Take Heed How You Build

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it.  But each one take heed how he builds on it.  For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

The words “the grace of God” refer to inspiration and apostleship (cf. Romans 1:5; 12:3; 15:15-16; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:1-8; 4:7-12).  Paul used this gift to lay the foundation of the church.

The “foundation” of the church is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20).  This, of course, includes the teachings of the apostles and prophets {Ephesians 2:20 [Note: Ephesians 2:20 refers to the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, and not to the apostles and prophets themselves (cf. Romans 15:18-21; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Ephesians 2:18-22 cf. 3:1-7]}, whose inspired message glorified Jesus (John 14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-14).  No other foundation is acceptable.  The church is a temple to God built on this foundation (cf. Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5).

This text is given as a caution.  Since this church is to serve as the temple of God, personal workers must be very careful how they “build” on this perfect foundation (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:17).

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 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” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13).

Six materials are mentioned: gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and straw.  These six materials can be divided into two broad categories: (1) Those that will endure a typical fire (gold, silver, precious stones); (2) Those that will easily burn (wood, hay, straw).

The “work” is a figure of speech, a metonymy.  The cause, work, is put for the effect, converts or church members (1 Corinthians 3:13 cf. 9:1).

The church is likened to a building (1 Corinthians 3:9 cf. 3:16; Ephesians 3:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5).  Not all of the material in this building are of the same enduring quality.

The day of fire is coming.  This day will reveal the quality of the materials, the character of each church member.  What is the day of fire?  (1) It likely refers to the fiery trials of life which test a members faith (1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:12-13).  (2) Some believe that it refers to the day when Christ returns and the true character of all is revealed (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10).  Either way, the revealing of character is in view.

If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15). 

If those one has converted endure, there will be reward.  Think of the joy.  Paul wrote, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?  For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).  He wanted those whom he had converted to live as faithful Christians, saying, “So that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (Philippians 2:16).

If those one has converted do not survive the test, there will be loss.  The worker will not experience the joy of seeing these members being received into glory.  However, such does not necessarily mean that the worker did anything wrong in his effort.  The fact is there are different types of hearts (Luke 8:4-8, 11-15).  The worker, himself, can be saved.  His salvation will be “yet so as through fire.”  This may mean that he will be saved, yet he will have experienced loss.  Or, this may be emphasizing that the worker, himself, will also be tested (1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:12-13; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12).

If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.  For the temple of God is holy…” (1 Corinthians 3:17).

While it is true that the evangelist is not responsible for the heart condition of the hearer (Luke 8:4-8, 11-15), woe to the one who by what he teaches, or does not teach, destroys the holiness of the church (Acts 20:20; 20:26-27).  Woe to the preacher who dunks people in water, but does not seek to make true disciples (Matthew 28:19-20; cf. Luke 14;26, 27, 33; Luke 9:57-62).  Woe to the preacher who calls evil good, and thus encourages sinful behavior (2 Peter 2:18-19).  Woe to the preacher who will not preach on certain sins, because such would bring discomfort to his relationship with others and may jeopardize his job, and thus fills the church with immorality and hinders the influence of the church (1 Peter 2:9, 11-12; Romans 1:18; Acts 20:20, 26-27).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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