(ii) Wrong Concept of Teachers/Leaders (3:5-4:21)

Map of Corinth / Map of Corinth's Location / Picture of the Temple of Apollo / Outline Chart/ Read The Letter

(i) Who the Teachers / Leaders Are: (3:1-18)

(a) The leaders of a church are not Lords but Servants (verse 5)

1 Cor 3:5-9

5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?

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

7So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

8Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

9For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.


Paul is here addressing the Church congregation and telling them how to assess their leaders. A correct view of exactly who they are is in order and Paul expertly paints a vivid image for the church to clearly see the role of their leaders.

Look up the meaning of the word used for 'ministers' by clicking on the link.

They are one in a common cause, each having their own part to play (as in farming each worker has a specific job - planting / watering etc.). Paul's job of planting is no more or less important than Apollos' job of watering - see the chart below to see how Paul's farming imagery relates to the Church..

Diagram showing how Paul's use of farm imagery relates to the Church

Paul's main role has been in planting the Corinthian Church (Acts 18:1-23) and Apollos' main role had been in nurturing them with Biblical teaching (Acts 18:24-28) - see verses 6-7 - but it was God by His Spirit who enables growth in the Church.

We must not see any leader or teacher as responsible for Church growth and elevate them above others -just because one man may see a great harvest of souls in his ministry does not negate the importance of the many 'sowers' who went before him preparing the way. If we see that it is God working and leaders are merely serving God's purposes then we will have the Biblical view of our leaders.

(b) The Leaders are God's property -

Everything - the church, Servants, growth, belongs to the Lord (verses 8-9). All the areas talked about belong to Him and so no one can boast they are the most important (all workers are 'one' in God's eyes - no favorites). This means that we should look equally at all Church workers, giving them honour and not having favorites (at the expense of receiving truth from others).

(c) The Leaders are to be wise builders (3:10-15):

1 Cor 3:10-15

10According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.

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

12Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.

14If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

15If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.


Diagram showing how Paul's use of building imagery relates to the Church

Paul here addresses the Church Leaders and tells them to take care how they 'build' in the Church work. The main point in this section is that the Church Leaders (in positions of responsibility) build wisely (with Gold - divine nature - and silver - redemptive in nature). Note that this section is NOT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL CHURCH MEMBER!

The leaders are also responsible to act in the right way so as not to cause division. Paul says they should build (literally - edify) in GRACE (not works) - see verse 10 - even as he has done. Each act of building is to be wise in that it is building the nature of Jesus into the congregation (verse 11).

The materials the leaders use refer to their attitudes and the quality of their service. It should be Gold and silver (divine & redemptive - eternal) and not wood, hay and stubble (refers to human nature - worldly - will be burnt up and not last) - verse 12-13

The leader's reward is not now but refers to the inheritance they will receive when Jesus returns (rewarded according to their faithfulness to God's revealed will) - verse 14. Leaders who teach and lead in worldly wisdom will be saved but 'through fire' (judgment) - their reward will be less in terms of the the inheritance they will be given to rule and reign over when Jesus returns (verse 15) - they will still be saved but with lesser rewards in the Father's kingdom.

(d) The Leaders are priests in God's Temple : (3:16-17)

1 Cor 3:16-17

16Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

17If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.


Paul tells the Church that they are God's TEMPLE IN CORINTH. Your Church is God's TEMPLE (dwelling place) in the area where you live. This image shows that the Church is the place where the presence of God is - a place of worship , service and cleansing. It is a place of unity, not division.

This was especially significant in Corinth where most houses were linked with a temple and many temples formed factions and division. The Corinthian Church was 'building temples' around their preffered leader and causing division in the same way and thus 'defiling the temple' (verse 17). They should instead see themselves corporately as THE TEMPLE! The leaders are not the God of the temple but the priest in the temple - their role is to serve the people.

God is very jealous and zealous for His Temple and will even 'destroy' to preserve its unity! Think about what this means in this context.

In conclusion, Church leaders are...

Servants not Lords

Property not owners

Wise not foolish builders

Priests not God

(ii) How Leaders are to be treated: (3:18-

(a) The Leaders are not to be boasted about: (3:18-23)

1 Cor 3:18-23

18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness";

20and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile."

21Therefore let no one boast 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 yours.

23And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.


This passage of Scripture shows the folly of human wisdom in elevating and boasting about one leader over another , leading to division. By being partial to one leader we are actually being foolish in God's eyes. Think about why this is so!

In verse 22 Paul states that God has given all His gifts and all are to be appreciated. This includes the leaders. All are gifts and one should not be favoured above the rest.

(b) The Leaders are not to be judged by the congregation: (4:1-5)

1 Cor 4:1-5

1Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

2Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.

4For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.

5Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.


Who can judge a servant or a steward ? Only his master. It seems that some of the Corinthian Church has shown opposition to Paul in favour of other teachers such as Apollos. Paul here is defending his position of Apostle. We can apply this to today by comparing it with our attitude towards pastors and teachers of the Word.

The Corinthians are told not to judge Paul. We must not have a JUDGMENTAL ATTITUDE towards pastors / teachers because they are servants of God. No one can judge another man's servant! Think about the ways we can wrongly judge our leaders.

(c) We are not to be proud on behalf of one leader against another: (3:6-13)


1 Cor 4:6-13

6Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.

7For who makes you differ from another ? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

8You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us-- and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!

9For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.

10We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!

11To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.

12And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure;

13being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.


Here Paul attacks the real problem of the Corinthians which is PRIDE. This is due to the Corinthians having a FALSE THEOLOGY (understanding of Scripture). They are following the WAY OF GLORY instead of the WAY OF THE CROSS!

Paul states in verse 6 that they cannot boast about their spiritual standing, or that of their leader's, because of what he has already written (the leaders are merely servants and all working towards a common goal). It is God who gives the different giftings and all comes from Him (verse 7), so such boasting is foolishness.

Verse 8 reveals something of the reason for this boasting - it is a faulty theology where the Corinthians believed that they had arrived! They had been taught wrongly that they were already full (perfect) and had already attained to the full riches in Christ Jesus! Paul is being a bit sarcastic here as he exposes their false belief of being 'already' there.

The Corinthian error is that they emphasized the ALREADY...they believed they ALREADY had complete righteousness, complete faith, complete prosperity etc. The Scripture does show us that these things are our inheritance, but we are not fully there yet! Look at the following diagram...

Diagram showing the correct Christian end-time perspective.

Because the Corinthians saw Paul as WEAK, SUFFERING and POOR, they were arguing that he was not a good leader as he was not living in the blessings of God (verses 9-13). They appeared strong, wise and distinguished because of their 'way of glory' theology but in reality Paul shows their foolishness! Paul had shown the 'way of the Cross' (foolishness to the world) in his own personal ministry through his enduring much suffering and persecution for Christ's sake. The Bible clearly shows us that if we truly desire to reign with Christ then we will have to suffer for Him (See Romans 8:16-18).

Paul shows here that he may look foolish to the world, but he lives where the action is! We must be careful that we are not like the Corinthians in OVER-EMPHASIZING truths of Scripture (eg. is it right to say that a Christian should never suffer because Jesus says that when he comes back there will be no suffering ? Is it right to say that every Christian should live in material prosperity ? Is it right to say that every Christian should have perfect health ? What do you think based on Paul's writing here ?).

(d) Church Leaders are not to be seen as merely Instructors but Fathers : (4:14-21)

1 Cor 4:14-21

14I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.

15For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

16Therefore I urge you, imitate me.

17For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

18Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you.

19But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power.

20For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.

21What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?


Paul affirms that his relationship with the Corinthians is not a 'high and mighty' teacher but as a loving Father. He writes not to shame them (verse 14) but to gently rebuke them as a Father does a son (look up the Greek meanings of the underlined words).

There had obviously been teachers in Corinth who had come into the church as 'high and mighty' instructors who came like a king with a rod to rule over them (in verse 21 the 'rod' mentioned is a King's scepter of authority). Some were proud and boastful that they needn't listen to Paul because he doesn't seem to have this kind of authority. But Paul again shows that God's leaders and teachers are not like earthly rulers but as loving Fathers who train their children with all humility in God's self-sacrificial love. Paul uses Timothy as an example of a 'faithful son' who has recognized Paul's God-given authority and has not been 'puffed up' with pride.

Paul says that the Corinthians should imitate him as a child does his father otherwise the disobedient will be disciplined in love. A church leader should be like a father to his children. Therefore the attitude of the church members should be one of submitting willingly to their leader as a FATHER and not a DICTATOR.

If we see our relationship to the Pastor / Church leaders as a FATHER/CHILD relationship how should this affect our submission to their leadership ? Think about this.

In conclusion:

There were divisions in the Corinthian Church that were evident in loud quarrels and sectarian attitudes and actions within the congregation. Paul shows that these divisions, where each group would say they were wiser than the other, shows how foolish they really are, splitting the body of Christ. They are merely following the way of the world. The divisions spring from a wrong and worldly concept concerning the teachings themselves and the teachers which has come from the pagan society around the church in Corinth.

Paul humbly teaches , using his own example, that true teachings and teachers of the Word will seem as foolishness to the world but contain the real power of God. He shows the church how to correctly assess teachings and how to respond correctly to leadership and teachers.

Paul knew that if God's mission of reaching every tongue , tribe and nation before Jesus returns (Matthew 24:14) was to be hastened then God's church must be a united one. And kingdom divided against itself will fall and be ineffective and this is true of the Church. If the Church today is to be truly effective in missions then it must be cleansed of all sectarian spirits and false theology.

Now let us move on , with Paul, to the next series of problems in the church....

Lesson Three: Church Discipline.

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