Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


1 Corinthians 3:5

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Ministers by whom ye believed - The different apostles who have preached unto you the word of life are the means which God has used to bring you to the knowledge of Christ. No one of those has either preached or recommended himself; they all preach and recommend Christ Jesus the Lord.

Even as the Lord gave to every man? - Whatever difference there may be in our talents, it is of God's making; and he who knows best what is best for his Church, has distributed both gifts and graces according to his own mind; and, as his judgment is infallible, all these dispensations must be right. Paul, therefore, is as necessary to the perfecting of the Church of Christ as Apollos; and Apollos, as Paul. Both, but with various gifts, point out the same Christ, building on one and the same foundation.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Who then is Paul … - See the notes at 1 Corinthians 1:13. Why should a party be formed which should be named after Paul? What has he done or taught that should lead to this? What eminence has he that should induce any to call themselves by his name? He is on a level with the other apostles; and all are but ministers, or servants, and have no claim to the honor of giving names to sects and parties. God is the fountain of all your blessings, and whoever may have been the “instrument” by whom you have believed, it is improper to regard them as, in any sense the fountain of your blessings, or to arrange yourselves under their name.

But ministers - Our word minister, as now used, does not express the proper force of this word. We in applying it to preachers of the gospel do not usually advert to the original sense of the word, and the reasons why it was given to them. The original word διάκονοι diakonoidenotes properly “servants” in contradistinction from “masters” Matthew 20:26; Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:35; Mark 10:43; and denotes those of course who are in an inferior rank of life. They did not have command, or authority, but were subject to the command of others. It is applied to the preachers of the gospel because they are employed in the service of God; because they go at his command, and are subject to his control and direction. They did not have original authority, nor are they the source of influence or power. The idea here is, that they were the mere instruments or servants by whom God conveyed all blessings to the Corinthians; that they as ministers were on a level, were engaged in the same work, and that therefore, it was improper for them to form parties that should be called by their names.

By whom - Through whom δἰ ὥν di' hōnby whose instrumentality. They were not the original source of faith, but were the mere servants of God in conveying to them the knowledge of that truth by which they were to be saved.

Even as the Lord gave to every man - God is the original source of faith; and it is by his influence that anyone is brought to believe; see the note at Romans 12:3, note at Romans 12:6. There were diversities of gifts among the Corinthian Christians, as there are in all Christians. And it is here implied:

(1)That all that anyone had was to be traced to God as its author;

(2)That he is a sovereign, and dispenses his favors to all as he pleases;

(3)That since God had conferred those favors, it was improper for the Corinthians to divide themselves into sects and call themselves by the name of their teachers, for all that they had was to be traced to God alone.

This idea, that all the gifts and graces which Christians had, were to be traced to God alone, was one which the apostle Paul often insisted on; and if this idea had been kept before the minds and hearts of all Christians, it would have prevented no small part of the contentions in the church, and the formation of no small part of the sects in the Christian world.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The ministers about whom the Corinthians contended, were only instruments used by God. We should not put ministers into the place of God. He that planteth and he that watereth are one, employed by one Master, trusted with the same revelation, busied in one work, and engaged in one design. They have their different gifts from one and the same Spirit, for the very same purposes; and should carry on the same design heartily. Those who work hardest shall fare best. Those who are most faithful shall have the greatest reward. They work together with God, in promoting the purposes of his glory, and the salvation of precious souls; and He who knows their work, will take care they do not labour in vain. They are employed in his husbandry and building; and He will carefully look over them.
Ellen G. White
Welfare Ministry, 132-3

Nothing can, or ever will, give character to the work in the presentation of truth to help the people just where they are so well as Samaritan work. A work properly conducted to save poor sinners that have been passed by the churches, will be the entering wedge whereby the truth will find standing room. A different order of things needs to be established among us as a people, and as this class of work is done, there will be created an entirely different atmosphere surrounding the souls of the workers; for the Holy Spirit communicates to all those who are doing God's service, and those who are worked by the Holy Spirit will be a power for God in lifting up, strengthening, and saving the souls that are ready to perish.—Special Testimonies, Series A 11:32. WM 132.1

Zeal and Perseverance Required—Could I arouse our people to Christian effort, could I lead them to engage in medical missionary work with holy zeal and divine perseverance, not in a few places, but in every place, putting forth personal effort for those out of the fold, how grateful I should be! This is true missionary work. In some places it is attended with little success, apparently; but again, the Lord opens the way, and signal success attends the effort. Words are spoken which are as nails fastened in a sure place. Angels from heaven cooperate with human instrumentalities, and sinners are won to the Saviour.—Letter 43, 1903. WM 132.2

Holy and Devout Men and Women Called—Holy and devout persons, both men and women, are wanted now to go forth as medical missionaries. Let them cultivate their physical and mental powers and their piety to the uttermost. Every effort should be made to send forth intelligent workers. The same grace that came from Jesus Christ to Paul and Apollos, which caused them to be distinguished for their spiritual excellencies, can be received now, and will bring into working order many devoted missionaries.—;Special Testimonies Relating to Medical Missionary Work, 8. WM 132.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 298

Because of unconsecrated workers, things will sometimes go wrong. You may weep over the result of the wrong course of others, but do not worry. The work is under the supervision of the blessed Master. All He asks is that the workers shall come to Him for their orders, and obey His directions. All parts of the work—our churches, missions, Sabbath schools, institutions—are carried upon His heart. Why worry? The intense longing to see the church imbued with life must be tempered with entire trust in God; for “without Me,” said the great Burden Bearer, “ye can do nothing.” “Follow Me.” He leads the way; we are to follow. 7T 298.1

Let no one overtax his God-given powers in an effort to advance the Lord's work more rapidly. The power of man cannot hasten the work; with this must be united the power of heavenly intelligences. Only thus can the work of God be brought to perfection. Man cannot do God's part of the work. A Paul may plant, and an Apollos water, but God gives the increase. In simplicity and meekness man is to co-operate with divine agencies, at all times doing his best, yet ever realizing that God is the great Master Workman. He is not to feel self-confident, for thus he will exhaust his reserve force and destroy his mental and physical powers. Though all the workmen now bearing the heaviest burdens should be laid aside, God's work would be carried forward. Then let our zeal in labor be tempered with reason; let us cease our efforts to do that which the Lord alone can accomplish. 7T 298.2

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 274

It was Paul who had first preached the gospel in Corinth, and who had organized the church there. This was the work that the Lord had assigned him. Later, by God's direction, other workers were brought in, to stand in their lot and place. The seed sown must be watered, and this Apollos was to do. He followed Paul in his work, to give further instruction, and to help the seed sown to develop. He won his way to the hearts of the people, but it was God who gave the increase. It is not human, but divine power, that works transformation of character. Those who plant and those who water do not cause the growth of the seed; they work under God, as His appointed agencies, co-operating with Him in His work. To the Master Worker belongs the honor and glory that comes with success. AA 274.1

God's servants do not all possess the same gifts, but they are all His workmen. Each is to learn of the Great Teacher, and is then to communicate what he has learned. God has given to each of His messengers an individual work. There is a diversity of gifts, but all the workers are to blend in harmony, controlled by the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit. As they make known the gospel of salvation, many will be convicted and converted by the power of God. The human instrumentality is hid with Christ in God, and Christ appears as the chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely. AA 274.2

“Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.” Verses 8, 9. In this scripture the apostle compares the church to a cultivated field, in which the husbandmen labor, caring for the vines of the Lord's planting; and also to a building, which is to grow into a holy temple for the Lord. God is the Master Worker, and He has appointed to each man his work. All are to labor under His supervision, letting Him work for and through His workmen. He gives them tact and skill, and if they heed His instruction, crowns their efforts with success. AA 275.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, 197

In the erection of national barriers you present to the world a plan of human invention that God can never endorse. To those who would do this, the apostle Paul says: “Ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal? ... Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.” 1 Corinthians 3:3-9. 9T 197.1

When our brethren in Scandinavia faced a financial crisis, the testimony was given that we must not permit our brethren to stand as bankrupt before the world. That would have been dishonoring to God. And the prompt and liberal action of our American brethren was an acknowledgment that the difference in nationality could not release them from their duty to assist one another in the work of God. “All ye are brethren.” Matthew 23:8. We are one in the unity of the truth. 9T 197.2

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