The Church: God’s Field, God’s Building and God’s Flock

You are God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

Paul was writing to “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  He referred to them as “God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:9).  Why is the church metaphorically referred to as “God’s field”?  (1) It has to do with ownership.  The field did not belong to Paul or to Apollos.  They were merely laborers in the field that belonged to God.  Paul explained, “We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:9).  Again, he explained, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful'” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).  Far from either Paul or Apollos owning the field, they were workers in the field, and were accountable to God.  Therefore, no one should say, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos” (1 Corinthians 3:4).

(2) It has to do with the source of spiritual life.  Paul planted (1 Corinthians 3:6); he worked with them first, spending one and a half years there (Acts 18:1-18).   Apollos watered (1 Corinthians 3:6); he came, after Paul, to Corinth (Acts 18:27-19:1a).  However, it was God who gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).  “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).  It is God who supplies seed to the sower (2 Corinthians 9:10).  Paul and Apollos planted and watered the seed, the word of God at Corinth.  However, it is God who supplied the seed, making possible spiritual life.

(3) It is about fruitfulness.  God wants us to be productive.  Jesus said, “The sower sows the word… these are the one sown on good ground,  those who hear the word, accept it,, and bear fruit: some thirty fold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:14-20).  Those with good hearts bear fruit.  The numbers may differ due to opportunity and ability.  But, the good heart bears fruit.  Paul instructs Titus, “let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).

You are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

Paul was writing to “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  He referred to them as “God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).  Why is the church metaphorically referred to as “God’s building”?  (1) It has to do with ownership.  The building (the temple in context of 1 Corinthians 3:9-17) did not belong to Paul or to Apollos.  They were merely builders of the building that belonged to God.  Paul explained, “I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it… If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him” (1 Corinthians 3:10, 17).  The builders are accountable to God.  The building belongs to Him.  He purchased it, at great cost (Acts 20:28).

(2) It has to do with being a dwelling place for God.  Paul asked, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Holy Spirit miraculously indwelled the church at Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:4-7; 1 Corinthians 12-14).  People could see something of the nature of God, His power and wisdom, manifest in them.  All Christians should “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) by letting “the word of Christ dwell” in the richly (Colossians 3:16).  Can people see God in us?

The church is not a physical building.  It is not composed of boards, bricks and mortar, stone, metal, or other such materials (cf. Acts 8:1-3).  [Some have suggested that the church could be considered such as a metonymy, the place of the assembly being put for the assembly.  However, the church is not literally, a physical building.  Moreover, the Bible never speaks of the church in this way].  However, the church is a building.  It is a building which is made up of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5).  Its foundation is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

“O Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, Pure and holy, tries and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living Sanctuary for You/ Lord teach your children to stop their fighting, Start uniting all as one. Let’s get together, loving forever, Sanctuary for you” (Song: Sanctuary).

“Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. All His wonder passion and purity; O my Savior divine, All my being refine, Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me” (Song: Let the Beauty of Jesus by Albert Orsborn/ Tom M. Jones).

“Into my heart, into my heart, Come into my heart, Lord Jesus; Come into today, come in stay; Come into my heart, Lord Jesus/ Out of my heart, out of my heart, Shine out of my heart, Lord Jesus; Shine out today, shine out alway; Shine out of my heart, Lord Jesus” (Song: Into My Heart by Harry D. Clarke).

The elders who are among you I exhort… Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers… over those entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:1-2).

Peter wrote telling the elders to care for the flock of God among them (that is, in the local church of Acts 14:23), as shepherds care for sheep.  He referred to the church as “the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2).  Why is the church metaphorically referred to as “the flock of God”?  (1) It has to do with ownership.  The flock did not belong to the elders. The flock belonged to God.  They were merely under-shepherds entrusted with caring for the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4).  They were accountable for the flock (Hebrews 13:17 – cf Ezekiel 34; Genesis 31:39; Exodus 22:10-13 cf. Amos 3:12). Jesus is the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).

(2)  It has to do with following Jesus.  Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice… and they follow me” (John 10:27).  Guy Woods points out the context, saying, “His ‘sheep’ are those who, unlike the unbelieving Jews, hear his voice and are obedient to his word” (Woods, The Gospel According to John, p. 219).  Robert Taylor Jr. offers this insight, “Palestinian shepherds (then and now) LED – not DROVE – their sheep.  The sheep followed his voice.  A traveler in that land many years ago told a shepherd that the sheep simply recognized his garments – not his voice – and this followed.  They exchanged garments; the sheep paid NO heed to the traveler now in their master’s garments.  Instead, they followed the shepherd when he spoke though clothed in the traveler’s apparel.  The lesson is sharp, cogent, clear and decisive.  Christians hear and heed His voice – not the voice of another” (Taylor, Studies in the Gospel of John, p. 148).  Are we following Him? J.W. McGarvey comments, “In the East, sheep are not driven, but led, and  each sheep has and knows its name. Disciples also are led. There is no rough road or thorny path which the feet of Jesus have not first trod” (McGarvey, The Fourfold Gospel, p.469). He is our perfect example. Are we following Him? Sheep of one flock sometimes became mixed with sheep of other flocks, for example – when placed at night into a common sheepfold. How could the sheep be sorted? J.W. McGarvey comments, “The mingled flocks are separated by the calling voices of the several shepherds” (ibid). We live among many who follow something or someone other than Jesus. Are we following Him or another voice?

“Who will follow Jesus?  Who will make reply, I am on the Lord’s side; Master, here am I?  Who will follow Jesus?  Who will make reply, I am on the Lord’s side; Master, here am I”  (Song: Who Will Follow Jesus, Standing For The Right by Eliza Hewitt).

“Where He leads I’ll follow, Follow all the way;  Where He leads I’ll follow, Follow Jesus ev’ry day”.  (Song: Where He Leads I’ll Follow by W.A. Ogden).

(3) It has to do with care and provision.  Good shepherds care for their sheep.  “The LORD is my Shepherd I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).  He provides proper guidance – “He leads me” (Psalm 23:1-2).  He provides for needs – food and water (Psalm 23:2, 5), protection and care (Psalm 23:4-5), comfort (Psalm 23:4), goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6).  Good shepherds hazard their lives for the sheep under their care (cf. 1 Samuel 17:34-35).  Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Jesus is both a sacrificial lamb and a shepherd.  “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).  May we follow the Lamb to living fountains of water, and the good things God has in store for His sheep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Bryan Hodge

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