Category Archives: 1 CORINTHIANS 3

1 CORINTHIANS 3

NOTES ON 1 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 3

Survey of 1 Corinthians chapters 1-3:

Chapter 1
God’s wisdom in history, at Calvary, and in the testimony of the Corinthians.
Chapter 2 God’s wisdom in the ministry of the Paul in principle.
Chapter 3 God’s wisdom in the ministry of Paul in practice.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER

Verses 1-4 Growth in the truth of God. The responsibility of believers.
The need for maturity.
Verses 5-9 Growth in the tilled field. The responsibility of evangelists and pastors.
The need for productivity.
Verses 10-17 Growth of the temple. The responsibility of teachers.
The need for dignity and beauty.
Verses 18-20 Warning to teachers.  
Verses 21-23 Warning to those taught.  

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 1 TO 4

3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

3:4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

Verses 1-4     Growth in the truth of God; the responsibility of believers.

The need for maturity.

In verse 1 the carnality of the Corinthians hinders Paul.

In verse 2 the carnality of the Corinthians hinders progress.

In verses 3-4 the carnality of the Corinthians helps make parties.

3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

And I, brethren- this is the same as the beginning of chapter 2, but here from the standpoint of the reaction of the Corinthians to his ministry, whereas in chapter 2 it was the responsibility of Paul in his ministry. In chapter 2 God was enabling Paul; here the Corinthians are disabling him. In chapter 2 the “I” is one who has turned from worldly wisdom; in this chapter, the “I” is the one who has wisdom from God. Could not speak unto you as unto spiritual- the condition of heart of those spoken to can have a profound effect on the ministry that is given, and the one who gives it. The end of chapter 2 has spoken of the natural man, the unbeliever, (even though cultured), in contrast to the spiritual man, the believer in his ideal state. A spiritual person is one who walks, (conducts his life), in harmony with the indwelling Spirit of God. He will love the wisdom of God and seek to live his life in accord with it.    But as unto carnal- we are not always, if ever, in an ideal state, and this means carnality, conformity to the flesh that dwells within. The cure for carnality is the doctrine of the epistle to the Romans, especially chapters 6 and 8.  Even as unto babes in Christ-their carnality had led to immaturity. Normally, babes in Christ are those who are newly-saved, and who have therefore not advanced very far in the truth of God. This does not mean they are carnal, for they may be spiritual, even though on the Christian pathway but a short while. The Corinthians, however, were babes even though believers for several years in some cases, (the epistle is being written about five years after Paul went to evangelise Corinth). They had not progressed as they should. So not all babes are carnal, but all carnal believers are immature, no matter how long they have been saved, for growth in spiritual things is not guaranteed by the passing of the years. The apostle is content to call these people his brethren, and to describe them as “in Christ”, even though they were carnal. He had not written them off as if they had passed the point of no return. Those who are in Christ are safe for eternity, but they have a responsibility to respond to God in a spiritual way.

3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat- being immature, they were not able to take in the deeper truths that he would have liked to have imparted to them. Sadly, the Corinthians seemed not to worry about this, but they should have been very concerned, for their immaturity reflected badly upon their Saviour. This is not the same figure of speech as Peter uses in 1 Peter 2. There, he exhorts the believers, however spiritual, to desire the sincere milk of the word as babies desire milk from their mothers. The Jewish rabbis called their pupils “sucklings”.   For hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able- they had not made any progress when the apostle was with them after they were saved, nor had they made any when he was away from them. If we ask how he knows they are immature, then the next verse will tell us.

3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

For ye are yet carnal- they were carnal before; they were carnal still, for they had made no progress in the things of God. It is said of Samuel that his mother brought him a new coat every year, 1 Samuel 2:19, the reason being, of course, that he had outgrown the old one. The Corinthians were still in baby clothes.    For whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions- what started out as envious glances towards other believers developed into strife with them, and that led to divisions within the assembly. They were still meeting together physically, but they were not together spiritually, but were in conflict with one another. This is a sure sign of carnality.     Are ye not carnal, and walk as men? Not only were they carnal in their attitude to one another, but they were imitating the attitudes of the men of the world. In particular, those who gathered round their favourite philosopher and made him into a party leader. To walk as men is not a sign of spiritual maturity, but of carnality.

3:4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? In order not to make it look as if he was criticising Peter in some way, the apostle uses only himself and Apollos as he condemns the party-spirit of the Corinthians. He is just as much against those who wish to make him a leader, as he is against those who want to elevate Peter; he is in no way acting out of envy, unlike the Corinthians.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 5 TO 9

3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

3:7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

Verses 5-9 Growth in the tilled field; the responsibility of evangelists and pastors.

The need for productivity.

3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos- does the foregoing mean that Paul and Apollos may be discounted, and their ministry not valued? By no means, as the apostle goes on to show.  But ministers by whom ye believed- they had been used in the gospel, and the Corinthians had believed through their ministry; but that did not mean they were anything more than ministers, or servants. For practical reasons it is best if preachers are on a platform, so that their voice may carry better, but that does not make them higher spiritually. The One they serve became a servant, and was content to minister, and did not demand to be ministered unto. We should value those who devote their energies to serving the Lord in a public way, (always remembering that this is but a small part of the work of the Lord), but they should not be idolised and made leaders of a party.  Even as the Lord gave to every man? A realisation that a man is only a minister by Christ’s grace and enabling, that he has nothing of himself to contribute, will safe-guard us from making too much of those who preach. It was also prevent them from making too much of themselves.

3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

I have planted- the apostle deliberately uses the humble illustration of the farmer, so that all the credit may be given to God. As an evangelist as well as an apostle, Paul went to Corinth and saw many souls saved. They were plants that, in fact, his heavenly Father had planted, Matthew 15:13, but he is credited with this, under God.   Apollos watered- as we learn from Acts 18:24,28, Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures, and could nurture and encourage those who were newly-saved. Of course Paul was able to do this too, but he is emphasising their combined and united efforts in the gospel. Whether we consider the water as being the Word of God, or the Spirit of God’s influence in the believer’s hearts, the end result was pleasing to God.   But God gave the increase- the sense is that all the time Paul and Apollos were planting and watering, God was simultaneously giving the increase. This is vital in the natural world, and it is God who ensures it; it is vital in the spiritual world too. We may safely leave our God to give the increase in terms of productive growth, to His own glory.

3:7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase- just as in the natural world the farmer is totally dependant on God to provide the means whereby growth can take place, so it is in the spiritual world. The farmer is nothing in this regard; God is everything. In Eden the Lord God planted, and made to grow, Genesis 2:8,9.

3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one- they have one aim in their activity, even though they have separate tasks to do. They do not set themselves up in opposition to one another, for that would defeat their object of producing a harvest.   And every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour- even though they are one in aim, they are not one in reward, for it is “his own” reward that will be given. The Lord of the harvest will assess each worker’s effort individually. It was not for the Corinthians to prejudge the result of this assessment by the Lord, and decide that, say, Paul was deserving of honour, for they were not in a position to do this. Paul will return to this subject in the next chapter.  The word for “labour” here has to do with the energy that is put in to the work; in verse 13 the emphasis will be on the results produced by the work.

3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

For we are labourers together with God- Paul and Apollos saw themselves as labourers together; they might be doing different tasks, but they were working in the same field, and for the same Owner, God Himself. It was not that they were equals to God as He, and they, all worked, but that they worked together doing God’s work. They were sympathetic to, and co-operating in, His work.   Ye are God’s husbandry- the cultivated field they worked in was the local assembly at Corinth. But even though they were the workers, it was God’s field; He took overall responsibility, and to Him was all the glory when something spiritually worthwhile was produced.  Ye are God’s building- at this point the illustration changes from a tilled field to a temple, for that will involve the participation of the Corinthians themselves, as we now see. In God’s field the final responsibility is God’s, whereas what the temple looks like at the finish is up to the Corinthians, and they will be judged accordingly. We should note that the word for temple used here is the one that refers to the inner temple, excluding the outer courts. These latter were for men, whereas the inner shrine was for God. It is a solemn thing to remember that the state of an assembly is dependant on the attitudes and activities of those comprising it.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 10 TO 17

3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

3:14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Verses 10-17 Growth of the temple; the responsibility of teachers.

The need for dignity and beauty.

3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

According to the grace of God which is given unto me- Paul was not only conscious of the grace or free-favour of God towards him in salvation initially, and salvation constantly; he was also conscious of the need for Divine enabling in the matter of serving God. An example of this is seen in Ephesians3:7,8, where he says, “…I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power. Unto me, who am the least of all saints is this grace given…” As soon as we seek to work in our own strength, or for our own ends, we cease to do God’s work.  As a wise master-builder- the word is “archi-teknon”, or chief technician. Nowadays, architects only venture forth from their office to ensure the plans are being followed on the building site. In Paul’s case, he was aware of the plans, but was also on the building site labouring. He was a wise architect, for he was guided by the wisdom that God had entrusted to him. Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, (just as Paul was learned in the wisdom of the Greeks and the Jews), but he did not employ the wisdom of Egypt in the making of the tabernacle. Bezaleel and Aholiab were anointed with the Spirit of God to carry out that work, and they did it in accordance with the pattern that Moses had been given in mount Sinai- he did not draw up the plans, nor did he modify God’s plans.   I have laid the foundation- the doctrinal foundation of the assembly at Corinth was laid by the apostle as he preached and taught Jesus Christ. Just as Christ Himself builds the church on the bedrock of who He is, and living stones are built up on Him personally, so the local assembly is built up of living stones; but the point here is the adornment of those stones, as we shall see.   And another buildeth thereon- the apostle moved on, for he was sent “far hence”, and was an apostle of the Gentiles, not remaining long in any spot. He did not settle down in a place, but established the believers in the faith so that they could continue in testimony in his absence. He did stay long enough to make sure the believers were sure of the faith, but not so long as to make them dependant on him. So the building up of the assembly in the faith was left in the hands of the local believers.  But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon- Paul is clearly concerned lest the Corinthians should adopt the wisdom of the world in this building process, as they had in other areas of their lives. He proceeds to give guidance to them so that they may build to the glory of God.

3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid- the Corinthians have not to start from the very beginning; they simply are to finish what the apostle began. There is only one option when it comes to the foundation of a local company of Christians, and that is that it must be built on Christ. No doctrine, however important, should be made the foundation; no person, however godly, should be used as the foundation. God insists, (for it is His church), that it be founded on His Son, and His Son alone. This easily-understood and vital truth would make decisions about where and how Christians should meet together very simple. We have only to ask what is the basis of a company calling itself a church. If the answer includes anything of man’s ideas, then it is to be rejected.   Which is Jesus Christ- the Corinthians are left in no doubt on this matter. Some of them were making much of Paul; some much of Apollos; some much of Peter. Some were even making out they were super-spiritual and were the Christ-party, implying the others were not. All this is overthrown by the simple truth that the foundation is Jesus Christ, and all subsequent activity must be suited to Him. Making leaders out of men, even apostles, was badly wrong.

3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

The apostle uses the expression “if any man” or “if any man’s” five times in the next few verses:

Verse 12 If any man build… The choice of materials to use.
Verse 14 If any man’s work abide… The continuance of materials used.
Verse 15 If any man’s work be burned… The consuming of materials used.
Verse 17 If any man defile the temple… The contamination of other’s materials.
Verse 18  If any man seemeth to be wise… The consideration of what materials to use.

Now if any man build upon this foundation- so the subsequent building on the foundation at Corinth is entrusted to the believers themselves. More particularly, to the teachers amongst them. If any one of them seeks to do some building, he should be aware that there are two different sorts of building material available. We must remember that this building is a temple, as verse 16 will tell us. This helps us to understand the illustration the apostle is using here, for Solomon built a magnificent temple of massive hewn stone, and then adorned that structure. Now it is true that he used wood to clad the stone walls and floor, but that had a disadvantage, in that fire could destroy the walls, as it fact it did when Nebuchadnezzar came to take the people captive. “He burnt the house of God” is the sad story in 2 Chronicles36:19. Having built the main structure, Solomon then plastered the walls with silver, and then with gold, on the inside, and garnished the house with precious stones on the outside. We read of this in 1 Kings 6:21, (gold); 1 Chronicles 29:4, (silver), and 2 Chronicles3:6, (precious stones).   Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble- the apostle does not state which materials should be used, but leaves the Corinthians to use God-given wisdom to decide. They are helped by two things. First, that the foundation is Jesus Christ, so anything built up on Him must be worthy of Him. Second, that there is going to be a fire, verse 13, that shall try or test the work done. Clearly, the materials used must be able to stand the test of the fire or else they will be burned up. This makes the decision as to what materials to use very simple; whatever is signified by gold silver or precious stones, is suitable; the rest is unsuitable.

We may make certain contrasts between these materials, as follows:

Gold, silver, precious stones Wood, hay, stubble
Hidden in the earth by God Visible to man and grown by man.
Difficult to find and bring to light Easy to find and obtain.
Not natural growth Natural growth
Valuable Wood and hay moderately valuable, stubble almost worthless.
Rare Common.
Compact Bulky.
Pass the test of fire Fail the test of fire.

The Corinthians would be familiar with the effects of fire, because a great fire had swept through the city on one occasion. The mansions of the rich were left undamaged, but the wooden, thatched shacks of the poor were burnt to the ground.

Considering each of these materials in turn:

Gold- this would remind us of the Deity of Christ. Believers need to be built up in this truth to the glory of God. In the previous chapter the apostle has referred to Christ as the Lord of Glory, 2:8. As we dwell upon the glories of Christ we shall be spiritually enhanced.

Silver- the redemptive work of Christ. The truth regarding the character of the work of Christ should be constantly set forth in the assembly, so that the principles involved in it mould and fashion the thinking of the believers. Chapter 1 has told us He is made unto us wisdom, 1:20.

Precious stones- these would speak of the moral beauties of Christ as He displayed perfect manhood in this ugly world. The psalmist desired that “the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us”, and we should desire that the features of Christ should mark us. Each precious stone is produced in a different environment. Subjected to the pressures and heat below the earth’s surface, each jewel is testimony to a different experience. Christ was tempted in all points, and as we imitate Him in His resistance to temptation, we shall be formed into His precious likeness.

Wood-this can be beautiful, as Solomon showed when he used cypress and fir to line the walls of the temple. It has one fatal flaw, however, which in the context here renders it unsuitable, and that is its lack of resistance to fire.

Hay-this can be useful in other contexts, for cattle need hay to flourish. Here, however, it is of no use at all. “All flesh is as grass”, 1 Peter 1:24, and that which is of man has no place in the local assembly, for it is withering and fading, whereas the Word of the Lord endures. We gather in the name of the one who is “fairer than the children of men”, Psalm 45:2, so it inappropriate to incorporate the failing schemes of men into that structure.

Stubble-this is virtually valueless. It can look attractive when the sun shines on it, but it is false gold, and is easily destroyed by fire.

Wood, hay, and stubble represent that which the wisdom of the world produces. They are the result of thinking as the world thinks. There are many ways in which the thoughts of the world can be used in the assembly, such as: the sidelining of the Bible in subtle ways; criticism of the Bible by constant reference to “alternative renderings” and “better manuscripts”; the introduction of entertainment of various sorts; the attempt to attract people by using sport; the failure to mention serious matters such as sin and the Lake of Fire, and the need for repentance; the blurring of the distinction between saint and sinner by the unwise use of the personal pronoun “we”; the dilution of the gospel into mere “following Jesus”, or “having Jesus as your friend”; all these things give character to the testimony of the assembly, and, over time, will change the assembly into a man-centred social club. Such a company is built using wood hay and stubble.

The use of gold, silver, precious stones, however, will result in an assembly that is Christ-centred; where the truth of God’s word in its entirety is believed and proclaimed; where true believers function together to God’s glory, and the moral features of Christ are in evidence. It will be a place of dignity and beauty, where the things of God are taken seriously, and where unbelievers will be constrained to say “God is in you of a truth”, 1 Corinthians 14:24,25. Only by building with the wisdom God gives in Christ can this be achieved.

3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

Every man’s work shall be made manifest- whatever men may think of a person’s activity, the supreme test is yet to come, when all activity shall be assessed by the Lord Himself. He presented Himself to the assembly in Thyatira as one who “hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire”, Revelation 2:18. And He shall scrutinise all that believers claim to have done in His name, and test every activity. After the tabernacle had been made, all the parts were assembled together, “And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them”, Exodus39:43. So shall it be at the judgement seat of Christ, for He shall examine everything with His penetrating gaze. It would be a blessed thing to hear His word of approval.

It might be well at this point to notice the different judgements that the Lord Jesus will engage in:

FOUR JUDGEMENT DAYS

1. JUDGEMENT DAY FOR CHRIST AT CALVARY

Several things happened at Calvary in relation to our sins.

One,  He became the propitiation for our sins, giving God the answer His righteousness demanded because of them, 1 John 2:2. This is the basis of everything else.

Two, He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, thus enabling the universe to be completely rid of sin at the end of time, Hebrews 9:26.

Three, He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, 1 Peter 2:24, and thereby took responsibility for them on our behalf.

Four, He gave His life a ransom for many, Mark 10:45, so that those who believe may be freed from the bondage of sin.

Five, He died as an act of righteousness, Romans 5:18, (margin), to enable the entail of the sin of Adam to be removed from those who believe.

Six, He was made sin, so that those who believe may be made the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Seven, He was wounded for our transgression, Isaiah 53:5, so that those transgressions might be forgiven.

Eight, He was crucified, so that our former selves might be cancelled out, Romans 6:6.

2. THE DAY OF JESUS CHRIST: THE BEMA IN HEAVEN: 2 Corinthians 5:10, etc.

We should remember that all judgement has been committed to Christ, and this for two reasons. First, because He is the Son of God, and has been entrusted with the task of acting for His Father in this, as in all other matters, John3:35; 5:22,23. Second, because He is Son of Man, John 5:27, and has been in the world so that men might respond to Him. As Son of Man He is in control of all things on earth, being the Last Adam.

There are two words for judgement-seat in Scripture. There is the word “bema”, which is the equivalent to the seat of an umpire. Then there is the word “thronos”, which is the equivalent to the seat of a law-court judge. The believer will never stand before Christ as judge of sins, because He undertook to deal with our sins for us at Calvary, so that we might not be held accountable for them. So whilst the Bema is Christ’s judgement-seat, it is not a judicial process that will be conducted there, although the works of His people will be assessed for their goodness or badness, and each shall receive for what has been done. From 1 Corinthians 4:5 we learn that the bema will take place immediately after the rapture of the saints. The apostle writes, “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come”.

The following points may be made about the judgement of the Bema.

1. Since we shall have changed bodies the instant Christ comes, we shall stand before the judgement seat in resurrection bodies, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53. We shall therefore agree with the assessment He will give, since all sin, which clouds our judgement now, will be gone from us.

2. He will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness”, 1 Corinthians 4:5, those things that are not suitable for the light of His presence. He will “make manifest the counsels of the hearts”, so He will judge motive as well as deed.

3. He will assess the quality of what we built into the local assembly, so see whether it comes into the character of gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay, stubble.

4. He will assess our lives in relation to one another, to see whether we have been biased, or inconsiderate, Romans 14:10-13.

5. He will do what no law-court judge can do, namely give rewards to those who merit them.

6. The personal session we have with Christ will not be a casual affair, for it is God’s will that all shall bow to His Son as they shall bow to Him, and this believers will do at the bema, Romans 14:11.

7. He will assess how we have used the gift he gave us, and whether we have manifested Him by its use, 1 Corinthians 1:8.

3. JUDGEMENT OF THE LIVING NATIONS ON EARTH: Matthew 25:31-46.

All those who have survived the judgements of the future tribulation period will be judged as to whether they are fit to enter the kingdom of Christ about to be set up on earth. The test will be their attitude to the Jewish remnant, His brethren, during the time of trial that they have experienced. Since “he that doeth righteouness is righteous”, 1 John3:7, (and not the other way round- it is the righteous nature that produces the righteous works, not the righteous works that merit being granted a righteous nature), their dealings with the Jews in that day will be the indicator as to whether they have faith or not. To visit, feed, clothe the Jews of that day will be a dangerous thing to do, and will distinguish those who truly believe from the rest. This judgement is often confused in religious circles with the Great White Throne judgement. This is because in christendom generally there is not a right grasp of future events. As a result, many are led astray into thinking that their entrance into heaven is to be decided by whether they have done good works or not. But this idea is directly contradicted by Ephesians 2:9, which definitely states that salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast”.

4. GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGEMENT IN SPACE: Revelation 20:11-15.

After the 1000 years reign of Christ, at the very end of time, all the unsaved dead shall be raised from the dead in what the Lord Jesus called “the resurrection of damnation”, John 5:29. No believer will be judged on this great day, for their judgement took place at Calvary. All that they were was judged in the person of Christ, and they rejoice in the words of the Saviour Himself when He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life”, John 5:24. Words could not be clearer, that true believers do not come into condemnation. The word used for judgement here means the process by which a sentence is assessed, so not even that process will be undergone by the believer, let alone the passing of a sentence. Such is the full clearance from guilt that the death of Christ has obtained for the believer.

For unbelievers it is otherwise, and every sin shall receive its due recompence in a judgement that shall be for all eternity. God keeps a record of the works of men, and nothing is hidden from Him. He will apportion wrath according to the nature of the sins committed, and that wrath will be eternal. Should you be reading these lines as an unbeliever, then take the wise course, and flee from the wrath to come, seeking refuge in Christ, the only Saviour. Have personal dealings with Him in repentance and faith whilst you have opportunity on earth, lest He have dealings with you as your judge in eternity.

For the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire- the assessment of what a person’s work has been like will take place in the day of the bema, but the revelation of it will be when Christ comes to earth, for “He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe”, 2 Thessalonians 1:10. That which they have been and done for Him will have stood the test of the fire at the Bema, and will also stand the test of the flaming fire with which He shall come to earth, 2 Thessalonians 1:8. The works of men shall not stand that test, but the believer will be unscathed. Moreover, that which they have done for Him in their lives will be to His glory in that day, and will be a cause for admiration. The apostle Peter spoke of the same thing in a different context, when he envisaged the result of the trial of our faith being to the praise, honour and glory of the Lord Jesus when He is revealed to earth, 1 Peter 1:7.   And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is-  Note it is the quality, (what sort it is), not the quantity that is in view. Gold, silver, precious stones are very compact, whereas wood, hay, and stubble are bulky. But it is the fire that shall try, not a measuring line, so it is what endures the scrutiny of the fire of Christ’s eyes that shall remain.

3:14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon- the great aim for us should be to build with materials that will abide, or survive, the fire. The apostle reminds us again that the building should be done on the foundation. Indeed, only materials built there shall receive a reward.  He shall receive a reward- this reward will be in direct connection with the quality of the work done. There will not be a standard reward received by everyone, for it will be reward or hire, meaning payment by results. The apostle does not specify what the reward is to be, but we may be sure that it will glorify Him who gives it, as we may deduce from 1 Peter 1:7.

3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss-  note it is the work that is burned, not the person, although the person does pass through the fire, as the end of the verse will say. The loss he will suffer, (so it is something that will be felt keenly in that day), will be loss of reward, because there was no gold, silver, precious stones; loss of the reward there might have been if time had not been taken up in building with wood, hay, and stubble; loss of satisfaction in having pleased the Lord. These are solemn things, and the loss sustained cannot be reversed, for the time for building is now.  But he himself shall be saved- the person’s salvation is unaffected by this process. After all, only believers will be at the bema anyway, so there is no loss of salvation- that can never happen, in time or eternity. The fire will save this believer from the embarrassment of being eternally associated with materials that are unworthy of Christ. It that sense it will be a great relief, but still the loss of reward will be permanent and regrettable. We should be thankful for prior warning of these things so that we may adjust our activity as necessary. Our God is able to “restore the years the locusts have eaten”, Joel 2:25, and give us opportunity to make up for lost time, if we are exercised in the matter. Yet so as by fire- the “saved” is tempered by the “yet”, for although the salvation is known, nevertheless it is only after the fire has done its purging work, and the offensive material removed. The apostle is pointing out that this is not the ideal scenario, for it would be much better to only have gold, silver and precious stones to carry through the fire.

Needless to say, the notion of an imagined intermediate stage of existence called purgatory, is without foundation in Scripture. Sadly the doctrine has been used to blackmail and coerce men and women down through the years, causing endless heartache, as well as filling the coffers of the Catholic church. The doctrine of purgatory can only be supported by the use of the Apocrypha, (uninspired writings wrongly included in some versions of the Bible), hence the fondness of the Catholic system for those writings.

3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God- the local assembly is a very specific sort of building, for it is a temple. A temple is a building that befits God, whose being is august and majestic. Formerly, as heathens, the Corinthians worshipped in a temple; now they are a temple, fitted for the presence of God. The word for temple is “inner temple”, the very dwelling-place of God, and not the range of buildings encircling the temple. The idea is of sanctity and dignity. How a building like that is possible is told us in the next phrase.  And that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? in 6:19 it is the individual believer’s body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, whereas here it is the local assembly. This cautions us greatly, for we are given the opportunity of building that which is the dwelling-place of a Divine Person, just as really and truly as Solomon built a temple for God to dwell in. How careful we should be in what we contribute to such a building. All materials used must be in harmony with the character of the Spirit in all His holiness. We dare not associate with a Divine person that which is of the world in any way, for it was the world that crucified a Divine person, even God’s Son; materials from such a source are clearly not suitable.

3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy- such is the value of this temple to God that He is jealous for its integrity and purity. The words defile and corrupt have the same root meaning. “If any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy”. To destroy is to deprive of well-being. In this case, it could be to destroy by building with the wrong materials, which in itself is to be avoided, but which will also spoil the efforts of those who have sought to build with the right materials in the past. The destruction of the person mentioned here has nothing to do with loss of salvation. It is the depriving of a reward that might have been had; this means that for all eternity the person concerned is less glorifying to God than he might have been, which is a very serious thing. In faithfulness and fairness to those who have built rightly, this punishment must and will be inflicted.  For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are-again the apostle emphasises the dignity of the local assembly, and the fact that is set apart by His presence from everything else. To be given the task of contributing to such a building is an immense privilege.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 18 TO 20

3:18 Let 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 wise.

3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

3:20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

Verses 18-20 Warning to teachers.

3:18 Let 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 wise.

Let no man deceive himself- we deceive ourselves when we allow our hearts, (which are naturally deceitful, Jeremiah 17:9), to lead us into wrong practice.   If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world- a believer who is wise in this world’s reckoning is only seemingly wise, he is not really wise. His heart has deceived him.  Let him become a fool, that he may be wise- such a person should renounce the thinking of the world, and embrace the wisdom of God. This will mean the world thinks him to be a fool, but he will be wise according to God, which is the only thing that matters.

3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God- not only is the wisdom of God foolishness to the world, but the reverse is the case. God has shown up the world in its foolishness by the ways detailed in chapter 1.  For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness- this is a quotation from Job 5:13. Job is one of the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament, and also one of the oldest. The truth that God would deal with the wise of this world was known in old time, how much more so should it be known now, with Christ having been crucified by the so-called wise of this world. God will surprise the wise of this world in the Judgement Day, when He shows their so-called wisdom to be nothing more than the craftiness that Satan instilled into the mind of Eve in the beginning, and into the minds of the men of the world ever since. They are immersed in this wisdom, and God will find them there at last, much to their astonishment and shame. There is a warning to us here also. We may avoid being surprised by Christ at the bema, when He will expose the way some believers have used the world’s wisdom to build in the assembly. If we take note of the apostle’s warning here, we shall be found to have built using Divine wisdom.

3:20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain- this is a quotation from Psalm 94:11, again from the Wisdom Books. Not only are the thoughts of the wise foolish as far as God is concerned, but also vain; that is, devoid of results. And it is results that God is looking for in connection with the local assembly. Wood, hay, and stubble are vain materials, being the product of minds empty of the wisdom of God. The fact that the thoughts of the wise of this world are known by God should encourage us to recognise the world’s wisdom for what it is, seeing that Christ Jesus has been made the wisdom of God unto us, 1:30.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 21 TO 23

3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your’s;

3:22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s;

3:23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

Verses 21-23 Warning to those taught.

3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your’s;

Therefore let no man glory in men- the apostle here returns to the theme that has concerned him since the beginning of the epistle, that of the exaltation of men, including himself. It was a sign that the Corinthians had been influenced by the philosophy of nearby Rome, with its segregation into parties surrounding a favourite teacher.   For all things are your’s- they have not to choose which particular part of Christian privilege they may have a share in, for all of it is for all the people of God.

3:22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s;

Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas- far from elevating one apostle above another, they should avail themselves of all that each one has to offer by way of truth from Christ.  Or the world- we are free to use the world, but not to abuse it, 1 Corinthians 7:31. We use the world when we build meeting halls, drive to them in our car, read the Bible printed on the presses of unbelievers, take advantage of the freedom that the laws of the land give us. We may use the world in this physical sense, but we dare not embrace its values and twisted thinking.  Or life- God does not take His people to heaven the moment they believe, even though they are fit to go there at that point. We are given opportunity to live for Him; let us see to it that we say with the apostle “For to me to live is Christ”, Philippians 1:21. If we really want to live for Him we shall do what the apostle did, put heart and soul into building for God in the assembly.   Or death- the apostle lived in the expectation that the Lord Jesus could come in his lifetime, so that when he writes about that event in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 he says “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord”. He was a realist, however, and appreciated it might not be that way. In which case he would know the experience of death. When he wrote about the Christian’s death, however, he always used gentle figures of speech. He wrote of being poured out as a drink offering, 2 Timothy 4:6; of being planted like a seed, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44; of going to sleep, (a reference to the body and not the soul), 1 Thessalonians 4:13; and the apostle Peter spoke of his death as the taking down of the tent of his body, in order that he might move on to eternity in his final exodus out of this world, 2 Peter 1:14, 15.  The Lord Jesus said that “he that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die”, John 11:26, for such is the force of eternal life that all lesser powers, even of death, are overwhelmed by it.

We learn therefore that death is transformed by Christ into a means of blessing, not just because it ushers into eternal bliss, but also because it has a cautionary effect upon us. We need to learn that there is, literally, a deadline, and this should motivate us to live for Christ’s interests while we have the opportunity. It is said of Enoch that “beforehis translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God”, Hebrews 11:5.

Or things present- as we meet together regularly we are constantly presented with opportunities to build something into our fellow-believers. Even when we talk together after the meeting we should strive to encourage one another in the things of God. It is sad when the topic of conversation of believers after the meeting is more akin to the conversation of those in the world. The apostle exhorted the Ephesian believers with the words, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Redeeming the time, for the days are evil”, Ephesians 4:15,16. We redeem the time when at the beginning of the day we take the hours of the day down to the marketplace, and sell them to the highest bidder. Our God is always the highest bidder; what folly to sell those hours to the world at a low price!   Or things to come; all are your’s- we know from Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose”. The reason we know this is given in the next verse, where we learn that the sovereign purpose of God will ensure His people are brought safe home to glory. Eternal things are ours, therefore, but what of the everyday things of life that are yet to come? Are they ours also? Indeed they are, for they will present opportunities to use for Christ’s glory. It is good to have goals in life, and not wander aimlessly; the ambition of the apostle was expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:9 when he wrote, “we labour…that we may be accepted of Him”. The words “we labour” could be translated “are ambitious”, and the word “accepted” could be translated “well-pleasing”.

3:23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

And ye are Christ’s- every true believer belongs to Christ by the double right of creation and redemption. He calls us His sheep, John 10:3; His disciples, John 15:8; His friends, John 15:14; His brethren, John 20:17. Perhaps these relationships are summed up in the expression “His own”, John 13:1. Since these things are so, there should be a grateful response in our hearts to His love towards us, and we should strive to glorify Him whilst we have time and opportunity down here upon the earth.   And Christ is God’s- this is the ultimate encouragement, to think that the one who died and rose again for us is acknowledged as being God’s own dear Son! Moreover, He is acknowledged as Christ in a fresh way by His ascension back to heaven. Peter’s words on the Day of Pentecost were, “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”, Acts 2:36. He was Lord and Christ before, but now those titles have gained new meaning now that He is ascended to heaven. All power in heaven and in earth has been givento Him as a Risen Man, so He is Lord in a fresh sense, and He has become Head of the church as Christ, Ephesians 5:23, with all that guarantees.

Strengthened and encouraged by the precious possessions Paul has enumerated, we should be responsive to Divine grace, and active in the promotion of that which is of God in the locality, namely, the local assembly. May the Lord help us in this, to His glory.