The Christian's Heritage
1 Corinthians 3:21-23
Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;…


1. The mind of a great author is more precious than his books, of a great artist than his pictures. To have the mind is better than to have merely the products of that mind. Give the fountain, and you virtually have the streams. But no earthly or finite mind can transfer its gifts to another. But there is a sense in which we may become sharers of the Infinite Mind from which all that is true and good and fair in the universe proceeds. As really as true, or noble, or holy thoughts become a portion of the mind which apprehends them, does God communicate Himself through the spirit of the believer.

2. The happiness of this mysterious nature of ours is never to be found merely in the possession of God's gifts; the soul can find its true satisfaction only in rising beyond the gifts, and claiming the Giver as its own. When you covet the friendship or love of a fellow-man, it does not satisfy you that he bestows upon you only outward gifts; unless the man give you himself, the rest are but worthless boons. So the wealth of worlds would be, to the heart longing after Deity, a miserable substitute for one look of love from the Great Father's eye.

3. Now, admitting the truth of the thought that God is the portion of the soul, then the argument of the text becomes obvious and conclusive. As the scattered rays of light are all included in the focus, as the fountain contains the streams, so all finite and created good is contained in Him who is the Supreme Good; all earthly excellence is but the partial emanation, the more or less bright reflection of the Great Original. The man who is in possession of some great masterpiece need not envy others who have only casts or copies of it.


1. "The world is yours." Not, obviously, in the literal sense. This earth is not the exclusive property of the good. It is not their Master, but another who, displaying "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them," said, "All these will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me." As often as otherwise the rich in faith are poor in this world's possessions. The best of the sons of men "had not where to lay His head"; and even this last resting-place the hand of charity bestowed. But the world belongs to the Christian in that he only has a legitimate title to the benefits and blessings he enjoys in it. This earth was not meant to be the home of evil.

(1) Even mute and material things, the laws and agencies of nature, have in them something that asserts their Divine origin, and proclaims that wrong is done to them when forced into the service of sin. If, therefore, you are living a sinful life, you are out of harmony with the world in which you live. You are an intruder on its soil, a misappropriator of its benefits, a usurper and perverter of its laws. And so long as you continue in estrangement from God, it is as if His sun were unwilling to shine upon you, and His air to inspire you, and the fruits of His earth to nourish you, and that earth itself to hold you, and as if "the whole creation," weary of a bondage so degrading, were "groaning and travailing in pain."(2) On the other hand, let your soul be brought back into living union with the Father of spirits through His Son, and thenceforward the world will become yours, because you are God's. In harmony with the Great Centre, you will be in harmony with all things in His universe. Nature will serve him who serves her God. The earth will be fulfilling its proper function in yielding you bread, and the heavens in shedding their sweet influences on your path. You will be able to claim a peculiar property in the works of your Father's hand, and the bounties of your Father's providence. You will have served yourself heir to Him who is the Universal Proprietor, and become "heir of God, and joint heir with Christ." And so "the world" and the fulness thereof will become "yours," because "ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

2. "Life is yours."(1) Of course, considered as mere existence or duration of being, "life" cannot be regarded as the peculiar property of the Christian. For though it is true that religion is really conducive to health and longevity, and that, in absence of its restraints, vicious excess often impairs the health and shortens life, yet it is not always the holiest men who live the longest.

(2) But if the good do not live longer, they live more in the same space of time than other men. Life is to be reckoned not only extensively, but also intensively. An oak lives for centuries; but who would exchange for it a single day of the existence of a living, conscious, thinking man? The briefest life of rationality, again, has more of real life in it than the longest of a mere animal. And, amongst rational beings, that life is longest, whether brief or protracted its outward term, into which the largest amount of mental and moral activity is condensed. "We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths," &c. But if so, it is only the man who lives to God who can really be said to live at all. For in him alone the whole man lives — in him alone all the energies of man's being are called into fullest, noblest activity. The man who merely vegetates through existence, who rises day by day only to eat and drink and pursue the same unreflective round, without one lofty thought or pure spiritual emotion — surely, to such an one, life, in its real essence, its true significance, is lost. The man of property, who has an undiscovered gold mine on his estate, is no richer for his latent wealth; and whatever other men contrive to extract out of life — as comfort, honour, knowledge, power — they are, after all, possessors only of its surface wealth; the Christian alone, the man who has discovered and appropriated its hidden treasure of holy thought, feeling, energy, he alone can be said to be its true possessor. Confine a bird for life to a cage, and could it be said to be in reality possessor of the unexercised, unenjoyed power to soar and sweep the heavens? But within every human breast there are capabilities of heaven, folded wings of thought, aspiration, energy, which need only the liberating touch of the Spirit of God to call forth their hidden power, and bear the soul upward to the true region of its life. The true ideal of man's life is that of a heavenly life. To that man only who can say, "To me to live is Christ," can we say, in the full significance of the words, Then "life is yours."

3. "Death is yours." Outwardly, indeed, death bears the same aspect to all. But yet, whilst of all other men it may be said that they are death's, of the believer alone can it be averred that death is his.

(1) Sin renders a man, in a sense, the rightful property of death, so that, when the hour of dissolution arrives, it is but the lawful proprietor coming to claim his own. In human society, a man by the commission of a crime is by right, if not in fact, the property of the law. The criminal may elude for a while the hands of justice; but, go where he may, he has no right to liberty or life. And when at last, it may be in some unwary moment, he feels a stern hand laid upon his shoulder, and the terrible words, "You are my prisoner," fall upon his ear, his guilty freedom is at an end. And though shrinking in dismay from the fate that awaits him, go he must with the officer of justice to meet it. Now, similar to this is the condition of the irreligious man in relation to that law which he has dishonoured, and that dread penalty which he has incurred.

(2) On the other hand, if you are Christ's, then death is yours. His power over you is gone. For your condition will be analogous to that of the innocent man in the hands of the law. Over him the law has no power. All its authority, its sanctions, its penalties are on his side. And so, if ye be Christ's, the stain of guilt no longer rests upon you, and- death has no longer any claim to your person. It may be still your mysterious fate to pass into the prison-house of the destroyer; but He to whom you belong will soon claim you as one who, like Himself, cannot be "holden of death." And then when "this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality," then shall the believer discover the full and blessed import of the words, "Death is yours."

(J. Caird, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;

WEB: Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours,

The Believer's Possessions
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