What did Paul mean by “all things are yours?” (1 Cor 3:21).
In order to approach this question somewhat in context, we should consider 1 Corinthians 3:21-23: “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” The word “therefore” tells us that what we are considering is based on truth written earlier in the epistle. The application of this truth should cause us to obey the command, “let no man glory in men.” “For all things are yours” is an explanation of why we should not “glory in men.” The words following “whether” elaborate on what the “all things” include.
A number of problems are addressed in 1 Corinthians. The first is divisions among the saints based, at least in part, on following favorite men (1:10-13). The verse containing the phrase we are considering begins with the words, “Therefore let no man glory in men.” The words immediately following this phrase are, “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas.” It is clear that Paul’s point is, first of all, in connection with “men.” We read, “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas.” In chapter 3:3-4, Paul points out that the Corinthians’ preoccupation with men was a mark of carnality. “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” To put men in perspective, he says in verse 5: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” Paul and Apollos were simply ministers (Strong #1249, “servants,” “deacons”) doing the work that the Lord had fitted and commissioned them to do. Paul says, “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (v7). Paul wants the Corinthians to hold all men in proper perspective – not exalting them above what God teaches in the Scriptures (4:6). Each laborer will be evaluated individually by his Lord as to his service (3:13-15). We might well link the expression, “let no man glory in men” (3:21) with the words, “he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1:31). It is God’s determination “that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1:29).
Getting back to the expression, “all things are yours,” it seems that the point of the statement is that “all things,” including gifted men, are for the benefit of God’s people. There should be no favorites, and no preoccupation with the “things,” but rather with the Giver. Paul is giving one more reason why men should not be gloried in – they belong to the believers. All believers are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s; therefore, we are the objects of Divine care. He provides “all things” for us. All things in this present world, and things yet to come, are provided for our spiritual benefit, including gifted men. Life, and even death, are ours to be used for the glory of God and the blessing of others.