1 Corinthians 3:1-23
All Things Are Ours
It’s a terrible thing to be lost; it’s even worse to be lost and not know it. These Corinthians were sure that they were full of knowledge and wisdom. Moreover, they were following the right leader, or some of them were; it depended on whom you spoke to. Some marched under Paul’s banner, some under that of Apollos, and others someone else. It is this problem that Paul began to address in chapter one, and just in case you think that he is now coming back to it after getting off track, well, that is not the case at all. The division in the church was the result of something deeper—arrogance, the desire to be more knowledgeable and wiser than someone else, the status of being on the right team or in the right clique—these are the matters that Paul has been addressing from the beginning. And because they have these problems, the irony is that far from being the super-spiritual church they knew they were, they were actually not behaving spiritually (that is, according to the Holy Spirit) at all, but instead were behaving in a “fleshly” way, according to the world’s values, according to their own sinful desires. And they didn’t even know it. This is how sin can darken the mind and why one of the purposes of the local church is mutual accountability.
So Paul wants them to see how far they have strayed, and what’s more, to see how utterly foolish they are behaving in choosing matters of the flesh when God has given them so much more. For starters, as the local church, they are God’s temple. That’s right—this verse isn’t about believers as individual temples; that will come later. This verse is about the local church, for that is what Paul has been discussing all along. The local church, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is God’s temple on earth. We are God’s people called out of the world to show the world an alternative way of living in the light of the coming Kingdom. This is one reason why division in the church is such serious sin—it defeats the very purpose of our being the church.
And as God’s temple, God has equipped the church with everything she needs to be the temple in that place. So Paul tells us to not boast over men or other matters of the flesh or world. Why? Because all things are already ours in Christ Jesus! Consider the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia in Revelation (2:8-11; 3:7-13): They were poor and small by the world’s standards, but great and rich by God’s. They needed nothing of this world; nothing could harm them. Be it life or death, present or future, God had already secured everything for them. So let us stop chasing the things of this world which are passing away; we have something far better.