TEXT : 1 CORINTHIANS 3:5-15
TITLE : No other Foundation
DATE : 11/07/2010
The greatest challenge for the church is to continuously remember what foundation to build on . The Scriptures , which are our authority are clear on this matter . Christ is the foundation of the church . I showed you last week from the Scriptures that no amount of worldly or human wisdom or philosophy will do for the building of Christ’s church . We must be careful about building our church according to the pattern that God has given us in the scripture . Our goal is not to see how innovative we can be . Our goal is to see how faithful we can be.
Moses did not dare to build a tabernacle according to his own idea . He was commanded by God to build according to the pattern given ( Ex 25:9) ; David had the temple planned with God's help ( 1 Chronicles 28:19) and it was constructed according to that plan by his son Solomon ( 2 Chronicles 2ff) .
After the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar , the prophet Ezekiel received a plan from God for the rebuilding of the temple ( Ezekiel Ch 40ff) .
Similarly the church , composed of living stones must not be shaped by human whims and fancies . She must be built according to the pattern revealed to us in the Scriptures . For this reason every local church must be committed to the authority of Scripture .
When Paul instructed Timothy , pastor of the church at Ephesus , he said to him ( my paraphrase) : “ Timothy , preach the Word! Let the authority of Scripture dictate your work! Don’t be sidetracked by others . Timothy , I know that the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,… they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths . As for you , always be sober minded , endure suffering , do the work of an evangelist , fulfill your ministry. Timothy , even though many are working against the plan and design for the church , you must keep your head and build the church according to God's design. ” (2 Tim 4:2)
The work of the church is always challenged . Our foundations are always assailed. People love to tamper with our sacred foundations . People are constantly telling us that the church has no future unless her methods catch up with the times . We challenge that ! In fact , we say the opposite: Our goal is to take the church into the future by reminding her of who she was originally meant to be : The church of Christ . The holy bride of Christ .
The church at Corinth , having begun “in Christ” had hit a serious ‘wobble ‘ (like a spinning top which has lost its momentum) . The clear vision of the church that had begun “ in Christ” ( 1:2) had now given way to being a church where Christ was out of focus . And since life abhors a vacuum , something else had replaced their perspective . Their focus was now on human beings ( see 3:3,4) - i.e. themselves; on each other, and the great human leader figures of the early Christian Church – Apollos , Peter and Paul. (1:12; 3:4-5).
Small wonder then that this church was in such a mess .
Take this as a spiritual principle and write it down in large letters : “When Christ ( i.e. glad obedience to Christ) is not at the heart and in the focus of the Church , the church will soon become unstable .”
When Christ is not at the center as our commander –in-chief , as our Captain, then jealousy and strife and other ungracious responses will soon undermine the happy life of the church under Christ . When man replaces God in the church , the end comes very quickly .That was the problem that the Lord Jesus had with the church at Ephesus in the book of Revelation . She was a hardworking church, patiently enduring many trials, hating evil and false teachers - but she had abandoned her first love - her love for Christ (Rev 2:1-7) . He was not at the center of that church anymore , and even though we have no record of her demise , we might not have to guess too hard what happened to that church in history !
This is precisely also what happened in Corinth, and so , for all intents and purposes Paul could no longer call them ‘spiritual’ . The word that he uses now for them is ‘ people of the flesh’ . You are merely human ! (3:4)
NO OTHER FOUNDATION !
And now in vv.5-15 we observe how Paul continues to reason with them. His intention as a good pastor , and a faithful teacher of the Word of God is to restore to them a proper foundation to their now faulty thinking and behaviour.
2 major principles from this passage :
1. God in Christ is the focus and foundation of the church and people are God’s means for the building of the church . They are important in that process BUT they are only secondary to God in Christ . ( Vv 5-9)
2. The work of God in the church cannot be done in anyway we please , and the work of the church will be tested .(Vv 10-15)
1. God in Christ is the focus and the foundation of the church and people are God’s means for the building of the church . ( vv 5-9)
(i) V.5 Man is the servant. God is the Master. So then “ What is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each." Servants - literally deacons ! They are not the owners, originators or masters of the church. The servant cannot do with the church as he pleases – just as little as the owner of a house would not allow a tenant to make alterations to his house , as he pleases . These Corinthian church members do not belong to Apollos or Paul . They belong to the Lord of the harvest . Now this is not to say that Apollos and Paul were not important . They were after all vessels or conduits through which God worked to bring them to faith in Christ . But God gets the glory here – not his servants !
See how Paul takes this thought now further .
2. V.6 “ I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. “ There are two important aspects in farming : You must sow , and you must make sure that the seed remains watered . Beyond that you can do nothing. You cannot make the seed that you have planted and are now watering, grow . The secret power that draws life out of the seed does not belong to you . Preaching and pasturing is like that .I must preach the gospel so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ , and that by believing you may have life in His Name . And I am called by God to water/ feed you from His Word. That is my work . But I cannot extract life out of you . Only God can do that !
Once again we see that only God can get the glory here . Remember also that you cannot expect your minister to do more than God has assigned to him .
3. V.7 “ So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. “ The role of Apollos and Paul amount to nothing when compared to God. And that is why Paul writes what he does in v.7 . This does not mean that the work of planting and watering is nothing , or that it is unimportant . We must not belittle the work that people do , because , after all the Lord assigned this work to them ! (3:5) But we must get our perspectives right ! We must appropriately honour those that preach and teach the Word of God – but we cannot place them above God .
Let us also remember that the people gifts that God gives to the church are gifts that come from him . Leaders are from the Lord “ to equip the saints for the work of ministry , for the building up of the body of Christ…” ( Eph 4:11-12), and we are called to help them to lead “ with joy and not with groaning , for that would be of no advantage to us .” ( Hebr. 13:17) . So those that plant and water are also from the Lord – so that ultimately everything is from the Lord.
4. V.8 “He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.” Apollos and Paul are not competitors . Here in Corinth they are made out to be competitors . But they are not . There may be differences in the way in which Apollos and Paul work , but God knows that they are not in competition . They are one, and in the end God will give them their rewards. It is not up to the church factions to decide who is useful and who is not ! Leave that judgment to God .
5. V.9 "For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building."
In actual fact everything is God’s : those that work in His harvest field , and the produce that comes from the harvest field : God’s fellow- workers ; God’s field ; God’s building.
2. The work of God in the church cannot be done in anyway we please , and the work of the church will be tested .(vv 6-10)
A church is a spiritually challenging institution to build and to maintain . It is very difficult to keep a bunch of sinners together and focused . Therefore it requires , as we now shall see in vv 10 – 15 , a biblically robust approach :
(i) V. 10 “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it .” We need spiritually gifted men to plant and build churches : master builders ! And we need a continuity of such who build on the foundation which has been laid .
b. V.11 “ For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." We need to build upon Christ ( not what works , or what looks good , and what pleases our present culture ) - that is , we need to read, study , digest and apply Christ’s teaching into the life of the church . That teaching comprises the whole OT (for it points to Christ) and the NT (for it expresses the mind of Christ through His apostles) . God’s people must give themselves diligently to read the Word and hear it proclaimed by God’s gifted servants , so that they “ know how to behave in the household of God which is the church of the Living God , a pillar and buttress of the truth” ( 1 Tim 3:15)
c. vv. 12 -15 : “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." We have seen that the foundation of the church must be based on the gospel of Christ . People must be converted into Christ and nurtured upon the Word of Christ by master builders .
But now , you also need to see that you must expect your foundations to be tested ! The Word of God reveals that every church will be tested now and in eternity . Churches (i.e. people) that are rooted in Christ , and nurtured in His Word will be tested by fire . They will stand, because Christ in them is pure gold . He cannot be destroyed in the fire of testing. Blessed is that pastor whose flock perseveres through difficult times – because he has taught them to follow the Great Shepherd of the sheep and has rooted them in the doctrines of His grace .
But woe to that shepherd who builds with wood , hay and spiritual straw . His lack of Christ centered proclamation and his lack of feeding the flock will soon show . The church which he is planting will come to nothing , though he himself will be saved .
So then - let's stop boasting in men and boast in the work that Gods does through men. And let us trust God for true master builders that will build congregations upon Christ and His Word . Let us not be afraid for those foundations to be tested , for if Christ is in and among us , we will stand . This is the foundation upon which the church must stand in order to survive into the future . Amen !