Questions From Readers
● What did the apostle Paul mean when he wrote the Corinthians, “All things belong to you”?—B. B., England.
Essentially, he meant that all things God has made or arranged are at the disposal of Christians, to serve for their benefit.
The words in question occur twice in the last three verses 21-23 of First Corinthians chapter three. We read: “Hence let no one be boasting in men; for all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things now here or things to come, all things belong to you; in turn you belong to Christ; Christ, in turn, belongs to God.”—1 Cor. 3:21-23.
Similarly at 2 Corinthians 4:15 the apostle wrote: “All things are for your sakes.” Here Paul was speaking of all the labors and sufferings he and his companions had undergone in behalf of the Corinthian congregation.
The situation at Corinth was that some of the Christians there had become fleshly in their thinking, not spiritual. (1 Cor. 3:1-4) They had begun to favor certain leading men such as Apollos, Cephas (Peter) or Paul, and to feel that they were followers of these men, or belonged to them. This brought dissension. (1 Cor. 1:10-13) The congregation should realize that all these men were “one,” that is, all working at unity to the same end, to build up the congregation as a whole, spiritually. Actually, all these men belonged to the congregation, as a gift of God for their welfare.—1 Cor. 3:5-8; Eph. 4:8-12.
Paul emphasized that the congregation constituted a temple of the living God, in which God dwells by spirit. Therefore boasting in prominent men was foolishness and those doing so were degrading their own position as members of that temple of God.—1 Cor. 3:16-19.
As Paul wrote to the congregation at Rome: “Now we know that God makes all his works co-operate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28, 29) Christians should realize this and not let themselves come to ‘belong’ to or be the followers or servants of any man or group of men, or of the world or the things in it.—1 Cor. 7:23.
Consequently the “world” belongs to these spirit-begotten Christians in the sense that the things arranged among mankind are for the use of God’s people. For example, the Bible says of the “superior authorities,” the political rulers in the world, that “it [the authority] is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is bad.” They are “God’s public servants constantly serving this very purpose.” (Rom. 13:1-4, 6) Such authorities serve the Christian’s interests when they keep law and order, so that the Christian “may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.”—1 Tim. 2:1, 2.
Christians can accordingly use the transportation systems, the mail service, the police, and any other lawful things as ‘belonging’ to them, in carrying on proper living and preaching the good news. However, as a warning Paul later counsels that “those making use of the world [should be] as those not using it to the full.” (1 Cor. 7:31) All such things should be used only to the extent that they serve Christian interests.
“Life” belongs to the Christian because it is a gift of God that can be used in service to God. “Godly devotion,” Timothy was told, “holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) The life that the Christian lives now, though there are persecutions, is far better than a life without God and without hope. He is living a life, not of vanity, but of purpose.
“Death” belongs to the Christian, though he does not court death. The anointed Christian, the spirit-begotten one, with hope of heavenly life, knows that it is necessary for him to die in order to be resurrected to heaven in the spirit, to be with Christ. Thus he will enjoy triumph over death.—1 Cor. 15:35, 36, 42, 54-57.
The “things now here,” events, conditions and situations in this present system of things, are subject to God’s maneuvering so that they will not be allowed to overwhelm the Christian in his integrity. Christians can also use to His glory whatever God permits to come into their possession. And the “things to come,” in their service of God, either in the heavens or on earth, will certainly be for their joy, upbuilding and eternal benefit.
As to belonging, therefore, Christians do not belong to any man or anything of this world. They do belong to Christ, who bought them with his blood. (John 6:51; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19) Anointed Christians exist to bring glory to their Head, Christ, to whom all things will be made subject. (1 Cor. 11:3; 15:27; Col. 1:18) In so doing, they bring glory to God, to whom Christ belongs.