1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 Epiphany 7 Pastor Kenneth Frey 2/19/17
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 In keeping with the grace of God given to me, as a wise master builder, I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. But let each person be careful how he builds on it. 11In fact, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. . . . 16Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that is what you are. 18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this world, let him become a fool so that he may become wise. 19To be sure, the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20and again, “The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise; he knows that it is worthless.” 21Therefore let no one boast about men. For all things belong to you— 22whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come. All things belong to you, 23and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
How do we build up the Church?
1. Build on the one foundation
2. Be careful how you build
3. Use the varied gifts the Holy Spirit has given
What do you think of when you hear the word, “church”? Most people think of a building where they worship. Perhaps even with our logo and tag line, you think of the building. After all, we speak of St. Paul Lutheran Ministries: Church – School – Childcare. Each of our ministries has it’s own building so we may think of the church in terms of a building. But when the Bible talks about the Church, it is not talking about a building, it’s talking about people. It’s talking about those people who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin and death.
God’s people don’t exist for the church building, as if that’s our whole identity and purpose. The church building, as well as they school building and ECC building exist for God’s people. Our purpose is not to maintain buildings but to build the Church, God’s kingdom, the family of God. How do we do that? How do we build up the Church? Just like in building a building, building up the Church requires having the right foundation. If the foundation is faulty, the building will not last. In the Church, the foundation is even more crucial. For if you take away Jesus, the Church’s one foundation, the Church cannot stand.
And that’s how Paul built up the Church. In keeping with the grace of God given to me, as a wise master builder, I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Paul laid foundations. He travelled the Mediterranean laying the foundation of Jesus Christ in cities all over the Roman Empire. He had laid the foundation of Jesus in the city of Corinth where he worked for 18 months. Jesus is the foundation. Our faith is built on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ for our sins. The Church is built on the confession of Jesus Christ as Savior.
Without Jesus, you have nothing. Martin Luther’s friend and coworker, Johannes Bugenhagen held to this motto: “If only you know Jesus rightly, it is enough, even if you know nothing more; if you do not have Jesus, it is nothing, even if you had learned everything else.”
There are two basic, opposing worldviews. The one presumes that everything changes and that change is the only constant; the other measures the things that change by the standard of things that are changeless. The one looks only to the shifting contents of the human mind which differs from one individual to the next; the other holds the individual up before the rock solid foundation of the God who never changes, Christ Jesus himself, the chief cornerstone.
Too many people are looking for the truth in the opposite direction. What I mean is that they begin with human wisdom and understanding and then try to get the Bible to support that. They want to make Jesus and his truth compatible with human wisdom. Paul tells us here that we can’t do that.
We need to keep Jesus as the foundation. We proclaim Jesus Christ crucified even though that is foolishness to the world. We want to keep Jesus at the center of our church, even in this 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. Jesus is still the center. Jesus is the foundation on which we build.
If the church’s foundation isn’t Jesus Christ, there is no substance, no power. It’s chaff. It’s empty. If Jesus is not the foundation and at the center of what we do and teach, no gimmick will build up the Church.
How do we build up the Church? By building on the foundation, Jesus Christ. A good builder doesn’t stop there, of course. He builds on the foundation with quality material. So we need to be careful how we build. 18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this world, let him become a fool so that he may become wise. 19To be sure, the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20and again, “The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise; he knows that it is worthless.” We have seen a lot of progress in our life times. Advances in technology have allowed us to do things that we only wild dreams in ages past. Medical science has eliminated many diseases that were terrors of previous ages. Modern communications allow us to speak and see people on the other side of the world in real time. We have sent men to the moon and spacecraft to distant planets.
But for all of our technological advances, wisdom and learning, there is an emptiness in the lives of many in our society. Man’s wisdom can accomplish many things, but it cannot satisfy his basic need – to find peace with God. That is found only in Jesus and the truth based on this foundation.
Moses said in Psalm 90, “Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—they are like the new grass of the morning: 6 In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered.” Compared to the everlasting God, we are just a flash in the pan, barely a blip on the radar of eternity. Why would we look to human wisdom and human achievement for peace with God? Peace with God can only be found in the eternal, the once for all sacrifice of the Son of God. Only in Jesus, the eternal God who became man, do we find eternal peace, lasting peace, certain peace.
Human wisdom, on the other hand, is not only empty when it comes to spiritual things; it’s harmful. Human wisdom leads us astray from the truth. It leads us to the changing, uncertain, fickle ideas of men.
A modern American worship leader lamented his own reliance on worldly wisdom and the worldly wisdom he saw in many other churches. He said, “I realized the American church-attending public is very style conscious and is basically made up of consumers of religion. So I set about to meet their style needs. This took the form of music that sounded like a night club, pulpit attire that reflected country club standards, sermons that did not intimidate and that were more a motivational speech than preaching the gospel. . . . In any city there are churches saying in like manner: ‘Come to our church. Our preacher doesn’t wear a tie. Our preacher wears golf shirts and jogging shoes. Come to our church! We wear shorts and sandals.’ . . . Everyone is out front, just like the carnival barkers were, pushing their style, their religious product, but when we get inside we find – just like the carnival – that no one knocks out the balloons or knocks down the bottles. No one wins the prize. No lives are changed.” (Rev. Dr. William L. Self, “Swimming to the deep end of the pool”)
How do we build up the Church? We need to build on the one foundation, Jesus Christ. We need to be careful how we build and then, we need to make use of all the gifts Christ has given to the Church.
16Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? . . . 21Therefore let no one boast about men. For all things belong to you— 22whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come. All things belong to you, 23and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. The Church is not a building; it is people. We are the Church. Jesus is the foundation and we who trust in him are the bricks that make up the Church. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (2:19-22)
You are the Church. You are God’s temple. All truth belongs to the Church and all who teach the truth of God belong to the Church. We do not belong to our teachers; they belong to us. So let us appreciate the gifts and strengths of our called workers as gifts and blessings from the Lord.
How can we find benefit in those gifts to the Church if we don’t use them? Your pastors and other leaders of the Church will continue to build on the one foundation, Jesus Christ, with quality material. They will prepare sermons and Bible Classes whether a lot of people show up or only a few. They will build on the foundation with the best materials whether you are there or not. But why not make use of their gifts? Why not take advantage of the grace of God that uses them to build up the Church? That begins with regular worship. That continues by attending Bible Class and Sunday School.
How do we build up the Church? Lay the only foundation that can hold up, Jesus Christ. Build with quality material that brings the truth of God’s Word to souls. But then, you need to make use of those gifts to the Church for yourselves and your children.