Online Bible Commentary
The Head of the Church
1 Corinthians 3: 1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (NKJV)
The writer of 1 Corinthians is the apostle Paul. He wrote this letter to the church at Corinth, Greece during his third missionary journey. The church was established by Paul during his second missionary journey when he ministered in Corinth for a year and a half during A. D. 51-52.
Paul wrote this letter during his two year and three-month ministry in Ephesus, Asia in A. D. 54-56. It was actually his second letter to the church (1 Cor. 5:9). However, the first letter obviously was lost. The purpose of this letter is to emphasize that Jesus is our Lord and Master.
Paul had started the church in Corinth and had stayed on for one and a half years before turning it over to Apollos to run. It has come to Paul’s attention that there is dissension in the church because some of the new converts are following Paul while others are following Apollos.
Paul writes to the church and explains their spiritual condition. He refers to the members as “babes in Christ” because they are still worldly and have not matured as believers (v. 1). He says they are still worldly and therefore must still be on “milk, not solid food” because they are still babes in Christ (v. 2).
Paul defines a carnal Christian as one who is guilty of “envy, strife, and divisions among you” (v. 3a). He says their behavior is “carnal” because they are divided over “mere men”, servants like Paul and Apollos, instead of being united under the Lord (vv. 3b-4).
God in His grace had given the Corinthian believers two wonderful “ministers”, Paul and Apollos (v. 5). Instead of being thankful for these ministers the church had split their loyalty between the two. Instead, they should have been united under the leadership of, not one or the other but, the Lord.
Each minister was provided by God for a specific use. Paul “planted” and Apollos “watered” (v. 6a). Paul brought the Gospel to the unbelievers in Corinth and planted the Word of God in their hearts. Apollos then came along and ministered to them.
However, none of that would have been enough to grow the church if God had not “gave the increase” (v. 6b). God, the Holy Spirit, convicts and converts unbelievers into believers.
Jesus Christ is Head of the church. He is the One we should follow. We should be thankful for our ministers and we should respect them as representatives of Christ.
However, we should never allow our loyalties to be divided between them. Our loyalty should always be with Jesus Christ and our goal should always be to please Him.