Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 3:16 - 3:23

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Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 3:16 - 3:23


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VI—THE RUPTURE OF THE CHURCH BY PARTY SPIRIT PROVOKES HEAVY JUDGMENT. THE RENUNCIATION OF OUR OWN WISDOM THE CONDITION OF TRUE WISDOM. THE LOFTY TITLE OF CHRISTIANS TO ALL THE INSTRUMENTALITIES AND MEANS OF SALVATION

1Co_3:16-23

16Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, [God’s temple] and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17If any man defile [destroy] the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are [of which sort are ye]. 18Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be [become] wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness 20with God: for it is written, He [that] taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. 21Therefore let no man glory in men: for all things are yours; 22Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are [om. are] yours; 23And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

[“He passes to another argument against the sin of ranging themselves in opposite factions under human leaders, particularly such as corrupt the essential purity and fundamental soundness of the spiritual fabric of the Church.” Words.].

1Co_3:16. Know ye not that ye are God’s temple?—It will hardly do to connect these words directly with the preceding—if for no other reason than simply because the threat of destruction made in the following verse stands in direct contradiction to the promise of salvation there held forth, showing that Paul has a new case in mind. [Olshausen, however, regards the Apostle as simply intensifying and carrying out still further his previous figure. The edifice is now spoken of as God’s temple, and the guilt of desecrating or injuring the building by introducing incoherent materials into its structure is enhanced in proportion. And still further, the taught as well as the teachers are also here brought into view. So substantially Hodge, Alf., Stanley; Calvin says more correctly: “Having admonished the teachers as to their duty, he now addresses himself to the pupils”]. Ïὐêïἴäáôå : know ye not? This phrase is not to be confounded with ἤ ïὐê ïἴäáôå : or know ye not?—and it might very well serve to introduce a new turn of thought, indirectly suggested by what precedes. Thus far, Paul has contemplated the Church as a building belonging to God, and has exhibited the great responsibility attendant on the work of erecting it, after the only proper foundation has been laid. Now he describes its sacred character more fully by likening it to a temple inhabited by God’s Spirit, the violation of which incurs condign punishment. By the question: Know ye not? he appeals directly to the consciousness of Christians and intimates to his readers that in that spirit of partisanship which they cherished and which was so destructive to the integrity of the Church, there was a strange and criminal obscuration of true Christian feeling, inasmuch as they were conducting themselves just as if they possessed it not, and knew not what belonged to their profession. In the objective clause the emphasis lies on temple ( íáüò ), marking an advance upon the more indefinite term, building, used before. íáüò , according to its derivation, ( íáßù ) means indeed a building in general. But the Greeks used the word only to denote the dwellings of gods, and especially that room where the image stood. [“ íáὸò is more holy than ἱåñüí .” Words.]. Here it denotes the spiritual sanctuary, the place where the true God reveals His presence, and bestows blessings, and is worshipped, forming one complete whole, and consisting of all such as carry in themselves the Spirit of God. This appears from the explanatory clause following—and (km explicative) that the Spirit of God dwells in you.—Hence Christians are called “a spiritual house” (1Pe_2:5), also “a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph_2:22); comp. also 2Co_6:16 ff.; Rom_8:9; Rom_8:11; 2Ti_1:14; Eze_37:27, etc. ïἰêåῖí , to reside permanently (comp. Joh_14:23.) The words ἐí ὐìῖí , in you (not, ‘among you’), refers, like the statement: ‘ye are the temple,’ to the Church, or to individual believers, not, however in their separate capacity, but in their organic connection. Here the law of all organization obtains, that every organ is a complete whole in itself. As Christendom unitedly is a “temple of God,” so is also every Christian congregation and every individual Christian. But as the whole is to be understood and apprehended only in its parts, so are the parts to be understood only as connected in the whole. The translation: ‘the temple of God’ is by no means needed for the Bake of setting aside the idea of a plurality of temples. We can employ the rendering: ‘a temple of God,’ simply as signifying the kind of building implied. [Meyer on the contrary more justly says: “ íáὸò èåïõ is the temple of God, not a temple, for Paul does not conceive of the various churches as various temples of God, which would be inconsistent with the Jew’s conception of God’s temple; but of each Christian church as in a mystic sense the temple of Jehovah. So there are not many temples, but one only, and many churches, each one of which is ideally the same temple of God.” So Stanley and Alford].

1Co_3:17. If any one destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy.—This is the first clause in an inference which rests upon the undoubted recognition of the inviolability of the temple of God, as maintained also in the Jewish Scriptures. All injuring, or desecrating, or even disturbing the sanctuary of God’s manifested presence, was deemed a sacrilege, which incurred the Divine vengeance. This is strongly indicated by the immediate succession of the same word in the two forms, öèåßñåé and öèåñåῖ . “If any the temple of God destroyeth, destroy him shall God.” See a like case in Rev_22:18. The punishment here implied as related to the old temple was that of temporal death. Used, however, in relation to the spiritual temple, the word, in the first instance, signifies the rupturing of the Church by violent partisanship, which must finally end in its entire dissolution; and in the second instance, as indicating the consequent punishment, it denotes exclusion from salvation ( áðþëåéá ), [Stanley says that “ öèåßñåéí , in the LXX. and in the New Testament, seems to have lost the sense of ‘defile,’ and merely to retain that of ‘mar’ or ‘destroy.’ ” And so Hodge, who says “the passage may be rendered ‘If any man injure the temple of God, him will God injure.’ “Olshausen goes still further: “The connection shows that the word cannot be understood of absolute destruction. Probably the Apostle chose the strong word only on account of its having been used just before for the purpose of intimating that God would requite like with like.” But such modification of its plain meaning is certainly contrary to the parallel which the Apostle introduces. The violater of the sanctuary of the ancient temple was unquestionably punished with death. And to preserve the analogy, we ought to maintain the word öèåßñåéí in its original signification].

Next follows the proof with the application of the penal principle just stated to the case in hand.—For the temple of God is holy.—It lies in the very idea of a temple that it is holy and inviolable, and that therefore all injury done to it is a crime.—And of this sort are ye ïἵôéíÝò ἐóôå ὐìåῖò ὅóôßò refers to the object generally as one of a class, and not definitely, thus serving to render a proposition general; here it means: of which sort, viz., “holy.” The antecedent here is not “temple,” but the adjective “holy.” That they were the temple of God he had already asserted in 1Co_3:16. “Recurring to 1Co_1:1 he hereby awakens a feeling of reverence and a holy communion of Spirit in opposition to that unworthy servility engendered by a divisive regard for human authorities.” Osiander. [“Meyer well remarks that this clause is the minor proposition of a syllogism: Whoever mars the temple of God, him will God destroy, because His temple is holy: but ye are are also holy as His spiritual temple: therefore whoever mars you shall be destroyed by God.” Alford].

1Co_3:18. The Apostle now proceeds to point out the real source of the mischief he rebukes. The rupture of the unity of the Church by a party spirit, sprang from a pride of knowledge, and a vain conceit of that wisdom which belonged to and this world, and not to God’s kingdom. This was especially the case with the party of Apollos, which the Apostle seems chiefly to have in his eye, throughout this chapter. As it took pride in Apollos, because of his dialectic and rhetorical skill and learning, and clung to these qualities in him, so also did it seek to imitate his manner, and signalized itself for laying a great stress upon secular wisdom, and for no little conceit in that respect. This tendency Paul denounces as unfounded in truth, and unsuited to such as strive for the kingdom of God. In his view it involves a self-deception, more or less gross, against which he felt constrained to warn them.—Let no one deceive himself.—The deception here consisted in a person’s imagining himself to possess a profound insight into the truth and ways of God, when in fact he was utterly devoid of it, yea, was involved in entire misapprehension and gross blindness in reference to it. Such delusion passes away only when all conceit of wisdom is given up, and a person is willing to be regarded a fool, or consents to renounce all secular wisdom in the exercise of that simple faith which he before had regarded as folly, and which passes for folly with the world. And this is what the Apostle requires when he says:—If any one thinketh to be wise among you in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise. Äïêåῖí may mean either: to think, or to appear; hence the clause may here be translated, “if any one passes for a wise man, either in his own estimation,” or “in others’ estimation.” The former rendering is best sustained by what has been said before. Hence the exhoration, “let him become a fool,” must be understood as relating to his own, and not to others’ judgment, and in such a way that either the words ðáῤἑáõôῷ , in his own esteem, shall besupplied; or that the person be regarded as passing over to a standpoint, which had until then appeared to him and to others like-minded as folly. The latter sense best suits the word. [And here it must be borne in mind that this renunciation of our own wisdom, or of the world’s wisdom, is required because all such wisdom is one only in appearance, and not in reality. It is its intrinsic worthlessness that renders it discreditable]. The phrase “in this world,” lit. “in this age,” is not to be united with the clause following, [as Origen, Chrysostom, Luther, Rosenmuller] as though it meant, “let him become a fool in this world;” the order of the words forbids this. But it belongs to ‘wise,’ as designating the sphere where this wisdom prevails; q. d. ‘wise in this world’ (comp. 1Co_3:19). [Alf. following Meyer says: “it belongs not simply to ‘wise,’ but to the whole clause going before; to the whole assumption of wisdom made by the man, which as made in this present world, must be false; “for,” adds Meyer, “those very persons who thought to become eminent among Christians through their wisdom in this premessianic period, when the knowledge of Divine things is yet in its infancy, and exceedingly limited, were not really wise, but were ensnared by their own self-decit.” Such a limitation, however, of the meaning of the word áἰùí , age, here is very questionable. It is plain from the following verse, that “this age” is to be interpreted not temporally, but qualitatively, as synonymous with “this world” ( êüóìïò )]. Ἐíὑìῖí , among you, designates the sphere in which the person supposed hopes to shine by his wisdom.

1Co_3:19-20. Sustain the previous exhortation, and shows that in becoming a fool a person but coincides with God’s judgment—For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God—As such, therefore, it deserves to be cast aside. “Wisdom of this world” ( êüóìïò ), comp. 1Co_1:21; 1Co_2:6. “It is a wisdom ruled by the spirit of this world that oversteps its proper bounds, seeks to satisfy itself about divine and human things, is tainted with error, and therefore stands in direct opposition alike to the highest reason, and to God, and to great objects for which the world and man were created ( ìùñßá ).” Osiander. [ ðáñὰ ôῷ èåῷ ðáñÜ is used with the Dative “to express standing before a person as a judge, and submitting to his decision or sentence.” Hence the expression ‘before God’ carries a deeper meaning than simply ‘in his sight.’ God has passed upon it and condemned it.]—The proof of this.—For it is written, “He taking the wise in their own craftiness.”—This passage is cited from Job_5:13, and is a part of the speech of Eliphas. It accords with the original text, and agrees in sense with the Septuagint. [The phraseology of the latter, however, is changed for stronger terms, äñáóóüìåíïò , catching for êáôáëáìâÜíùí , taking and ðáíïõñãßᾳ , craftiness for öñïíÞóåé , prudence]. The sentence is incomplete, since Paul quotes only the words suited to his purpose, omitting those on which these grammatically depend. Hence they need no supplement. Human wisdom, art, cunning are here stated to be incapable of standing before the wisdom of God, since God catches those who rely on these aids, in their own craftiness, and the very excellencies on which they pride themselves, are turned into a snare through which they are entrapped. By thus causing them to be destroyed by their own devices, God shows them up to be nothing less than the veriest fools. This citation, the only one in the New Testament, taken from the book of Job, like much which Eliphas spoke, belongs to that wisdom which uttereth her voice in the streets, and is marked as here with the stamp of Divine truth.—And again.—‘The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise that they are vain.’—This second passage, taken from Psa_94:11, was originally directed against those proud contemners of God, who acted as if there were no God above, observing and noting down all their unrighteous deeds. In accordance with the object he has in view, Paul here employs the word “the wise,” instead of “men,” as it stands both in the original Heb. and in the Sept. But this is no arbitrary alteration, since the whole Psalm treats of those vain sophists, who pride themselves on their perverse and groundless notions respecting God. Äéáëïãéóìïß in Hellenic speech, was used to denote all those capricious reasonings and reflections which either opposed Divine truth or tended to render it doubtful, comp. Rom_1:21; Eph_4:17. ÌÜôáéïé , groundless, void of truth, therefore, counter to wisdom, and belonging to folly. Whether this word in the original belongs to the wise themselves, or to their reasonings, is questionable. The essential meaning is the same in either case. [“It appears from these two verses thus placed in juxtaposition, that St. Paul followed the LXX., but uses his own discretion in doing so, and sometimes substitutes for it a translation approaching more nearly the original.” Words.].

1Co_3:21-23. From all this a warning is derived.—So then ὥóôå .—[“This word is used by St. Paul to introduce the summing up and conclusion of his argument here and elsewhere in this Epistle, 1Co_3:7; 1Co_4:5; 1Co 8:33; 1Co_11:33; 1Co_14:39; 1Co_15:58.”—Words.] It serves even in classical writers to introduce an imperative clause when this follows upon another which contains the reason why such command is given. (Comp. Passow, ii. 2.) [Also Winer, N. T., Gr. Pt. 1Co_3:5, note 1; also Jelf. Gr. Gram. , § 867, 1].—Let no one glory in men.—That is, so far as they set up for themselves, and rely on their natural powers—not as possessed of spiritual gifts and because of such. In the latter case the boasting would be in the Lord. The caution is addressed to those who are inclined to make much of men in consequence of their education or supposed wisdom, cleaving to them in partisan attachment, and disparaging other servants of Christ in comparison, to the overlooking of the unity of the Church. Such persons are guilty of putting the highest value on what is merely a natural advantage. And all such should be avoided by reflecting, that the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For this there was an additional reason:—For all things are yours.—Here he exhibits to us the dignity of Christians, [in contrast with the World and its folly], as persons who, by virtue of their union with Christ and, through Him, with God, are precluded from dependence on men, and have a direct claim on every thing Which belongs to God and Christ, so that all things serve their advantage and promote their exalted destiny (Rom_8:28)—even as all things are compelled to serve Christ (Mat_21:3; Mat_27:60; Mat_11:27). As Neander well says: “The sovereignty over the world was indeed conferred on man in his original estate. But this, being lost through sin, was restored again by redemption. The spirit which is bestowed on Christians, carries in itself a principle which every thing must eventually obey, and which will subjugate the world ever more and more, until at last the promise, that ‘the meek shall inherit the earth,’ is fulfilled, and the world has become the theatre of the Divine kingdom.” From the drift of the passage we may see the utter groundlessness of Billroth’s view, who supposes the warning here to be addressed to teachers, cautioning them against boasting on account of their partisans. In such a case, we should be obliged to interpret ‘yours’ of the teachers, which would be impossible. It is to the Church in general that Paul is here speaking. Instead of glorying with a one-sided partiality, in the fact that, this or that person belonged to them as their master, he would have them maintain a blessed consciousness of the privilege, that all things and persons belonged to them alike.

What in particular these things were, he goes on to specify, beginning with the teachers whom they had made the occasion of their strifes.—Whether Paul, or Apollos or Cephas.—(Comp. 2Co_4:5.) Each one of these they were all to turn to their own advantage, instead of adhering to any one exclusively. Here he could not add, “or Christ,” for this would be to reduce Christ to the same footing with his servants. The Christ-party do not come into view here, and could hot, “since their relation to the Apostles was only a negative one “(comp. on 1Co_1:12).—or the world.—“This leap from Peter to the whole world gives a sudden breadth to the discourse, as if he were borne on with a sort of impatience to set forth his theme in its fullest scope.”—Bengel. Comp. Rom_8:38. There is here neither a climax, as if he were proceeding upward from the lowest point, nor an argument from the less to the greater, [as Calvin, when he says: “If Christ has subjected to you also the world and life and death, how much more men, so that they should serve rather than rule you?”] Nor is the term ‘world’ to be understood as denoting: ‘the university of the learned;’ nor yet: ‘the knowledge of all natural things’ wherein the learned boast; nor: ‘unbelieving teachers as contrasted with the aforementioned believing ones;’ nor: ‘all the rest of mankind.’ But the word is to be taken in its most comprehensive sense; Christians, who are the destined “heirs of the world” (Rom. 4:38), have even now a claim upon the world. It belongs to them. It must serve them. Yet in order not to make the term synonymous with the expression: “all things” (1Co_3:21) we shall have to limit it (with Osiander) to mean the visible world, with a special reference to mankind dwelling in it. [“The present order of things,” says Hodge, “is maintained and directed to the promotion of the great work of redemption.” And Barnes well expands the thought, ‘the world is yours,’ under four particulars: (1) The world was made by the common Father, and all His children have an interest in it as His work. (2) The frame of the universe is sustained and upheld for their sake. (3) The course of providential events is ordered for their welfare. (4) They have the promise of as much of this world as is needful for them (Mat_6:33; Mar_10:29-30; 1Ti_4:8)]. With this view the following members of the sentence best accord.—There we have indicated the most momentous states and changes belonging to this visible sphere.—or life, or death.—The former expresses the fullest exercise of all our vital energies in all its varied influence and bearings; the latter denotes the entire suppression of this activity. And both these must promote the advantage of believers and help onward their salvation. [“They are dispensed and administered so as best to fulfil the designs of God in reference to the Church. The greatest men of the world, kings, statesmen and heroes, ministers, individual believers and unbelievers, live and die just as best subserves the interest of Christ’s kingdom.”—Hodge. “ ‘Life is yours’: (1) Because believers enjoy it. It is a real life, not vain show. (2) Because its various events tend to promote their welfare and work together for their good.” “ ‘Death is yours’: (1) Because believers have peace and support in their dying hour. (2) Because it is the avenue which leads to their rest. (3) Because they should triumph over it, in that it will be swallowed up in the glory of a higher life, releasing us from what is mortal to put on immortality.”—Barnes.]—Or things present or things to come.—These terms alike refer to the present life, and include all its vicissitudes from the passing moment onward, whether joyful or sorrowful.—All are yours.—A summing up and emphatic reassertion of what he opened with. And from this he passes on to state the ground on which Christians possess such wealth; But ye are Christ’s.—[“Here the category changes; Christ is not yours in the sense in which ‘all things’ are—not made for and subserving you—but ( äÝ ) you are His.”—Alford]. It is this fact which gives to believers their royal power over all creaturely existences. By partaking in Christ’s redemption, they once more attain unto a dignity which originally belonged to man (Gen_1:26; Psa_8:6) and which is promised God’s people (Exo_19:6). And this is a dignity far transcending all that ever was surmised by Pagans or is expressed in their most famous sayings—such as: ‘the wise alone are kings—are rich—are free, “The analogousness of such language to that of the New Testament indicates the remaining traces of the nobility of human nature; but without Gospel redemption the dignity of man thus set forth would be wholly unrealized. Antiquity planted itself upon self-exaltation, Christianity on self-humiliation.”—Neander. (Comp. 1Co_2:15; 1Jn_5:1; Rev_3:21; 1Pe_2:9). By belonging to Christ, the Church and all its true members become partakers of his glory as the One to whom all things have been given by the Father. In their fellowship with Him—a fellowship involving entire dependence on their park—they are made independent of all else, and all else stands at their service. By the fact expressed in: “ye are Christ’s,” all partizanship is cut off, all generic differences are dissolved, and a proper relation to all teachers established. Meyer says finely that the active relation of possession mentioned in 1Co_3:22 (‘all things are yours’) and the passive relation of being possessed here brought out (‘ye are Christ’s’) are both alike opposed to the disorders arising from subservience to human authorities. We may, perhaps, detect here a slight intimation intended for the Christ party, that in their partisan appeal to Christ there was an ignoring of that connection which all alike sustained to Him, and a disparaging levelling of their Lord to an equality with human leaders.—But Christ is God’s.—[“And even being Christ’s does not reach the highest possession: He possesses you not for Himself, but ( äÝ , again) the head of Christ is God,” (1Co_11:3).—Alford.] Thus it is shown that by belonging to Christ we indirectly belong to God, and are planted upon an immovable basis of independence and power (comp. Joh_10:28-30). And so, on the one hand, we see our union to God to be mediated by Christ, and, on the other, that Christ is subordinated to the Father, as shown in 1Co_11:3. To consider this subordination however as belonging solely to His human nature, would not accord with a correct view of the whole subject. It is the whole Christ that is here spoken of, and that too not simply as in His state of humiliation, but also in His state of glory (comp. 1Co_15:28; Php_2:9). In His essential equality with God, He is at the same time subordinated to God (comp. Joh_5:23-26; Joh_14:28; Joh_17:8). [“There is,” says Alford, “a striking similarity in the argument in this last verse to that in our Lord’s prohibition, Mat_23:8-10, ‘But be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your Master, even Christ; and call no man your father upon earth, for one is your Father, who is in heaven.’ ”]. “This last clause gives to the whole course of thought a most exalted close, and to the argument presented its strongest and noblest foundation, and rounds off the whole paragraph by a most fitting allusion to the idea of the one holy temple of God with which it opened (1Co_3:16, comp. 1Co_3:9), in order to show Christians that by virtue of their union to God through Christ they are really taught of God.”—Osiander.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The sacredness and inviolability of the Church. It is God’s temple. If so, then it is the place of His gracious presence—His sanctuary, to be treated with tender reverence and awe. To introduce strange fire (Lev_10:1-2) into it is a sacrilege which incurs the heaviest judgment, even an exclusion from the communion of saints. Of this crime they are guilty who bring into the Church some other authority than that of God’s word, and pin their faith to something else than that which God has given, and prize another wisdom beside that which is in Christ. By such conduct the Church is desecrated, and robbed of its true character as the temple of God. In fact it is as such destroyed. And this occurs whenever party spirit prevails. In such a case man’s word and wisdom usurp the place of God’s word and wisdom. Then adhesion to some particular human leader is made a test of Christianity and a condition of brotherhood. Then Christ, “who of God is made unto us wisdom,” etc., (1Co_1:30), is crowded out of His supremacy. In place of this one holy image of God, the only proper pattern for believers, there comes in the idol of some human personality to be copied as the true standard of character, and this not for the sake of any resemblance it may bear to Christ, but for the sake of some natural peculiarities it may happen to possess. Instead of the flame of a holy love kindled by the Spirit and warming toward all, there burns the Are of human partialities, which begets alienation and hostility towards all who do not cherish like preferences; and when such are the results of party spirit, it must be seen that he who engenders or furthers this spirit mars the work of God, and desecrates His sanctuary. And can such a person hope to escape condign punishment from Him who is thus insulted in His own temple?

2. The Christian’s regal glory in its nature and grounds. “All things are yours and ye are Christ’s, and Christ’s is God’s.” Since God is love itself, He keeps nothing for Himself, but imparts to others all—yea, His very Being in the fulness of its perfections and blessedness. This He does in an original and eternal way within the sphere of the Godhead, to his only-begotten Son, who, by virtue of this communication, is, has, and can do every thing the same as the Father. He does it also in an indirect manner towards all creatures made in His image, according to their measure. Hence the appointment of man to lordship in his own province. [This lordship he indeed lost by reason of sin, and became the slave of the circumstances which he ought to have ruled. But in the work of redemption it has been restored to him through the interposition of this Son, who became the second Adam, and, in His assumed humanity, reestablished this supremacy for all who should believe on Him. “Fear not,” He says to His own, “for I have overcome the world.” Hence it is] in Christ that we see this appointment to Lordship actually fulfilled; and how it was fulfilled may be seen, both during His life of humiliation, when He controlled all things by the word of His power, and in His exaltation to universal power and authority at the right hand of God. In this power believers are now invited to share by union with Him. Through Him the whole creation stands subject to their disposal. Every thing He has is made to subserve the purposes of His love in them and promote their sanctification and glory.

But since now, for a period, their life is, to a certain degree, hid with Christ in God, so also is their power. Nevertheless this power is to be experienced even here in striking ways, and ever more and more through the prevalence of their prayers. And the terms on which they receive it show the ground on which it rests, viz.: the fellowship had with Christ, and through Him with God. Prevailing prayers are such as are offered in the name of Christ or according to the will of God (Joh_14:13 f.;Joh_17:23; 1Jn_2:14), or as are presented in faith (Mat_17:20). In them there is an identifying of ourselves with God through Christ, so that all private preferences are given up, and we keep ourselves in exclusive dependence on Him. Besides, as in Christ Himself there was manifested this same demeanor towards the Father; as He, the Divinely equal Son, kept Himself in perfect dependence on God, and determined to be nothing else but the revealer and executor of the Father’s will; as He, the first man, was obliged to qualify Himself for the exercise of Divine power in the way of obedience,—just so it is with believers. Their voluntary and complete dependence on Christ and through Him on God is the condition and source of their all embracing power. The fact that they belong to Him is the ground that all things belong to them.

[3. All sound title and right to use the creatures of God, together with the ability to use them to advantage, are conditioned on faith in Christ. He, having by His obedience recovered for man his lost sovereignty, makes those who believe on Him joint heirs with Him to this inheritance. And He also imparts to them that purity by which all things are pure to them. Hence to them every creature of God is good, when received with thanksgiving and sanctified with the word of God and prayer. And in the ordering of His providence all things are made to work together for their good. Not so is it with the wicked. A kind of natural right to possession and use they may indeed have in the present condition of things; but—it is under God’s toleration and only for a time. If they continue unbelieving to the last, they are finally despoiled of all. While even in this life the good they seem to have is no real good, and “nothing is pure, since even their very mind and conscience is defiled.” This is what Origen seems to teach. “All things belong to the saint. The whole world is the possession of faith. But the unbeliever has no claim to even an obolus; for the goods which he has he holds as a robber, since he knows neither how to use them nor yet the God that made them.” (Taken in substance from Wordsworth)].

4. [Christ is God’s. On the subordination of Christ to the Father, see on 1Co_8:6 and 1Co_11:3].

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Starke:—To be “the temple of God,” inhabited by the Holy Spirit, is the highest dignity of Christians. It ennobles the humblest to a greatness that far surpasses all secular honor and glory. The Spirit dwells in us: 1, through faith in Christ; 2, through peace with God; 3, through hope; 4, through love; 5, through special gifts and powers; 6, through comfort, cheer, patience, joy in the cross; 7, through true life in the soul, continuing even when it passes out of the body; which itself also partakes of this life, whether it be in this or in the future state, (Selnecker) 1Co_3:16.—How fearful the woe which awaits those who mislead and destroy souls, either by false doctrines or by an ungodly life (1Co_3:17).—“Let him become a fool.” What a paradox! A fool first—then wise! The world seeks to be wise and then becomes foolish. But what is this “becoming a fool?” Not the losing of our understanding and will, [but the confession of ignorance, the avowal of our knowing nothing, that we may be willing to be taught, so as truly to know every thing] (1Co_3:18).—God sometimes lets “the wise” run their course, accumulate their knowledge, construct their cunning systems, so as at last to be caught as in a snare by their own devices, and be the more thoroughly convinced of their folly. [Few are so profoundly sensible of the incompetency of the human intellect and the meagreness of human attainments as those who have most profoundly and honestly explored and discussed the great problems of nature, humanity and God] (1Co_3:19). The Church is not for the teachers, that it should be subject to them and called by their names; but they are for it, to serve its welfare and build it up. Hence no man or set of men has power over Christians to prescribe laws for them and bind their consciences. Let no one therefore choose a mere man for his guiding star unconditionally, or follow his lead blindly; much less should any one count himself blessed in having adopted this one rather than that as the controller of his life and conscience. Nor yet let him provoke dissensions and divide the Church by asserting his partialities to an undue extent (1Co_3:21).—“All things are yours”—[all true Christian teachers of every name, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or Calvin, or Wesley, or Leighton, or Fuller. Every faithful minister profits the whole Church; and every member of the Church may and ought to derive benefit from the teachings of all. It is thus the mind is expanded beyond party limits into a true Catholicity]. And “this world,”—sun, air, water, fire, earth, all stand at your service, and ye can use them and praise the Creator for them. Your natural “life,” too, preserved by this world’s goods, [is, while preserved, for your advantage, even though it may be passed amid pains, and privations, and disabilities, that seem worse thin death]. Finally, “death” is yours, as it opens an entrance into eternal blessedness and glory (1Co_3:22).—‘Ye are Christ’s.’ He has bought you with His blood, and is your proper Lord and Master. He is the Head—you, the members. Hence cleave to Him only. Be called after him only. “Christ is God’s,” as the appointed Mediator and Ambassador of God to men. Likewise, as Head of the Church, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, and acted ever in the Father’s service and to His glory (1Co_3:23).

Heubner:—The indwelling of the Spirit is opposed to all party strife. Hence in moments of holy inspiration, [in times of religious awakening], sectarianism melts, [and the hearts of believers of every name flow together], 1Co_3:16.—The conceit of our own unimpeachable wisdom is self-deceit or self-betrayal (1Co_3:18).—The wisdom which would know nothing of God and would discard a Saviour, will be finally exposed by God in all its nakedness, and all its aims baffled and punished (1Co_3:19).—To be proud of our own denomination or of our own leaders is nothing but a concealed self-love, which seeks to shine in the glory of another. And this is derogatory to the Christian name, for the believer is servant to no man (1Co_3:21).—Since all things are ours through Christ, all things should conduct the Christian to Christ. [Failing in this, their use and enjoyment become so far prejudicial and unlawful. They are then not properly “ours”]. (1Co_3:22).—“Ye are Christ’s,” then ye should serve Him, even as He, the image of God, served God in all things and conducted all to God (1Co_3:23.)

W. F. Besser:

1Co_3:18. “Be not deceived.” Self-deception is an injurious thing; it renders much labor useless, and despoils us of our reward. But worst of all is that self-betrayal which hardens the heart against brotherly admonition.—“Let him become a fool.” Such is the power and wonder working of God’s word, that it moves me to become an enemy to myself; and to empty myself of all that which best pleases my flesh; and to become a fool in this world, to give up the reputation of being a sagacious man, who moves on with the party of progress, and stands upon the apex of the civilization of the time; and so to pass into obscurity and contempt.—(1Co_3:19). God weaves a snare for the wise out of their own craftiness, wherein he catches them while they think to slip from Him by their arts: e. g., explaining away His miracles through their rationalism.—(1Co_3:21). The building here does not belong to the builders but the builders to the building.

1Co_3:22 as compared with 1Co_1:12. Christ does not stand in the second rank with His servants. He is the Lord of Glory. The declaration “all is yours” promises the world to Christians preëminently in this sense, that all secular art and service help to furnish mortar for building the temple of God. Christians are called not to curse the world, but to overcome and rule it for God. The world is nothing but a scaffolding that will be broken up when it has served its end in assisting to construct God’s house. But this house, which is destined to be eternal, are we.—All this world’s wisdom is folly with God, if it insists in playing the mistress in His house; but if it act the part of handmaid, it is in its place.—(1Co_3:23). Though Christ may employ His servants for bringing all those who have been purchased by His blood to become His by faith; still the saints thus called hang upon Christ, independently of any man, just as needles are drawn and held by the power of the magnet, even though some other needle, which had been first attracted, should sustain them by virtue of the magnetic power streaming through it.

[Barnes: 1Co_3:20. “Words of the wise, vain.” This admonition especially applicable to ministers. They are in peculiar danger on this subject, and it has been by their yielding themselves so much to the power of speculative philosophy that parties have been formed in the Church, and that the Gospel has been so much corrupted].

[J. Barrow: 1Co_3:16. The Divinity of the Holy Ghost. I. His nature and original—the Spirit of God. II. His personality—He dwelleth in us. III. His Divinity—Christians are called the temple of God because He dwelleth in them. IV. His sanctifying virtue—in that he constitutes us temples by His presence in us. Application. 1. We are obliged to render all adoration to the majesty of the Divine Spirit. 2. The consideration of His presence and work should awaken devoutest gratitude. 3. We should desire and pray for God’s Spirit. 4. We should demean ourselves worthily toward the Spirit. 5. The doctrine full of comfort and encouragement.—J. Howe:

1Co_3:16. The Christian a living temple, I. built, and II. inhabited, by the Holy Ghost.—See this whole subject largely discussed in Howe’s works, pp. 77–113.—R. South:

1Co_3:19. Worldly wisdom. I. Principles: a. Dissimulation in concealment or false pretences; b. Self-interest as opposed to conscience or religion; c. Self, the chief end; d. All its beneficence and gratitude are practiced with an eye to advantage. II. The folly and absurdity of these principles: a. The end pitched upon not suited to man’s condition, either as to duration or rational nature; b. The means pitched upon are unsuited to his end, inasmuch as they are insufficient and often contrary to it].

Footnotes:

1Co_3:16.—[“God’s” should stand first as in the Gr. to mark the emphasis].

1Co_3:17.— Ôïῦôïí . Lach., Tisch., and others read áí ̓ ôüí according to many and in part weighty authorities [A. D. F. Syr.]. Meyer: ôïῦôïí , because after åἴ ôéò in the protasis áὐôüí is most usually employed, and it was corrected to this as more usual.” [So Alf., Words., and others following B. C. L. Cod. Sin.].

1Co_3:18.—[The proper order is, “If any one thinketh to be wise among you in this world.” See exegesis].

1Co_3:17.— ἐóôéí is to be omitted according to preponderant authorities [A. B. C. D. F. Cod. Sin.].

Hodge prefers the rendering of the E. V. which follows that of all the previous English versions, as well as the Syriac, Vulgate and Lather’s. And this rendering is sustained by Jelf. Gr. Gram. § 816. 7, § 821. 3. The plural in ïἵôéíåò is to be explained on the principle of attraction.]