Chapters 3 and 4 are in many ways a continuation of the topics that comprise chapters 1 and 2. In these two chapters Paul will (1) scold them for dividing up over preachers, which as a sign of immaturity, (2) instruct them in the proper evaluation of preachers, and (3) address their arrogance that had shown itself in their arguments and divisions over preachers.
I. Chapter 3
A. Their divisions were signs of worldliness and immaturity (3:1-4).
1. While he was with them in person, Paul considered the Corinthians spiritual infants and fed them accordingly. But they had not grown sufficiently in the meantime.
2. Their jealousy and strife were the evidence of their worldliness and immaturity.
B. How to properly assess preachers (3:5-15)
1. Preachers are merely servants; God deserves all the credit for kingdom growth (5-9).
2. Preachers will be judged on how they build on the foundation of Jesus (10-15).
C. The danger of destroying the church, God’s temple (3:16-17). By creating factions within the congregation, they were destroying God’s dwelling place.
D. Though they thought they were wise, their boasting in mere men was foolish (3:18-23).
1. In order for them to be wise in God’s sight they would have to show themselves to be foolish by worldly standards.
2. Though it was culturally relevant and acceptable to line up behind one’s teacher, it was not to be that way in the church.
II. Chapter 4
A. Preachers are servants whom God will judge (4:1-5).
1. The Corinthians had judged Paul, Apollos, Peter, and others as being worthy of too much praise.
2. Paul reminds them that God’s assessment of them will be the only one that ultimately matters.
B. The Corinthians should not go beyond what is written, for doing so only leads to arrogant boasting against each other (4:6-13).
1. Their perceived wisdom, which was mere foolishness to God, led them to develop an ugly arrogance.
2. But Paul sarcastically informs them that he – the teacher that many of them highly esteemed – did not exhibit this kind of arrogance. So why would they?
C. Paul warns them, as a father would his son, to get their affairs in order before he comes (4:14-20).
1. He wasn’t writing them just to shame them. He wanted to reform them.
2. In a way, he was their spiritual father. The church came to exist in Corinth through his preaching of the gospel. Therefore, he spoke to them as a loving father would to his erring son.
III. Practical Applications
A. Christians should grow beyond milk to solid food (3:1-4; Heb. 5:11-6:12; James 3:13-18).
B. Be careful not to elevate preachers (3:5-7; 4:1-5).
C. Teachers/preachers must take their roles seriously (3:10-15; James 3:1; 1 Tim. 4:11-16).
D. One should think long and hard before he does something that causes division in the church (3:16-17; Rom. 12:18).
E. Nothing that contradicts God should be called wisdom (3:18-20; James 3:13-18).
F. Stewards must be faithful (4:1; Matt. 25:14-30).
G. Pride is a dangerous thing, for it elevates man and brings down God (4:8-13).
H. Sometimes love requires sternness (4:14-20; Rev. 3:19).