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Third Millennium Study Bible
Notes on 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:1

Do not deceive yourselves - 1 Corinthians 3:18-20

There should be no doubt about the worthlessness of human wisdom and of the danger of substituting it for God's wisdom. Pratt expounds:

The Corinthian believers had fooled themselves into thinking they were doing the right thing by dividing the church and exalting human wisdom to support their contentions with others. In their culture such behavior seemed reasonable. But Paul insisted to the contrary. The wise by the standards of this age should take heed. Instead of pursuing the standards of the world, every believer must become a fool in the worlds estimation by following the wisdom that comes from the Spirit of God. In this way, the Corinthians would actually become wise.

Paul explained that in God's sight the wisdom held so strongly by this world is actually foolishness. To prove this, he quoted Job 5:13 in which Eliphaz said that God was like a hunter, catching Job as he caught the wise in their craftiness. Job was caught in the trap of depending on his own reasoning rather than accepting the wisdom of God (Job 42:3).

Second, Paul paraphrased Psalm 94:11 which mocks those who think they are safe when they rebel against God, but whose thoughts are futile. People who exalt human wisdom in rebellion against God will find that God overcomes and destroys their efforts. Paul was warning the Corinthians that their reliance on pretentious human wisdom would bring them under God's judgment.

No more boasting - 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Paul says to boast no more about the creature, that is, a mere man. Kistemaker says that Paul here writes a summary statement based on the preceding passage (1 Cor. 3:18-20) where he exhorts the Corinthians not to boast in fellow men. Paul also says that all things are theirs. Regarding this, Kistemaker says:

God's people must see Christ's handiwork in every aspect of creation; they should glorify him for everything he has made and constantly upholds by his power. By using the expression all things, Paul includes the ministry of those who preach and teach the gospel. Thus he exhorts the Corinthians to see that the Lord gives them everything, both spiritual and material. God's people indeed possess all things.

Paul then goes from saying that all things are theirs to identifying some of those things. He begins with teachers, and in a manner of speaking, he says "I, as a teacher, am yours; Apollos, as a teacher, is yours; Cephas, as a teacher, is yours."

Since all Christian leaders belong to all believers, it is foolish to be jealous over them. How little the Corinthians appreciated their Christian privileges is also pointed out in 1 Corinthians 6:2.

However, Paul speaks of more than just teachers and mentions the world, life, death, the present, and the future. Gordon D. Fee says that 'these five items are the ultimate tyrannies of human existence, and people are in lifelong bondage as slaves to them.' Yet, in Romans 8:28 (ESV) Paul writes, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." How could he say such? Because Christians are no longer slaves, but possessors, in Christ (cf. Rom. 8:29-39). They are above these five things "in Christ." Because Christ is God and all believers are of Christ (1 Cor. 3:23), his followers will even reign over the new heavens and new earth when he returns (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26-27). However, although God's Kingdom is already now present, it is not yet reality; it is already and not yet. So, Jesus is king already over his Kingdom and so also Christians possess all things now. See "The Kingdom of God: Is God's Kingdom Now or Later?" and "The Already and the Not Yet" below.

Ought to regard us as servants - 1 Corinthians 4:1

In 1 Corinthians 4:1 Paul teaches about how leaders (including himself, Apollos, and Cephas, mentioned in 1 Cor. 3:22) should be received. Leaders are servants, specifically, servants of Christ (Mark 9:35; 10:42-45; Matt. 23:8-12). This is what Pratt writes about servants:

The term translated "servant" often denoted a domestic servant. Such persons served others in a variety of ways, but always exalted those whom they served. Paul and other leaders were servants of Christ who did his bidding with humility."

Regarding secret things and mysteries, see "God's secret wisdom - 1 Corinthians 2:7" below. Essentially, however, as Pratt says:

The term mysteries describes the redemptive grace of God kept secret for a long time, but finally revealed in Christ. God commissions church leaders to bring this great treasure of revelation to the church.
Note that God is a master tactician. This can be seen by the way his plan through his foreordination and foreknowledge is weaved throughout all history. See WCF 27.4; WLC 176; BC 30.

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