Reader: “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God”
Response: “and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”
Scripture: I Corinthians 3:10-23
Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say,
“He traps the wise
in the snare of their own cleverness.”
“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise;
he knows they are worthless.”
So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
While this is a rather familiar passage of Scripture, it brings to light some sobering, pertinent truths. Let’s look at the context. Paul is writing from Ephesus. He had previously written a letter (which is lost) and so this is his second letter to the Corinthians. The church at Corinth was multi-ethnic and quite immature with many new Christians from all walks of life. Everyone was a first generation Christian. None of the people in the church had grown up with believing parents. The Christian faith was that new (!), consequently, they didn’t know very much. Just prior to what you read today, there was a discussion on Apollos groupies versus Paul groupies versus Peter groupies! Paul straightened them out using the analogy of growing plants and building a building, the point being the builder is immaterial. It’s the building that matters! He continues pointing out the important thing above all is that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the building. He is the foundation and starting point in the “building” that’s going on in you. The significance is in what God does in a person that matters, not who the teacher is.
We live in a world where there is a temptation among Christians to latch on to a particular, popular pastor and their teaching. Many of the famous pastors put out their own “study Bibles” containing their notes on Scripture. While such Bibles can be most helpful, commentaries on Scripture are not Scripture. Paul was combating a little bit of that mindset on the part of the people. There is great encouragement to build on the foundation of Christ. Anyone can do it and it is important that we be active in the building of the Kingdom.
Did you notice the list of building materials in the passage? He starts with the most expensive (gold) and digresses to the cheapest (straw). We come now to the sobering truth to which we earlier referred. All of your work and mine for the Kingdom will be subject to the fire of judgment day. Our God is a consuming fire. He spoke to Moses from the fire of a burning bush. He spoke to the Israelites from a fiery cloud on Mt. Sinai. The fire of judgment came from heaven on several occasions, E.g. Nadab and Abihu, Elijah and the priests of Baal, Sodom and Gomorrah. The materials you and I are building with are significant. Straw burns to ashes. Are you at the “job site” watching or are you part of the construction team and what are your building materials?
You and I are this temple of God with the Holy Spirit indwelling us. As you read this, you may be saying, “I sure don’t feel like I’m a temple of God, nor do I feel very holy.” Think or feel? We need to think like God, that is, like Christ who indwells us. The work that he does in and through us will withstand the fires of judgment to the glory of God. At the “job site,” you and I are to “work out” what God in his grace has “worked in” us as we work as a part of his kingdom. All of us working together make up the temple of God. This truth is one of the reasons why it is so important that God’s people gather together physically in worship, to remind ourselves of this great truth. The church is not made up of people checking in remotely, but rather, people gathering and working in community . . . “Where two or three are gathered.”
Music: “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” BuPyeong Methodist Church, The 74th Anniversary Service Immanuel Symphony Orchestra United Choir
Lord God, your claims are absolute; we must accept them without bargaining. You are always right. Your demands are so full of blessings! I thank you for your severity as Redeemer, I thank You for never having allowed us to mingle the odor of death with Your perfume of eternity. I shall go towards You as towards my state of rest and my eternal life. In Your two hands You hold my being; and You are my reward, because the perfection of my being lies in You. Grant that I may love more and more of this life of faith, wholly irradiated by hope; grant that I may love this desert-place where You have put my soul, this immense plain with You in the center, where I stand always before You and someday soon, by Your Grace, by Your side. Amen. ―Florence Allshorn, from The Quiet Corner, p.93