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1 Corinthians 3:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual - This is a continuation of the preceding discourse. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 2:15; (note), and 1 Corinthians 2:16; (note).

But as unto carnal - Σαρκικοις, Persons under the influence of fleshly appetites; coveting and living for the things of this life.

Babes in Christ - Just beginning to acquire some notion of the Christian religion, hut as yet very incapable of judging what is most suitable to yourselves, and consequently utterly unqualified to discern between one teacher and another; so that your making the distinctions which you do make, so far from being a proof of mature judgment, is on the contrary a proof that you have no right judgment at all; and this springs from your want of knowledge in Divine things.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And I, brethren - See 1 Corinthians 2:1. This is designed to meet an implied objection. He had said 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 that Christians were able to understand all things. Yet, they would recollect that he had not addressed them as such, but had confined himself to the more elementary parts of religion when he came among them. He had not entered upon the abstruse and difficult points of theology - the points of speculation in which the subtle Greeks so much abounded and so much delighted. He now states the reason why he had not done it. The reason was one that was most humbling to their pride; but it was the true reason, and faithfulness demanded that it should be stated. It was, that they were carnal, and not qualified to understand the deep mysteries of the gospel; and the proof of this was unhappily at hand. It was too evident in their contentions and strifes, that they were under the influence of carnal feelings and views.

Could not speak unto you as unto spiritual - “I could not regard you as spiritual - as qualified to enter into the full and higher truths of the gospel; I could not regard you as divested of the feelings which influence carnal people - the people of the world, and I addressed you accordingly. I could not discourse to you as to far-advanced and well-informed Christians. I taught you the rudiments only of the Christian religion.” He refers here, doubtless, to his instructions when he founded the church at Corinth. See the note at 1 Corinthians 2:13-15.

But as unto carnal - The word “carnal” here σάρκινοῖς sarkinoisis not the same which in 1 Corinthians 2:14, is translated “natural” ψυχικός psuchikos“That” refers to one who is unrenewed, and who is wholly under the influence of his sensual or animal nature, and is no where applied to Christians. “This” is applied here to Christians - but to those who have much of the remains of corruption, and who are imperfectly acquainted with the nature of religion; babes in Christ. It denotes those who still evinced the feelings and views which pertain to the flesh, in these unhappy contentions, and strifes, and divisions. “The works of the flesh are hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, envyings” Galatians 5:20-21; and these they had evinced in their divisions; and Paul knew that their danger lay in this direction, and he therefore addressed them according to their character. Paul applies the word to himself Romans 7:14, “for I am carnal;” and here it denotes that they were as yet under the influence of the corrupt passions and desires which the flesh produces.

As unto babes in Christ - As unto those recently born into his kingdom, and unable to understand the profounder doctrines of the Christian religion. It is a common figure to apply the term infants and children to those who are feeble in understanding, or unable, from any cause, to comprehend the more profound instructions of science or religion.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The most simple truths of the gospel, as to man's sinfulness and God's mercy, repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, stated in the plainest language, suit the people better than deeper mysteries. Men may have much doctrinal knowledge, yet be mere beginners in the life of faith and experience. Contentions and quarrels about religion are sad evidences of carnality. True religion makes men peaceable, not contentious. But it is to be lamented, that many who should walk as Christians, live and act too much like other men. Many professors, and preachers also, show themselves to be yet carnal, by vain-glorious strife, eagerness for dispute, and readiness to despise and speak evil of others.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 300

Paul had written briefly to the church, admonishing them “not to company” with members who should persist in profligacy; but many of the believers perverted the apostle's meaning, quibbled over his words, and excused themselves for disregarding his instruction. AA 300.1

A letter was sent to Paul by the church, asking for counsel concerning various matters, but saying nothing of the grievous sins existing among them. The apostle was, however, forcibly impressed by the Holy Spirit that the true state of the church had been concealed and that this letter was an attempt to draw from him statements which the writers could construe to serve their own purposes. AA 300.2

About this time there came to Ephesus members of the household of Chloe, a Christian family of high repute in Corinth. Paul asked them regarding the condition of things, and they told him that the church was rent by divisions. The dissensions that had prevailed at the time of Apollos's visit had greatly increased. False teachers were leading the members to despise the instructions of Paul. The doctrines and ordinances of the gospel had been perverted. Pride, idolatry, and sensualism, were steadily increasing among those who had once been zealous in the Christian life. AA 300.3

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 270-1

While in Ephesus, Apollos “began to speak boldly in the synagogue.” Among his hearers were Aquila and Priscilla, who, perceiving that he had not yet received the full light of the gospel, “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” Through their teaching he obtained a clearer understanding of the Scriptures and became one of the ablest advocates of the Christian faith. AA 270.1

Apollos was desirous of going on into Achaia, and the brethren at Ephesus “wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him” as a teacher in full harmony with the church of Christ. He went to Corinth, where, in public labor and from house to house, “he mightily convinced the Jews, ... showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” Paul had planted the seed of truth; Apollos now watered it. The success that attended Apollos in preaching the gospel led some of the believers to exalt his labors above those of Paul. This comparison of man with man brought into the church a party spirit that threatened to hinder greatly the progress of the gospel. AA 270.2

During the year and a half that Paul had spent in Corinth, he had purposely presented the gospel in its simplicity. “Not with excellency of speech or of wisdom” had he come to the Corinthians; but with fear and trembling, and “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” had he declared “the testimony of God,” that their “faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4, 5. AA 270.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 483

These words mean very much to the soul that is trying to run the race set before him in the gospel. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” TM 483.1

Read also the third chapter of this book, and study and pray over these words. As a people our faith and practice need to be energized by the Holy Spirit. No ruling power that would compel man to obey the dictates of the finite mind should be exercised. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils,” the Lord commands. By turning the minds of men to lean on human wisdom, we place a veil between God and man, so that there is not a seeing of Him who is invisible. TM 483.2

In our individual experience we are to be taught of God. When we seek Him with a sincere heart, we will confess to Him our defects of character; and He has promised to receive all who come to Him in humble dependence. The one who yields to the claims of God will have the abiding presence of Christ, and this companionship will be to him a very precious thing. Taking hold of divine wisdom, he will escape the corruptions that are in the world through lust. Day by day he will learn more fully how to carry his infirmities to the One who has promised to be a very present help in every time of need. TM 483.3

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