Summary: Paul guides us in working to build His church.
INTRO: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works...” (Ephesians 2:10).
ILLUS: Three men were pouring concrete on a construction site. “What are you making?” a passerby asked. The first said, “I’m making $300 a week!” The second said, “I’m making a foundation.” The third, with a gleam in his eye and a note of excitement in his voice, said, “I’m building a great cathedral.”
The apostle Paul uses three beautiful figures of speech to help us get a fresh vision of how God is working with us, as we work with Him together in a sacred covenant to build His Church.
I. A FIELD (v. 9b).
The members of the church at Corinth were arguing about who deserved credit for the fruits of the ministry there. Some gave Paul the credit, others Apollos, others Peter. Paul soundly rebukes them all. “What are we but ministers through whom God worked.” It is God who gives the results of the labors. This figure of the church as a field is to remind us that some will sow, others cultivate, and still others will reap. But God gives the harvest.
1. Paul mentions the diversity of our service — the variety of our gifts, the richness of our many callings — all given to the end of producing a harvest.
2. Paul mentions our obligation — the supreme responsibility of each of us to do our part, without which the harvest cannot be accomplished.
3. Here is our assurance that we are not responsible for the results. Our duty is to be faithful in our task. God will take care of the harvest.
We get in trouble when we try to keep books for God. Remember when Elijah was so despondent that he prayed to die? He had been to the mountain, called down fire for heaven, and won the victory over the 400 prophets of Baal. But now Jezebel was trying to kill him and he thought that he was the only true believer left. God had to remind him that there were still 7,000 faithful believers in the land. Be a faithful worker and let God take care of the harvest.
II. A BUILDING (v. 9c)
The foundation of the building is Jesus Christ. Paul said, “I laid that foundation on which the church in Corinth is built!”
ILLUS: On April 15, 1521, Martin Luther stood before the assembly to answer charges of heresy. He refused to recant, saying, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me!” Here, too, we stand as a church on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. Established on that foundation, the church will never fail.
ILLUS: When Hitler came into power with his Nazi forces, he struck the universities, and they compromised truth to suit him! He struck the press and it yielded to propagate his lies! Then, he struck the church and broke his fist against the Rock. Today, we join in Paul’s triumphant song and raise our voices to Martin Luther to sing, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.”
What is the material for the construction of the church on this foundation? Paul said that some of us will build with gold, some silver, and some of wood and straw and stubble. This means that not all of us come with the same level of service, commitment, and sacrifice to build the church. One day what we have built will be “tested by fire.” The works of those who have faithfully built to the glory of God shall endure and they shall receive a reward.
III. A TEMPLE (v. 16a).
You are the dwelling place of God. The church is the dwelling place of God.
ILLUS: In Central Europe during World War Two, bombs leveled a beautiful cathedral. The building was not reconstructed and the congregation moved elsewhere. But for years afterward, some persons, passing the pile of rubble, would devoutly bow and cross themselves.
As commendable as this act might be in preserving the memory of a church that once stood on the site, it still implies a false concept that there was something sacred or holy in the pile of debris that was once a church.
God does not dwell in physical buildings but rather in the hearts and in the spirit of His followers. If God is in this church today, He is here because He is in your heart and mind and not in the wood and brick and plaster.
ILLUS: If a visitor from outer space landed in your front yard and said take me to your church, where would you take him? Some would take him to this building. That would be wrong. The church is where the people are.
This is true individually.