You are a Builder – (1 Corinthians 3:10-17)

The energy that is resident in the young adult stage of life – that time when you have a young family and are setting out on your own to get established – is really an amazing thing as you look back on it some years later. I am doing that now with my older boys who are all in the throes of wrestling with housing arrangements with varied homes and construction or renovation projects. It is exhausting to me to just look at.

But when I was in my late 20s, I was in that stage of life and did one of the more bold and crazy things I have ever taken on. My father-in-law and I built a 2500-square-foot two-story colonial home in New Jersey in a field very close to the elementary school I attended two decades earlier. When I say that “we built” it, I mean that in the most literal sense. Other than the poured foundation, the drywall, and sanding the hardwood floors, we did every last bit of it between us (frankly he did much more, since he was the one who knew what he was doing!). My own father was totally skeptical that this would work out; he thought we were crazy to attempt this. I now find myself looking back on that and understanding his point of view more clearly.

As we were nearing the end of the construction, I can very clearly recall several occasions of doing some finishing work inside the house while violent storms were raging outside. And I remember wondering to myself, “Is this place really going to withstand this? Did we build it appropriately and strong enough? I know we used a lot of nails!” (Actually, with 2×6 exterior walls, the place was a fortress!)

The proof of the quality of any construction project comes when storms arrive or time passes. Does it stand? What remains on the other side?

Paul picks up this analogy when talking to the Corinthians about the labors that Apollos and he and others were doing in the process of building the church of Jesus Christ. Just as in my NJ house, someone else did the foundation and we just built upon it, and Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church that others over time build upon through their labors. The quality of that construction may vary according to the diligence and care of the laborers and the composition of the materials. But a day comes when it will be revealed – a day that Paul pictures as one with fire, speaking of the Day of Judgment. There will be reward for excellence, while nothing but the smell of the fire on the clothing of those who escaped alone with nothing to show in terms of reward.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3 …

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

There are both sobering and comforting components in this communication. The business of the church is serious stuff, as it is the outworking of God’s plan of the ages. Those who are a part of it are a part of the big thing that God is doing in the world. And those who serve in teaching and communication of truth on all levels have a responsibility of doing it with accuracy in accord with God’s revelation.

A problem that existed even in the early years of the church was that of false teachers. Paul would reference this later as the preaching of “a different gospel.” (See the early verses of 2 Corinthians 11.)

On the other hand, there is great comfort in knowing that God sees and remembers our labors for him in the church of Christ. Though we may be forgotten and our efforts at advancing the truth of the gospel and the mission of the church may be lost to human memory, God does not forget nor fail to reward that service. The church universal is going to be successful. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. This is the winning team, and in teaching the Scriptures as we have opportunity on whatever level in the home or church, we are advancing God’s kingdom. We are growing our roots; we are watering the roots of others, and by the Spirit’s work we are a part of the fruit that never fades away.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

2 thoughts on “You are a Builder – (1 Corinthians 3:10-17)

  1. As I read this I had several thoughts that popped in my head reading from beginning to end.

    One of my initial thoughts was to remember an illustration that someone once gave. A builder who worked for a contractor was retiring. The contractor begged the builder to build just one more house for the contractor. The builder agreed but his heart wasn’t in the project and he did a sloppy job. At the completion of the house the builder gave the keys to the house back to the builder, for this last project was a house that the contractor was paying for as a gift to the builder for his many years of service.

    I’m somehow tying this in with “whatever anyone does, do it as to the Lord.” And “the Lord will repay everyone for what he has done.”

    I’ve been considering recently how to approach some co-workers at work. They go to a different church and appear in some ways to be Christian and have some decency. But they don’t see the work they do as “serving the Lord.” I have yet to say anything about and I intend to be careful about how I say it. In sports people try to do the best they can. And there is a Proverb that says “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” (Prov. 22:29 NIV)

    I may not ever get around to saying anything, for these are decent people and I don’t intend to micromanage or nitpick … yet at work I see what I do as a sport. I mean I want to get things done as efficiently and effectively as possible. I’ve read a while ago, that every ten percent increase in productivity results in a doubling of profits.

    After writing what I wrote above I was wondering if my point was worth making? However I guess I need to remember something Paul wrote in Romans.

    Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Rom. 8:5 NIV)

    It is a tough challenge — to examine whether our minds are set on the things of God.

    It is even tougher for us to see all the good gifts that God has given us – gifts of knowledge – gifts of self-control and the grace to live a productive life in various ways and not feel superior to others.

    Look at what Paul wrote the Gentiles in Rome. “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you”
    (Rom. 11:17-18 NIV)

    Paul goes on and on about this. Think about it. The “natural branches” which we consider to be Jews were broken off and mostly gentiles (the church we see today) has been grafted in. Do we then consider ourselves to be superior to the Jews that are apart from Jesus? Paul warned us not to think in that way. Almost 2,000 years later we still have what Paul wrote about God being able to graft Jews back in again. They are the natural branches which God can graft back in again. After 2,000 years we are hardened to that truth.

    Paul warned us, “Do not be arrogant, but tremble.
    For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
    Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”
    (Rom. 11:20-22 NIV)

    And so you concluded that we should be comforted that God remembers our labors … though the world tends to forget such things. You also concluded with a key thought “by the Spirit’s work we are a part of the fruit that never fades away.”

    Note: I haven’t made these comments to take away from anything you wrote. What you wrote is valid and I am not trying to direct attention to a better thought. Somethings in Romans have struck me lately … and I can’t find it right now … scriptures about doing God’s will or something … I just scanned Romans trying to find the scriptures that are trying to awaken in me a higher degree of dedication to the body of Christ and I wasn’t able to find them. So the scriptures I just related are tangential thoughts that I had

    Peter the Apostle mentioned reminding people of things they already knew … maybe something in what I wrote, that I copied from the Bible might benefit someone.

    The wealth of knowledge that we have in scripture in unparalleled in history. Yet we also have unparalleled distractions.

    It might be argued too that since knowledge puffs up that we who study scripture have to be very careful to not be the most puffed up and arrogant people that ever lived. Jesus had to keep reminding people to focus on the major issues, (from my flawed memory) “faith, mercy and justice” “the greatest command is … and the second one is like it …”

    Paul warned against people quarreling about the law, getting particular and caught up in genealogies. Jesus tried to set people’s attention back to God and away from physical things like ancestory, when he said something like “God can make children of Abraham from these stones.”

    Please keep reminding me of what scripture says about serving others in the Church and what the purpose of the church is and how I should help in the church. I still haven’t internallized all of this yet. When I lived somewhere else years ago, I might have had some more long-term connections that made it easier.

    God has a purpose for the church. It is easy for me to want to do stuff independently.

    I’ve got many other spiritual needs (when I write “needs” I am thinking about how to do whatever God wants in the church.) What tools are needed? Basic tools like praying for the church. God opens doors. Humility and a spiritual mind. If we have knowledge and not love, we are going to be a clanging symbol or cymbal or something like that. If we have love and not knowledge it becomes difficult to say or do anything worthwhile. Paul talked about his fellow Jews having a zeal for God, “but not according to knowledge.”

    So if we don’t have correct knowledge we won’t be of great help. Yet if we lose our zeal for serving God or lose our first love — God will also hold that against us.

    Paul at one time wrote or noted that he urged Apollos to go visit them but noted that Apollos had other concerns and Paul noted that Apollos would go see them when he has a convenient time.

    I have no idea if Paul was being overzealous or Apollos was being lazy or wrapped up in other stuff. Paul had a similar problem at one time not wanting to take “Mark” with him, while Barnabas did want to.

    We certainly tend to appreciate Paul more than the others … but it is my belief that I don’t let God work in me as much as Paul let Jesus and the Spirit work in him.

    Paul was committed to serving God. Since he was a high energy person, he might have found it draining to have weak or low energy people working with him. Hence his exasperation and refusal to travel with Mark and later his energetic exhortation to Apollos. Paul urged people to let God judge the fruits of each man’s efforts in the Resurrection rather than trying to figure out which of all these people was serving God the best.

    Apologies for this long comment – if any are needed. I feel like I lack the time to make it better and probably have many other things that I need to do. I may also lack the spiritual discernment to improve this beyond what it is.

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