I Cor 3:9-16 Take Heed How We Build 10/14/2001




#1. He That Planteth (I Cor 3:6-7, 2:1-5)








#2. He That Buildeth (I Cor 3:12-15)








#3. The Temple of God (I Cor 3:16)







Please open your Bibles to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 1. There were problems in the church at Corinth; many problems. That is why God wrote two long letters to the church at Corinth by the hand of the Apostle Paul. Today I would like us to focus on just one of those problems. It is the problem that the Corinthians did not know what a church is for. But are we in much better shape than the church at Corinth? Do we know why we are here in a church? Are we sure that God has established the organization that is called the church? Do we know who the CHURCH BUILDERS ar?

Yes, God addressed this letter to the entire congregation at Corinth. In chapter 1 verse 2 God addressed them: "the church of God, which is at Corinth". Therefore God had brought them together.

But there were divisions in the church at Corinth. We read in verse 12,

1 Corinthians 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas (or Peter); and I of Christ.

1 Cor 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Paul considered it an insult that people said: "I am of Paul". Likewise, John Calvin would turn in his grave if he knew that there are people today who would call themselves "Calvinists".

Please turn now to chapter 3, where God lays down some principles in the activity of "church building". In verses 4 and 5 God repeats the problem that was raised in chapter 1:12,

1 Corinthians 3:4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

1 Corinthians 3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

Every man? God did not give faith to every man. It is true that Paul and Apollos were church builders. In actuality God says that they were only "ministers"; but the Greek text says "servants". Verse 5 says that God used these servants to preach, and through their preaching it pleased God to give faith to every man whom God chose to save.

The divisions that existed in the church at Corinth were a clear reminder that after the salvation of our soul, we still live in our sinful flesh. But the people stayed in the church. They did not run away from their problems. Can we say that of our congregation? Do we run away when we see divisions or certain points of friction in our church? Or do we stay and help to solve these problems? Which of the two kinds of people would you like to be? My advice is: "Hang in there"! There is much to be gained.

Usually, such spiritual problems help us to understand beautiful spiritual principles, which lead us to understand the Word of God much better. And so it was here at Corinth. In this chapter God lays down some principles for "church builders". This entire chapter is addressed to "church builders". The overriding theme in this chapter is this: "TAKE HEED HOW WE BUILD" (2X).

God teaches us in this chapter through three parables. It is not always understood that this chapter contains three parables. You will see them as we study these verses. In the first parable God speaks about church building as a farming activity. The first parable is titled:

#1. He That Planteth (I Cor 3:6-7, 2:1-5). We read in verses 6 and 7,

1 Corinthians 3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

1 Corinthians 3:7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

In this parable the church is compared to a bunch of plants. When God speaks about the church, God does not speak about a church building of bricks and mortar, but God speaks about people who gather as a congregation, or God speaks about the body of believers. The Apostle Paul says: I have planted this church, and Apollos has watered it and nurtured it. But neither Apollos nor I could take credit for the growth of this church. Only God gave the increase. To God goes all the credit. God has brought these people together and God gave faith to whomsoever He will. Therefore, God is the one who is ultimately in charge of this church-growing project. The Apostle Paul emphasizes in chapter 2 that he is not responsible for the growth of this church. He says in I Cor 2:1,

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

1 Cor 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

1 Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

1 Corinthians 2:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Paraphrased the Apostle says: "When I was with you I felt weak, and I was in fear and much trembling. Surely, my appearance did not persuade you to believe my words. I did not come to you with excellency of speech, or with wise and enticing words. None of those things could help you believe the Gospel. All I did was to declare unto you the testimony of God. I declared unto you how God's plan of salvation is focused on one event: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The fact that you believed the Gospel should not be attributed to my preaching, but it is the demonstration of the working of the Holy Spirit, working in your hearts with power. So that your faith should not depend on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. "So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase". Then the Apostle says in verse 8,

1 Corinthians 3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

1 Corinth 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry; ye are God's building.

In verse 8, those who labor in church planting and those who labor in watering and pastoring the church are all one. We are all slaves of Christ, being used by God "who worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure". That is why we are all one. We are all guided by one Authority.

When God says: "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour", what rewards is God speaking about? God is not speaking about the reward of eternal life, because that is a free gift. God is not speaking about extra rewards in heaven for "good deeds" done here on earth, because there are none. Even our best works are no good, because they are tainted with sin. When we have done all that God has commanded us to do, we must say: "We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do." Therefore, "the rewards according to our own labor" are the fringe benefits we enjoy on this earth for our labor of love. It is the joy of serving Christ, and it is the joy of seeing our expanding spiritual family and other spiritual blessings we receive through the fellowship of our church family.

Now verse 9. Verse 9 is greatly misunderstood. The Greek text does not say: "For we are workers together with God", but it says: "For we are fellow workers of God". We, Paul and Apollos, are fellow workers, because we both are serving the same Master. But God is not our buddy. God is not plowing this field as a fellow worker with us. When Jesus said: "Take my yoke upon you", He did not mean that there is a yoke, which partly lays on my shoulders and partly on Christ's shoulders. Not at all!

Christ gives each of us a task, fully lays it upon our shoulders, and He says: "My grace is sufficient for you". Then, to encourage us in our work, Christ says: "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." His burden is not easy to human standards, but easy because the grace of God carries us through, guaranteed. His burden is indeed light, because we do it with great pleasure.

Then God says: "Ye are God's husbandry", or if we put it in today's vernacular we would translate this as: "Ye are God's field". To whom is God speaking? God is speaking to the entire church at Corinth, lock stock and barrel, because He says in verse 3,

1 Corinthians 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

Look at your envying, and strife and divisions. This shows that some of you are still in the flesh and walk as unregenerate men. God calls this mixture of both saved and unsaved men "God's field".

Then we read in verse 9: "Ye are God's building". This is the point where God now switches to the second parable. He leaves the first parable of farming, where the church is compared to a field of plants, and now God compares church building as "a building project". But whenever we are setting up a building, we have to ask: Who is doing the work, and

1 Corinth 3:9, For we are fellow workers of God, ye are God's building.

1 Corinthians 3:10, According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

1 Corinthians 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Who is doing the work? In the first instance again Paul and Apollos are in view. Fellow laborers.

The church at Corinth is compared to God's building. The Apostle Paul says: "I have laid the foundation, which is Jesus Christ." Only by grace was I privileged to lay this foundation. I have taught you the whole counsel of God, which is focused on Christ crucified.

I have taught you that all mankind is engrossed in sin, and that God calls us "transgressors from the womb"(Isa 48) Mankind was created in the image of God and mankind was created to serve God. But, because of our sins we all are on the way to Hell, since God's righteousness has been violated.

But God, in His great mercy, decided: He would save a people for Himself, because we could not help ourselves. God Himself, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, would take upon Himself all the guilt of all the sins of those people whom He had chosen for Himself, and Christ would bear all the consequences for those sins, whatever they may be. The angel said to Joseph: "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins."

Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth about 2000 years ago, to bear our sins and to pay for our sins the penalty that was required to fully satisfy the righteousness of God. Therefore it was necessary that the Lord Jesus paid on the cross the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for all the sins of His people, so that His people would not have to endure Hell. But He did not pay for the sins of every human being, as is so widely taught, because Christ did not endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for those who themselves go to Hell.

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ crucified means that all those whose sins have been paid, will certainly be saved at some point in their life. But Christ crucified also teaches that all those whose sins have not been paid, will pay for their own sins in Hell. The only way any sin can be forgiven is through the cross of Christ. That was completed on Friday, April 3, in the year 33AD. The number of specific sins that Jesus paid on the cross 2000 years ago cannot be increased, nor can it be decreased. Therefore, the number of people whom Christ saved from their sins, cannot be increased nor can it be decreased.

God guaranteed that all those whose sins were paid at the cross, would at some time in their life be awakened by God the Holy Spirit and be given a new soul, and faith, so that they see their sinful state and seek God for mercy. These are also the people who delight to search the Bible, because they delight to hear the voice of the Bridegroom.

This is the foundation that was laid. No other foundation can be laid than this, which was laid. Now we must build on this foundation. Therefore, God has certain things to say to:

#2. He That Buildeth (I Cor 3:12-15) Read verses 12-15,

Who are the people engaged in this building project? God is speaking to the entire church at Corinth. This is addressed to everyone here, not just to the Pastor. We are all in this project together. You may think that only the Pastor is engaged in church building, but the Pastor by himself is not able to do much. We all are called to be witnesses, and we all are called to train up our children in the teachings of the Word of God. Look at how often God says: "Every man". In verse 8 God said: "Every man shall receive his own reward". In verse 10 God said: "Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon". In verse 13 God said: "Every man's work shall be made manifest". Definitely God is addressing everyone here to take stock of how we are contributing to the furtherance of God's Kingdom. AND God says that every believer ought to build and beautify God's Kingdom within his heart. That is the building project we are all engaged in. Especially we need to see the warning of verse 10: "Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." Let's read verses 12-15,

1 Co 3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

1 Corinthians 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

1 Corinthians 3:14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

1 Corinthians 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

We are still in the parable where church building is portrayed as "a building project". We have to know what these various items in this building project represent. And what does the work represent that is done by various people as they engage in church building?

Just like the foundation consists of the teachings of who Christ is and what Christ has done, so the building materials represent teachings that we build upon this foundation, which is Jesus Christ. We can build with teachings that can stand the test of fire, like gold, silver and precious stones. For example, if we build on this foundation with the doctrines of the triune Godhead, and with the doctrine that Christ is reigning now in heaven and on earth, and with the doctrine that Christ's second coming includes the end of the world, then we are spiritually building with gold, silver and precious stones. Let's not kid ourselves; no one has all the doctrines perfectly right. Some teachings that we hold will be like wood, hay or stubble. For example, some people teach that the gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and stubble represent saved and unsaved people in the church. That is a teaching of wood, hay and stubble. This is not to say that we can preach heresy, because the premise was "If any man build upon this foundation". We are starting with the right foundation, which will be Christ, the Word of God, not one letter more, and not one letter less than the Bible. Now God gave two possibilities: Our work shall abide, or our work shall be burned. Let us look at:

Let us read verse 13 and 14 again:

1 Corinthians 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

What is every man's work? It is the work that each one of us does to build one another up in the

church, or that each one of us does to enrich, or edify, or beautify our own spiritual house, in prayer or in Bible study. Every man's work shall be made known on the Last Day, because the fire shall test the work of what sort it is. But this man is a saved individual. Is his work going to be tested by hellfire? That is not possible, because "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." No the fire is God, because "Our God is a consuming fire". Our work will have come to an end when Christ returns. And what will be the result of our work? Verse 14 says it:

1 Corinthians 3:14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

What is this reward? This is not the reward of eternal life, because that was a gift. If any man's work abide which he has built upon the solid foundation, which is Christ, means that his work of church building abides. This means that some people have become saved through the preaching, or teaching, or supporting of the true Gospel. What is this reward? It is the reward of seeing those saved people back in heaven. That is a great joy. While we are here on earth we do not know who around us is has really become saved. Only on the Last Day will we know.

Now, let us look at the other person,

What is going on here? Let us read verses 13 and 15,

1 Corinthians 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

The work that each one of us does to build one another up in the church, or in the preaching, or teaching, or supporting of the true Gospel, or the work that each one of us does to enrich, or edify, or beautify our own spiritual house, in prayer or in Bible study, shall be made known on the Last Day. Again, the fire is representing God who reveals every man's work of what sort it is.

This man has not been very careful in selecting what is good for his soul, or what is good for his family's spiritual needs, or what is good for his relationships with other people. But his foundation is right. He is building on the solid foundation, which is Christ. And what I say about men in this passage equally applies to women. Women can make the same mistakes as men. Usually husbands are making joint decisions with their wives about what to teach their children. Any mistakes they make are usually joint mistakes. And what is the result? We read in verse 15,

1 Corinthians 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

For example, this would apply to a Pastor who has not worked hard at studying the Scriptures. For example, based on the first four verses in this chapter he has developed a teaching that there are carnal Christians. Since his teachings are not always according to the Scriptures, the result is that he is gathering around him many unsaved people. Even though this Pastor himself may be saved, much of his work is destroyed on the Last Day, and he shall not see many of his parishioners in heaven.

Or verse 15 may apply to a father or a mother who have made definite mistakes with their children in their teenage years. That is easy to do if you do not know what sort of clay teenagers are made of these days. The result may be that on the Last Day they do not see their children in heaven. I am not teaching that there will be sorrow in heaven. But they are deprived of the joy that they could have, if they would have seen their loved ones in heaven. In that sense they shall suffer loss.

Then verse 15 says: "But he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." The fire represents God. If this man was saved, and if we have been saved, then Christ has saved us by enduring the fire in our place on the cross.

The warning of verse 10 rings through loud and clear: "TAKE HEED HOW WE BUILD".

Now we enter the third parable in this chapter. It is the parable of the temple in verse 16.

#3. The Temple of God (I Cor 3:16)

Up to this point the word temple has not been mentioned. In fact this is the first time that the word temple is used in this Epistle to the church at Corinth. The church was patterned after the Jewish synagogue, where reading and teaching from the Scriptures and public prayer occurred. The temple was for sacrifice and for silent prayer. Now God switched from the church to the temple. God said in:

1 Cor 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Where is the dwelling place of God? The souls of the true believers is the dwelling place of God. Why is our soul called a temple? Because Christ's sacrifice is applied to our souls, and it is in our souls that we worship God in silent prayer, and it is the special dwelling place of God.

When we look at the church, the congregation who is assembled together, we must recognize that there are always people in the congregation who are not saved. Every church has those, and our church is no exception. But God does not dwell in the souls of the unsaved. Therefore, when God says: "the Spirit of God dwelleth in you", this can only refer to the truly saved individuals within the church. We must distinguish between the externally visible church consisting of both saved and unsaved people, and the invisible eternal church consisting of truly saved individuals. It is only the eternal church that is also the temple of God.

But when the saints are gathered together in church, then the Spirit of God is also present there. That is why God sometimes, not often, speaks of the church gathering as the temple of God. God speaks of the local church as the temple of God only in this chapter and in II Thess 2.

When God compares in this parable the church with the temple of God, we should be careful that we do not call ourselves temple builders. God provides the temple that He dwells in. God gathers those for whom Christ died almost 2000 years ago. We add no contribution to the work of Christ of 2000 years ago. Therefore we are no temple builders.

But here and in II Thess 2 God uses the name temple for the local church, because in both cases there are people who intend to corrupt the church of God. God sounds the warning:

1 Corinthians 3:17 If any man defile (Lit: corrupt) the temple of God, him shall God destroy (Lit: corrupt); for the temple of God is holy, which (temple) ye are.

This is a very solemn warning. If anyone intends to corrupt the church by bringing heresy into the church, then God will corrupt this individual. God will make his heart so corrupt that he will not see the evil of his own heart. That is a terrible condition to be in. Would God indeed do that? Yes. God gave a clear example of such corruption in the local church and God subsequent action in II Thess 2:11-12,

2 Thess 2:11-12, And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Therefore, "Take Heed How We Build". Let us be careful that we do not defile the church of God. If we are not carefully studying the Bible we may be in danger of defiling the church of God in our own home. Therefore, God warns us in I Cor 3:18,

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

1 Corinthians 3:20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

Remember the overriding theme of this chapter concerns church builders. God's warning is that "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness". Those who think of themselves that they are so wise in handling the Word of God will be snared by their own craftiness. We must always be teachable. We must always be willing to learn from others, because God may have sent them to us to teach us.

God knows the thoughts of those who consider themselves wise, but they are vain.

But to those who truly seek the peace of God, God says:

Do not follow after the wild doctrines of apparently wise men of this world. They may not take heed how they build. Do not follow after them. Follow after Christ. Commit yourself to the study of His Word, and He will comfort you.

1 Corinthians 3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;

1 Corinthians 3:22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;

1 Corinthians 3:23 And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.

All things are yours. God in His wisdom has arranged all things, so that in your church building projects, both at home and in the church you may be comforted. Trust His Word. He is the lover of your soul. Let Him mold you and make you grow in His grace. In the words of Rom 8:31-32,

Romans 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

He freely gives us all things. Everything we need has already been given to us. And God has also given us the inward desire to congregate as a church.

God gave us the church, for our benefit.

Let me come back to the question I posed in the beginning of this sermon: Why are we here in this church? We are here because we want to worship the God who has drawn us to Jesus. We do not flee to the church, but we flee to Jesus. We realize that the church does not save us, but we are drawn to love and communicate with other believers who worship the same God that we worship. And God arranged that in so doing, we are glorifying Him. Therefore we want to give Him all the praise and the glory.

The Hymn we are going to sing reflects again what I have been saying. Let me read to you the first two stanzas:

Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,

While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.

Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past,

Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last!


Other refuge have I none; hangs my helpless soul on Thee;

Leave, O leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring,

Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.