What does 1 Corinthians 3:11 mean?
ESV: For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
NIV: For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
NASB: For no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
CSB: For no one can lay any foundation other than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.
NLT: For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have — Jesus Christ.
KJV: For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Verse Commentary:
Earlier, Paul explained that all human teachers, including himself and men like Apollos, are simply co-workers under Christ (1 Corinthians 3:5–6). Christian allegiance ought to be to exclusively to Jesus, and not divided based on which human servant we prefer to follow (1 Corinthians 3:7–9). Then, using the metaphor of constructing a building for the work of building the community of believers in Corinth, Paul has described himself as the skilled master builder who laid the foundation by preaching the gospel to them (1 Corinthians 3:10).

Jesus Christ is that foundation, and nobody else can put down any other foundation for the church. Put another way, the church will not stand on any other foundation besides Jesus Christ. The gospel—the good news from God about salvation from sin—starts and ends with faith in Jesus. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it or the message stops being the gospel.

Some Bible teachers suggest that perhaps Paul is referring to false teachers who are already in Corinth and are trying to teach a different gospel, a distorted message about Jesus. Other Bible scholars see Paul's warning about what might happen in the future, perhaps especially if the Corinthians keep focusing their loyalty on Christian leaders instead of on Christ Himself. Either way, Paul's point is that one's faith needs to be grounded in Jesus, not a person, and not in some other concept.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 3:10–15 expands on Paul's earlier point that only God, not any fallible human being, is worthy. Each person must build their ''works'' on a foundation of Christ. Those works will be subject to judgment, to see what has eternal value. Lasting works are based in valuable, durable, precious things like wisdom and truth. Cheap and fragile materials won't stand the fire of God's judgment.
Chapter Summary:
Paul cannot call the Corinthian Christians ''spiritual'' people. Though they are in Christ, they continue to live to the flesh. They are spiritual infants, not ready for solid food. Divisions among them prove they are still serving themselves, picking sides in a senseless debate between Christian teachers. Paul insists that both he and Apollos are mere servants of the Lord and co-workers. They are not in competition. Those who lead the Corinthians must build carefully because their work will be tested on the day of the Lord. Christian leaders who build the church will have their work judged by Christ to see if they have built on the foundation of Christ. All human wisdom will be shown to be futile and worthless.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 3 follows Paul's teaching that only spiritual people can understand the wisdom of God. Paul cannot fully call the Corinthian Christians spiritual people, though, because they continue to live of the flesh, as if they were still infants trapped in an immature condition. Evidence includes the divisions among them. Paul insist that he and Apollos are both servants of the same master. The Corinthians should follow God, not them. Those whose work is worthless will suffer loss, but they will be saved. After this, Paul will expound on the idea that believers ought to set Christ as their example, rather than being defined in terms of their earthly leaders.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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