Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

To help provide context this post contains two summaries: the first covering 1 Cor 3:10-17; the second 1 Cor 3:18-23.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 3:10-17~Since God Will Judge the Labors Of His Preachers, These Should Take Care How They Work.

Although the various preachers of the Gospel are the same, as being servants of the one God and as working for the one end, yet God will Distinguish between them when He judges their labors and confers their respective rewards.  This reflection moves St Paul to call attention to the grave responsibility that rests upon the ministers of the Gospel.

1 Cor 3:16  Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

the severity of God’s dealings with imperfect preachers and teachers arises from the fact that they contribute unworthy material to a sacred structure.  Hence the Apostle reminds the Corinthians that they are the temple of God, i.e., God dwells in them through faith and charity, and hence it is of real moment that they should not be defiled in any way.  The Corinthians, like all good Christians, are the dwelling place of God, because the Spirit of God, i.e., the Holy Ghost, abides in them.  It is to be noted that the Apostle is here identifying the Holy Spirit and God.

1 Cor 3:17  But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are.

So far there has been a question of those who build on the one true foundation, some using good, some poor material.  Now the Apostle speaks of those who, by false doctrines and erroneous teachings, destroy the foundation, which is Jesus Christ.

If any man violate.  Better, “If any man destroyeth” the temple of God, i.e., by preaching false doctrines and leading the faithful away from Christ.  The Corinthian Church was the temple of God, the special dwelling place of God, and therefore it was holy.  In other words, the faithful are the temple of God; but the temple is holy; therefore the faithful are holy.  If any man, by his false teachings, should destroy this sacred temple, God shall destroy him, i.e., will deprive him of eternal salvation.

The Faithful Should Be Careful Not To Prefer One Teacher To Another
A Summary of 1 Corinthians 3:18-23~

From the doctrine so far explained against the Corinthian factions St Paul now deduces some practical conclusions.  By preferring one master to another the faithful have laid claim to the right and power of judging their teachers; but the Apostle warns them that this is exercising mere human wisdom, which goes for nothing before God.  It is wrong for them to glory in men, especially since all the good they enjoy, whether from this or that human agent, has been bestowed by God: in God and Christ only should they glory

1 Cor3:18.  Let no man deceive himself: if any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

It is disputed whether the admonition of this verse is addressed to the teachers of the faithful, or their followers.  If any man among you, etc., i.e., if any of you Christians thinks himself to be wise and shrewd, or is so regarded by others, judging by the standards of this world, let him renounce this false wisdom, which God despises, and learn from the Gospel to be truly wise.  The admonition seems to be against those who thought themselves capable of judging the respective qualities of their different teachers,-Apollos, Paul and Cephas.

1 Cor 3:19.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written: I will catch the wise in their own craftiness.
1 Cor 3:20.  And again: The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

That mere human wisdom is foolishness in the sight of God the Apostle now proves from two passages of the Old Testament.  The first is from Job 5:13, agreeing almost perfectly with the Hebrew, and substantially with the Septuagint.  From the words, It is written, we can see that St Paul regarded the quotation as having divine authority.

I will catch, etc.  Better, “He catches,” etc.  (δράσσομαι-drassomai=dras’-som-ahee), i.e., God turns against the worldly-wise their own craftiness, in which they are caught as in a snare.  For example, Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, but their action resulted in his becoming ruler of Egypt (St Thomas Aquinas).

The second quotation is from Psalm 93:11, taken substantially from the LXX.  The Psalmist is speaking of the enemies of Israel, who in their folly thought God did not know their secret designs against the chosen people.

The comprehendam of the Vulgate does not exactly express the Greek or Hebrew of Job 5:13, which literally would be “He who catcheth.”

1 Cor 3:21.  Let no man therefore glory in men.

Since, therefore, the wisdom of the world, separated from God and His grace, is vain and leads its patrons to their own confusion, the Corinthians ought diligently to keep from it, not glorifying in men, i.e., in this or that human leader.

1 Cor 3:22.  For all things are yours, whether it be Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; for all are yours;
1 Cor 3:23.  And you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

All the teachers sent to the Corinthians were sent by God for the spiritual benefit of the faithful.  The Christians did not belong to Paul, or to Apollos, or to Cephas, as subjects to a leader, as servants to a master; but on the contrary, all those teachers were but instruments in the hands of God for the sake of the Corinthians.  On account of their dignity as Christians all things-teachers, the visible world around, life and death, things present and things to come-were theirs, to be made use of for their spiritual benefit and advancement.

But neither in these, their own privileges and dignity, should the Corinthians glory, for they were not for themselves; they were for Christ’s; they were the possession and property of Christ who created them (Jn 1:8), who redeemed them with His own blood (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23), and who, therefore, was their only head and only master.  If then they would glory, let them glory in Christ and in God.

Christ is God’s, i.e., Christ, according to His divine nature, is one in essence with God (Jn 10:30), and, as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, He proceeds eternally from the Father (Jn 11:3).  Christ’s human nature was created by God, and was ever and in all things subject to the will of God (Jn 15:28).

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One Response to Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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