Apostles and Wisdom: Part 4 of 13 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor)
by John Lowe
ye are God's husbandry (A better translation may be “Ye are God's farm.”)
Husbandry is vague. The Greek word “georgion” is used here and it means tilled land, or tillage. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The Corinthian church was God's field in which they labored; the Lord is the owner of the field, the husbandman, or cultivator who breaks up the fallow (uncultivated) ground, which here is the hearts of his people; he casts in the seed of grace, he makes the ground good, and causes it to bring forth fruit; the churches of Christ are his property, land of his fertilizing, and all the fruit belongs to Him; they are gardens of his planting, and vineyards of his watering, and which he watches over night and day, in case any are hurt.
Paul and Apollos were fellow workers serving under God. Now, they who serve under Him do nothing by their own strength, but only by the strength given them by grace, and it is this grace which makes them fit for service. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5). I am sure that you have already sensed the weakness of the apostle Paul. But Paul could say, “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). God is not looking for some big something or some big somebody. If He had wanted that, He couldn’t use me and He couldn’t use you. God chooses the weak things of this world, little things, and insignificant things to accomplish His purposes. Our sufficiency is of God. “All the increase that comes by their labour proceeds from God in such a way that no part of the praise of it may be given to the servant” (2 Co 3.5; KJV).
ye are God's building.
If the former metaphor was taken from agriculture, this one came from architecture: believers in a church are God's house, in which he dwells, and which he himself has built; he has laid the foundation, which is Jesus Christ; he makes his people lively stones, and lays them on the Foundation; He raises up the superstructure, and He will complete the building, and He ought to receive all the glory, even though He makes use of his ministers as tools in the construction of Christians.
The object of Paul was to show that all that had been done for them had really been done by God. For this purpose he first says that they were God's cultivated field; then he changes the imagery; draws his illustration from architecture, and says, that they had been built by him like an architect designs and oversees the construction of a house. It does not build itself; but it is built by the Master Builder. So he says of the Corinthians, "Ye are the building which God erects." The same idea is found in the following verses:
• 2 Corinthians 6:16—“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
• Ephesians 2:21—“We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.”
• Hebrews 3:6—“But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”
• 1 Peter 2:5—“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
You are not only the field which God cultivates, but you are the house which God builds, and in which he intends to dwell. No man when viewing a splendid building praises the quarryman that dug up the stones, the hewer that cut and squared them, the mason that placed them in the wall, the woodman that hewed down the timber, the carpenter that cut it to length, etc., but he praises the architect who planned it, and under whose direction the whole work was accomplished; so no man should consider Paul, or Apollos anything, because they are merely the persons employed by the great Architect to build a building which is to become a habitation for Himself through the Spirit, and the design of it is entirely his own. The idea is that God is the supreme agent in the founding and establishing of the church, with all its gifts and graces.
10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me,
Paul must have been thinking of what he is about to say about himself, and it may have occurred to him that there is a chance he might become a bit elated as he recounts his service for the Lord; therefore, he attributes all of his gifts, and his usefulness as a laborer and builder in the church of God, to the rich grace he had received from the Lord; by which he was called and qualified for the work of a wise master builder. According to the grace of God means “By the favor of God” which is given to me. All that Paul had done had been by the sheer favor of God. His appointment as an apostle of Jesus Christ was from God; and all the skill which he had shown, and all the leadership and authority which he had employed, had been from him. Paul, by the grace of God was the apostle to the Gentiles, a status which had been conferred on him by the pure favor of God along with all the wisdom, and skill, and success which he had evidenced in beginning and serving the church.
The grace of God which is given unto me is the special endowment for his apostolic work. He places this first to guard against seeming to lack humility when he pronounces himself a wise masterbuilder. The "grace" "given" to him is the common grace given to all Christians (See 1 Co 3:5), only the quantity of grace is proportioned according to the work which God had for him to do. Paul was certainly humble as this verse, and others show: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly , according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12.3; KJV).
as a wise masterbuilder,
This same phrase, "a wise master builder", is used by the Septuagint interpreters, in Isaiah 3:3 by which they depict, "the cunning artificer", or the wise man of the carpenters, or artificers—“The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator” (Isa 3.3; KJV). The architect of all is God the Father, Son, and Spirit; God the Father is the builder of all things; Christ builds his church on himself the solid rock; and the saints are made a habitation for God, by the Spirit; ministers are builders under God, instruments he makes use of, and who would labor in vain, unless the Lord build the city. The apostle was such a minister, despite the fact that he calls himself a masterbuilder with respect to inferior ministers. He was installed in the highest office in the church, and as an apostle he was not a bit behind the chief of the apostles; and was the chief apostle of the Gentiles, and was principally concerned in preaching the Gospel to them, and in establishing churches among them; the apostle was a Gospel builder, a builder of Gospel churches based in Gospel truths, and in faith and holiness. But there were others, who were foolish builders, but he was a wise one; and his wisdom rested in the knowledge he had of Christ, in preaching him, and in winning souls for him; and for the most part that he lay a good foundation for his ministry.
The Greek word for a wise master-builder is also our word; "Architect." The word does not imply that Paul had any superiority over his brethren, but that he had performed his work like a skillful architect, who begins with a firm foundation. Every builder begins with the foundation; and Paul had started the same way, by laying first a firm foundation on which the church could be put together. Here the word "wise" means "skillful" or "shrewd"—“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matt 7:24; KJV); the rock of true discipleship, or genuine subjection to Christ.
The design or plan of the building comes from God, and all things must be done according to the pattern which he has conceived; but the execution of his plan was entrusted chiefly to Paul; he was the wise or experienced architect which God used in order to lay the foundation; to ascertain the essential and indisputable doctrines of the Gospel—they came exclusively from God, and he alone would bless them and use them to save men.
I have laid the foundation,
He says, I have laid the foundation; meaning not only that he had done the same thing at Corinth that he had done other places; but he was the first to preach the Gospel to them, and was instrumental in their conversion, and he laid the foundation for a Gospel church. "What" this foundation was, he states in 1 Corinthians 3:11. The meaning here is, that the church at Corinth had been established by Paul, and through his preaching he laid Christ as the one and only foundation, for men to build their faith and hope upon, and for everlasting life and happiness, mentioned in the following verse.