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A Call to Spiritual Maturity

Brothers and sisters, when I was with you I found it impossible to speak to you as those who are spiritually mature people, for you are still dominated by the mind-set of the flesh. And because you are immature infants in Christ, I had to nurse you and feed you with “milk,”[a] not with the solid food of more advanced teachings, because you weren’t ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready to be fed solid food, for you are living your lives dominated by the mind-set of the flesh. Ask yourselves: Is there jealousy among you? Do you compare yourselves with others? Do you quarrel like children and end up taking sides? If so, this proves that you are living your lives centered on yourselves, dominated by the mind-set of the flesh, and behaving like unbelievers. For when you divide yourselves up in groups—a “Paul group” and an “Apollos group”[b]—you’re acting like people without the Spirit’s influence.[c]

Who is Apollos, really? Or who is Paul? Aren’t we both just servants through whom you believed our message? Aren’t each of us doing the ministry the Lord has assigned to us? I planted the church, and Apollos came and cared for it, but it was God who caused it to grow. This means the one who plants is not anybody special, nor the one who waters, for God is the one who brings the supernatural growth.

Now, the one who plants and the one who waters are equally important and on the same team, but each will be rewarded for his own work. We are coworkers with God[d] and you are God’s cultivated garden,[e] the house he is building. 10 God has given me unique gifts[f] as a skilled master builder[g] who lays a good foundation. Afterward another craftsman comes and builds on it. So builders beware! Let every builder do his work carefully, according to God’s standards. 11 For no one is empowered to lay an alternative foundation other than the good foundation that exists, which is Jesus Christ!

12–13 The quality of materials used by anyone building on this foundation will soon be made apparent, whether it has been built with gold, silver, and costly stones,[h] or wood, hay, and straw. Their work will soon become evident, for the Day[i] will make it clear, because it will be revealed by blazing fire! And the fire will test and prove the workmanship of each builder. 14 If his work stands the test of fire, he will be rewarded. 15 If his work is consumed by the fire, he will suffer great loss. Yet he himself will barely escape destruction, like one being rescued out of a burning house.

The Church, God’s Inner Sanctuary

16 Don’t you realize that together you have become God’s inner sanctuary[j] and that the Spirit of God makes his permanent home in you?[k] 17 Now, if someone desecrates[l] God’s inner sanctuary, God will desecrate him, for God’s inner sanctuary is holy, and that is exactly who you are.

True Wisdom

18 So why fool yourself and live under an illusion?[m] Make no mistake about it, if anyone thinks he is wise by the world’s standards, he will be made wiser by being a fool for God![n] 19 For what the world says is wisdom is actually foolishness in God’s eyes. As it is written:

The cleverness of the know-it-alls
    becomes the trap[o] that ensnares them.

20 And again:

The Lord sees right through
    the clever reasonings of the wise
    and knows that it’s all a sham.[p]

21 So don’t be proud of your allegiance to any human leader. For actually, you already have everything! It has all been given for your benefit, 22 whether it is Paul or Apollos or Peter the Rock,[q] or whether it’s the world[r] or life or death,[s] or whether it’s the present or the future—everything belongs to you! 23 And now you are joined to the Messiah, who is joined to God.


  1. 3:2 This “milk” would include the basic teachings of our faith. Even so, every newborn needs milk to survive and be sustained. See 1 Peter 2:2. The more advanced teachings Paul describes are spiritual “solid food”—something we can “sink our teeth into” and look for deeper meaning in.
  2. 3:4 Apollos was a brilliant, educated Alexandrian Jew and a follower of John the Baptizer. While in Ephesus, Apollos met Priscilla and Aquila, who directed him into deeper teachings of Christ (Acts 18:24–26). Apparently the church of Corinth was deeply divided and in need of wisdom and unity.
  3. 3:4 Or “Are you [merely] men?”
  4. 3:9 Workers have different gifts and abilities, but true growth of God’s kingdom is through divine power. No one is a superstar; we are all members on God’s team.
  5. 3:9 See Gen. 2:8; Song. 4:12–16.
  6. 3:10 Or “grace” (for the task).
  7. 3:10 Or “wise, first-class architect.” We would say in today’s English, “a top-notch general contractor.”
  8. 3:12–13 Paul’s language seems to be anticipating his next subject: the church as God’s true temple. There is here an allusion to the temple of Solomon, which was built using gold, silver, and costly stones. Wisdom will build her house with divine substance (gold), redemption’s fruit (silver), and transformed lives (costly stones). See 1 Chron. 22:14–16; 29:2. Wood, hay, and straw are emblems of the works of the flesh, the building materials of men, not of God. They grow up from the ground, which God cursed (Gen. 3:17). It is both quality and durability that God commends. Fire will cause the better material to glow brighter, but the inferior material will be consumed. How we build and what we build matters to God. Note that it is possible to build on the true foundation of Christ but with wrong materials. We need God’s work done in God’s way.
  9. 3:12–13 See Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 1:8; 4:5; 5:5; 2 Cor. 5:9–10; 2 Thess. 1:10.
  10. 3:16 Or “temple.” The plural you (you all) shows that Paul is referring to the church, the body of believers, the holy dwelling place of God on earth. Later, in 1 Cor. 6:19, he refers to individual believers (our human bodies) as the dwelling place of God. Ten times in 1 Corinthians Paul uses the phrase “Don’t you know” (or realize)?
  11. 3:16 God revealed his presence in the Old Testament temple by filling it with a cloud of glory. The New Testament inner sanctuary is now the church, where God dwells among us by his Spirit.
  12. 3:17 Or “If someone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.” The Aramaic uses the word deface or shatter.
  13. 3:18 For every verse that warns us of being deceived by others, there is verse to warn us about being self-deceived. Having a teachable heart and learning wisdom from above is the best way to guard from self-deception.
  14. 3:18 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “If anyone thinks he is wise by the world’s standards, he must first become ignorant [or silly] and then he can become truly wise.”
  15. 3:19 The Greek word drassomai means “to close the fist on” or, by implication, “to trap” or “to firmly grasp” (a slippery object). See Job 5:13.
  16. 3:20 See Ps. 94:11.
  17. 3:22 Or “Cephas,” which is the Latin spelling of keefa, the Aramaic word for “rock.” God places all of his servants at the disposal of the church. Leaders come and go, but God’s work continues. Every gift and every leader is meant to serve the body of Christ and bring her into the fullness of Christ.
  18. 3:22 The Aramaic can be translated “the universe.” That is, the church is not of this world; it is to bring heaven’s kingdom into the forefront of all the world. The wisdom of the world is subdued by God’s wisdom given to the church.
  19. 3:22 That is, the pressures of life and death are beneath the rule of Christ in our hearts. See Rom. 14:9. The days of our present life, as well as the future glory, belong to us already. We are not victims in life, for as believers we share in the lordship of Christ today and forever.

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