In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Apostle Paul is addressing a people who are in danger of making a drastic mistake with their choices. They are building their Christian Community – the Church – upon an insecure foundation. They are building upon the foundation of human wisdom, human resource and human effort. As a result, their lives are filled with imbalance and instability. So Apostle Paul addresses them with the following verse (3:10) “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder, I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.”
Over the years, Apostle Paul had laid the foundations of the Church in many cities. He would often come into a city, preach the Gospel and then leave. Others would come in and take over building on the foundation of the growing Church. Indeed, we are still building upon that foundation today. But that foundation is not centered upon Paul. The Church is not Paul’s Church, neither is it Peter’s Church. It is Christ’s Church. The foundation is Jesus Christ.
Apostle Paul here expresses a warning to all that work in the Church with very good reason. You might think: ‘hang on. This doesn’t apply to me. After all, I am not a Bishop, Priest, preacher, or a leader of people’. However, in truth, if we are Christian, then we are one of God’s workers. We have joined the ranks of the army of God. We are an ambassador for Christ. We are heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are the children of the living God. Whether we like it or not, we have engaged in God’s building project.
There are however two questions:
- On what foundation are we building?
- What building materials are we using?
Let us look at the foundation. We read in 3:11, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid which is Jesus Christ”. The foundation is the most important part of the building, it determines the size, shape and strength of the structure. A ministry may seem successful for a time, but if it is not founded on Christ, it will eventually collapse and disappear.
Having secured an adequate foundation in Christ, the next question we face is the choice of building materials. Apostle Paul writes about are six different materials in 3:12-13: “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear”. In fact there are two kinds of material – costly or cheap, imperishable or perishable, permanent or temporary. In light of the Apostle’s concerns, “gold, silver and precious stones” are quality materials, fit for construction on the foundation of Christ crucified. Conversely “wood, hay, straw” are inferior materials, unfit for construction. They are the perishable stuff of human wisdom that finds the Gospel foolish.
Let us look at some examples of these two kinds of materials:
A heart of service to other is like gold, silver and precious stones. While spiritual laziness and the attitude of “let others do it” is like wood, hay, or straw in God’s sight. Generosity with the Lord and His people is gold, silver and precious stones. While self-centeredness and stinginess are wood, hay and straw. Coming to church with a heart of worship is the former; coming to impress others is the latter.
There is a beautiful story – A wealthy woman died one day and went to heaven. An angel then took her to her heavenly abode, which was a plain old ordinary building. Right next door to her was a palatial mansion. “Who does that belong to?” she asked the angel. “Your gardener” the angel replied. “How did my gardener get a mansion and I get a plain, old ordinary building?” The angel then said “Well, we only build with the materials you send us!” If you’re sending to heaven junk, junk is then what God uses. He only uses what you send Him!
Thus, the time to prepare for tomorrow is today. Let us therefore take to heart the words of Apostle Paul throughout our whole life: “Let each one take care how he builds.” Amen.
Source: February-March 2015 Lychnos Edition