June 28, 2009: 1 Corinthians 3

Notes

  • (1-3) These are stern words of rebuke. Paul had expected that, by now, the church at Corinth would be growing mature and increasingly prepared – and engaged – in ministry, but they were still wallowing in the same issues and squabbles that their worldly neighbors were. They were, for all intents and purposes, still infants in faith. The first time through, Paul had been gentle, explaining what needed to be done. Now, though, it was time for a more stern tact, as a parent correcting his/her child.
  • (3-4) Jealousy and quarrels are sure signs of spiritual immaturity. We are to be a body, working together and rejoicing in each other’s successes, rather than looking enviously on. And we are not supposed to be in competition, emphasizing minute points of teachings which should be complementary to the point of contention, but embracing a complete and full gospel message.
  • (5-9) Paul and Sosthenes take a moment to expand on the point that quarreling is unacceptable through an illustration. There are numerous jobs that must be accomplished in the field before the harvest can come. The different people that perform these tasks are not competing with one another, but working together for the successful harvest. Although it is tempting to think that our church, our ministry, is the only one that people need, the truth is that there are numerous teachers out there that have something to contribute.
  • (10-13) The illustration changes now to that of a building. There is – and can be – but one foundation: Jesus Christ. All other foundations will fail. We cannot add to or subtract from Jesus. He alone must be the root of all that we say and do. In other words, it’s not about Paul, Apollos, Peter, Jeremy, or anyone else. It’s about Jesus.
  • (14-15) Even beyond the foundation, our entire ministry and teaching must come under scrutiny. If we are working on the foundation of Jesus with mediocrity or triviality, we are building with wood, hay or straw, and these things will be burned away as worthless in the final judgment. How easy it is to build entire, even elaborate and seemingly beautiful, mansions with these things, but we must resist the temptation. These things are expedient, yes, but they are not lasting. Rather, we must strive to build with things that matter: costly stones, the solid, essential teachings of the faith; silver, the lustrous metal which must be broken time and again to be made pure and usable; and gold, the spectacularly malleable metal which comes from true purity.
  • (16-17) We ourselves are the temple. The implications of this revelation are nearly infinite. But I think that the primary idea Paul and co. were trying to convey goes back to the quality of the structure we’re erecting on the foundation of Jesus laid in our lives. When Moses and the Israelites built the tabernacle, they were called to build with nothing less than the best, and with an extreme attention to detail. When Solomon and Israel erected the temple, they were compelled to take their time and do it right. We must be the same way in building our lives and our ministries. Don’t settle. Don’t compromise.
  • (18-20) As we build on that foundation of Jesus, we must not rely on the logic and wisdom of the world. We must not build as they do, constructing massive effigies to our own egos or those that we deem good or convenient. We must humble ourselves and ask God to reveal what He has for us. Only then can we build a temple comprised of the good stuff from vss. 10-15.
  • (21-23) So we don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing which Christian leader we will follow, whose particular teaching we will champion. We must recognize that all that are built on Christ are important, and all that are founded on Jesus are from God.

Comments

So often, we pride ourselves in being Catholic or Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, or Wesleyan. And we’re quick to point to the deficiencies of each of the others as proof that ours is the only way, truth, and life. But the truth is, Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. And anything which is built on Jesus is valid and important for us to consider. Jesus is the foundation. There can be no other which will stand up to the storms of life and the fires of judgment.

It is also essential to consider what and how we’re building on the foundation of Jesus. So often, we build with what seems easy and efficient, but sometimes easy and efficient add up to cheap and passing. We must not focus on the minutia of eschatology or dwell only on spectacular stuff that makes us feel good. We must build our lives and ministries with solid, essential truths such as salvation by grace through faith (to name only one); ministry through service and humility; and personal purity and submission so that God can form us into whatever He so desires.

What am I building with?

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