1 Corinthians 3:10
According to the grace of God which is given to me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon.
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(10) According to the grace of God.—The Apostle being about to speak of himself as “a wise masterbuilder,” takes care by commencing his statement with these words to show that he is not indulging in self-laudation, but merely pointing out what God had given him the grace to do. (See Romans 1:5; Romans 12:3.)

Wisei.e., skilful or judicious.

Another buildeth thereon.—The sequence of the work here is the same as in the planting and watering of the previous illustration. The use of the indefinite word “another” avoids what might be considered the invidiously frequent repetition of the name of Apollos, and also indicates that there were others also who came after Paul, as is evident from 1Corinthians 4:15. (See Romans 15:20.)

But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.—Better, But let each one see in what manner he buildeth thereon. The argument in this and the following verse is that there can be only one foundation in the spiritual building—namely, the personal Jesus Christ. That foundation the Apostle has laid. None can alter it or add to it as a foundation; but there may be an immense variety in the materials with which those who come after the laying of the foundation may build up the superstructure. Therefore their own work and “how” they build (i.e., with what materials), and not the one foundation once for all and unalterably laid, should be the subject of their thought and care.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11. According to the grace of God — This he premises, lest he should seem to ascribe any thing to himself; as a wise master-builder — A skilful architect, directed by divine wisdom; I have laid the foundation — Jesus Christ and him crucified, a foundation sufficient to support the whole fabric of Christianity, with all its blessed effects: and another buildeth thereon — Succeeding teachers bestow further labour for your instruction and edification. But let every man — Every minister; take heed how he buildeth thereon — That all the doctrines which he teaches may be consistent with the foundation. For other foundation — On which the whole church, with all its doctrines, privileges, and duties, may be built; can no man lay — How much soever he may endeavour to do it; than that which is laid — In the counsels of divine wisdom, in the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament, and in the preaching of Christ himself and his apostles, St. Paul in particular; which is Jesus Christ — Who in his person and offices, in his love and sufferings, his humiliation and exaltation, his atoning death, his victorious resurrection, his glorious ascension, and his prevalent intercession, is the firm, immoveable rock of ages; a foundation every way sufficient to bear all the weight that God himself, or the sinner, when he believes, can lay upon him, even to support his immortal hopes. Christ, in his prophetic office, as a teacher come from God, is the foundation of all the doctrines of Christianity, and as made of God unto us wisdom, the source of our knowledge of, and faith in those doctrines: in his priestly office, atoning and interceding for us, he is the foundation of all the privileges of Christianity; and, when made of God unto us righteousness, puts us in possession of those privileges; in his kingly office he is the foundation of all the duties of Christianity, and when made of God unto us sanctification, of our power to perform those duties; for when the tree is good, the fruit is good; when we are created anew in Christ Jesus, good works are the never-failing consequence, Ephesians 2:10. Add to this, that as the firstborn of them that sleep, and our forerunner into glory, he is the foundation of all our hopes; and when made of God unto us complete and eternal redemption, he brings us to the enjoyment of the blessings hoped for.3:10-15 The apostle was a wise master-builder; but the grace of God made him such. Spiritual pride is abominable; it is using the greatest favours of God, to feed our own vanity, and make idols of ourselves. But let every man take heed; there may be bad building on a good foundation. Nothing must be laid upon it, but what the foundation will bear, and what is of a piece with it. Let us not dare to join a merely human or a carnal life with a Divine faith, the corruption of sin with the profession of Christianity. Christ is a firm, abiding, and immovable Rock of ages, every way able to bear all the weight that God himself or the sinner can lay upon him; neither is there salvation in any other. Leave out the doctrine of his atonement, and there is no foundation for our hopes. But of those who rest on this foundation, there are two sorts. Some hold nothing but the truth as it is in Jesus, and preach nothing else. Others build on the good foundation what will not abide the test, when the day of trail comes. We may be mistaken in ourselves and others; but there is a day coming that will show our actions in the true light, without covering or disguise. Those who spread true and pure religion in all its branches, and whose work will abide in the great day, shall receive a reward. And how great! how much exceeding their deserts! There are others, whose corrupt opinions and doctrines, or vain inventions and usages in the worship of God, shall be made known, disowned, and rejected, in that day. This is plainly meant of a figurative fire, not of a real one; for what real fire can consume religious rites or doctrines? And it is to try every man's works, those of Paul and Apollos, as well as others. Let us consider the tendency of our undertakings, compare them with God's word, and judge ourselves, that we be not judged of the Lord.According to the grace of God - By the favor of God which is given to me. All that Paul had done had been by the mere favor of God. His appointment was from him; and all the skill which he had shown, and all the agency which he had employed, had been from him. The architectural figure is here continued with some striking additions and illustrations. By the "grace of God" here, Paul probably means his apostleship to the Gentiles, which had been conferred on him by the mere favor of God, and all the wisdom, and skill, and success which he had evinced in founding the church.

As a wise master-builder - Greek "Architect." The word does not imply that Paul had any pre-eminence over his brethren, but that he had proceeded in his work as a skillful architect, who secures first a firm foundation. Every builder begins with the foundation; and Paul had proceeded in this manner in laying first a firm foundation on which the church could be reared. The word "wise" here means "skillful" or "judicious"; compare Matthew 7:24.

I have laid the foundation - "What" this foundation was, he states in 1 Corinthians 3:11. The meaning here is, that the church at Corinth had been at first established by Paul; see Acts 18:1, etc.

And another - Other teachers. I have communicated to the church the first elements of Christian knowledge. Others follow out this instruction, and edify the church. The discussion here undergoes a slight change. In the former part of the chapter, "Christians" are compared to a building; here the "doctrines" which are taught in the church are compared to various parts of a building. Grotius. See similar instances of translation in Matthew 13; Mark 4; John 10.

But let every man ... - Every man who is a professed teacher. Let him be careful what instructions he shall give to a church that has been founded by apostolic hands, and that is established on the only true foundation. This is designed to guard against false instruction and the instructions of false teachers. People should take heed what instruction they give to a church:

(1) Because of the fact that the church belongs to God, and they should be cautious what directions they give to it;

(2) Because it is important that Christians should not only be on the true foundation, but that they should be fully instructed in the nature of their religion, and the church should be permitted to rise in its true beauty and loveliness;

(3) Because of the evils which result from false instruction.

Even when the foundation is firm, incalculable evils will result from the lack of just and discriminating instruction. Error sanctifies no one. The effect of it even on the minds of true Christians is to mar their piety; to dim its lustre; and to darken their minds. No Christian can enjoy religion except under the full-orbed shining of the word of truth; and every man, therefore, who gives false instruction, is responsible for all the darkness he causes, and for all the lack of comfort which true Christians under his teaching may experience.

(4) every person must give an account of the nature of his instructions; and he should therefore "take heed to himself, and his doctrine" 1 Timothy 4:16; and preach "such" doctrine as shall bear the test of the great Day. And from this we learn, that it is important that the church should be built on the true foundation; and that it is scarcely less important that it should be built up in the knowledge of the truth. Vast evils are constantly occurring in the church for the lack of proper instruction to young converts. Many seem to feel that provided the foundation be well laid, that is all that is needed. But the grand thing which is needed at the present time, is, that those who are converted should, as soon as possible, be instructed fully in the nature of the religion which they have embraced. What would be thought of a farmer who should plant a tree, and never water or trim it; who should plant his seed, and never cultivate the grain as it springs up; who should sow his fields, and then think that all is well, and leave it to be overrun with weeds and thorns? Piety is often stunted, its early shootings blighted, its rapid growth checked, for the lack of early culture in the church. And perhaps there is no one thing in which ministers more frequently fail than in regard to the culture which ought to be bestowed upon those who are converted - especially in early life. Our Saviour's views on this were expressed in the admonition to Peter, "Feed my lambs," John 21:15.

10. grace … given unto me—Paul puts this first, to guard against seeming to want humility, in pronouncing himself "a WISE master builder," in the clause following [Chrysostom]. The "grace" is that "given" to him in common with all Christians (1Co 3:5), only proportioned to the work which God had for him to do [Alford].

wise—that is, skilful. His skill is shown in his laying a foundation. The unskilful builder lays none (Lu 6:49). Christ is the foundation (1Co 3:11).

another—who ever comes after me. He does not name Apollos; for he speaks generally of all successors, whoever they be. His warning, "Let every man (every teacher) take heed how," &c., refers to other successors rather than Apollos, who doubtless did not, as they, build wood, hay, &c., on the foundation (compare 1Co 4:15). "I have done my part, let them who follow me see (so the Greek for 'take heed') to theirs" [Bengel].

how—with what material [Alford]. How far wisely, and in builder-like style (1Pe 4:11).

buildeth thereupon—Here the building or superstructure raised on Christ the "foundation," laid by Paul (1Co 2:2) is not, as in Eph 2:20, 21, the Christian Church made up of believers, the "lively stones" (1Pe 2:5), but the doctrinal and practical teaching which the teachers who succeeded Paul, superadded to his first teaching; not that they taught what was false, but their teaching was subtle and speculative reasoning, rather than solid and simple truth.

According to the grace of God which is given unto me: carin here signifies either the ability which God hath given Paul to preach the gospel, or the apostolical office, to which God had called him; he maketh both to proceed from God, and to be the effects of his free love and favour to him. According to this he saith: Look,

as a wise master-builder first layeth the foundation, then buildeth upon the foundation which he hath laid; so

I, being the first whom God pleased to employ in this his work at Corinth, have laid the foundation, that is, have first preached the gospel in this famous city: thus the first preaching of the gospel is called, a laying the foundation, Romans 15:20 Hebrews 6:1.

Another buildeth thereon; afterwards Apollos and other ministers further carried on that work of preaching the gospel amongst them.

But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon; but (saith he) whoever cometh to preach after me had need take heed what he buildeth; for, Galatians 1:8, though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. According to the grace of God which is given unto me,.... Lest the apostle should be thought to be too much elated with the characters he had given of himself, and other ministers, or to assume too much to himself, in what he was about to say of himself, he ascribes all the gifts he had, and the usefulness he was of, as a labourer and builder in the church of God, to rich grace; by which he was called unto, and qualified for such work: as a wise master builder. This same phrase, , "a wise master builder", is used by the Septuagint interpreters, in Isaiah 3:3 by which they render , "the cunning artificer", or the wise man of the carpenters, or artificers. The architect of all is God the Father, Son, and Spirit; God the Father is the builder of all things; Christ builds his church on himself the rock; and the saints are built up an habitation for God, through the Spirit; ministers are builders under God, instruments he makes use of, and who would labour in vain, unless the Lord build the city: such an one was the apostle, though he calls himself a master builder with respect to inferior ministers; he being in the highest office in the church, as an apostle, and not a whit behind the chief of them; and was the chief apostle of the Gentiles, and was principally concerned in preaching the Gospel to them, and in raising churches among them. The allusion is to the Jews, who use to call the Rabbins and doctors, and the disciples of the wise men, "builders": they ask in a certain place (h), ,

"who are the builders? says R. Joehanna, these are the disciples of the wise men, who employ themselves in the building of the world all their days (i).''

That is, the law, as one (k) of their writers explains this building; hence they are sometimes called builders of the law, and which was looked upon to be an high character: it is said (l) of a certain person, that

"R. Zeira praised him, and called him, , "a builder of the law."''

But the apostle was a Gospel builder, a builder of Gospel churches in Gospel truths, and in faith and holiness; these were foolish builders, but he a wise one; and his wisdom lay in the knowledge of Christ, in preaching him, and in winning souls unto him; and particularly in that he took care in his ministry, to lay a good foundation:

I have laid the foundation; meaning not only that as at other places, so at Corinth, he first preached the Gospel to them, and was the first instrument of their conversion, and laying the foundation of a Gospel church state; but that in his preaching he laid Christ as the one and only foundation, for men to build their faith and hope upon, for everlasting life and happiness, mentioned in the following verse:

and another buildeth thereupon; which designs not a private Christian, who was directed in the apostle's ministry to build his soul upon the rock of ages, Christ the sure foundation laid in Zion; though there is a truth in this, the apostle laid Christ as a foundation, and encouraged others to build their faith and hope upon him, as to eternal salvation; and many were enabled to do so, which was the happy fruit of his ministry, and what gave him pleasure; and in this sense he also himself built upon this foundation, for this cannot be said of another, to the exclusion of himself; he would never lay a foundation, and direct others to build on it, and not build upon it himself; but another minister of the Gospel is meant, as Apollos, or any other who might follow him, and be a means of carrying on the building upon the foundation he had laid; and of edifying and establishing souls upon it; and of rearing up superstructure truths, upon the foundation one:

but let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon; that he builds by line, evenly, according to the analogy of faith; that he builds in proportion to the foundation; and lays such things upon it as are becoming it, and suitable to it.

(h) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 114. 1.((i) Jarchi, Maimon. Sampson, & Bartenora in Misn. Mikvaot, c. 9. sect. 6. (k) Juchasin, fol. 81. 1.((l) T. Hieros. Gittin, fol. 48. 4.

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. {4} But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

(4) Now he speaks to the teachers themselves, who succeeded him in the church of Corinth, and in this regard to all that were after or will be pastors of congregations, seeing that they succeed into the labour of the apostles, who were planters and chief builders. Therefore he warns them first that they do not persuade themselves that they may build after their own fantasy, that is, that they may propound and set forth anything in the Church, either in matter, or in type of teaching, different from the apostles who were the chief builders.

1 Corinthians 3:10. The former of these images (γεώργ.) has been the underlying thought in what has hitherto been said (1 Corinthians 3:6-8); the second and new figure (οἰκοδ.) is now retained in what follows up to 1 Corinthians 3:15, the course of thought being this, that Paul, first of all, states the difference between his own work and that of others at this building, and then passes on to the responsibility which he who would build after him takes upon himself.

The χάρις is not the apostolic office, with which Paul was graced (Romans 12:3; Romans 15:15; Galatians 1:15, al[499]), for it was not exclusively an apostle who was required for the founder of a church (Rome, Colossae), but the special endowment of grace, which he had received from God to fit him for his calling; and he was conscious in himself that he was qualified and destined just for the right laying of the foundation, Romans 15:20.

The significant weight of the words κατὰδοθ. μοι is to express humility in making the utterance which follows. Comp Chrysostom and Theophylact.

ὡς σοφὸς ἀρχιτ.] proceeding as such an one would, going to work in this capacity. To it belongs the right laying of the foundation in strict accordance with the design of the building, the reverse of which would be the part of an unskilful architect. Without a foundation no man builds; without a proper foundation no σοφός, i.e. no one who understands the art (Exodus 35:10). Comp Plato, Phil. p. 17 C, de virt. p. 376 A; Pind. Pyth. iii. 115, v. 115; Soph. Ant. 362. But Paul by the grace of God was a σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων.

What he understands by such a foundation, he himself tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:11, namely, Jesus Christ, without whom (both in an objective sense: without whose appearing and work, and in a subjective: without appropriating whom in conscious faith; see 1 Corinthians 3:11) a Christian society could not come into existence at all. This foundation Paul had laid, inasmuch as he had made Christ to be possessed by the conscious faith of the Corinthian church. Comp on Ephesians 2:20.

θεμέλιον] The masculine ὁ θεμέλιος (see 1 Corinthians 3:11; hence wrongly held by Ewald to be neuter here), attributed by the old grammarians to the κοινή (see Wetstein on 1 Corinthians 3:11), is commonly found only in the plural, and that as early as Thuc. i. 93. 1. In the singular, 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 21:19; Machon in Athen. viii. p. 346 A; 3 Esdr. 6:20.

ἄλλος δὲ ἐποικοδ.] By this is meant not merely Apollos, but any later teacher of the Corinthians whatever (comp ἕκαστος): “Not my task, however, but that of another, is the building up, the carrying on the building.”

πῶς] i.e. here: with what materials.[504] See 1 Corinthians 3:12-13. Without figurative language: “Let each take heed what sort of doctrine (as regards substance and form) he applies, in order to advance and develope more fully the church, founded upon Jesus Christ, in its saving knowledge and frame of life.” See on 1 Corinthians 3:12. The figure is not changed, as has been often thought (“Ante fideles dixerat aedificium Dei, nunc aedificium vocat ea, quae in ecclesia Christiana a doctoribus docentur,” Grotius; comp Rosenmüller); but the οἰκοδομή is, as before, the church, which, being founded upon Christ (see above), is further built up, i.e. developed in the Christian faith and life (which may take place in a right or a wrong way, see 1 Corinthians 3:12-13), by the teachings of the later teachers. In like manner is a house built up by the different building-materials upon the foundation laid for it.

[499] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[504] According to de Wette, the force of the πῶς consists primarily in this, that they simply carry on the building, and do not alter the foundation (which was probably done by the opponents of the apostle). But the carrying on of the building, so far as that is concerned, is presupposed in πῶς ἐποικοδομεῖ.1 Corinthians 3:10-17. § 10. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE HUMAN BUILDERS. After the long digression on Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17 to 1 Corinthians 3:2), occasioned by the Hellenic misconception of the Gospel underlying the Cor[527] divisions, the Ap. returned in 1 Corinthians 3:3 ff. to the divisions themselves, dealing particularly with the rent between Apollonians and Paulinists. His first business was to reduce the Church leaders to their subordinate place, as fellow-servants of the one Divine cause (§ 9). They are temple-workmen—not himself and Apollos alone, but all who are labouring on the foundation which he has laid down—and must therefore take heed to the quality of their individual work, which will undergo a searching and fiery test.

[527] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.10. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder] Rather, which was given to me, i.e. when he laid the foundation. St Paul now desires to identify himself with the teachers of the Corinthian Church, so far as they were really carrying on the work which he had begun. His object is to combat the individualism which had led the Corinthian Church astray. If their teachers be genuine ministers of Christ, it is but one work that they are carrying on. They are merely proceeding with the superstructure of that which the Apostle had founded. Comparison of their personal claims with those of St Paul, and still more an attitude of antagonism to him and to one another, are entirely out of place.

But let every man take heed] A fresh subject is here introduced. We are now told of what kind the labour of a minister of Christ is to be, and what his reward. There is, there can be, but One Foundation, but there are many ways of building on that foundation.1 Corinthians 3:10. Χάριν, grace) By this word he takes anticipatory precaution [προθεραπείαν], not to appear arrogantly to pronounce himself wise.—δοθεῖσαν, given) it was therefore a something habitual in Paul.[27]—σοφὸς) [wise] skilful. The knowledge of Jesus Christ makes men so.—θεμέλιον, foundation) The foundation is the first beginning.—ἄλλος) another, whoever he is. He elegantly avoids mentioning the proper name. The predecessor does not see his successor, and Paul has regard to the dignity of Apollos; so immediately after, every man; for there were also others, 1 Corinthians 4:15.—βλεπέτω, let him see [take heed]) I, says Paul, have done my part; let them see to theirs, who follow me in this work.—πως) how, how far wisely, how far in builder-like style.

[27] Which is the force of the article, τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσαν.—ED.Verse 10. - According to the grace of God which is given unto me; rather, which was given. Here, again, we have St. Paul's baptismal aorist - his habit of regarding his whole spiritual life as potentially summed up in the one crisis of conversion and baptism. This phrase is a favourite one with him (1 Corinthians 15:10; Romans 15:15; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:2). As a wise master builder. "Wise" only in the sense of subordinating every pretence of human wisdom to the will of God; and here the adjective only applies to the wisdom required by a builder. In other words, "wise" is here equivalent to "skilful." Since Paul had received the grace of God for this very purpose, he was made "wise" by the knowledge of Christ (for the metaphor of building, see Matthew 7:24; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:21; 1 Peter 2:5). The foundation; rather, a foundation. Though in truth there is but one foundation, as he proceeds to say, St. Paul always refused to build on the foundation laid by another (Romans 15:20). Another. Perhaps the special allusion is to Apollos. Grace

The special endowment for his apostolic work. Compare Romans 1:5, grace and apostleship: Romans 12:3, Romans 12:6; Ephesians 3:7, Ephesians 3:8.

Wise (σοφὸς)

Skillful. See on James 3:13.

Master-builder (ἀρχιτέκτων)

Only here in the New Testament. "The architect does not work himself, but is the ruler of workmen" (Plato, "Statesman," 259).


The importance which Paul attached to the foundation was figured by the care employed in laying the foundation of the great Ephesian temple. "To avoid the danger of earthquakes, its foundations were built at vast cost on artificial foundations of skin and charcoal laid over the marsh" (Farrar).

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