1 Corinthians 3:5-17
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
The bickering and fighting among the Corinthians in the Paul/Apollos camps had become so bitter, they had lost their witness in the city.
Paul had played his part in serving God by planting the church in Corinth. Apollos had played his part as well by coming along after Paul left and teaching them how to go on in Christ. But they were both just servants, all they could do was fulfill their calling as ministers. It was up to God to bring about fruit in the lives of the people.
We cannot make people come to faith in Christ. We cannot make people grow in Christ. Only the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God can effect conversion and growth. Only God can bring forth fruit.
Really, our call is to serve, and let God bring forth the fruit. When we stand before Him, He will not ask how many people we saved nor how many we discipled. The only question we will have to answer will be, were we faithful? The results of our faithfulness are in God’s hands.
Again, Paul reminds the Corinthians that he and Apollos were not envious and fighting. They were fellow-workers, co-laborers in God’s field; by which Paul means, the Corinthian church.
Paul uses a remarkable phrase here: He says that he and Apollos were not just fellow-workers, they were God’s fellow-workers. The partnership was not just with each other; it was with God Himself.
But wait a minute: Isn’t the work of God done? Didn’t Jesus say, “It is finished”? Indeed, the work of PROVIDING salvation is finished. But the task of PROCLAIMING it is far from over.
It was this work that Paul was engaged in, along with Apollos and the other Apostles and Evangelists. But there is a wider application to this than just the Apostles: All Christians are God’s fellow workers. We labor alongside each other in the work of the kingdom of God and as we do, God Himself joins the work.
Cannot God do all the work Himself? He could – but He has chose not to. Instead, He has ordained to use us. The preaching of the gospel has not been committed to angels – though they could certainly do a better job. It has not even been given to just a select group of qualified men and women who have polished skills of oratory prowess or who have earned degrees from a seminary. Rather God has chosen the weak and foolish of the world to be the bearers of the message of eternal life!
I have often wondered why Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a donkey. Why not a brilliant, fiery white stallion? Here’s why: the King of glory rode on a humble beast so that no one would be distracted by the vehicle that carried Him.
Even so, God delights today in using the humble and meek, the apparently disqualified by the world’s standards to be His witnesses, to carry Him to the world so that when people are won, the praise can only go to God.
Christ died – He rose – and He’s coming again; and in the in between time, you and I have the one message that makes the difference between eternal life and death, between hope and despair.
What an incredible honor this is – to be God’s fellow workers! Jesus says to us – “Come and work with Me. Lend me your hands and feet and mouth. I will use you, send you, speak through you!”
God works with us, and because God works with us, our success in doing His work is sure.
Paul often spoke of the church as the temple of God.
Ephesians 2:19-22 You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
The only foundation the Church can rest on is Jesus Christ, for it came into being by Him and exists for Him.
Paul was the one who had laid that foundation in Corinth, but Paul gives a warning: He tells them to be careful how they built. In other words, the foundation was solid and secure, but Paul tells them to be careful what kind of a structure they erect on that foundation.
Picture a well built, solid, and mighty foundation, concrete pillars driven deep into the ground all connected by a reinforced concrete pad several feet thick, but then on top of this solid foundation is erected a cardboard hovel with a plastic tarp for a roof. The visible building does not fit the excellence of the unseen foundation.
That is what Paul is warning against here; he then goes on to tell us how we can build in a worthy way.
Granted, Paul is speaking primarily about the work of people in building the Church, but the principle applies to all of our lives because we ARE the Church. We have a choice in what we will use to build our lives: gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay, straw.
Notice Paul says that one day what we have built with will be revealed. The Day he speaks of is the Day of Judgment. While the Christian has escaped the judgment of sin and condemnation, he/she will face a judgment of works and rewards. That is what Paul is speaking about here.
All our works will pass through the fires of judgment: some will last – gold, silver, precious stones. Others will burn up – wood, hay, straw.
What are these things? The things of God versus the things of this world
Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
Over and over in Scripture, the Word of God is described as precious treasure – better than gold or silver or precious stones. Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away, but that His word would last.
We are each building our lives and as we do, we are also building the Church, because we ARE the Church. We have a choice to make in what we will build our lives with: the wisdom of God as revealed in His word, or the faulty, fleeting, and futile wisdom of this world.
The foundation has been laid – And it is mighty! Each decision we make, no matter how small and seemingly inconsequential, is another act of construction in the building of our lives.
What foundation are you building on?
Jesus told the story about two men: One built his house on a rock and when the storms came, it stood the test because it had a firm foundation. Jesus said that rock was Him. The other guy built his house on the sand: beach front property, great view, party time! But then the storms came and the man lost everything!
Life may be fine for you now; this may be the summer time of you living in your beach front property. Trust me – the winter is coming! The storms are going to come, and if you are not on the rock of Christ, you will lose everything!
Build on the foundation of God’s Word…not on the foundation of this perishing world.