1 Corinthians 3:5
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
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(5) The Apostle now proceeds to explain (1Corinthians 3:5-9) what is the true position and work of Christian ministers. He asserts that all alike—both those who teach the simpler truths, and those who build up upon that primary knowledge—are only instruments in God’s hand; and in 1Corinthians 3:10-15 (replying to those who sneered at and despised his simple teaching as compared to the higher instruction of Apollos) he points out that though all are only instruments used by God, yet that if there be any difference of honour or utility in the various kinds of work for which God so uses His ministers, the greater work is the planting the seed, or the laying the foundation. There can be only one foundation—it is alike necessary and unvarying—many others may build upon it, with varied material and with different results.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos.—Better, What then is Apollos? what is Paul? and to these abrupt and startling questions the answer is, “Merely those whom Christ used, according as He gave to each his own peculiar powers as the means of your conversion.” (Such is the force of the word “believed” here as in Romans 13:11). It is therefore absurd that you should exalt them into heads of parties. They are only instruments—each used as the great Master thought best.

3:5-9 The ministers about whom the Corinthians contended, were only instruments used by God. We should not put ministers into the place of God. He that planteth and he that watereth are one, employed by one Master, trusted with the same revelation, busied in one work, and engaged in one design. They have their different gifts from one and the same Spirit, for the very same purposes; and should carry on the same design heartily. Those who work hardest shall fare best. Those who are most faithful shall have the greatest reward. They work together with God, in promoting the purposes of his glory, and the salvation of precious souls; and He who knows their work, will take care they do not labour in vain. They are employed in his husbandry and building; and He will carefully look over them.Who then is Paul ... - See the notes at 1 Corinthians 1:13. Why should a party be formed which should be named after Paul? What has he done or taught that should lead to this? What eminence has he that should induce any to call themselves by his name? He is on a level with the other apostles; and all are but ministers, or servants, and have no claim to the honor of giving names to sects and parties. God is the fountain of all your blessings, and whoever may have been the "instrument" by whom you have believed, it is improper to regard them as, in any sense the fountain of your blessings, or to arrange yourselves under their name.

But ministers - Our word minister, as now used, does not express the proper force of this word. We in applying it to preachers of the gospel do not usually advert to the original sense of the word, and the reasons why it was given to them. The original word διάκονοι diakonoi denotes properly "servants" in contradistinction from "masters" Matthew 20:26; Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:35; Mark 10:43; and denotes those of course who are in an inferior rank of life. They did not have command, or authority, but were subject to the command of others. It is applied to the preachers of the gospel because they are employed in the service of God; because they go at his command, and are subject to his control and direction. They did not have original authority, nor are they the source of influence or power. The idea here is, that they were the mere instruments or servants by whom God conveyed all blessings to the Corinthians; that they as ministers were on a level, were engaged in the same work, and that therefore, it was improper for them to form parties that should be called by their names.

By whom - Through whom δἰ ὥν di' hōn, by whose instrumentality. They were not the original source of faith, but were the mere servants of God in conveying to them the knowledge of that truth by which they were to be saved.

Even as the Lord gave to every man - God is the original source of faith; and it is by his influence that anyone is brought to believe; see the note at Romans 12:3, note at Romans 12:6. There were diversities of gifts among the Corinthian Christians, as there are in all Christians. And it is here implied:

(1) That all that anyone had was to be traced to God as its author;

(2) That he is a sovereign, and dispenses his favors to all as he pleases;

(3) That since God had conferred those favors, it was improper for the Corinthians to divide themselves into sects and call themselves by the name of their teachers, for all that they had was to be traced to God alone.

This idea, that all the gifts and graces which Christians had, were to be traced to God alone, was one which the apostle Paul often insisted on; and if this idea had been kept before the minds and hearts of all Christians, it would have prevented no small part of the contentions in the church, and the formation of no small part of the sects in the Christian world.

5. Who then—Seeing then that ye severally strive so for your favorite teachers, "Who is (of what intrinsic power and dignity) Paul?" If so great an apostle reasons so of himself, how much more does humility, rather than self-seeking, become ordinary ministers!

Paul … Apollos—The oldest manuscripts read in the reverse order, "Apollos," &c. Paul." He puts Apollos before himself in humility.

but ministers, &c.—The oldest manuscripts have no "but." "Who is Apollos … Paul? (mere) ministers (a lowly word appropriate here, servants), by whom (not "in whom"; by whose ministrations) ye believed."

as … Lord gave to every man—that is, to the several hearers, for it was God that "gave the increase" (1Co 3:6).

Neither Paul, nor yet Apollos, are authors of faith to you, but only instruments; it is the Lord that giveth to every man a power to believe; or else that latter phrase,

as the Lord gave to every man, may be understood of ministers, whose abilities to the work of the ministry, and success in it, both depend upon God. The sense of the words is this, then: God giveth unto his ministers variety of gifts, and different success; but yet neither one nor the other of them are more than the servants of Christ in their ministry, persons whom God maketh use of to call upon and to prevail with men, to give credit to the doctrine of the gospel, and to receive and accept of Christ. The work is the Lord’s, not theirs.

Who then is Paul? and who is Apollos?.... The apostle's name being used, and he a party concerned, could speak the more freely upon this head, and ask what they thought of himself, and other preachers, whether they were more than men? what authority and power they had, whether they looked upon them as the authors of a new religion, or the founders of a new sect, that were to go by their names? and directs them what light to consider them in, how that they were

but ministers by whom ye believed: they were servants to Christ and to his churches, and not lords; they did not assume any dominion over men, or pretend to lord it over God's heritage; 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, the operation of his power, and of which Christ is the author and finisher; they laid no claim to this as their work, or imagined they had any dominion over it; that they could either implant it, or increase it of themselves; but thought it honour enough done them, that it came by their ministry; and that that, and the joy of it, were helped and furthered by their means: the Vulgate Latin version reads, "his ministers whom ye believed"; that is, the ministers of Christ, whom they believed in; not in the ministers, but Christ; the Arabic version renders it, "but two ministers, by whom ye believed"; referring to Paul and Apollos, who are meant:

even as the Lord gave to every man; gifts to minister with, and success to his ministry; making him useful to this and the other man, to bring him to the faith of Christ; all which is owing to the free grace and sovereign good will and pleasure of God.

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

(2) After he has sufficiently reprehended ambitious teachers, and those who foolishly esteemed them, now he shows how the true ministers are to be esteemed, that we do not attribute to them more or less than we ought to do. Therefore he teaches us that they are those by whom we are brought to faith and salvation, but yet as the ministers of God, and such as do nothing of themselves, but God so working by them as it pleases him to furnish them with his gifts. Therefore we do not have to regard or consider what minister it is that speaks, but what is spoken: and we must depend only upon him who speaks by his servants.

1 Corinthians 3:5. Οὖν] Now, igitur, introduces the question as an inference from the state of party-division just referred to, so that the latter is seen to be the presupposition on which the question proceeds. See Klotz, a[480] Devar. p. 719: “Such being the state of things, I am forced to propound the question,” etc. Rückert thinks that Paul makes his readers ask: But now, if Paul and Apollos are not our heads, what are they then? Paul, however, is in the habit of indicating counter-questions expressly as such (1 Corinthians 15:35; Romans 9:19, al[481]).

τί] more significant than τίς; comp 1 Corinthians 3:7. The question is, what, as respects their position, are they? Comp Plato, Rep. p. 332 E, 341 D.

διάκονοι] They are servants, and therefore not fitted and destined to be heads of parties; ἄλλος ἐστὶν ὁ δεσπότης, ἡμεῖς ἐκείνου δοῦλοι, Theodoret.

διʼ ὧν] “per quos, non in quos,” Bengel. Comp John 1:7. They are but causae ministeriales in the hand of God.

ἐπιστεύσ.] as in 1 Corinthians 15:2; 1 Corinthians 15:11; Romans 13:11.[485]

καί] and that. καὶἔδωκεν is not to be joined with 1 Corinthians 3:6 (Mosheim, Markland, a[486] Lys. XII. p. 560 f.), seeing that in 1 Corinthians 3:7 no regard is paid to this καὶἔδωκεν.

ἑκάστῳ ὡς] the emphasis is on ἑκάστ., as in 1 Corinthians 7:17 and Romans 12:3.

ὁ Κύριος] correlative to the διάκονοι, is here God, not Christ (Theophylact; also Rückert, who appeals to Ephesians 4:7; Ephesians 4:11], as what follows—in particular 1 Corinthians 3:9-10—proves. Comp 2 Corinthians 6:4.

As respects the ἀλλʼ ἤ of the Textus receptus: nisi (which makes the question continue to the end of the verse; comp Sir 22:12), see on Luke 12:51; 2 Corinthians 1:13.

[480] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

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

[485] Ye have become believers, which is to be understood here in a relative sense, both as respected the beginning and the furtherance of faith. See ver. 6. The becoming a believer comprehends different stages of development. Comp. John 2:11; John 11:15[486] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

1 Corinthians 3:5-15. Discussion of the position occupied by the two teachers: The two have no independent merit whatsoever (1 Corinthians 3:5-7); each will receive his reward according to his own work (1 Corinthians 3:8-9); and, more especially, a definitive recompense in the future, according to the quality of his work, awaits the teacher who carries on the building upon the foundation already laid (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). The aim this discussion is stated in 1 Corinthians 4:6.

1 Corinthians 3:5. The Cor[491] Christians were quarrelling over the claims of their teachers, as though the Church were the creature of men: “What therefore (I am compelled to ask) is Apollos? what, on the other side (δέ), is Paul?”—τί is more emphatic than τίς; it breathes disdain; “as though Apollos or Paul were anything!” (Lt[492]). Abollos precedes, in continuation of 1 Corinthians 3:4. For both, the question is answered in one word—διάκονοι, “non autores fidei vestræ, sed ministri duntaxat” (Er[493]); cf. 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 4:5.: ὁ Κύριος in the next clause is its antithesis. Paul calls himself διάκονος in view of specific service rendered (2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4, etc.), but δοῦλος in his personal relation to Christ (Galatians 1:10, etc.). “Through whose ministration you believed:” per quos, non in quos (Bg[494]: cf. 1 Corinthians 1:15). To “believe” is the decisive act which makes a Christian (see 1 Corinthians 1:21); for the relation of saving faith to the Apostolic testimony, cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, etc. Some Cor[495] had been converted through Apollos.

[491] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[492] J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

[493] Erasmus’ In N.T. Annotationes.

[494] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

The above-named are servants, each with his specific gift: καὶ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ Κύρ. κ.τ.λ., “and in each case, (servants in such sort) as the Lord bestowed (on him)”.—ἑκάστῳ is emphatically projected before the ὡς; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:17, Romans 12:3. The various disposition of Divine gifts in and for the Church is the topic of ch. 12. “The Lord” is surely Christ, as regularly in Paul’s dialect, “through whom are all things” (1 Corinthians 8:6, 1 Corinthians 12:5; Ephesians 4:7-12, etc.)—the sovereign Dispenser in the House of God; from “Jesus our Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:1) P. received his own commission; the Apostolic preachers are alike “ministers of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:1): so Thp[496], Rückert, Bt[497], Gd[498] However, Cm[499], and most modern exegetes, see God in ὁ Κύριος on account of 1 Corinthians 3:6-9; but the relation of this ver. to the sequel is just that of the διʼ αὐτοῦ to the ἐξ αὐτοῦ τὰ πάντα of 1 Corinthians 8:6; cf. note on ἐξ αὐτοῦ, 1 Corinthians 1:30; and for the general principle, Matthew 25:14 ff.

[496] Theophylact, Greek Commentator.

[497] J. A. Beet’s St. Paul’s Epp. to the Corinthians (1882).

[498] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[499] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

1 Corinthians 3:5. Τίς; who?) He returns to what he began with.—διάκονοι, ministers) a lowly expression and on that account appropriate here.—διʼ ὧν, by whom), not in whom. Pelagius correctly observes on this passage, If we, whom He himself has constituted ministers, are nothing, how much more those, who glory in carnal things?ἑκάστῳ, to every man) i.e. every man as well as they.—ὁ Κύριος, the Lord) The correlative is, διάκονοι, ministers.—ἔδωκεν, has given) in various ways and degrees; see the following verse.

Verses 5-15. - The one foundation and the diverse superstructure. Verse 5. - Who then is Paul? The better reading is what? (א, A, B). The neuter would imply a still greater depreciation of the importance of human ministers. Ministers. The same word as that rendered "deacons" (diakonoi); "ministers of Christ on your behalf" (Colossians 1:7). Through whom ye believed. Through whom," not "in whom" (Bengel). They were merely the instruments of your conversion. In the second Epistle (2 Corinthians 3:3) he calls them "the epistle of Christ ministered by us written... with the Spirit of the living God." As the Lord gave to him. The gifts differ according to the grace given (Romans 12:6). 1 Corinthians 3:5
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