Skip to main content

Building Projects: 1 Corinthians 3

In Summary:
Paul continues his instruction to the Corinthians using the parallel of constructing a building. Historically, cities are alike in this basic reality: there are always construction projects. Modern America may see highways being built more often than buildings, but the process is the same idea. Foundations are laid, work is done to build on that foundation, and then the results are visible.
First, though, Paul had to begin correcting problems in the Corinthian church. They lacked the maturity to build on in the first place. The division within the church had to be addressed before the true building on the church can begin. And keep in mind: he’s using a physical building as a parallel. This is not about a lovely, ornate structure in brick and stucco. 1 Corinthians 3:4-5 highlights the problem: there was an adherence to personalities over the Person of Jesus.
The remainder of the chapter turns toward the Corinthians and how they are the Temple of God. One can imagine the situation: Corinth is home to many temples, to many gods, as most of the cities of the Roman Empire were. As the Christians grew in number and began to see converts leave those temples and join them in the worship of the One True God, the questions start to come: When do we build our temple, like the temples here in Corinth? If our God is the real God, we need to build something more amazing than even what they have in Athens!
Paul’s response is here. The people of God are His temple.
In Focus:
1 Corinthians 3:16 should draw our focus in this chapter. Paul’s argument makes the turn here because without this verse one could mistake the opening half of the chapter as recruiting high-value gifts for the building of a physical building. The further concepts presented, of using gold and precious stones instead of wood, hay, and stubble, present the idea that this building should be fire-resistant. That is not Paul’s point.
The point is that the people of God are the Temple of God. The Corinthians needed to understand that they needed no new buildings to contain the presence of their new God. He dwelt, through his Spirit, in each one of them. The precious gemstones come from the obedience of each believer to the Lord Jesus Christ. In this, we also see Paul affirm that those who are saved remain saved, as 1 Corinthians 3:15 is a fairly clear statement that a believer’s work, their life, may be of such low quality that it will all be destroyed, but that person will still be saved.
In Practice:
What do we do about it?
We could respond by destroying all of our church buildings without asking about why we have them. If we mistake the church for “God’s house,” then it does become a potential stumbling block. We need to understand that church buildings are tools God allows us for specific purposes, that they are resources for His people to use for His mission. It’s not a Temple of any sort. Pick a tool that has value but can get worn out, and realize that’s what we’ve got.
That, though, should be obvious. The real issue is not “what is not being said” but actually “what is being said?” So, what is being said?
First, our lives are wound together. Paul consistently interchanges the use of singular and plural words here, reflecting that God indwells the individual believer but that our Christian experience is neither independent nor isolated. We are intended to be in community together, forming a grander temple of the presence God than any one of us could be alone.
Second, our work matters. There is a disconnect at times in Christian’s minds where we act like God will do everything and we have no responsibility to act. That’s nonsense. While we cannot work our way to God’s presence nor win His salvation—only through the death and resurrection of Jesus do we have that!—we still hold the responsibility to honor God through working for His kingdom.
And that work matters enough for God to judge it and reward it.
In Nerdiness:
This isn’t really nerdy, but take a look at the ending verses of this chapter. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 reflect a mindset that we have problems with these days as well. Who do we belong to? Too often, we adhere to the ones that have helped us follow Christ. And we do that to their dismay (I think) as much to our detriment. We all belong to Christ and therefore, He is the center of what we do. Remember your inspirations with fondness, but keep your allegiance focused on Jesus.


Popular posts from this blog

Book: By the Waters of Babylon

Worship. It is what the church does as we strive to honor God with our lips and our lives. And then, many churches argue about worship. I have about a half-dozen books on my shelf about worship, but adding Scott Aniol’s By the Waters of Babylon to the shelf has been excellent.

First of all, Aniol’s work is not based on solving a musical debate. While that branch of worship is often the most troublesome in the local church, By the Waters of Babylon takes a broader view. The starting point is the place of the church. That place is a parallel of Psalm 137, where the people of God, Israel, found themselves in a strange land. The people of God, again, find themselves in a strange land.
Second, in summary, the book works logically to the text of Scripture, primarily Psalm 137 but well-filled with other passages. Then it works outward from how the text addresses the problems submitted in the first chapter into how worship, specifically corporate worship, should look in the 21st century Weste…

Put Down That Tablet! Exodus 35

Moses assembles the people of Israel at Sinai one last time before they set out into the wilderness, headed for the Promised Land. He gives them a reminder of some portions of the commands of God and emphasizes the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 35 link).He also gives the one Biblical mention of tablet-type mobile devices in Exodus 35:3, where the command is given not to use your Kindle Fire on the Sabbath Day. Some of you just groaned. Some of you skipped the one-liner, and others just missed it. I’ll address you all in turn, but first let us address the person who thought this might be the hidden meaning of that command. After all, we are so easily distracted from our worship and commitment by all of the digital noise around us, why would we not take this text in this manner?The quite simple answer is: because it is not about digital devices. In total, the command to focus the day on Yahweh, Covenant God of Israel and all of Creation, and if your device subtracts from your f…

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…