Ephesians 4:4-6, One hope of your calling: Eternal Reward, 1Co 3:1-17, part 7
length: 66:03 - taught on Feb, 2 2021
Title: Ephesians4:4-6, One hope of your calling: Eternal Reward, 1CO 3:1-17, part 7.
Tuesday February 2, 2021
There have been several instances in history where people were gathered into city-states or nations or empires from which innovation in science and thought have produced what we would call a high civilization. In the West we look back to Greek thought and art and to Roman government and law. East and West, high civilizations, though they possessed science, art, literature, and law, at the same time they showed their utter impotence of these alone to bless and save the world. God gave Christianity to a Roman world influenced by Greek culture.
The Greeks, few in number, but vastly important, brought out the idea of humanity in its natural vigor and beauty, and also its natural imperfection. They developed the principles of science and art. They liberated the mind from the dark powers of nature and gloomy mysticism. They rose to the clear and free consciousness of manhood, boldly investigated the laws of nature and of spirit, and carried out the ideas of beauty in all sorts of artistic forms. In poetry, sculpture, architecture, painting, philosophy, rhetoric, historiography, they left true master-pieces, which are to this day admire and studied as models of form and taste.
In Greece, civil liberty and independence had been destroyed by internal discord and corruption. Philosophy had run down into skepticism and refined materialism. Art had been degraded to the service of levity and sensuality. Infidelity or superstition had supplanted sound religious sentiment. Dishonest and licentiousness reigned among high and low.
The Romans were the practical and political nation of antiquity. Their calling was to carry out the idea of the state and civil law, and to unite the nations of the world in a colossal empire. Their empire embraced the most fertile and civilized countries of Asia, Africa, and Europe, and about one hundred million people, about one-third of the whole race at the time on the introduction of Christianity. Says one historian, “The Romans had no love of beauty, like the Greeks. They held no communion with nature, like the Germans. Their one idea was Rome - not ancient, fabulous, poetical Rome, but Rome warring and conquering. SPQR was inscribed on almost every page of their literature.” Virgil gave them their motto: Tu, regereimperiopopulos, Romane, memento! (“You Roman, remember to rule the people with your power.”)
Having conquered the world by the sword, Rome organized it by law and gave it, or at least tried to give it, peace.
As is the law of the fallen world, so the seeds of decay were sown in Rome. The immense extension and outward prosperity brought with it a slow decline of domestic and civil virtue that had once given Rome its true power. When the Roman Empire decayed it was a massive body without a soul, going with steps slow but sure, to final dissolution. Some of the emperors were fiendish tyrants and monsters of iniquity; and yet they were enthroned among the gods by a vote of the Senate, and altars and temples were erected for their worship.
Seneca - “The world is full crimes and vices. More are committed than can be cured by force. There is an immense struggle for iniquity. Crimes ae no longer hidden, but open before the eyes. Innocence is not only rare, but nowhere.”
None of it did anything to save man and bless him eternally. Plus, all advanced or high civilizations decayed.
Yet, in the hands of the apostles, the advantages of culture were used in the service of God. With Greek language, the apostles were able to communicate everywhere, and with Roman laws and roads they were able to go everywhere.
Only the church would bless man eternally and set him free, and God would and does use earthly events and products to serve His purpose. And as good and worthy as many of the innovations of men have been, none of it is a part of the foundation and building of the church.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?4For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? 5What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.
Then Paul puts forth the image of the field and the fellow laborer (vv. 6-9).
The image is the people of God as a field and the agricultural laborers perform tasks that make for conditions of maximum growth, but they are not sources of growth.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
Next is the image of the building and the testing of the builder’s work. It is a corporate structure.
The image of a building applied to the church excludes individualism. It is not a single object but a corporate structure, a community.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder [highly skilled builder in charge of the project] I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.
There are people in charge that are not skilled. This position is only for the very skilled.
By grace God honored Paul with the position of ruling skilled worker at the task of building the church.
This position demanded faithfulness in Paul, and also included much sacrifice, heartache, and suffering.
The foundational work of Paul is the proclamation of Christ crucified.
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
Paul’s foundation is entirely Christocentric. A church cannot be built on anything else and the building material must match the foundation.
The true doctrine of the death of Christ without the addition of various human opinions and evaluations is Paul’s laid foundation. It is entirely Christocentric.
The foundation of the church never centers on man for man cannot help man. Only a spiritual man can help another man, and only Christ can make a man spiritual. Christ is always the center and foundation. The foundation of the church never centers on the plights of the world. Only spiritual men can be a blessing to the world or to a nation, and again, only Christ can make them spiritual.
The problems with our current nation are entirely spiritual. The portion of the population who have rejected Christ and rejected God’s sovereign law over men is the entire problem.
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.
Since the foundation that Paul laid is the work of Christ alone, those who pastor the church in the future do not have to tear up the foundation and start over. Noting new or novel needs to be imagined for a church. The foundational doctrines of Christ’s work are the start, a foundation set down by Paul 2,000 years ago, and then built upon this, week by week, year by year, in the souls of the members, are the doctrines of the scripture, all of which are centered upon Jesus Christ.
Paul’s charge to all who come after him, not only the pastors but all who are in the church, is to be careful how they build their churches upon that foundation. No matter what, we are not to deviate from the truth and grace manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ.
No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
The Alpha and Omega
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel."
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The chief reference that Paul draws on is the grave responsibility of those who labor for the building up of the church.
As for Paul’s own part in the work, the laying of the foundation, he says that was comparatively easy compared to the business of building. The foundation never changes. It is upon the cross of Christ that all Christian churches are built. A minister cannot make a mistake in creating a church when he knows that the foundation must be Christ.
Anyone who lays another foundation, it is not a Christian church, no matter what the sign reads.
Ministers of morality apart from Christ can do good work, but in governments or schools, not in the church.
The question, says Paul, is not what other institutions you may profitably found in the world, but how this institution of the church, already founded, is to be continued and completed.
And on this foundation, there are already (at the time of Paul writing this letter) those who are building on that foundation with questionable materials (false doctrines).
The theme of “taking care how he builds” is now expounded upon as the central motif of vv. 11-17 with a Christocentric frame.
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
In the analogy of the field and the fellow laborers, it was God who gives the increase (3:7). Parallel in the analogy of the building is that the entire structure depends on Jesus Christ as the foundation.
And, like the analogy of the field, someone planted and watered, but they played a subservient part to God who caused the growth. So here, the building has need of the master builder and those who follow him to create an environment containing the circumstances conducive to building higher.
There is only one foundation. The Greek word, themelion, is connected with two Greek words, thithemi - to place; and lithos - a stone.
No one can lay a foundation other than Christ Himself, His Person and work and call it a church. It is not a church if the work of Christ is not its foundation.
Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.
The foundation was already established, but some were seeking to build upon it with questionable materials.
Temple of Apollo - Built in Corinth 550 BC
The Romans sacked Corinth in 146 B.C. Julius Caesar rebuilt it in 44 B.C. The only structures to survive the first destruction were made of marble.
This is important to know concerning this passage, for everyone living in Corinth knew they were living in a new city, but that it had some older buildings from before the second century B.C., and those were made of materials that survived the fire.
When the Romans sacked the city, they burned it, and what survived and remained even until Paul’s time were the marble structures. Every wooden structure and thatched (hay and straw) roof was devoured and none of it remained.
“The incidents of the capture of Corinth were melancholy. The soldiers cared nothing for the works of art and the consecrated statues. I saw with my own eyes pictures thrown on the ground and soldiers playing dice on them.”
Back then it was common to have a miserable hovel reared against the marble wall of a temple. In a fire, the wall would stand and there would be no trace of the hovel. Paul asks what material are we building with.
After a siege, a survivor might construct a make shift thatch roof upon a splendid but deserted palace to make it somewhat habitable.
Paul sees the teachers who are not interested in the foundation as putting scavenged timbers and rotted planks with flimsy thatched roofing on top of what was once a beautiful palace, a church built upon the foundation of the doctrines of Christ’s cross. When fire (in this case Jesus’ righteous judgment) is put to the structure, only the marble will remain; all else will be lost.
The builders, all in the church along with the teachers, must be very careful, but over the last 2000 years there have been many careless builders.
The contrast that Paul draws is between two types of materials: gold, silver, precious stones (marble included); and wood, hay, and straw. The latter are cheap and combustible.
The day will show it seems connected with the judgment of Christ, 2CO 5:10.
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight — 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.