In 1 Corinthians 3 we read a passage that is so often misunderstood, let’s read it and see what comes to mind:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Many people look at vv.10-11 and think, aha, this is me and my life:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ.
We are so apt to put ourselves at the centre of everything, aren’t we? We think this must about me building my life, me growing and bettering myself.
Paul is actually writing about the church: the fellowshipping, gathering, assembling body of believers there in Corinth (v.9b, 16).
V.11 tells us very clearly that no foundation other than Jesus can or should be laid for the church:
…no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ.
To flip that around, if Jesus is not the foundation of the church, then really the place is not a church. We ought to be doing our best to build on this foundation and add to the body with gold, silver, and precious stones, not wood, hay, or straw. Simply, we ought to be contributing to the body for the glory of God and for the building up of others with work we are proud of, done as if for Jesus Himself.
It’s not our job, however, to make the church grow (v.7). We simply need to be a body willing to serve that is aiming for excellence in all we do, everything done in love for our Lord and Saviour and for each other. Back in vv.6-7 Paul clearly states that God gives the growth. Some plant, some water, but God gives the growth:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth.
So, this passage is not about building your own life, it’s about building the church of Jesus Christ. This is something we are all called to be involved in. Jesus builds the church, we make disciples. We make disciples, and Jesus builds the church (Matthew 16.18b cf. Matthew 28.18-20).
What an amazing opportunity we have to partner with God in this task. We are God’s fellow workers. We, the church, are God’s field. We, the church, are God’s building. In our recent past, there has never been a more important time for this Scriptural truth to be put into action in your life.
Pray on this today – how can I add to the church?