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1 CORINTHIANS – SERIES : NR 8
Theme : Refined by Fire
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3: 10 – 15

READ VERSE 10 AGAIN
In the previous verses, the Apostle compared the church (Corinth) to God’s field. And God’s building. Where EVERYTHING is by God’s initiative. And the farmer’s work is NOTHING. And the builder’s work is NOTHING.

In the next couple of verses, Paul now takes (led by the Holy Spirit) the likeness of the church as a BUILDING and expands it a little further.

The building continuously rises – higher and higher. The builders are God’s fellow workers. They are the preachers and all the true Christians. Everyone is called to do a particular task – according to God’s grace and favour.

To the Apostle Paul himself – who is writing here – it is given to lay the foundation. As a master builder, he does it with all his might and commitment.

He is not boasting when he puts it that way. He is merely stating a historical fact. And according to Eph 2:20, it was the specific and particular unique calling and the task of the Apostles to lay the foundation of the entire NT church throughout the centuries concerning the TEACHING/DOCTRINE (that the true church must believe) and LIFE/ETHICS (how the true church must live). The foundation is not only laid by what they preached/wrote, but also by their daily LIFESTYLE. For instance, Paul often instructed the churches: Follow my example. Do what I do, and live the way I do. It may sound somewhat arrogant, but no, he speaks as AN APOSTLE.

A foundation can be laid ONLY ONCE. And then the building is erected upon that.

In the case of the Corinthians – where a church of Jesus arose out of complete heathenism – the Apostle Paul naturally ALSO laid the foundation in the sense that he was the first one to preach the Gospel message there. The point is: It took place by GOD’S INITIATIVE and therefore it is not due to anyone THAT it did happen. It is a Divine gift.

And: OTHERS must come to build upon the foundation. In THAT context it was of course Apollos and a few others. But the Greek word HEKASTOS indicates that there were MORE than just the Preachers. EVERY TRUE BELIEVER is a builder. The unique foundation of doctrine and ethics that the Apostles laid and is contained in our NT, must be BUILT upon by every and all Christians. If you do it, you are obedient. If you do not do it, you are disobedient. As simple as that.

And what does the building work imply – among other things? It is the continuous witnessing of the Truth – the revealed truth in Christ, in the Scriptures.

But careful attention needs to be given to HOW the building work is done. And it is fundamentally important.

Two strict directives are to be adhered to:
1) There must not be a millisecond’s deviation from the foundation, and
2) Durable building material is an essential requirement

Verses 10-15 are focused upon those two directives.

READ VERSE 11 AGAIN

Therefore: concerning the foundation of the building – well – it is laid by the Apostles and nobody can lay another – FIRSTLY because the work of the Apostles is unique and no one can repeat it or improve on it, and SECONDLY, because Jesus Christ HIMSELF is the foundation.

Paul does not say in what way the Lord Jesus is the foundation of the church, but if we take the previous chapter in context, we see that is through faith in the Gospel of the cross that Christ is the basis of everything. Alternative foundations cannot be laid. No, there is only ONE. Our Lord Jesus and ALL that He achieved on the cross.

That is exactly why the Christian Faith is exclusive and not inclusive. It excludes all other options and says in plain words: It is ONLY Christ. In Him, YOU ARE on a firm foundation. Without Him, you are without any foundation. Zero. You are floating around in the air and will be dashed to the ground on the Last Day. John 14:6 is explicit: Jesus = I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE AND NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME. Note the definite article THE. That means it is exclusive – excluding and not including.

These days numerous voices are heard who speak DIFFERENTLY. But those voices are false voices. Mark them and avoid them like poison. Avoid everything and everyone who wants to make the Christian Faith an inclusive faith according to the will of the present post-modern era. We do not follow the spirit of the moment. We follow the unalterable Scriptures.

The Truth is always exclusive because there can not – per definition – be an alternative to the truth. It is absolute and never relative.

These days many want to regard themselves as part of the Christian Faith, but they build their taste and rendering of the Christian Faith upon everything and everyone except the exclusive Lord Jesus of Scripture. Often rather on a false Christ who deviates from Scripture – not the Christ whom the Apostles laid as the foundation. Or they build on good works or the religion of humanism or science. Often in refined form.

Flee from such falsehoods! And embrace verse 11 – NO ONE can (it is impossible) lay another foundation as the one already laid – it is Jesus Christ. His unique Person = true God and true man united in one person. His unique birth, His 100% obedience, His innocent suffering, His substituting death on the cross, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension to the throne, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and His glorious second coming! The true Christ of the Scriptures. The one who delivers from the bonds of sin and darkness. Whoever confesses Jesus, but continues to live bound in the chains of sin, is worshipping an idol and not the Jesus of Scripture. Because He is the SAVIOUR/REDEEMER.

It is ONLY Christ. ONLY the cross. ONLY grace. ONLY faith-confidence on that, ONLY the Scriptures.

READ VERSES 12-13 AGAIN

Look, it is one thing to know that the foundation of the building is laid well and is unalterable – namely Jesus Christ – but now building work on the foundation has to be done and all kinds of building material may possibly be used – good and less good. And remember: Not only ministers of the Word, but all Christ-believers build upon the foundation. And indeed, less durable/strange material is often used, says the Apostle.

He distinguishs only two different kinds of material namely the worthwhile such as gold, silver and precious stones AND the worthless like wood, hay and straw.

The builder can endeavour to erect a building (establish a church) worthy of the foundation OR simply put together something that takes the minimum trouble to build.

The difference in building material indicates the quality/standard of every preacher and every Christ-believer’s building work UPON the foundation of Jesus Christ.

It is absolutely impossible to be established on the foundation and NOT to build. All true Christians build. Although quantity is not as important as quality.

We should however not try to place particular significance on the TYPES of building material which the Apostle mentions here. With gold, silver and precious stones he simply means good quality, and with wood, hay and straw he means lower quality.

And verse 13 confirms it. Because the building inspector shall come to inspect the building. And what is of poor quality shall not remain to stand.

That shall take place on the Great Day of Christ’s return – a Day when not only unsaved people will be judged, but also the work of everyone who is in Christ – all Christ-believers. Not one of them shall be lost (there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ – Rom 8:1), but some shall suffer loss because their building work (take note: not themselves) shall be refused entry into heaven. Poor quality building work shall be consumed the way fire refines precious metals – the impurity is consumed by the fire and the refined metal is retained.

What good news!! Quality building work enters heaven with the child of God. The Great Day itself is the fire which tests and reveals the child of God’s works for what it is. The DAY brings it into the light – here the verb in Greek is used in the present tense which indicates how CERTAIN it is THAT it will take place – just as Malachi 4:1 already foretold.

In short that (the above) is what 2 Corinthians 5:10 refers to when Paul says that all Christ-believers will appear before the Judgement seat of Christ to receive what they have done in the body. It is a place where the question of wages of grace is raised. It, therefore, shows us how important a Christian’s practical daily life is before/to God. We can and must never say that it is nothing because we are saved by grace and will go to heaven. Grace does not make a Christian lazy and careless, but teaches us to live holy lives as Titus 2:11-12 so clearly says.

READ VERSES 14-15 AGAIN

Workers who are working on a building receive wages. Not a reward, but wages. Should they botch the building work, they may forfeit their wages. A bonus certainly!

That is the picture that the Apostle uses here to explain how the judgment of God shall test the works of Christians. The GREAT DAY shall test the quality of the Christian’s building work.

Once more: Christ is the foundation (set out in the doctrine and ethics which the Apostles taught and by which they lived) whereupon ALL born-again children of the Lord are established, and everyone builds UPON this foundation.

But not everyone delivers quality building work. Some are long-term lazy. Some are long-term unfaithful. Some are long-term disobedient. And God is 100% just.

Although this has nothing to do with judgment and punishment. Only those who are lost without Christ shall be judged and go to the pool of fire, but not the redeemed children of the Lord. Rom 8:1 is absolutely clear: There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ.

Here in 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle is talking specifically of the saved – those whom nobody can snatch out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28). Those for whom there is absolutely NO condemnation. Because, as the substitute, Christ has taken upon Himself the condemnation (which they deserve).

Those who are IN HIM and are established upon the foundation and are busy with the building work, are people saved by grace. And in verse 15, Paul confirms that also those who suffer the loss of wages, are saved and will go to heaven, like one escaping through fire – in other words like someone who is searching for the way through the flames. Meaning the fire of purification – the way metals are purified.

Because to receive an admonition or rebuke out of the mouth of the living God – instead of praise – is a difficult thing. And that is what awaits many Christians who are doing poor-quality building work. No saved Christ-believer will go to hell, but such a person could forfeit praise out of the mouth of God. The Lord is coming! And the wages are with Him (Rev 22:12). Well done, good and faithful servant, come and share your master’s happiness (Matt 25:23). And: Well done my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy, take charge of ten cities.” (Luke 19:10). That is probably the reward that Paul is speaking of here.

Yes, the Christian’s earthly day-to-day life, certainly is very important. There is nothing in the Bible of hope in Christ, and carry on regardless.

Fortunately, there is today still an opportunity for repentance and turning to God and fulfilling with the Holy Spirit. The entire Christian life is continuous repentance from beginning to end. That is what John Calvin said.

It DOES matter how devoted and obedient and conscientious a Christian’s life is. Not to get to heaven with it, but for the love of God and the glory of His reward and praise.

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Category 1 Corinthians

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