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1 Corinthians 3:9-15

Context
3:9 We are coworkers belonging to God. 1  You are God’s field, God’s building. 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. 3:12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 2  3:13 each builder’s 3  work will be plainly seen, for the Day 4  will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire 5  will test what kind of work each has done. 3:14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 3:15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. 6  He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

1 tn Although 1 Cor 3:9 is frequently understood to mean, “we are coworkers with God,” such a view assumes that the genitive θεοῦ (qeou) is associative because of its relationship to συνεργοί (sunergoi). However, not only is a genitive of association not required by the syntax (cf. ExSyn 130), but the context is decidedly against it: Paul and Apollos are insignificant compared to the God whom they serve (vv. 5-8).

2 sn The various materials described here, both valuable (gold, silver, precious stones) and worthless (wood, hay, or straw) refer to the quality of work built on the foundation, or possibly to the motivation of those doing the building. The materials themselves have been understood (1) as deeds or (2) as people (since ultimately the passage is addressing those who minister to others).

3 tn Grk “each one’s.” Here “builder’s” is employed in the translation for clarity.

4 tn In an attempt to clarify the referent, some translations add “of Christ” after “Day” (so TEV); others specify this as “judgment day” (NLT) or “the day of judgment” (CEV).

sn The Day refers to the Day of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1:8; 5:5) when each Christian worker will appear before Christ for evaluation of his ministry. Paul’s constant motivation was to be pleasing to the Lord in that day (2 Cor 5:9-10) and receive his commendation (1 Cor 4:5).

5 tcαὐτό (auto) is found at this point in v. 13 in a number of significant witnesses, including A B C P 33 1739 al. But Ì46 א D Ψ 0289 1881 Ï latt lack it. The pronoun could be a motivated reading, designed to intensify Paul’s statement. On the other hand, it could have been deleted because the article alone made the reference already clear. In this instance, the possibility of scribal addition seems more likely than scribal deletion, although a decision is difficult. NA27 includes the word in brackets, indicating doubt as to its authenticity.

sn It is unclear whether the phrase it will be revealed by fire describes the Day (subject of the previous clause) or each one’s work (subject of the clause before that).

6 tn The translation “[will] be punished” is given here by BDAG 428 s.v. ζημιόω 2. But the next clause says “he will be delivered” and so “suffering loss” is more likely to refer to the destruction of the “work” by fire or the loss of the reward that could have been gained.



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