BUILDING FOR ETERNITY
Spirit of God, you transcend all that is and flow through all that is. I begin this day releasing you afresh in my life.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:10–17
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.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘The church’s one foundation / is Jesus Christ her Lord … / with his own blood he bought her / and for her life he died.’1
Paul grieves for the Christian community in Corinth, which he had founded personally but which has now split into rival factions, hiding behind loyalty to the names of evangelists who had come to Corinth after Paul. At no time does Paul criticize his colleagues, Peter and Apollos, but he points out that there can only be one foundation, Jesus Christ, whose death brought the church into being.2 If that foundation has been laid, no genuine Christian missionary can lay a different foundation. As Paul proclaims elsewhere, there is ‘one body and one Spirit … one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God’.3
Expanding the building metaphor, Paul warns all church leaders who would build on the foundation already laid. They must build the church into something of eternal value which will survive the scrutiny of the coming judgment. Nothing can finally be hidden. The errors cannot be plastered over. In Paul’s metaphor, the church can be ‘gold’, worthwhile and enduring, or the church can be ‘straw’, weak and short-lived (v 12). For those of us who are church leaders, this is serious. Paul declares that God’s judgment will fall upon the builders. I should write these notes with trembling hand.
Paul carefully uses the plural (v 16). Together, we are God’s temple, the longed-for spiritual house of God which the prophets foretold: ‘My dwelling-place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.’4 Church leaders have a very serious calling and are responsible for the care of the people among whom God dwells. They can ‘go for gold’, building the people into Christian maturity and the likeness of Christ. Or they can choose straw, finally leaving people weak, without substance, without qualities that last.
‘Lord, teach me to serve you as you deserve … to labor and not to ask for any reward except to know that I am doing your will.’5
Loving Lord, you are the rock that I seek to build my life on. I pray the Holy Spirit will enable me to make wise decisions for my spiritual growth.
1 Samuel Stone, 1839–1900 2 Acts 20:28 3 Eph 4:4–6 4 Ezek 37:27 5 Attributed to Ignatius of Loyola, 1491–1556
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