Ephesians 4:4-6, One hope of your calling: Eternal Reward, 1Co 3:1-17, part 8.
Wednesday February 3,2021
“When ‘the fulness of the time’ was come, God sent forth His only-begotten Son, ‘the Desire of all nations,’ to redeem the world from the curse of sin, and to establish an everlasting kingdom of truth, love, and peace for all who should believe on His name.” [Schaff, History of the Christian 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? 5 What 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).
I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now 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.
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.
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. 12 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 of the church is the foundation of any individual local church – the doctrines of the cross of Christ. And, Christ crucified is powerless without His resurrection.
“No great life ever passed so swiftly, so quietly, so humbly, so far removed from the noise and commotion of the world; and no great life after its close excited such universal and lasting interest. He was aware of this contrast: He predicted His deepest humiliation even to the death on the cross, and the subsequent irresistible attraction of this cross, which may be witnessed from day to day wherever His name is known. He who could say, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto myself,” knew more of the course of history and of the human heart than all the sages and legislators before and after him.” [Schaff, History of the Christian Church]
If the foundation is anything else: humanism, secularism, politics, art, culture, altruism, philanthropy; it may serve a useful and good purpose to society, but it is not a church.
Napoleon at St. Helena is reported to have been struck with the reflection that millions are now ready to die for the crucified Nazarene who founded a spiritual empire by love, while no one would die for Alexander, or Caesar, or himself, who founded temporal empires by force. He saw in this contrast a convincing argument for the divinity of Christ, saying: “I know men, and I tell you, Christ was not a man. Everything about Christ astonishes me. His spirit overwhelms and confounds me. There is no comparison between Him and any other being. He stands single and alone.”
And, only the church has the means for the salvation of man, the gospel, and the means of life that is true and eternal, the scripture. Without the church on its proper foundation, all the good that man can do is independent from God and so falls under the designation by God as fleshly. Of course, the term fleshly also includes sin, sensuality, immorality.
The foundation was already established, but some were seeking to build upon it with questionable materials. In Paul’s imagery, these materials were frail and flammable and the fire-torch that would be brought to them was the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ.
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.
Other instances where “the day” points to final judgment: Rom 2:16; 13:12; 1Th 5:4. Most often Paul uses “the day of the Lord,” 1Co 1:8; 5:5; 2Co 1:14; Phi 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1Th 5:2; 2Th 2:2.
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.
There is only one foundation, but in Corinth, Paul fears that on that solid marble is reared a crazy structure of second-hand and ill-adapted material. Imagine a wall propped up with rotten planking upon a beautiful marble foundation. Corinth began with strengthening milk of Christ crucified, but false doctrine laid on top of it made an incongruous structure.
Paul sees the teachers bringing, with great haste no less, the merest rubbish, wood, hay, and filthy straw and not recognizing how strikingly it is incompatible with the foundation. It is a complete mismatch in every way. We wonder what Paul would say of the church if he could see it today.
Additional size is additional danger if the wrong building material is used.
The man building seems to refer to the pastor, but again, he who plants and he who waters are one. We would conclude that it refers to any man building in the church, which would refer to all believers since they are called to be a part of the body, also a local church if they can, not forsaking the assembling of themselves together. If a believer is neglecting his spiritual life and neglecting the church, then he is not building.
All the building we do, all the work we do, will be judged by Christ. It will be put to the test. So then, no matter who or how many people may be applauding your work, no matter how many people you may have managed to impress, none of it means a thing. It is only when we are judged by Christ that we will discover what was actually good.
And don’t let that truth lead you into a dangerous place where you scrutinize everything you do. We are to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith and we are to recognize our sins so as to turn away from them, but we don’t examine our work under magnifying glass. If we do that, we will surely do things wrong. Generally, people do not notice the good things they do when they are doing them. It is only after, and one looks back, that good might be recognized. We don’t find Paul or the other writers of the scripture at all concerned or fearful about the judgment seat of Christ. They are concerned that they follow Christ and that they author ministries that offer great opportunity for others to do the same.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Mark that God revealed in a dream that Joseph’s brothers and his father would bow to him, but God first put him in a prison where that seemed impossible. God promised Israel a land flowing with milk and honey, but first He put them in a desert where there was neither food or water. God promised David a kingdom but soon after stirred up Saul to chase him as prey throughout the desert.
Before promotion and the reward that is the natural fruit of a divine life of mature faith, God must make us meek, humble, patient, merciful, enduring, and loving. He must kill our pride and give us the joy of humble acceptance.