1CORINTHIANS 3:1-23 (NIV – UK)
The church and its leaders
1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings?
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. 9 For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
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 lives among you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’ [Job 5:13]; 20 and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ [Psalm 94:11] 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
WHAT ARE YOU BUILDING?
There are so many things we can build a life on, aren’t there? Maybe our career is the foundation of our lives – that’s the thing that is driving us. Maybe money – the thirst for more and more money can become all-consuming. Maybe even family and friends might be the foundation upon which we build our lives. In verse 11 Paul says ‘no’ to all of these things as foundations – ‘For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ There simply is no foundation other than Jesus. If we are trying to build our lives on other things, Paul says they aren’t even foundations at all!
But once we decide to build our lives on Jesus, is that it? Well, Paul tells us in that it’s one thing to choose Jesus as the foundation for our lives, but the question here is what sort of life are we going to build on Jesus?
We could build on Jesus using ‘gold, silver, costly stones’ (v. 12) – those precious building materials. How much are we going to invest in our life with Jesus? Are we going to give him our finest materials? This is a life of investing in Jesus, in giving him everything we are, everything we do, everything we think and feel. This is a life of spending time with Jesus and seeing a wonderful building take shape around us – using those finest materials – as our life is built on him. This is by far the most joyful and rewarding life.
The other option is to build with ‘wood, hay or straw’ – more measly building materials. This is a life of inviting Jesus in – of having him as our foundation – but then neglecting him. It’s a life of knowing he wants to spend time with us but giving him very little, of going our own way more often than his. This is a frustrating life for the Christian – knowing Jesus as Saviour but not enjoying him.
Now, Paul stresses that no matter what sort of life we build on Jesus, as long as he is our foundation and we follow him, we will be saved (v. 15) – but what we miss out on by building with those measly materials is building a beautiful life on the most wonderful of foundations. We miss out on much of the joy that comes from a life with from Jesus. It is the life built with precious materials that will be honoured in the end (v. 12-15).
Question: Are you building a life on Jesus using the finest materials?