Online Bible Commentary
The Foundation of the Church
1 Cor 3:7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. 10 According 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. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (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.
In this passage Paul elaborates on the function of those, like him and Apollos, who do the Lord’s work. In this case Paul started, planted, the church and Apollos watered, discipled, the church. Both were doing God’s work but neither were “anything” according to Paul (v. 7a).
Paul is saying that those who do the work of God should not be our focus. They are used by God but God is the One who makes things happen. God should be our focus, not those who do His work.
Only God can change hearts. The Holy Spirit convicts and converts hearts into believers, resulting in the “increase” of the church (v. 7b). However, those who do the work of God will receive their just “reward” in Heaven (v. 8).
Paul describes the Corinthians as “God’s field” (v. 9a). They are a field in that they need to be watered and harvested. The workers do the watering but only God can do the harvesting.
He also describes the Corinthians as God’s building (v. 9b). Paul states that he “laid the foundation” for this building and “another builds on it” a reference to Apollos (v. 10a).
Paul is not saying that he is the foundation. He is saying that he was used by God to lay the foundation. Paul laid this foundation but only through the “grace” of God (v. 10b). Paul was the “wise master builder” but the wisdom was from God (v. 10c). God did the work and Paul was His instrument.
Paul cautions that those who do God’s work among the Corinthians should ”take heed how he builds on” the foundation that God laid (v. 10d). The foundation of the church is the Lord Jesus Himself (v. 11). Those who build on that foundation should be careful to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those of us who do God’s work should always be mindful of this. We are not indispensable. If we teach something other than His Gospel or decide that we are the foundation, the focus, He will simply find someone else who will faithfully do His work.