Summary: with Christ as our foundation, we as a church and as individuals need to make sure we build with the right materials; make sure we stay God-centered; we need to rely on the Lord's strength and wisdom and avoid the temptation to take shortcuts
This church building was constructed about nine years ago. These are the blueprints for our church. Whoever put them together did a fine job, and they provided direction for the folks who built this structure which we often call First Baptist Church. It is good to keep in mind, though, that these are plans for a building, not a church. The wood, cement, pipes, wires, and carpet that have been put together at this location are really not First Baptist Church. Those materials make up a building, but the church is made up of people, believers in Jesus Christ. This building is no more the church than the Metrodome is the Minnesota Twins. Tomorrow morning First Baptist Church will be spread out all over the Iron Range. We need to keep this in mind as we read our text today. Our journey through 1 Corinthians brings us to Chapter 3, Verses 1-17. Here in Verse 16, Paul asks a remarkable question: 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? As Christians, we are God's temple, God's building. Now of course, God is omnipresent. He is everywhere - in heaven, on earth, and in between. There is no place where God is not. That is why Psalm 139 reminds us there is nowhere we can go to get away from God. But, as His people, as believers in Jesus Christ, He is present within us in a very special way through His Spirit. So, even though God is the One who is building His church, He gives us the opportunity to share in that task. How are we supposed to do that? I think we find some very helpful blueprints in our text today. Let's pause and pray that as we look at God's Word, He will truly speak to each one of us today.
How do we build a church that honors the Lord? The first thing that Paul tells us is that we need to think (and act) like a Christian as we seek to build. That was not happening in Corinth. Listen to what Paul has to say. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly -- mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? At the end of Chapter 2, which we looked at a few weeks ago, Paul talks about how no one can understand the Gospel, no one can become a true believer in Jesus Christ, without the help of the Holy Spirit. Paul is confident that the folks in Corinth have the Holy Spirit. They are true Christians. But they are not acting like it. The jealousy, quarrels, and factions in the church which he addressed in Chapter 1, are characteristic of people who are "mere men," of people who have not been born again by God's Spirit. Their behavior and attitudes are "like the worlds" or literally, "fleshly" and "carnally," what people are like before they become Christians. The best Paul can say about them is that they are acting like spiritual infants, people with spiritual life but not spiritual understanding. In fact, The Message translates the question at the end of Verse 4 as, "Are you not being totally infantile?" The implied answer is, "Yes, you are."
This little scolding which Paul gives the Corinthians is certainly a warning to us. I don't know about you, but I know there are times when my actions and thinking are totally infantile. Yes, on Sunday mornings I probably seem to be a pretty spiritual fellow, but other times during the week it is not always the case. Whenever I decide I will skip my quiet time, such as reading the Bible for a day, so that I can watch Sportscenter on TV, I suspect I am acting like a mere man, being totally infantile. Friends, sometimes churches even seem to forget what it means to honor the Lord. They sometimes think that as long as more people keep coming to church and the offerings keep getting bigger, it doesn't really matter if people are not growing in their relationship with Christ. Or perhaps they decide to reach out to certain neighborhoods in the community, but not a trailer court, because the people who live there probably won't contribute much money to their ministry. Whenever a church starts showing favoritism, treating some people as more important than others, it is acting totally infantile. As individual Christians and as churches, God is calling us to think and act like followers of Jesus Christ. We need to do that.