Summary: Some of the combative people in Corinth, who had formed factions, seem to have made more of them than was appropriate, placing them on a pedestal as if they were lords of their faith, and authors of their religion.

September 13, 2012

Commentary on First Corinthians

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson 2.7: Apostles and Wisdom

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3.5-3.17

1 Cor 3:5-17 (KJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

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.

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

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

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

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


In verses 1-4, our Lesson 2.6, the Corinthians were criticized for their strife and divisions. This lesson deals with Harvesting and Building.

• Harvesting (5–9). Every child of God has a place in the Lord’s harvest, and all are doing His work (John 4:34–38). There must be no competing or comparing, because the Lord alone acknowledges the work and gives the reward. It makes no difference who the servant is so long as Jesus Christ is Lord of the harvest.

• Building (10–17). Paul writes about the local church and the materials we put into it as we minister (Prov. 2:1–5; 3:13–15). Substituting man’s wisdom for God’s Word means building with perishable materials that will burn up at the judgment seat of Christ.


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,

The apostle used his own name, since there was a faction in the Corinthian Church that adopted his name and claimed he was the superior minister. It is wrong to suppose that either Paul or Apollos encouraged or approved of the factions, and there is not the slightest hint that any rivalry existed between them. Paul always spoke of Apollos with respect and affection.

It was probably due to his large following that Paul felt free to ask the question, “What do you think about me, and other preachers (Apollos)?; are we more than men.” He could have added—“what authority and power do you think we have; do you think we are the founders of a new religion, or of a new sect that will bear our names?” Certainly, such persons even as Paul and Apollos are not worthy of receiving any honor or praise for their work or the success of it. It is important to say here that Paul and Apollos were instruments only, and not, in any sense, the source of divine grace. The Corinthians were not saved because they believed in them, but they were saved because they believed in Christ through what they learned from Paul, Apollos and the other ministers.

but ministers by whom ye believed,

Although Paul was the greatest apostle of the New Testament, he nevertheless refers to himself here with a title which has received various translations; the meaning being, "servant," "minister," or "deacon." Paul would not tolerate factions, not even one that proposed to honor him as a man. He believed they were servants to Christ and to his churches, and not lords; they did not assume any authority over men, or pretend to lord it over God's people; there is but one Lord and master, and that is Christ, whom they served, and taught others to obey. They were only instrumental in the hand of God, by whom souls were directed, encouraged, and brought to believe in Christ; as for faith itself, that is the gift of God, conveyed and put into effect by the Holy Spirit. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith; knowing that, they laid no claim to His power or His work, or imagined they had any control over it; that they could either implant it, or increase it by themselves. It was honor enough that it happened through their ministry.

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