God has marshalled the sum of the weakness of myriad drops together, they lift the mightiest ship as if it were but a feather, and play with the winds as if they were mere instruments of sport. And yet that very drop is there, and has its part and lot in the might of the whole vast; unbounded sea.

2. He who unites himself to any great truth which God has established may be sure that he will go forth from conquering to conquer; not by reason of any might or skill in himself, but because he is a labourer together with God. The man that adopts any Divinely appointed truth, no matter what the world thinks of it, rides in God’s chariot, and has God for his charioteer. He always wins who sides with God. On the other hand, no man in this world is safe or victorious unless he feels that he is going with, and not against God.

3. No life can be barren or insignificant that is a part of God’s life. A woman that seemed to be endowed with everything calculated to fit one for the most eminent service, was called, in God’s providence, to marry a man that was not her equal. She was placed in an obscure position. While she might have been listening to the chime of the spheres she was occupied with rocking the cradle, darning, sewing, washing, and cooking. And sometimes, perhaps, she thought to herself, “Woe is me! To what end am I living?” Her child developed under her care, and learned to call her mother; and then she thought God spoke, so sweet was its voice to her, and in that child she expected to reap her reward for all that she had done and suffered. But just as he was touching manhood, in a moment the wave closed over him, the labour of her life was ended, and, stranded on the shores of despair, she cried out, “Why was I born? and to what end have I lived?” A hundred had marked her fidelity, and she had been schoolmaster to every one of them. A hundred had witnessed her patience, and all the sermons they had ever heard had not preached such a lesson to them as her silent example. Multitudes that had learned of her, in turn became teachers of others. Her influence spread wider than what she dreamed. It was not until she had gone up to the end of life in obscurity, and God had caused the light of eternity to shine on her work, that she understood how glorious little things might be. The good deeds of this life are dewdrops, innumerable, lying unseen among men; but when God shall pour the revealing light of the other world upon them, how it will kindle them and make them sparkle! Imagine how Solomon’s temple was built. In the forest of old Lebanon many and many a day-labourer worked in obscurity, and wondering of what consequence all his work could be. In another place were workers in metal. Some did one thing and some another, but none knew the plan of the temple, none knew what they wrought till on a certain day, when they all trooped to Jerusalem. Then they stood entranced, and wondered that out of things so insignificant in the mountains there should come such glory in Jerusalem. God had sent some to the cedar forest, some to the stone quarry, some to the dark and dank places of this world; but He is collecting materials which will glow with untold splendour in the temple that He is building for the New Jerusalem. (H. W. Beecher.)

Man a worker with God

God a labourer, a labourer with men, God a labourer with men for men, are the facts stated in this passage.

I. God works alone. We are not wont to consider God in His wonderful activities, but more accustomed to think of Him as having created the universe, and complacently beholding its wondrous workings and results. Nevertheless, the God referred to in this passage is not only glorious in holiness, but also a God doing wonders. This activity of the Infinite One is involved in--

1. The doctrine of providence. The preservation of the action, harmony, and stability of nature requires His constant oversight and direction and application of nature and of its laws. This is also true of all the beings which God had created. Every one of them lives in Him. The seraph before His throne, and the men upon His footstool, are each of them the objects of His ceaseless care. So is every sun and star as well as every plant and flower. How wondrous, how inconceivably glorious must be the activity of the Divine mind!

2. The doctrine of the final judgment. We shall be summoned to the Divine presence, the Omnipotent Judge, who has known our motives and all the circumstances under which we have acted, and we shall receive from Him, from His personal knowledge, the decisions of that day. How wonderful must be the presence, and perception, and memory of this Infinite God, who is thus our judge!

3. The reception of worship. How necessary, in order that God may properly regard our approaches to Him and our devotion, that He should understand everything that affects thought or feeling at the time that those services are rendered! And when we consider how great is the number of His worshippers, how wonderful must be the exercise of His intelligence and of His love! There are two things which render it difficult for us to rightly appreciate these activities.

(a) In making the universe He employed no agents. On the contrary, He spake and it was done.

(b) In the conservation of the universe none of the beings that occupy it have an agency in holding it in its orbit.

(c) In legislating for mankind He has no legislative assembly. The laws by which we are governed emanate from His mind, are promulgated by His authority, and He will execute His own sentence.

II. Nevertheless, there is one of the Divine enterprises in which God is pleased to associate men, and that is the work of human salvation.

1. But there are several departments of it in which God acts alone.

2. Still there are departments in this enterprise in which God has been pleased to employ men.

III. Practical lessons. If our views of this subject are correct, we may infer--

1. The greatness of the work of human salvation. It is the only enterprise in which God is engaged in which He has taken into the fellowship of labour with Him either angels or men.

2. The dignity of activity in the cause and for the sake of Christ. We are not acting upon physical, material things; we are not seeking to promote mainly temporal interests or present happiness merely. We are seeking to recover lost spirits, redeemed by Christ, for whose restoration there is provision made by the power of the Spirit.

3. The certainty of success in these spiritual enterprises. If we were to do this work in our own wisdom and strength we might well hesitate and fear as to the result, but if we are labouring with God who can doubt the success? (Bishop Janes.)

The work of man and the work of God

I. We are God’s fellow-labourers.

1. Men rush into the ministry or into similar positions without a doubt about their ability. But if they pondered the words, “We are God’s fellow-workmen,” they might see some reason to question their fitness. Every workman has two things which must not be wanting in God’s fellow-workman.

2. It is in carrying on this work in this way that we are God’s fellow-workmen. God has the same object that we have, and God is co-operating with us in our endeavours after it.

II. Ye are God’s husbandry, with regard to the state of your hearts and characters at any particular time.

1. By nature the soil is cold and hard, shallow and barren. It bears some things which look good and beautiful, waiting, as it were, for the Holy Spirit to turn them from natural gifts into spiritual graces; but not yet receiving, because we prefer having them as they are, and shrink back from prayer, which is the connecting link between the soul and God. Now, when we see how slow we all are to take this little step in earnest, we feel that nothing can give us any hope at all but the assurance that God is here engaged, and that He can work with us, preparing the stony ground to receive the good seed of His Word, that it may take deep root and spring up into an abundant harvest.

2. And as it is with the ground, so it is with respect to the weeds which grow so rankly. Long experience teaches us to expect them. We say to ourselves, It must go on so to the end; no care or pains of ours will ever root them up. Perhaps not: and yet it may be not only our duty to labour on as if we might succeed; but more than this; the fault may be in great part ours for not having remembered that we are God’s husbandry, and for not having prayed to God more earnestly to do for us that which for ourselves we could not do.

III. Ye are god’s building.

1. This is especially true of young people. Your characters are forming now; soon they will be (what we call) formed: then habits of good or evil will have become a second nature, and change, if it come at all, will be a difficulty beyond anything that you have yet known of. Every day is adding something to the building: something of good, or something of evil, some accession of knowledge, of self-control, of practice of good and conquest of evil, or else of carelessness and indifference, of self-indulgence or vanity or forgetfulness of God.

2. Yet, blessed be God, He has not left us (strictly speaking) to build. Ye are God’s building. O how gracious an assurance; that, while that formation of character is going on, to all appearance, so easily and almost casually. Still all the time God is working, God is building; if we will only seek Him and trust Him and not thwart or counteract His work, He is carrying on, in the secret of the soul, a process of formation, and the finished thing will be His own temple, in which He will abide for ever and be satisfied with His travail! But, indeed, we must seek Him. (Dean Vaughan.)

The union of Divine and human agency in the kingdom of Christ

I. What the work includes in which God and His people are labourers together.

1. The spread of the gospel through the world.

2. The conversion of sinners.

3. The increase and prosperity of the Christian Church.

II. The spirit in which the work under consideration should be prosecuted. In the spirit of--

1. Humility.

2. Love to God.

3. Love to men.

4. Holy zeal.

5. Prayer and of faith. (S. Brawn.)


The Creator does a part, and the chief part, but He kindly gives us a part, as considerate parents let their children join them in their works, though they could often do it better themselves. Creation is not finished, nor ever will be, but is always proceeding. In this progressive system man can put in his hand and make or mar.

I. Look at the material creation.

1. The elements are in a rude state. The rivers run waste to the sea; the ocean rolls a vast desert of waters round the world; the forests grow and decay, and furnish nourishment for new generations of the same species; the fire is a hidden force, and the lightning plays apparently at haphazard among the clouds. But God has delegated to man, as His vicegerent on the earth, the power and skill, within certain limits, of using these unwieldly and fearful agencies, and, carrying out the plan of their creation.

2. So with the animals. They are created in kind, but the type may be improved. Man can cross and perfect their breeds. He can tame the wild, multiply their number, and, by better shelter, food, &c., develop new excellences.

3. So flowers, fruits, and vegetables all require to be improved by human skill and ingenuity. Compare the dinner of a savage under his native palm with a horticultural exhibition, and we see the endless room for man to work in, and the effects of his science and experiments.

4. The forests were given to his hands uncut, the ores buried in the earth undug and unworked, the pearls in the sea, the fire in the flint, the steam in the water, the temple and the palace in the quarry. The arts, useful and beautiful, are thus a species of creation. Man was sent, not to destroy, but to fulfil.

II. It is a great thing to learn distinctly and impressively this duty of a man to be a co-worker with God. Some nations have not learned it yet. The savage tribes still linger on the animal plane. But even the civilised nations do not yet fully comprehend that a new moral and spiritual, as well as material creation, is to be called forth by man. The conquest of matter is not enough, Christianity is to be superadded. Man has not done his work when he has built a house and woven a suit of garments. He can co-work with God in the building of his body and his mind--a Divine carpentry.

1. Physical education is a part of this sub-creation. The body is to be unfolded, invigorated, and kept as a pure temple for the soul, with nothing to do it sacrilege.

2. Guided by the rules, and animated by the spirit of Christianity, man is to be a co-worker with God in the building of his character. The Creator necessitates no holiness. Even Jesus learned obedience. The materials of this higher architecture are given in abundance. There is reason for the truth, understanding for practical affairs, conscience for the right, love for the good, hope for progress, so that our own nature is a forest, quarry, and mine, containing all the needful means for our great work. But beside these native faculties society and Christianity give us the tools to work with, the motives, books, teachers, to aid us in the sub-creation. We are called to be labourers with God, in no meagre plan and for no trivial results. The plan is Divine and the results are eternal. The problem runs somewhat in this wise: Given, passion, energy; required, a spirited character and an active life. Given, a soft infant; required, a sturdy, well-formed, intelligent, and virtuous man. Given, conscience; required, righteousness. Given, affections: required, love to all in heaven and earth. Given, instinct, reason, the gospel of Jesus; required, a new human race, a new moral and spiritual creation. The end and emphasis of all things is formation of ourselves on God’s idea of a human being. The gospel of Jesus is yet but in its infancy in this respect. It has done little compared with what it is to do. It has only begun its work in the soul and among the nations. It is slowly becoming a power in the earth. Conclusion: Let us not forget the lesson and application. This creation is a self-creation, this formation is a self-formation. God gives us means, materials, motives, guidance, and, to let nothing escape us that would be of help, He has presented the exquisite figure and spirit of a Divine Man. The danger is in turning off on some by-path of your own, instead of following the way God has marked out, in fulfilling some little, worthless, and short-lived plan of your passions or pleasures. (A. A. Livermore, D. D.)

Co-operation with God

One is something overwhelmed by the thought of the manner in which good old honest words occasionally lose their primitive meaning and become attached to some separate part of daily life, and in such a manner as to become terms rather of reproach than anything else. You talk of a labourer in ordinary conversation as a man who is doing day by day unintelligent, mechanical toil; but, after all, labour such as that is the very basis upon which the happiness of the world is built. All labour is Godlike; and the single test which you may apply to see whether labour is successful or not is the test which St. Paul applied in these words when he said, “For we are labourers together with God.” I want, then, to look upon the harvest as the fruition of successful labour with God. The fact that harvest comes year by year to a successful result is simply an evidence of the truthfulness of the test which St. Paul applies. Man does his work, then there comes side by side with his work the work of God. His work would altogether fail if it were not labour with God. Now let us suppose for a moment that the husbandman were to labour upon the assumption that he would work by himself and not labour with God. Suppose he said: “I don’t believe that the seasons will come round in their accustomed succession, and I will labour as for seasons of my own.” Every intelligent man knows the result of labour such as that would be complete disaster so far as the harvest is concerned. For the only way in which the wondrous things in the world of nature are brought to their perfect beauty and fruition is because you have on the one hand the hard toil of the man, and on the other hand the hard, unceasing, unremitting toil of God. Now what is true of the harvest of the earth’s fruits is certainly true of every work which man undertakes in daily life. The rule of success is labour with, not labour against, God. The man who has to work can only labour successfully by working with God; and by working with God I mean working just as the husbandman works, in conscious subordination to the law of God. If a man will not obey the law of God his physical work cannot be successful as it might be successful if he worked in subordination to the will of God. If a man breaks down his physical frame by indulging in sin, that man, by disobeying the will of God, is rendering the harvest of his daily work uncertain. It is precisely similar with a man engaged in business. He who will labour with God must labour according to God’s law, and where there is that obedience to the will of God there will be ultimate success. The harvest may not come as the harvest of some of the transitory things in nature comes, very quickly, and remain only a short time, but it will be substantial and solid, and will give perfect happiness and perfect peace, because it will be success which has been honestly won, and prosperity which has been rightly gained. Such a labourer can see, even in the success of his business, his own handiwork co-operating with the handiwork of God, and in all the good fortune which has befallen him he can recognise the directing providence of his Heavenly Father. “Labouring together with God,” that is the grand secret of successful work. There is one other thought that I would like to leave with you from the consideration of this truth, and that is this: that just as there is labour with God, and just as the conditions of successful labour are to be with God, so after labour there comes rest, and the conditions of successful rest are also to be found in the rest with God. (J. R. Diggle, M. A.)

Workers together with God

This ninth verse is a further amplification of Paul’s intent, which is to press unity against factions and divisions; and it is a declaration of his argument before, which was “The planters and waterers are one, but God gives the increase.” This he further illustrates in the beginning of this verse--“For we are workers together with God.” We are all in God’s vineyard, and labour unto Him. In what sense they are workers with God; not by immediate producing of any spiritual effects, but by the external application of the ministry to the people. As Gehazi carried his master’s staff and touched the child with it, but that did no good till Elijah came himself. In the first place, consider what reasons may be for this, why God will use such workers with Him, He needeth not the parts or gifts of any. First, this is a fit and an accommodated way to our natures. When God sends men of the same mould and subject to the same affections, this may the more easily draw us. When God delivered the law Himself, it was with such terror and majesty, that they desired that God would not Himself speak any more to them, so that mere men would not be able to bear the immediate approaches of the Divine majesty to them. As the fowler catcheth many birds by one decoy a bird of the same feather, thus it becometh us to have such to bring us home unto God, that are affected with our estates, that have the same temptations in them as other men. Hence the more experience God’s ministers have of the work of grace, the temptations of Satan, the deceitfulness of sin, the more fit they are to comfort others, or to deliver them out of snares. Secondly, He may do it to oblige us and tie us to His instituted means. It is a great caveat in the Scripture, and frequently urged: “No man must follow the imagination of his own heart.” Now God would prevent such loose principles, and bind us up to His instituted way; He will bind us, though He is not bound. Thirdly, hereby God would exercise the humility, meekness, and obedience of men. Oh, it is a great matter for men to submit to God’s institution! Fourthly, that men might be the more inexcusable. For if thou art not now turned from thy sin, who shall plead for thee? Fifthly, God will hereby declare His power so much the more. Now to this there needs one caution to be added, viz., that this connection between the labour of the minister and God’s working is not natural, necessary, and perpetual. We may work, and yet neither the presence or power of God be therein. It is not here as in the works of nature; there God hath made a perpetual and unalterable decree. Now if you ask when may it fall out that though the ministry laboureth, yet God doth not work with it, reasons may be on God’s part, the minister’s, and the people’s. First, work with God in prayer, that He would work with the ministry. Secondly, take heed of such sins as may provoke God not to he with the ministry. (A. Burgess.)

Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.--

God’s husbandry and building

The metaphor of the field describes the raw material on which God works; that of the house describes the result of the work. The field represents the individual Christian in his secret power of life and endless growth; the house represents the Church in the unity of plan, in the beauty and strength of its structure. The metaphor of the building lends itself more easily than that of the farm to the apostle’s purpose in the subsequent verses, and leads naturally to the highest conception, that of God’s temple in 1 Corinthians 3:16. (Principal Edwards.)

God’s husbandry

I. The first condition of the soil--its wilderness condition--is not without growths. It is overgrown with forests, choked with underbush, and cumbered with falling and decaying materials. The sun is always hidden from its interior. It is apt to be a lair of beasts. This is certainly the state of the human soil before religious culture is applied to it. Men are in a state of wilderness in the beginning.

II. The first step of husbandry is to relieve the soil of these wild growths, and prepare it for tillage. The trees are felled and burned, so that the ground may be disencumbered and laid open to the sun. But some, for expedition, are only girdled. All connection between the sap at the roots and the top is severed by a line of sharp cuts around the trees; and so girdled, they will stand for a while, but they will never leaf again; so that, little by little, more and more ground is susceptible to the plough. The first work of religion is analogous to this. Many of the things which men practise in an unregenerate state are, by the power of God’s grace at their conversion, cut down peremptorily and taken out of the way. But there are a great many things which are only girdled, and only little by little brought to the ground.

III. When this preliminary process is complete, the pioneer farmer is ready for the next stage, which is that of seed-planting. It is not smooth sward that the plough is now to turn; but rough soil, full of the green stumps of trees but just disappeared. And, worse than this, roots are matted all over the ground; but the ground is, at any rate, open to the sun, and every year and every ploughing will rip up and throw out some of these roots. And so it is with men. Their first efforts at goodness are very crooked and shallow. When men first begin to let go the lower forms of wickedness, and to sow the higher seeds of virtue, it is often like the sudden taking away of the forest, and the laying open of the soil to the sun. The first crops are very unsatisfactory; yet these incipient mistakes must be taken, if you are going to have a good farm by and by.

IV. Having got thus far the home-lot is cleared. The stones are cleared away, the stumps rooted out, and the ground fenced round where his house is to be. Then he gives the ground a more thorough farming, and so the house-lot is got into a better condition. So men usually begin to smooth down those traits of their character which lie next to themselves, as it were, and which are in the family. Then one and another habit is attacked, and trait after trait is added. And so they enlarge, more and more, every year, their husbandry.

V. Hitherto the farmer has only sown the grains and roots absolutely needed for sustenance; but now a garden and orchard are planted. And so in spiritual life. At first it is a tough, hard fight for life. By and by times of richer gladness come--more liberty, more hope. Prayer grows out of duty into pleasure. God’s Word opens, and Christians walk amid beds of flowers. Clusters of fruit are gathered--richer experiences--the fruits of the Spirit.

VI. Eventually it is resolved upon to bring in every acre. All outlying lots are to be cleared. So, eminently, is it with advancing Christians. After a time many men experience a second conversion, as it seems to them. They are aroused to a sense of the largeness and symmetry of Christian character. And their purpose is to subdue every thought and every feeling to the will of God.

VII. The farmer, as his last step, applies to his soil, thus brought forward, the most scientific methods of ascertained husbandry. He underdrains deep the whole estate; and when all those stagnant pools and chilling springs that deluge the roots of tender-growing plants are carried away, then he subsoils. He puts down the plough as far as iron can go, and mellows the soil and the subsoil down deep in the earth. Then he begins to select better herbs than before. And just so it is with Christians. As they grow in grace, and as God, the great Husbandman, perfects the work of clearing up and bringing into a condition of complete tillage the human heart, the religious feelings grow deeper. Many of those causes which obstructed their growth are now drained and carried off from the soul. Men give themselves more thorough religious cultivation. And the later periods of Christian experience are by far the most assiduous and the most faithful Conclusions: Note--

1. Some practical lessons we may perceive from what has been said.

2. The various kinds of spiritual husbandmen and husbandry.

God’s husbandry

The harvest is passed; the corn is housed. Is the farmer’s labour done? No, the plough is even now at work again; the seed must soon be sown for next year’s crop. So continual is the round. But, as the work of husbandry goes on, is there no lesson to us in these things? Yea, all nature speaks to us if we would hear, and the words of the text call us to listen to its voice. Let these words teach you--

I. The care which God has had for you.

1. In choosing you to be part of His own field--the Church of Christ. You are plants set in the Lord’s garden, branches grafted into the living Vine; your heart is the soil on which God deigns to bestow culture, and from which His grace is able to bring forth fruits, meet for the paradise of God.

2. In the price He gave for this field. “Ye are not your own,” &c.

3. In enclosing you with the design of making you holy to Himself. Have you ever seen a piece of ground taken in from a common? While all around it is still barren and wild, is not that one spot fair and goodly to the eye? This is what God would have you be in the midst of a world that lieth in wickedness.

4. In that He is ever seeking to improve the ground of your hearts. But, as the farmer does not use the same management to all kinds of soil--the stiff, stubborn clay must not be treated like the light, dry sand-so God now tries to win us by mercies; now to frighten us by judgments. Perhaps your heart clings to the love of this world; then He shakes it loose by storms of trouble. Perhaps He sees you indulging in sinful pleasures; then He makes you taste their bitterness and gall.

5. By employing labourers in His field, for your sakes. He sends His ministers to labour among you, if, by any means, they may save your souls alive.

II. The return you ought to make to him. What is this? Surely, to take care that you do not receive the grace of God in vain. When a farmer has bestowed much care and management upon a field, does he not expect some increase? How few soils are hopelessly bad, as not to be made better by good management! The earth is no insolvent debtor; you do not put into its bank to receive nought again. Shall the very ground we tread on put us to shame? Ask, then, yourselves, are you bearing fruit to God? (E. Blencowe, M. A.)

God, a husbandman

As such--

I. He is thoroughly acquainted with the soil. He knows--

1. Its original state; the soul with all its pristine powers.

2. Its present condition; its barren and wilderness state--stony, weedy, and thorny.

3. Its tillable capabilities--what can be made of it. Some can become the majestic cedar, whilst others only the shrub.

II. He has all necessary instrumentalities. This stony, weedy ground requires certain well-contrived implements to work it into a fruitful condition. There must be the ploughshare, the pruning-hook, &c. He has them.

1. In the events of life. All the dark and painful circumstances in life are His implements to break up the fallow ground. All the pleasant and propitious are instruments for mellowing the soil.

2. In the revelations of truth. There is law and love, Sinai and Calvary.

III. He possesses the proper seed. His Word is seed in many respects.

1. Vitality. Every seed has life in it. His Word is spirit and life.

2. Completeness. The seed is complete in itself. Nothing can be taken from it, nothing can be added to it, any alteration injures it.

3. Prolificness. One seed in course of time may cover a continent and feed nations. The word of God is wonderfully fruitful.

IV. He commands the culturing elements. The best agriculturists who understand the soil possess the best implements and the best seed, are thwarted in their efforts, because the elements are not propitious. God has command over the elements. The heat, the cold, the dew, the shower, the sunshine, and the air, are all at His disposal. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

God’s husbandry

The Scripture doth delight to compare the Church to many similitudes, all which show the tender respects it stands in towards God. Sometimes to a wife, sometimes to a body, sometimes to the branches of a vine; at other times to a garden, to a vineyard, and here to a field, and a house. We will first handle these two similitudes jointly, and then severally. Jointly, in that they are God’s husbandry and house. It implieth these things--First, the power and goodness of God in making them so. A building is not of itself; everybody that seeth a house, presently concludes the house did not make itself; so if you see a field well husbanded, we all know of itself the earth would not do, but rather its curse is to bring forth briers and thorns. So when you see a people leaving their sins, walking according to the rules revealed in Scripture, you must necessarily conclude, this men have not of themselves, they cannot have this by flesh and blood. Hence, God, speaking of the Church of Israel, said: “He planted a vine” (Jeremiah 2:21). Secondly, it doth imply dominion and absolute sovereignty over us. Even as the master that buildeth the house appointeth what customs and orders shall be in the house, the husbandman appointeth what seed he pleaseth for the ground. This point is of great consideration, for how durst men in all ages have brought in such superstition, such heresy, such tyranny in the Church of God, if they had remembered there is but one master in the house of God--one lawgiver. All officers are but servants, and not masters. Thirdly, it denoteth propriety and interest that God hath a right to us, that we are His, and not our own. The house is the owner’s, he hath the propriety of it; so that by this means they who are, indeed, of this building, of this field, they are more happy than all others in the world, for God is in covenant with them. To them only God is their God, and they His people. Fourthly, it supposeth care, love, and protection. Propriety causeth care and love among men. What cares a man for another man’s field, another man’s corn, but he looketh to his own? He weedeth that, he fenceth that, he keepeth that from all violence. It makes for God’s praise, that thy heart be a room swept and kept clear for Him to lodge in. Oh, urge this in prayer! O Lord, am I not Thy husbandry? Is not my soul Thy building? Why, then, lieth it thus ruinous? Why is it neglected by Thee? It is not only my comfort, my happiness, but Thy glory and honour is interested in this. Come we in the next place to consider the several similitudes, and--First, ye are God’s husbandry. Take notice that He doth not here speak of the invisible and mystical Church of Christ, but as they were a visible Church at Corinth. This relation of being God’s husbandry implieth something on His part, and many things on ours. On His part: First, that He finds all people of themselves like a barren wilderness and fruitless desert. The curse upon the ground is fulfilled in them--to bring forth nothing but briers and thorns. All the things of grace and godliness are not only above our natures, but contrary to them. Secondly, it supposeth that grace and godliness is wholly planted by God in their souls, for this floweth from the other. Seeing we are such a barren wilderness, what fruit can ever be expected from us? Thirdly, this supposeth that God likewise giveth all the seasons and opportunities of growth and fruitfulness. As the gardener, He looketh to His times when He must water the plants, lest they die. The season of the year helpeth to grow, as well as the nature of the soil. Oh, then, know that as the natural seasons and times are of His appointment, so much more the gracious ones. On our parts, who are the field to be tilled, there are these things: First, a willingness to have the Word of God prepare and wound our souls; even tearing our hearts to pieces, that so the Word as seed may fructify. This is what the Scripture calls, “Ploughing up the fallow ground” (Jeremiah 4:3). Oh, expect not healing and peace and comfort, till you have been thus disquieted! Do not then quarrel at the Word of God, but rather bless Him for the power of it, when it changeth the whole face of a congregation. Secondly, this implieth that you should answer the satisfaction of that husbandman whose husbandry you are. Who will bear that ground which, after much labour and cost, brings forth no fruit at all? Thirdly, it supposeth a careful improvement of all those means which God useth for our spiritual good. If we be God’s husbandry, we are patiently to receive and fruitfully to improve whatsoever may make for our fruitfulness. Now the means are of two sorts, either essential, and entire and perfect, such as the hearing of the Word, praying, godly communion; or, accidental and occasional, such as afflictions, troubles, and persecutions. They need a winter as well as a summer. Lastly, consider how near such a people are to utter ruin; while you are but near it, there is some hope of escaping, if you seek out; who after all God’s husbandry, are the same ignorant and profane people still. Thy soul is God’s field. Oh, what fruit, what reformation shouldst thou show forth? Thus, not only the Sabbath day, but every day may be a Sabbath day; every field thou goest into; every goodly crop thou seest on the ground, it may teach and preach unto thee. (A. Burgess.)

God’s building

is Divine--

I. In its plan.

II. In its structure.

1. Christ, the foundation.

2. Living stones, the superstructure.

III. In its workmanship. Each stone by God is--

1. Polished.

2. Adjusted.

3. Cemented.

IV. In its purpose.

1. For His glory.

2. For the inhabitation of His Spirit. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

God’s building

There have been many splendid structures which, in their day, have been the wonder and admiration of the world, but this infinitely transcends them all. The colossal palaces and hanging gardens reared by Nebuchadnezzar must have presented a gorgeous spectacle; while the fame of Solomon’s temple has filled the earth in every age. But what is all this material splendour, which has long since passed away, to this temple whose stones are immortal spirits--whose foundation is the rock of ages-whose walls no revolutions can ever shake--whose fair proportions shall be fully developed, amid the ruin of all the mightiest and loveliest works of human ingenuity and power--whose top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings when the “heavens shall have passed away.” In surveying this building, note--

I. The foundation. This is the most important part; if this be defective, all the cost and labour of the superstructure will be in vain. But the foundation upon which this edifice is built is such as an Omnipotent hand alone could lay, and for which no other can be substituted. Christ is the foundation of the Christian Church, as He is--

1. The source of her being. The Church could have no existence but for Him. The spiritual stones that constitute the edifice are sinners ransomed by His blood, and renewed by His Spirit. Were it possible for the connection between the stones and the foundation to be dissolved, the whole edifice would become a heap of ruins.

2. The author of her creed. In regard to her doctrines she rests on no human authority, but takes them as they flow pure from Christ and His inspired apostles.

3. The founder of her discipline. His laws are few, and the principles on which they rest are equity and love. “One is your Master,” &c. “A new commandment give I unto you,” &c.

4. The guarantee of her stability and perpetuity. “Upon this rock will I build My Church,” &c. These were His words--this was His pledge; and “all power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth,” in this capacity, and for this very purpose.

II. The materials.

1. Immortal spirits, redeemed and regenerated men, lively stones, or what Paul denominates “gold, silver, precious stones”; the accredited and the durable materials which ministers are the instruments of placing in the Church. But in the visible Church there are materials of another kind--mere professors, hypocrites, formalists, “the wood, hay, stubble”; but they form no part of the true Church, but shall ultimately be removed from the edifice.

2. Whence are the materials taken? See these “living stones,” as in successive courses they rise to constitute and adorn the edifice. They are of various colours--from the white of Europe to the jet of Africa; every rank--from the monarch to the labourer. “They shall come from the east and from the west,” &c. “They shall come” from the eastern Brahmins--from the western savages--from the Southern Isles--from the northern Esquimaux; “they shall come” from the patriarchal and the prophetic ages--from the Jewish and the Christian dispensations. David, with the harp, shall be there; and Isaiah, with his evangelic songs; and Ezekiel, with his prophetic visions; mingling with the malefactor from the cross, and the poor beggar from the rich man’s gate. “They shall come” from every denomination: the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, &c,; all forgetting, or lamenting, that they should ever have been otherwise than one.

III. The instrumentality and agency. The instrumentality is human; the agency Divine. Yet the instrumentality is of Divine appointment; and, for the most part, inseparably connected with the agency. Though it is God who “giveth the increase,” yet Paul musk “plant” and “Apollos water.” Ministers are not architects, but simply workmen, employed under the guidance of the Divine architect. Nor can any one stone boast against another in respect of “the rock whence it was hewn,” “the hole of the pit whence it was digged,” for all alike are hewn out of the quarry of a common depravity. However much as they may vary in other respects, all are on a level here--alike “dead in trespasses and sins”; whilst it is “God who has quickened them together with Christ,” &c. I know that it is not with us to “limit the Holy One of Israel,” nor to say by what avenues He shall or shall not obtain access to the human heart. It may be affliction, &c.; but the ministry of the gospel is the main and ordinary instrumentality. Was it not by this that Peter “pricked to the heart” three thousand; that Luther shook the throne of papal tyranny; that Whitefield and Wesley aroused the slumbering Churches of Great Britain and America. What is it that has caused the Rose of Sharon to bloom amid the snows of Greenland? What is it that has gathered the savages of Kaffraria and New Zealand around the Cross? It is the preaching of the gospel in its simplicity and purity--and nothing less--that God will own and honour for this great and glorious purpose; Christ, in the sufficiency of His atonement; in the prevalence of His intercession, &c. (T. Raffles, D. D.)

God’s building

I. God is our builder. If we climb some high hill near the sea on a fine day, we behold on one side hills and valleys; and on the other the tremendous ocean stretching to the horizon. Then we feel that our Father is a grand God to make such things. There are great buildings which men have erected, but there is no building which is so great as the splendid planet on which we live. But far more wonderful than the world is the body of man; but a grinder thing still is the soul, which God created to dwell in. It appears as if He had given to the soul of man a portion of His own almighty power. Does not the Scripture say, “Ye fight against God”? We have power to say “No” to the Almighty! But there is something far grinder and more precious still--it is the new spirit which is breathed in every man who believes in Christ. This is Godlike.

II. God has furnished a plan for the building--the life of Christ. It is the best life and nobody can improve on it. The Lord does not mean us to copy His style of garment, or to eat the same sort of food, or to be put to death on a cross. We are to copy His character.

III. God has also given a foundation for the building. “Christ Jesus.” Then, we are to believe His words and to build our actions thereon. Jesus is our foundation for the knowledge--

1. That God loves us as our Father. We are to live from day to day feeling certain of that.

2. That Christ lays down His life for us. So we are to rest upon Him for forgiveness.

3. That in Him are all things necessary for our peace. Build on Him, then, for all circumstances of trouble. (W. Birch.)

The Church God’s building

I. The apostle’s description of the church. “Ye are God’s building.” This building--

1. Has a proprietor. God is the proprietor of the site (the world), of the foundation (Christ), of the materials (sinners), of the builders (ministers), of its privileges here, and its ultimate glory in heaven.

2. Has an architect. Infinite wisdom and power. Before this building was commenced there was intention; it is the result of design.

3. Has a good foundation. Christ, called a “stone,” to convey the idea of stability and durability; and a tried stone,” to indicate that it is completely adapted to answer the purpose for which it is laid; “a sure foundation,” because no attacks of its enemies, no revolutions of time, no concussions of earth will ever shake or destroy it.

4. Has a grand superstructure. It is composed of materials properly fitted, to occupy a place in the building (1 Peter 2:5). The stones once had no connection with the building, deeply imbedded in nature’s quarry of guilt; but by the hammer of God’s Word and the energy of the Spirit, they have been detached from the rock, brought from darkness to light, &c. By regeneration, by sanctification, they are fitted for a position in the temple.

5. Has workmen--ministers, all Christian workers, missionaries.

6. Has perfect beauty (Psalms 48:1-14.; Song of Solomon 6:4). See the polished stones, bearing the inscription of “Holiness to the Lord.” See their love, union, benevolence. They are adorned with the righteousness of Christ, and bear the image of God.

II. The special design of the erection.

1. Magnificent. It is “a habitation for God.” What a glorious inhabitant! “God is known in her palaces for a refuge.” “Behold the heaven of heavens,” &c.

2. Gracious (Isaiah 66:1). “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion.”

III. The blessedness of being a part of his building.

1. It is honourable. It is the most glorious building that ever was erected. It is to be allied to the glorious Proprietor Himself.

2. It is advantageous. The state of a person is decided; he has realised the Divine power by which he has been fitted into the temple of God. This produces peace, contentment, joy, hope. He has an interest in all the promises and privileges of this house, and is a participant of all its provisions.

3. It is a state of safety. The Proprietor will never suffer this building to be destroyed. He ever watches over and defends it; He is a wall of fire round about it, angels minister to it, all the attributes of God are pledged for its security. (Homilist.)

The Church God’s building

The metaphor describes the work of God as being not the gathering together of certain devout souls wishing to abstract themselves from the corruptions of the heathen around them, and to shape their own lives after a nobler mode. Such persons might have dwelt in Corinth, exciting no remark, creating no enmity; the worst that could have befallen them would have been an idle scoff as enthusiastic strivers after an ideal of unattainable perfection. But by representing the Christian body as a Divinely erected building, he paints at one stroke a picture of tangible social system rising in the midst of the old heathen world like a new sanctuary in the centre of one of its temple-crowned cities, with the Christian community growing up in Corinth, with its groups of little children and its elder men, its ministry and ordinances of worship, its examples of whole households like that of St. Stephanas, enrolled by baptism among its members. This was not a philosophical school created by Pauline teaching, but an all-comprehensive, all-embracing structure, reared by a Divine hand, the abode of supernatural powers and operations, a structure which invited into it through its ever open gates all of every race, and age, and class, the Jew and the Greek, the vast slave population of the old world, as well as its most privileged citizens; and this in order, having gathered them within its walls, to weld them together into a new social system by bonds and principles which soon would supersede existing ties. Nor is this all. A building implies not a sudden emanation of opinion, but a construction of progressive stages, each based upon that which lies below; from the foundation which the earth hides, to the pinnacle which loses itself in the blue air. And so St. Paul speaks of their being “being built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets,” coupling together the living and the dead as a substructure of the Church of his day. Yes, even that Church of the first-born, in all the fresh light of its new faith, was to regard itself not as a creature of its own age, although Christ had Himself walked the earth in that age; but it was to know that its foundations went back into the depths of eternity, that its creed, short as it was, “Christ, and Him crucified,” gathered up into itself all the past revealings of God. Their legend, St. Paul would tell them, was no system of faith and morals lying on the surface of a single generation; it penetrated into the very secret of them all. The facts were the outcome of God’s determinate counsel working gradually century after century up to its accomplishment from the birth of time. Its precepts of love and holiness were not arbitrary precepts, but derived from the very being of God; thus the corner-stone of the building had been laid before the elder angels began to be. And as God does not create each human being separately, but carries forward His original work continuously, “making of one blood all nations of men,” so with the work of salvation, the Lord does not simply join to Himself those that are being saved, but He adds them to the Church, and that by the instrumentality of those who were Christians before them. Thus, you see, every generation of the baptized is bound together by a spiritual consanguinity with the generations which precede it. The creeds which we inherit from ages, the prayers whose solemn tones are prolonged among us from the remotest times, like the long-drawn note of solemn music through a cathedral; the influence of saints and doctors and confessors, indestructible as that influence is, whether men like it or not; all this is but the outward expression of that essential continuity which, through the one baptism and the one Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, has secured to the fellowship of His disciples. (Bp. Woodford.)

The spiritual temple

I. Its foundation. A wise builder is always most attentive to this, because the stability of the structure can only be secured by that of the foundation (Matthew 7:24). We are thus prepared to find the Church of Christ represented as built upon a rock, i.e., Christ. In His complex nature He becomes, by His obedience and death, the ground on which guilty men are brought to stand and live again in the favour of the Almighty (Acts 4:11-12).

II. The edifice.

1. The Church of Christ is an edifice composed of rational and immortal beings, brought out of a fallen state, to stand in an intimate relation to Him, and to God through Him. They are all united to Him in their hearts by faith, and meet together in that union. This Church hath both an outward form, and an inward grace. The visible Church is composed of all in every place, who make an open profession of faith in Christ. But many of these make this profession in the absence of any Divine principle of faith in their hearts. These are only nominally of the temple of God. They live upon a name. “Thou hast a name, that thou livest, but art dead.” The profession of the rest, however, is that which results from the principle within: for “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” &c. These are the true and real temple, “builded together for a habitation of God, through the Spirit.” As the practised eye of the jeweller discerns the real gem from the artificial resemblance, and uses means to make the difference manifest, that the precious may be separated from the vile, so does Christ distinguish those in His Church who are really partakers of “like precious faith,” from those who have the appearance of it only.

2. Such is the analogy to be traced between the spiritual temple of God upon earth, and a material sacred edifice. As far, however, as heavenly things exceed earthly ones, they are incapable of being fully represented by such, e.g.

(a) The faith of the parent cannot save the child, nor that of the husband the wife.

(b) Neither have we any saving connection with Christ by an outward union to His Church and participation of its ordinances. “Being in the Lord” is a constant phrase of the New Testament in describing a state of salvation.

Character built bit by bit

Remember that the building of a noble and Godlike and God-pleasing character can be erected on the foundation of faith only by constant effort. Growth is not the whole explanation of the process by which a man becomes what God would have him to be. Struggle has to be included as well as growth, and neither growth nor struggle exhaust the New Testament metaphors for progress. This other one of my text is of constant recurrence. It takes the metaphor of a building to suggest the slow, continuous, bit-by-bit effort. You do not rear the fabric of a noble character all at a moment. No man reaches the extremity, either of goodness or baseness, by a leap; you must be content with bit-by-bit work. The Christian character is like a mosaic formed of tiny squares in all but infinite numbers, each one of them separately set and bedded in its place. You have to build by a plan; you have to see to it that each day has its task, each day its growth. You have to be content with one brick at a time. It is a lifelong task, till the whole be finished. And not until we pass from earth to heaven does our building work cease. Continuous effort is the condition of progress. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Soul masonry

I. A good plan.

1. What is a good plan?

2. What is the plan on which moral masonry should proceed? The character of Christ. This ideal has the two grand attributes of architectural excellence, fitness, and beauty. All history shows that such an ideal is to be found nowhere else. Men, alas, are everywhere building character on other plans: some by the plan of sensual pleasure, others by the plan of commercial greed, others by the plan of worldly vanity and ambition. But they are all unsuitable and unlovely. In them the soul is neither happy nor beautiful.

II. Good materials. However fitted and beautiful the plan, if the materials are poor, the stones crumbling, the tiles leaking, the timber rotten, the edifice will be anything but perfect. What are the materials with which we are to build up a good character? They are actions. If these are corrupt, the materials are bad; but if good, then the character is all right. Good actions are actions that spring from a supreme sympathy with the supremely good. Such actions are the gold and the silver and the precious stones that will bear the fires at the last day.

III. A good foundation. What is the good foundation of a character? Not conventional mortality, not religious observances, not orthodox creeds; but Christ and Him only. See in Matthew 7:1-29., the destinies of the wise man who built his house on a rock, and the foolish man who built on the sand. The one endured through the storm, but the other was swept away in utter ruin. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

God’s building

Now this comparison of building supposeth these things--First, that a people of themselves are nothing but so much rubbish, and that it is God who makes them this glorious building. That as you see the temple was built by excellent art. The trees in the forest and the stones in the quarry could never have prepared themselves, nor put themselves into so goodly a structure. So it is here. Men by their own power, their own ability and strength, could never become a fit habitation for the Lord to rest in. Secondly, it implieth that the matter of this building should be sound, precious, and substantial. Oh that you would think of this, what ye ought to be! Holiness to the Lord should be writ on your hands, foreheads, and whole conversation. Thirdly, it implies the gracious presence and power of God among His people. A house is the place where a man continually resides; and this is one great reason why God useth this metaphor to show with what rest and delight He will take up His habitation in His Church. Fourthly, this house or building doth imply God to be the Master therein, that He only may prescribe the laws and orders, what shall be done, and what not; He appoints every one his work and his labour. Fifthly, here is this further in this building. It is not an ordinary building, but a sacred and holy one. Therefore they are called the temple of the living God. Now then, what an astonishing consideration is this? Sixthly, it being a house, all within are servants, and so they are to do their Master’s work, to live to Him. “Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Thus this health, this wealth, these parts, this time is none of mine; I must improve it for my Master. Seventhly, it supposeth order and government. The Church of God is a house; now that hath domestical laws. Paul did rejoice to see the Church’s order, and her faith (Colossians 2:5). Eighthly, unity, love, and concord among those that are in the same house. Oh, let this shame all animosities and quarrellings! Are we not of the same house? (A. Burgess.)

The church a building

1. It is a spiritual building. What our Lord Jesus say of His kingdom is true of His building, that it is not of this world--in it, but not of it (John 15:19). It is a building of souls.

2. It is a spacious building of vast extent. “I beheld, and lo, a great multitude,” &c. (Revelation 7:9).

3. It is a high building. Though part of it be here below, yet the top of it is as high as heaven. There it is that the glorious angels are, and the spirits of just men made perfect; all of this building.

4. It is a holy building (Ephesians 2:21). Holiness to the Lord is written upon the front of this building.

5. It is a living building. No other is so. The same who are quickened are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets’ (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:20).

6. It is a light building. This is one thing that makes a building pleasant, and comfortable--many and large windows. All the world besides is in darkness; it is the Church only that hath the true light.

7. It is a secure, a safe, building. The Church of God is such a building as the ark was (1 Peter 3:20-21).

8. It is a spreading, growing building. (Philip Henry.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Corinthians 3:9". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

For we are God's fellow workers: ye are God's husbandry, God's building.

God's fellow-workers ... is ambiguous, and may refer either to men who cooperate with God, or to men who cooperate with each other in God's service."[10] Despite the fact of there being a sense in which Christians are God's partners at the present time, and that this partnership shall be expanded at the judgment (Matthew 25:23), it is hard to believe that Paul was stressing such a thought here. Marsh said that the Greek text favors the idea of partnership with God, and that the context indicates the other meaning,[11] Since the oneness of Paul and Apollos had just been mentioned, it is natural to assume that the meaning here is "fellow-servants" under God. It would not have suited Paul's purpose to announce himself as "God's partner." However, the higher meaning of this expression, "occurring only here in the New Testament,"[12] may not be denied. The Greek text has: "God's fellow-workers; God's husbandry; God's building."

Ye are God's husbandry ... In the analogy, the Corinthian congregation was the vineyard, or field, where Apollos and Paul had been fellow-workers. Shore thought that this word "husbandry," which is translated from a Greek word GEORGION, "might have been the cause of the Christian name `George' becoming so popular in the church."[13]

Paul dramatically shifted to another metaphor in the same line, that of God's building, house, or temple.

God's building ... Practically all of the next eight verses have reference to the church as the temple of God. For extended remarks on the church as the true temple, see under Acts 7:47-50 in this series of commentaries (Commentary on Acts, pp. 142-144). See also under 1 Corinthians 3:16.

[10] F. W. Grosheide, op. cit., p. 82.

[11] Paul W. Marsh, op. cit., p. 381.

[12] Ibid.

[13] T. Teignmouth Shore, op. cit., p. 296.

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

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For we are labourers together with God,.... The ministers of the Gospel are labourers in the Lord's vineyard, and not loiterers; their work is a laborious work, both to body and mind; which lies in close study and meditation, in diligent reading and constant prayer, in frequent ministration of the word, and administration of ordinances; besides reproofs, admonitions, and exhortations, counsels, and instructions, which are often necessary: it is a work, which no man is sufficient for of himself; what requires diligence, industry, and faithfulness; is honourable, and, when rightly performed, deserves respect: nor do they labour alone, but with God; not as co-ordinate, but as subordinate workers; for though they labour in planting and watering, yet they bear no part with him in giving the increase; he is the husbandman, the chief master builder, they are labourers under him; however, he works with them; hence their labours are not in vain, and they have great encouragement to go on in their work; and they are God's labourers with one another, which is a sense of the phrase not to be overlooked. The apostle often, in his epistles, speaks of his fellow workmen, and fellow labourers, who wrought together with him under God:

ye are God's husbandry; or tillage; he is the proprietor of the field, the occupier of it, the husbandman who breaks up the fallow ground of the hearts of his people; he casts in the seed of grace, he makes the ground good, and causes it to bring forth fruit; the churches of Christ are his property, land of his fertilizing, and all the fruit belongs unto him; they are gardens of his planting, and vineyards of his watering, and which he keeps night and day, lest any hurt:

ye are God's building; as the former metaphor is taken from agriculture, this is from architecture: believers in a church state are God's house, in which he dwells, and which he himself has built; he has laid the foundation, which is Jesus Christ; he makes his people lively stones, and lays them on it; he raises up the superstructure, and will complete the building, and ought to bear all the glory, and in all which he makes use of his ministers as instruments.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

For we are e labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

(e) Serving under him: now they who serve under another do nothing by their own strength, but as it is given them of grace, which grace makes them fit for that service. See (1 Corinthians 15:10) ; (2 Corinthians 3:6). All the increase that comes by their labour proceeds from God in such a way that no part of the praise of it may be given to the servant.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Translate, as the Greek collocation of words, and the emphasis on “God” thrice repeated, requires, “For (in proof that “each shall receive reward according to his own labor,” namely, from God) it is of God that we are the fellow workers (laboring with, but under, and belonging to Him as His servants, 2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1; compare Acts 15:4; see on 1 Thessalonians 3:2) of God that ye are the field (or tillage), of God that ye are the building” [Alford]. “Building” is a new image introduced here, as suited better than that of husbandry, to set forth the different kinds of teaching and their results, which he is now about to discuss. “To edify” or “build up” the Church of Christ is similarly used (Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 4:29).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

God‘s fellow-workers (τεου συνεργοιtheou sunergoi). This old word (Corinthians-workers of God) has a new dignity here. God is the major partner in the enterprise of each life, but he lets us work with him. Witness the mother and God with the baby as the product.

God‘s husbandry (τεου γεωργιονtheou geōrgion). God‘s tilled land (γη εργονgēτεου οικοδομηergon). The farmer works with God in God‘s field. Without the sun, the rains, the seasons the farmer is helpless.

God‘s building (οικοςtheou oikodomē). God is the Great Architect. We work under him and carry out the plans of the Architect. It is building (δεμωoikos house, demō to build). Let us never forget that God sees and cares what we do in the part of the building where we work for him.

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies


In this and the two following clauses, God is emphatic. “It is of God that ye are the fellow-workers.”

Husbandry ( γεώργιον )

Rev., in margin, tilled land. Only here in the New Testament. Bengel says: “Embracing field, garden, and vineyard.”

Building ( οἰκοδομή )

Paul's metaphors are drawn from the works and customs of men rather than from the works of nature. “In his epistles,” says Archdeacon Farrar, “we only breathe the air of cities and synagogues.” The abundance of architectural metaphors is not strange in view of the magnificent temples and public buildings which he was continually seeing at Antioch, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus. His frequent use of to build and building in a moral and spiritual sense is noteworthy. In this sense the two words οἰκοδομέω and οἰκοδομή occur twenty-six times in the New Testament, and in all but two cases in Paul's writings. Peter uses build in a similar sense; 1 Peter 2:5. See edify, edification, build, Acts 9:31; Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 8:10, where emboldened is literally built up, and is used ironically. Also Romans 14:19; Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 14:3; Ephesians 2:21, etc. It is worth noting that in the Epistle to the Hebrews, while the same metaphor occurs, different words are used. Thus in Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 3:4, built, builded, represent κατασκευάζω toprepare. In Hebrews 11:10, τεχνίτης artificerand δημιουργὸς , lit., a workman for the public: A.V., builder and maker. This fact has a bearing on the authorship of the epistle. In earlier English, edify was used for build in the literal sense. Thus Piers Ploughman: “I shal overturne this temple and a-down throwe it, and in thre daies after edifie it newe.” See on Acts 20:32. In the double metaphor of the field and the building, the former furnishes the mould of Paul's thought in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, and the latter in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17. Edwards remarks that the field describes the raw material on which God works, the house the result of the work.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.

For we are all fellowlabourers — God's labourers, and fellowlabourers with each other.

Ye are God's husbandry — This is the sum of what went before: it is a comprehensive word, taking in both a field, a garden, and a vineyard.

Ye are God's building — This is the sum of what follows.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Ye are God's husbandry; that is, although Paul and Apollos had been employed as laborers in the field, it was upon God that they had really to depend for their spiritual life and growth.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

9.For we are fellow-laborers with God. Here is the best argument. It is the Lord’s work that we are employed in, and it is to him that we have devoted our labors: hence, as he is faithful and just, he will not disappoint us of our reward. That man, accordingly, is mistaken who looks to men, or depends merely on their remuneration. Here we have an admirable commendation of the ministry — that while God could accomplish the work entirely himself, he calls us, puny mortals, (165) to be as it were his coadjutors, and makes use of us as instruments. As to the perversion of this statement by the Papists, for supporting their system of free-will, it is beyond measure silly, for Paul shows here, not what men can effect by their natural powers, but what the Lord accomplishes through means of them by his grace. As to the exposition given by some — that Paul, being God’s workman, was a fellow-workman with his colleagues, that is, with the other teachers — it appears to me harsh and forced, and there is nothing whatever in the case that shuts us up to have recourse to that refinement. For it corresponds admirably with the Apostle’s design to understand him to mean, that, while it is peculiarly the work of God to build his temple, or cultivate his vineyard, he calls forth ministers to be fellow-laborers, by means of whom He alone works; but, at the same time, in such a way, that they in their turn labor in common with him. As to the reward of works, consult my Institutes (166)

God’s husbandry, God’s building. These expressions may be explained in two ways. They may be taken actively in this sense: “You have been planted in the Lord’s field by the labor of men in such a way, that our heavenly Father himself is the true Husbandman, and the Author of this plantation. You have been built up by men in such a way, that he himself is the true Master-builder. (167) Or, it may be taken in a passive sense, thus: “In laboring to till you, and to sow the word of God among you and water it, we have not done this on our own account, or with a view to advantage to accrue to us, but have devoted our service to the Lord. In our endeavors to build you up, we have not been influenced by a view to our own advantage, but with a view to your being God’s planting and building. This latter interpretation I rather prefer, for I am of opinion, that Paul meant here to express the idea, that true ministers labor not for themselves, but for the Lord. Hence it follows, that the Corinthians were greatly to blame in devoting themselves to men, (168) while of right they belonged exclusively to God. And, in the first place, he calls them his husbandry, following out the metaphor previously taken up, and then afterwards, with the view of introducing himself to a larger discussion, he makes use of another metaphor, derived from architecture. (169)

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Vv. 9. "For we are labourers together with God; ye are God"s husbandry, God"s building." — It is not without reason that in the original the word θεοῦ, God"s, heads the three propositions of this verse. God alone is Judge, for He is the proprietor in whose service all this work is done. It is therefore a mistake in Holsten and others to refer the for to the idea of the unity of the workers (1 Corinthians 3:8 a). It bears on what immediately precedes (1 Corinthians 3:8 b). The worker"s responsibility in this labour is presented in two aspects; and first from the standpoint of the servant"s own position: συνεργοὶ θεοῦ, labourers together with God. It is grammatically inexact to apply the preposition σύν, in the word συνεργοί, to the community of labour existing among the workers themselves: "fellow-labourers in God"s service" (Bengel, Olshausen, Heinrici). This sense is connected with the false explanation which regards for as a confirmation of the unity of the workers among themselves (1 Corinthians 3:8 a). According to Greek usage, the regimen of σύν, in the composite συνεργός, is expressed by the following complement: comp. Romans 16:3, and Philippians 1:24, συνεργὸς ἡμῶν (the fellow-worker with us). The meaning therefore is: "We are at work with God Himself." Some have shrunk from this bold idea of making Christ"s minister in the Church the fellow-labourer of God. And yet what else is said by 1 Corinthians 3:6? In every sermon, in every instance of religious instruction, in every pastoral visit, is not the pastor the agent by means of whom God works in souls? But, perhaps, with a complement like θεοῦ, of God, there must be added to the idea of joint labour that of dependence. The meaning would then be: "God"s day-labourers, working with Him." Consequently it is His to pay the workmen, and to value their labour! Is it not His goods that are in question? To Him belongs the Church, His field, His house. The word γεώργιον is not fully rendered by the term field; this would rather be expressed by ἀγρός (Matthew 13:24; Luke 14:18). The term γεώργιον embraces the idea of cultivation along with that of the field; and therefore we translate "God"s husbandry." It is nearly the same with the term οἰκοδομή, which is unknown to classic Greek down to Aristotle (Edwards). It is taken here rather in the sense of a building in course of construction ( οἰκοδόμησις) than in the sense of a building finished ( οἰκοδόμημα); for, according to the context, the workmen are still at work. It is therefore to a Divine possession that the workers put their hand! We feel that the apostle has passed to a new idea, that of the responsibility of the workers. What gravity attaches to such labour! To cultivate a field the harvest of which is God"s! To build the house which God Himself is to inhabit! God alone can estimate such labour, and He will not fail to do so. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 describe this responsibility and the inevitable judgment which will hallow it. It is less to the Church than to preachers themselves that the immediate sequel is addressed. For several of them at Corinth were certainly not innocent of what had happened. The use of a second figure, that of building after that of a field (used in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8), is due to the feeling of the apostle that the latter does not suffice to depict what he is about to express. He needs one which lends itself better to the dramatic exposition of the two opposite results which human labour may have.

But before indicating this difference between the two kinds of building, the apostle thinks good to put his own work out of the question. For it is ended, and—as the result has proved—well ended.

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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books".

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘Ye are God’s husbandry.’

1 Corinthians 3:9

What this text tells us is this—that Christian people are to God just what the tillage of the earth is to us.

I. Our hearts and souls are like wild, uncultivated land.—As waste land wants time and labour and expense to bring it into cultivation, stones removing, weeds clearing, roots of old trees to be torn up, and then to be ploughed and dressed besides, so we are to understand it is with us. Land cannot bring itself in cultivation. Land cannot bring itself into a state fit for a crop. If land has been out of cultivation for a few seasons only, it wants ever so much care and trouble to bring it back again. It is so with us. We cannot bring ourselves into a state to give God a harvest. All that we produce of ourselves is against it. God has to bring our souls into a state fit to produce a harvest. Bad habits have to be rooted out, and our souls prepared to receive the seed of God’s Word, before there is the least possibility of His Word bringing forth what it ought to do. And we can no more do this for ourselves than the land we till can clear itself of weeds, or tear up the dead roots of trees, or remove its stones, or dress itself for sowing. It is God and God alone Who does this.

II. How does God prepare souls?—He has many ways. All land needs preparing for the seed, but it is not all land that wants exactly the same preparation. And what this text tells us is this, that just as a landowner with land to reclaim deals with each portion according to its nature, so God deals with souls. He knows your nature, and He knows mine, and He sets about preparing our hearts for His harvest, each of us according to what we require. If we will but let Him deal with us as He pleases, and take all that happens to us as His sending, we may be quite sure that all must go right. He knows how to prepare our souls—we are His tillage—and it is as great a mistake for us to murmur at His dealings with us, as for a piece of waste land to grumble at the way its owner takes to bring it into fruitful cultivation. Some hearts He prepares by sorrow, some by anxiety, some by sickness. Some by much trial in the world, others in loneliness and solitude. Others He deals with more gently. But with all He deals rightly; for He knows our nature, and all that He desires is our good.

III. In our hearts He sows His seed.—What that seed will bring forth will depend on how far we have let Him prepare our souls. Land cannot help being properly prepared if the farmer knows his business and takes the proper pains. God indeed knows how to prepare our hearts, and if we will let Him, He prepares them perfectly. But whether we are properly prepared for His sowing depends largely on ourselves. The land cannot resist the farmer, but we can and too often do resist our God. This, alas! is why you see such different results in different souls. Children of the same family, members of the same congregation, dwellers in the same parish, God is tilling all their souls, and you would often say that there was no difference at all in the opportunities they have had, and yet how differently they turn out! And here is the reason. God has been tilling them all; but some of them have yielded themselves to His tillage, and some have not.

Just as men rejoice in harvest over the fruit of their labours, so, too, in the great harvest, the end of the world, God will rejoice, and Christ will rejoice with joy unspeakable over every saved soul, over every one of us who has let God teach and train him, and lead him out of sin and into holiness, and make him fit for the heavenly home.


‘Men vary. Men are not all alike. Thus one man is suited to one particular sort of goodness, and another to another. One man is suited to serve God in one way, and another in another. God calls one person to be very patient, and another to be very active; one man to serve Him by being learned, another by working hard in a trade; one man by a life of bustle and mixing much with his fellow-men, another by a life of seclusion and quiet. All are called to be honest and kind, to be true and sober and temperate; to fear God and to love their neighbours. But though all are called to these first duties, still each man has his own particular line, just as different kinds of land are suited to different crops, and therefore no one of us should judge another, but each should strive to do his own duty in the calling wherewith God calls him.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

Ver. 9. For we are labourers, &c.] Let ministers hence learn their, 1. Dignity; 2. Duty. Fructus honos oneris, Fructus honoris onus. Who would not work hard with such sweet company?

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Corinthians 3:9. For we are labourers together with God For we are the fellow-labourers of God. Doddridge.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. The honourable title put upon the ministers of God, they are labourers or workers together with God.

But in what sense are they so?

Ans. Not so by any power or their own to produce any spiritual effect, as if they without God could work faith and repentance in the hearts of sinners; but they work only by an external application of the ministry of the work, and the means of grace to the souls of men. They are under-labourers to God, and God honours them by working by them, and working with them, for the conversion of men.

Observe, 2. The honourable relation in which the church stands to God: the church and people of God are his husbandry, and his building: Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.

Which phrase implies, 1. Power and goodness in making them so: a building is not of itself, nor is a field clothed with goodly corn of itself.

2. It implies dominion and absolute sovereignty: the master is the orderer of the house, and the husbandman the disposer of his ground.

3. It denotes propriety and interest, that we are not our own, but God's. The house is the owner's, not its own. God is theirs, and all that God has is theirs also.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

9.] Proof of the last assertion, and introduction of Him, from Whom each λήμψεται. The stress thrice on θεοῦ:—shall receive, &c.,—for it is of GOD that we are the fellow-workers (in subordination to Him, as is of course implied: but to render it ‘fellow-workers with one another, under God,’ as Estius prefers, and Olsh., al., maintain, is contrary to usage: see reff.;—and not at all required, see 2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1), of GOD that ye are the tillage, of GOD that ye are the building. This last new similitude is introduced on account of what he has presently to say of the different kinds of teaching, which will be more clearly set forth by this, than by the other figure.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:9. θεοῦ, of God) This word is solemnly repeated immediately after,(26) and is emphatically put at the beginning thrice; as in 1 Corinthians 3:10, grace; and in 1 Corinthians 3:11, foundation.— συνεργοὶ, labourers together with) We are God’s labourers, and in turn labourers together with Him.— γεώργιον, husbandry) This constitutes the sum of what goes before; γεώργιον, a word of wide and comprehensive meaning, comprising the field, the garden, and the vineyard.— οἰκοδο΄ὴ, building) This constitutes the sum of what follows.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Though compared with God we are nothing, yet our station is no mean station; God works as the principal efficient Cause, we work with God as his instruments; God worketh one way, by his secret influence upon the heart, we another way, by publication of the gospel in people’s ears, but the scope and end of the work is the same. The Lord is said to work with his ministers, Mark 16:20, and they are here said to work with him. Hence he proveth what he had before said, that they should be rewarded; God will not suffer those who work with him to be without their reward: as also that they were one, for they are all labourers together with God. Yet do not think yourselves our husbandry, for you are

God’s husbandry: thus God’s people, Isaiah 61:3, are called the planting of the Lord.

God’s building: thus the church is called the house of God, 1 Timothy 3:15. Still the apostle minds them, that they were God’s, not their minister’s; it was God to whom they were beholden for their conversion, for their edification, &c.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 3:9.

The characteristic Greek tendency to factions was threatening to rend the Corinthian Church, and each faction was swearing by a favourite teacher. Paul and his companion, Apollos, had been taken as the figureheads of two of these parties, and so he sets himself in the context, first of all to show that neither of the two was of any real importance in regard to the Church’s life. They were like a couple of gardeners, one of whom did the planting, and the other the watering; but neither the man that put the little plant into the ground, nor the man that came after him with a watering-pot, had anything to do with originating the mystery of the life by which the plant grew. That was God’s work, and the pair that had planted and watered were nothing. So what was the use of fighting which of two nothings was the greater?

But then he bethinks himself that that is not quite all. The man that plants and the man that waters are something after all. They do not communicate life, but they do provide for its nourishment. And more than that, the two operations-that of the man with the dibble and that of the man with the watering-pot-are one in issue; and so they are partners, and in some respects may be regarded as one. Then what is the sense of pitting them against each other?

But even that is not quite all; though united in operation, they are separate in responsibility and activity, and will be separate in reward. And even that is not all; for, being nothing and yet something, being united and yet separate, they are taken into participation and co-operation with God; and as my text puts it, in what is almost a presumptuous phrase, they are ‘labourers together with Him.’ That partnership of co-operation is not merely a partnership of the two, but it is a partnership of the three-God and the two who, in some senses, are one.

Now whilst this text is primarily spoken in regard to the apostolic and evangelistic work of these early teachers, the principle which it embodies is a very wide one, and it applies in all regions of life and activity, intellectual, scholastic, philanthropic, social. Where-ever men are thinking God’s thoughts and trying to carry into effect any phase or side of God’s manifold purposes of good and blessing to the world, there it is true. We claim no special or exclusive prerogative for the Christian teacher. Every man that is trying to make men understand God’s thought, whether it is expressed in creation, or whether it is written in history, or whether it is carven in half-obliterated letters on the constitution of human nature, every man who, in any region of society or life, is seeking to effect the great designs of the universal loving Father-can take to himself, in the measure and according to the manner of his special activity, the great encouragement of my text, and feel that he, too, in his little way, is a fellow-helper to the truth and a fellow-worker with God. But then, of course, according to New Testament teaching, and according to the realities of the case, the highest form in which men thus can co-operate with God, and carry into effect His purposes is that in which men devote themselves, either directly or indirectly, to spreading throughout the whole world the name and the power of the Saviour Jesus Christ, in whom all God’s will is gathered, and through whom all God’s blessings are communicated to mankind. So the thought of my text comes appropriately when I have to bring before you the claims of our missionary operations.

Now, the first way in which I desire to look at this great idea expressed in these words, is that we find in it

I. A solemn thought.

‘Labourers together with God.’ Cannot He do it all Himself? No. God needs men to carry out His purposes. True, on the Cross, Jesus spoke the triumphant word, ‘It is finished!’ He did not thereby simply mean that He had completed all His suffering; but He meant that He had then done all which the world needed to have done in order that it should be a redeemed world. But for the distribution and application of that finished work God depends on men. You all know, in your own daily businesses, how there must be a middleman between the mill and the consumer. The question of organising a distributing agency is quite as important as any other part of the manufacturer’s business. The great reservoir is full, but there has to be a system of irrigating-channels by which the water is carried into every corner of the field that is to be watered. Christian men individually, and the Church collectively, supply-may I call it the missing link?-between a redeeming Saviour and the world which He has redeemed in act, but which is not actually redeemed, until it has received the message of the great Redemption that is wrought. The supernatural is implanted in the very heart of the mass of leaven by the Incarnation and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ; but the spreading of that supernatural revelation is left in the hands of men who work through natural processes, and who thus become labourers together with God, and enable Christ to be to single souls, in blessed reality, what He is potentially to the world, and has been ever since. He died upon the Cross. ‘It is finished.’ Yes-because it is finished, our work begins.

Let me remind you of the profound symbolism in that incident where our Lord for once appeared conspicuously, and almost ostentatiously, before Israel as its true King. He had need-as He Himself said-of the meek beast on which He rode. He cannot pass, in His coronation procession, through the world unless He has us, by whom He may be carried into every corner of the earth. So ‘the Lord has need’ of us, and we are ‘fellow-labourers with Him.’

But this same thought suggests another point. We have here a solemn call addressed to every Christian man and woman.

Do not let us run away with the idea that, because here the Apostle is speaking in regard to himself and Apollos, he is enunciating a truth which applies only to Apostles and evangelists. It is true of all Christians. My knowledge of and faith in Jesus Christ as my own personal Saviour impose upon me the obligation, in so far as my opportunities and capacities extend, thus to co-operate with Him in spreading His great Name. Every Christian man, just because he is a Christian, is invested with the power-and power to its last particle is duty-and is, therefore, burdened with the honourable obligation to work for God. There is such a thing as ‘coming to the help of the Lord,’ though that phrase seems to reverse altogether the true relation. It is the duty of every Christian, partly because of loyalty to Jesus, and partly because of the responsibility which the very constitution of society lays upon every one of us, to diffuse what he possesses, and to be a distributing agent for the life that he himself enjoys. Brethren! there is no possibility of Christian men or women being fully faithful to the Saviour, unless they recognise that the duty of being a fellow-labourer with God inevitably follows on being a possessor of Christ’s salvation; and that no Apostle, no official, no minister, no missionary, has any more necessity laid upon him to preach the Gospel, nor pulls down any heavier woe on himself if he is unfaithful, than has and does each one of Christ’s servants.

So ‘we are fellow-labourers with God.’ Alas! alas! how poorly the average Christian realises-I do not say discharges, but realises-that obligation! Brethren, I do not wish to find fault, but I do beseech you to ask yourselves whether, if you are Christians, you are doing anything the least like what my text contemplates as the duty of all Christians.

May I say a word or two with regard to another aspect of this solemn call? Does not the thought of working along with God prescribe for us the sort of work that we ought to do? We ought to work in God’s fashion, and if we wish to know what God’s fashion is, we have but to look at Jesus Christ. We ought to work in Jesus Christ’s fashion. We all know what that involved of self-sacrifice, of pain, of weariness, of utter self-oblivious devotion, of gentleness, of tenderness, of infinite pity, of love running over. ‘The master’s eye makes a good servant.’ The Master’s hand working along with the servant ought to make the servant work after the Master’s fashion. ‘As My Father hath sent Me, so send I you.’ If we felt that side by side with us, like two sailors hauling on one rope, ‘the Servant of the Lord’ was toiling, do you not think it would burn up all our selfishness, and light up all our indifference, and make us spend ourselves in His service? A fellow-labourer with God will surely never be lazy and selfish. Thus my text has in it, to begin with, a solemn call.

It suggests

II. A signal honour.

Suppose a great painter, a Raphael or a Turner, taking a little boy that cleaned his brushes, and saying to him, ‘Come into my studio, and I will let you do a bit of work upon my picture.’ Suppose an aspirant, an apprentice in any walk of life, honoured by being permitted to work along with some one who was recognised all over the world as being at the very top of that special profession. Would it not be a feather in the boy’s cap all his life? And would he not think it the greatest honour that ever had been done him that he was allowed to co-operate, in however inferior a fashion, with such an one? Jesus Christ says to us, ‘Come and work here side by side with Me,’ But Christian men, plenty of them, answer, ‘It is a perpetual nuisance, this continual application for money! money! money! work! work! work! It is never-ending, and it is a burden!’ Yes, it is a burden, just because it is an honour. Do you know that the Hebrew word which means ‘glory’ literally means ‘weight’ ? There is a great truth in that. You cannot get true honours unless you are prepared to carry them as burdens. And the highest honour that Jesus Christ gives to men when He says to them, not only ‘Go work to-day in My vineyard,’ but ‘Come, work here side by side with Me,’ is a heavy weight which can only be lightened by a cheerful heart.

Is it not the right way to look at all the various forms of Christian activity which are made imperative upon Christian people, by their possession of Christianity as being tokens of Christ’s love to us? Do you remember that this same Apostle said, ‘Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ?’ He could speak about burdens and heavy tasks, and being ‘persecuted but not forsaken,’ almost crushed down and yet not in despair, and about the weights that came upon him daily, ‘the care of all the churches,’ but far beneath all the sense of his heavy load lay the thrill of thankful wonder that to him, of all men in the world, knowing as he did better than anybody else could do his own imperfection and insufficiency, this distinguishing honour had been bestowed, that he was made the Apostle to the Gentiles. That is the way in which the true man will always look at what the selfish man, and the half-and-half Christian, look at as being a weight and a weariness, or a disagreeable duty, which is to be done as perfunctorily as possible. One question that a great many who call themselves Christians ask is, ‘With how little service can I pass muster?’ Ah, it is because we have so little of the Spirit of Christ in us that we feel burdened by His command, ‘Go ye into all the world,’ as being so heavy; and that so many of us-I leave you to judge if you are in the class-so many of us make it criminally light if we do not ignore it altogether. I believe that, if it were possible to conceive of the duty and privilege of spreading Christ’s name in the world being withdrawn from the Church, all His real servants would soon be yearning to have it back again. It is a token of His love; it is a source of infinite blessings to ourselves; ‘if the house be not worthy, your peace shall return to you again.’

And now, lastly, we have suggested by this text

III. A strong encouragement.

‘Fellow-labourers with God’-then, God is a Fellow-labourer with us. The co-operation works both ways, and no man who is seeking to spread that great salvation, to distribute that great wealth, to irrigate some little corner of the field by some little channel that he has dug, needs to feel that he is labouring alone. If I am working with God, God is working with me. Do you remember that most striking picture which is drawn in the verses appended to Mark’s Gospel, which tells how the universe seemed parted into two halves, and up above in the serene the Lord ‘sat on the right hand of God,’ while below, in the murky and obscure, ‘they went everywhere preaching the Word.’ The separation seems complete, but the two halves are brought together by the next word-’The Lord also,’ sitting up yonder, ‘working with them’ the wandering preachers down here, ‘confirming the words with signs following.’ Ascended on high, entered into His rest, having finished His work, He yet is working with us, if we are labourers together with God. If we turn to the last book of Scripture, which draws back the curtain from the invisible world which is all filled with the glorified Christ, and shows its relations to the earthly militant church, we read no longer of a Christ enthroned in apparent ease, but of a Christ walking amidst the candlesticks, and of a Lamb standing in the midst of the Throne, and opening the seals, launching forth into the world the sequences of the world’s history, and of the Word of God charging His enemies on His white horse, and behind Him the armies of God following. The workers who labour with God have the ascended Christ labouring with them.

But if God works with us, success is sure. Then comes the old question that Gideon asked with bitterness of heart, when he was threshing out his handful of wheat in a corner to avoid the oppressors, ‘If the Lord be with us, wherefore is all this come upon us? Will any one say that the progress of the Gospel in the world has been at the rate which its early believers expected, or at the rate which its own powers warranted them to expect? Certainly not. And so it comes to this, that whilst every true labourer has God working with him, and therefore success is certain, the planter and the waterer can delay the growth of the plant by their unfaithfulness, by not expecting success, by not so working as to make it likely, or by neutralising their evangelistic efforts by their worldly lives. When Jesus Christ was on earth, it is recorded, ‘He could there do no mighty works because of their unbelief, save that He laid His hands on a few sick folk and healed them.’ A faithless Church, a worldly Church, a lazy Church, an unspiritual Church, an un-Christlike Church-which, to a large extent, is the designation of the so-called Church of to day-can clog His chariot-wheels, can thwart the work, can hamper the Divine Worker. If the Christians of Manchester were revived, they could win Manchester for Jesus. If the Christians of England lived their Christianity, they could make England what it never has been but in name-a Christian country. If the Church universal were revived, it could win the world. If the single labourer, or the community of such, is labouring ‘in the Lord,’ their labour will not be in vain; and if they thus plant and water, God will give the increase.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Laborers together with God; he as the cause, we as the instruments.

Husbandry-building; the church is here compared to a cultivated field, in which husbandmen labor and God causes things to grow; and also to a building, on which he gives artisans strength to labor, and crowns their labor with his blessing.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

9. θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί. For we are God’s fellow-labourers. The A.V. rather obscures the Apostle’s meaning here. His point is (see last verse and 1 Corinthians 3:23) that we all, though our individuality is not lost, are one in Christ. All are God’s, whether the labourers, the. field (γεώργιον) or the building. While συνεργοί looks to the latter part of 1 Corinthians 3:8, and asserts the individuality of the worker, θεοῦ keeps in mind the point of the first part of that verse, and proclaims the union of all in God. The σύν in συνεργοί refers to God.

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"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

9. Labourers… with God—Literally, For we are God’s fellow-labourers; God’s farm, God’s building are ye—The distinction already existing between ministers and people is very marked through this and the next chapter, as begun in this verse. It is by no means correct to say that in the Church of the New Testament this division had not commenced. The figure of a building here commenced is continued to 1 Corinthians 3:17.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

9. For we are God’s fellow laborers.” Oh! what a privilege to be participants with God in the glorious work of saving the world. “Ye are God’s farm.” Do not forget this. Nineteen years after I was converted to God I was all the time under the misapprehension that I was the farmer. Hence I toiled hard and incessantly, wielding the ax, mattock, spade, shovel, rake, pitchfork and plow, toiling and sweating. Terrible was my conflict with the briars, brambles, black-jack, dwarfed pine, sedge grass, dogfennel, pennyroyal, cockle-burs, Spanish needles and Canada thistles. Anon I congratulated myself upon victory, and again to my sorrow I found they had the run on me worse than ever. Nineteen years had rolled away. My eye caught this wonderful statement in the Greek Testament, “Ye are God’s farm.” I soliloquized, “Why! I thought I was the farmer. Oh! how I have been mistaken! If I am the farm, then God is the farmer. Is He not a model in agriculture? Does He want any filth in His farm? Nay, verily, is He not omnipotent? Has He not all power in Heaven and in earth? Does He not speak of the raging sea and rolling worlds? Do not planets, comets, suns, systems, oceans and storms fear and obey His sovereign mandate? What a little thing for Him to breathe on all this crop of filth that gives me toil, sorrow, aches and pains, and bid it evanesce forever!” About that time I tossed my mattock one way, my spade another, my pitchfork another, and began to leap and shout; my eyes turned heavenward, while a Niagara from the upper ocean inundated my soul, oblivion possessing me as to the enemies which all these years had infested my farm. Ere long I dropped my vision earthward. Behold I the briars, brambles, cockle-burs, Spanish needles and Canada thistles are all withered and dead, black-jack, hazel bushes and dwarfed pines, salt briars all out by the roots and sinking down in a grand bonfire. Behold! my farm was clean. Thirty years have rolled away. The devil has not failed to come back ever and anon with his bag of cockle-burs, Spanish needles and thistle seed swinging round his neck, while he goes on sowing the obnoxious filth broadcast, but the fires of the Holy Ghost, kindled when Jesus baptized my soul with the Holy Ghost and fire, still continue rolling their billows of heavenly flame on all sides. They consume all the obnoxious seeds of inbred sin the devil can possibly sow, transforming them into ashes, which fall upon my soil, adding valuable fertilization; so the devil is in fact running a manure cart much conducively to the enrichment of my soil. Is not this in harmony with God’s Word?

“All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

Could you have all things and leave the devil out? I know not, for the devil is not only a “thing,” but quite a big “thing.” Do you not know that these terrible conflicts which we have with the strong intellect of Satan rank among the greatest means of grace this side of Heaven? Such is the wonderful redemption of Christ that everything becomes a blessing to God’s true people. “Ye are God’s building.” The foundation is by far the most important part of the house; yet it is not the house. You receive the foundation when you are born from above, but the superstructure of a holy experience was built on it when you were sanctified. I was converted forty- nine years ago. Then I received the foundation of the glorious Christian experience I enjoy today. Though I never actually lost my foundation, yet ever and anon it suffered great damage from pelting rains and winter freezes; meanwhile during the summer it became the rendezvous of doleful creatures. Why did I not build the house at once? My money gave out (faith failed) and the mechanics went away. During my boyhood it was a death struggle for me to hold my religion until our campmeeting came on, when I was satisfied I would get a new supply. So I made a raise of money, resumed the work, the foundation being so dilapidated that it had to be taken up and laid over. We get the walls up, it is now weather-boarded; money fails, the mechanics leave, dilapidations ensue, rain pours in, the snow accumulates. After decay has wrought sad havoc, I get into another revival, get some more money, the mechanics come back, the work is resumed, every passer-by waves his hat and say’ Hurrah! we will soon have a house built.” Money again fails and the work is abandoned, and dilapidation ensues. As in former years passers-by groan and say, “What a pity; this house is never going to be finished! It is all a failure, labor lost.” Ere long I strike a bonanza, get plenty of money, rally all the mechanics; much of the work is so dilapidated that it has to be renewed. This is done, and the whole job in every ramification with life and energy is pushed right on to completion amid the joyous congratulations of the whole town shouting on all sides, “Why! don’t you see that house which has been on hand nineteen years is at last finished in elegant and beautiful style?” You know people don’t live in unfinished houses, incompetent to protect them from the storms of winter and the heat of summer. Now that the house is finished, of course it is to be inhabited. King Jesus is the Proprietor. Now He beautifies it and furnishes it ad libitum and moves in, accompanied by a joyous group of angels. Glory to God! He has come to stay! All was cheer in former years during those periods when the work was going on, i. e., those revivals when the Holy Ghost came back and resumed His work. What a pity I ever let the mechanics abandon the work and go away after they first laid the foundation! If I had furnished the money, i. e., had the faith, they would have pushed it right through to completion soon after the foundation was laid. Then King Jesus would have moved in at once and have given me a Heaven in my soul from that early day. But He will not settle down and abide in an unfinished house. He will stay so long as you use Him as a builder, pushing the work right along to completion. Are you a finished house? If so, Jesus abides in your heart and fills every chamber of your soul. If you have not the clear witness of the Spirit that Jesus is abiding within, rest assured the house is not finished. So turn it over to the Holy Ghost; let Him have the job to execute the work in His own way. Do not meddle with Him. See that your faith does not fail. He is certain to do the work according to your faith. So have faith in Him this moment and incessantly to finish the house and turn the key over to King Jesus, that He may come in and abide forever.

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Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Paul and Apollos were fellow workers for God. Elsewhere Paul spoke of believers as fellow workers with God ( 2 Corinthians 6:1), but that was not his point here. The Corinthians were the field in view in the preceding illustration ( 1 Corinthians 3:6-8). Paul now compared them to a building. He proceeded to develop this illustration in the following verses ( 1 Corinthians 3:10-17). This verse is transitional.

To help the Corinthians abandon the party spirit that marked their church, Paul stressed the equality of their teachers as fellow workers under God"s sovereign authority ( 1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

"Everything is God"s-the church, its ministry, Paul, Apollos-everything. Therefore, it is absolutely not permissible to say "I belong to Paul," since the only legitimate "slogan" is "we all belong to God."" [Note: Ibid, p134.]

"A sermon on our text [ 1 Corinthians 3:1-9] would focus on the attitudes of preachers and congregations about one another as they relate to the gospel of the cross. Peruse this brief sermon sketch:

""I belong to Paul." "I belong to Apollos." Familiar cries in a world of hi-tech religion. See huge Sunday crowds squint under the glare of spotlights as "their" preachers dazzle millions of electronic viewers with wisdom and rhetorical charm. Overhear the Christian public admire TV evangelists and big-time clergy: "Oh, I like to listen to _____." "Well, he"s O.K. but I like _____ better." You fill in the blanks. Yes, everyone has their favorite preacher nowadays. In spite of all the notorious hucksters, "preacher religion" is in. The result? An increasingly fragmented church. "I belong to Paul and you don"t." It is enough to make Corinth look tame by comparison." [Note: C. Thomas Rhyne, "Expository Articles: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 ," Interpretation44:2 (April1990):177.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:9. Far we are God’s fellow-workers: ye are God’s husbandry, God’s building. After sinking himself, with his fellow-workers, to the level of mere servants, he now lifts them up to the dignity of co-operators with God Himself—in one field, to one end.

But the new figure of a “building” suggests a new set of ideas, fraught with new lessons—lessons which the former figure of “husbandry” was not suited to express.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 Corinthians 3:9. θεοῦσυνεργοὶ sums up in two words, and grounds upon a broad principle ( γάρ), what 1 Corinthians 3:6 ff. have set out in detail: “we are God’s fellow-workmen”—employed upon His field, His building; and “we are God’s fellow-workmen”—labouring jointly at the same task. The συν- of συνεργοὶ takes up the ἕν εἰσιν of 1 Corinthians 3:8; the context (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:6) forbids our referring it to the dependent gen(520) (cf. also 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 6:1, Philippians 3:17, 3 John 1:8), as though P. meant “fellow-workers with God”: “the work (Arbeit) of the διάκονος would be improperly conceived as a Mit-arbeit in relation to God; moreover the metaphors which follow exclude the thought of such a fellow-working” (Hn(521)); also Bg(522), “operarii Dei, et co-operarii invicem”.

As in regard to the labourers, so with the objects of their toil, God is all and in all: θεοῦ γεώργιον, θεοῦ οἰκοδομή ἐστε, “God’s tilth (arvum, land for tillage, Ed(523)), God’s building you are”. For God as γεωργῶν, cf. John 15:1; as οἰκοδομῶν, Hebrews 3:4; Hebrews 11:10. “Of the two images, γεώργ. implies the organic growth of the Church, οἰκοδ. the mutual adaptation of its parts” (Lt(524)); the one looks backward to 1 Corinthians 3:6 ff., the other forward to 1 Corinthians 3:10 ff.— οἰκοδομὴ displaces οἰκοδόμημα in later Gr(525)θεοῦ, anarthrous by correlation (see note on ἀποδ. πν., 1 Corinthians 2:4): the three gens. are alike gens. of possession—“God’s workmen, employed on God’s field-tillage and God’s house-building”. Realising God’s all-comprehending rights in His Church, the too human Cor(526) (1 Corinthians 3:3 f.) will come to think justly of His ministers.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

We are God's coadjutors, labouring in his service, as he hath employed us. --- You are God's husbandry, the soil, where virtues are to be planted. You are God's building, the edifice, the house, or even the temple of God; we are employed as builders under God. (Witham)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God"s fellow-workers: ye are God"s husbandry, God"s building.

"God"s fellow-workers"-"What an honor to be described as God"s helper or co-worker!" (Willis p. 103) "for we are God"s men, working together." (Beck) "Which may mean that Paul and Apollos work together for God or work together with God." (F.F. Bruce p. 43)

What a privilege Christians have! God let"s us work with Him! (Ephesians 2:10)


"God"s husbandry"-"God"s field" (NASV) "God"s tilled land". (Robertson p. 95). The Corinthians were a "field" in which God had expended labor and they belonged to God. Paul and Apollos would really only be "farm-workers" in such an illustration, and nobody ever thinks about worshipping a "farm-worker". How foolish their divisions look!

"God"s building"-at this point Paul switches from a agricultural illustration to an illustration involving a building or temple.

"All too often those "in charge", be they clergy, boards, vestry, sessions, or what have you, tend to think of the church as "theirs". They pay lip-service to its being "Christ"s church, after all", then proceed to operate on the basis of very pagan, secular structures...Nor does the church belong to the people, especially those who have "attended all their lives", or who have "supported it with great sums of money", as though that gave them special privileges. The church belongs to Christ, all other things--structures, attitudes, decisions, nature of ministry, everything--should flow out of that singular realization.." [Note: _ Fee p. 135]

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

we. i.e. Paul and Sosthenes. See 1 Corinthians 1:1.

labourers together with God = God"s fellow-workers. The word "God" is in the genitive of possession (App-17), as in the two other clauses of the verse. It is the Figure of speech Anaphora (App-6), and the verse should read: "God"s fellow-workers we are: God"s husbandry, God"s building, ye are. "Ministers are co-workers with one another, not with God, as though He were one of them. Were it so, "God" would be in the dative case.

labourers together with. Greek. sunergos. Occurs thirteen times. Three times as here, used generally; in all other cases used of individuals, Timothy, Titus, Luke, &c.

husbandry = tilled field. Greek. georgion. Only here. Compare Numbers 24:6. Psalms 80:15.

building. Greek. oikodome. Used in Matthew 24:1. Mark 13:1, Mark 13:2; 2 Corinthians 5:1. Ephesians 2:21, of an edifice. Elsewhere twelve times of the act of building, and translated "edifying", in a metaphorical sense.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry ye are God's building For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.

God - Translate, as the Greek collocation, and the emphasis on "God" thrice repeated, requires, 'For (in proof that "each shall receive reward according to his own labour," from God) it is of God that we are fellow-workers (labouring with, through His marvelous condescension, but under, belonging to, and drawing all our grace from Him as His servant, 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1 : cf. Acts 15:4; Note, 1 Thessalonians 3:2) of God, that ye are the field (agriculture), of God that ye are the building.' "Building" is a new image, suited better than husbandry to set forth the different kinds of teaching and their results, which he is now about to discuss. 'To edify' or 'build up' the Church is similarly used, Ephesians 2:21-22; Ephesians 4:29.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(9) Thrice in this verse the Apostle repeats the name of God with emphasis, to explain and to impress the assertion of the previous verse, that men are to recognise the unity, and God alone the diversity, in the ministerial work and office. “We are GOD’S fellow-labourers; you are GOD’S field—GOD’S house.” The image is thus suddenly altered from agriculture to architecture, as the latter can be more amplified, and will better illustrate the great variety of work of which the Apostle proceeds subsequently to speak. This sudden change of metaphor is a characteristic of St. Paul’s style; a similar instance is to be found in 2 Corinthians 10:4-8, where the illustration given from architecture is used instead of the military metaphor which is employed in the earlier verses of that passage. See also 1 Corinthians 9:7, and Ephesians 3:17, and Colossians 2:6-7, where there is the introduction of three distinct images in rapid succession in so many sentences. It has been suggested that possibly the use of the word “field,” in the Greek “Georgion,” was the cause of the Christian name “George” becoming so popular in the Church.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
6; Matthew 9:37; Mark 16:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1; 3 John 1:8
ye are God's
Psalms 65:9-13; 72:16; 80:8-11; Isaiah 5:1-7; 27:2,3; 28:24-29; 32:20; Isaiah 61:3,5,11; Jeremiah 2:21; Matthew 13:3-9,18-30,36-42; 20:1-14; 21:23-44; Mark 4:26-29; John 4:35-38; 15:1-8
or, tillage. ye are God's building.
16; 6:19; Psalms 118:22; Amos 9:11,12; Zechariah 6:12,13; Matthew 16:18; Acts 4:11; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:10,20-22; Colossians 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:3,4,6; 1 Peter 2:5

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, (ye are) God's building.

For we are laborers together with God. This is at once the reason why ministers are one, and why they are to be rewarded according to their labors. They are one because they are all co-workers with God in the same great enterprise; and they are to be rewarded according to their labor, because that is the rule according to which laborers are rewarded. The propriety of this representation is apparent, because the church is God's husbandry, or farm, which he renders fruitful by the light of truth and the dew of his grace, and on which his servants labor. This is a familiar scriptural illustration, as the church is often called the vineyard of the Lord, in which his ministers are laborers. A laborer who does not labor is a contradiction; and a minister who is not a worker cannot expect a laborer's reward. Ye are God's building. A still more frequent figure; as the church is so often compared to a temple which is in the course of erection, and of which ministers are the builders, Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:5. Union and fidelity in labor are required of those engaged in tilling the same farm, or in the erection of the same building; and they are no less required in those engaged in cultivating the vineyard of the Lord, or in erecting his temple. The apostle drops the former, and carries out the latter figure.

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Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians.

The Bible Study New Testament

For we are partners. They are not rivals, as the Corinthians seemed to think. They are God's workers, carrying out God's mission. God's field. Compare Matthew 13:3-30. God's building. God's temple is built of living stones (1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 2:19-22).

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

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