God In Us – 1 Corinthians 3:9-4:1
The fifth message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
In the Old Testament the people were constantly building places to worship God.
Abraham built altars to God.
Jacob set up rocks to establish that Bethel was a place he had met with God.
When Moses led the people out of slavery, they built a Tabernacle that they could pack up and carry with them on their journey and then setup at their campsite so that they would have a place to worship.
When David came to be king, he begged God to build a Temple.
Solomon built a Temple and it was a glorious site to behold.
That temple was destroyed and later a lesser temple was built by the people during the time of Ezra and Haggai. Then 35 years after Jesus was crucified the Temple was once again destroyed…
Throughout the Old Testament God was establishing places to meet with believers, places to meet with His people. In the New Testament God stopped meeting with his people through a place and began to meet with them through a person, Jesus Christ. After Christ ascended into Heaven He sent us the Holy Spirit to indwell us, so that if we have placed our faith in Christ and accepted the Spirit, God’s presence is always with us.
This is important to recognize and Paul makes that clear to the Corinthians in this passage that we will be covering today. Before we get to it, let me briefly review what we have covered thus far:
1. God desires to sanctify Even Us. (1:1-9)
2. God wants to do this great work in All of Us. (1:10-31)
3. To do this He needs help from None of Us. (2:1-3:4)
4. He has graciously chosen to work Through Us. (3:5-8)
5. He has established His Temple In Us. (3:9-4:1)
Nicole and I currently looking for a house (by the way we put in an offer this past week and we should hear something back tomorrow!)- I’ve looked at several homes, so many that they kind of blur together at this point.
Most of the homes are recognizable by their style, by their accents, by their features, however those aren’t the most important pieces of the home. The most important piece is the foundation and structure. Often when people consider churches, they think of the style- they classify according to features- The most important aspects of the church are not the style and the features but the foundation.
Paul communicates to the Corinthians that they are the building of God founded upon Christ.
We are the building of God founded upon Christ.
Verse 9 says you are God’s building.
Verse 16 which we will get says the Spirit dwells within you.
Both of these words are plural. It’s You all or Y’all or You Guys depending on where you are from. In Chapter 6 Paul will speak of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you, a single person, but right now He’s talking about the building of God as the group of believers. The foundation for the group, the gathering, the network of believers is Christ. When Jesus was with His disciples He once asked them, who do you say that I am and Peter responded you are the Christ – the Messiah. Jesus said, yes! The Spirit has revealed this to you and upon this truth I will build my church. Jesus told the disciples from the beginning that the church would be established upon Christ.
There is no foundation for our church other than Christ.
Why would we need or want anything other than Christ for our foundation? There are few things you want to be true about your foundation- you want it to be sure, to be strong, you want to to be immoveable, and Christ is all of those things… Paul’s point is not that Jesus is the best foundation among other options, Paul’s point is that Jesus is the only option.
You could establish an organization or network upon other foundations, but it wouldn’t be a church. The definition of a church is that it founded upon hope in Christ. If it is founded upon anything else, it isn’t a church. Not only would it fail to be a church, it would fail to be of real help and would not be able to provide real hope.
The idea of Christ as the foundation doesn’t come from the fact that He was the start of it, it comes from the idea that He sustains it, holds it up, gives it shape, forms it…
Without the foundation of Christ, we have nothing to stand on.
Without the foundation of Christ, we have nothing to offer.
Without the foundation of Christ, everything we build here is in vain.
Every Sunday School class, every children’s church, every Vacation Bible School, every service, is only as substantial as the foundation on which it stands- that foundation must be Christ.
In a culture like the one in Corinth, an established foundation was especially crucial. In a culture where popular opinion sways and changes like the winds of spring in southern Indiana, it would be so very important to have a established and sturdy foundation. In our culture, everything is changing at a faster and faster rate. We don’t know what the great debate will be next week, but we can be sure it center around the subjects of morality and sexuality.
In this quickly shifting culture, we are blessed to have an immoveable foundation in Christ.
Our Children are growing up in a culture that our parents don’t even recognize- with landslide of modern culture happening all around us, we desperately need a sure foundation.
Jesus told the story of 2 men who built their homes. One built his upon the rock, the other upon the sand. When the storms came the wise man’s house stood firm, the foolish mans fell down. We live in a world of changing landscapes and terrifying storms- we need the foundation of Christ.
In this uncertain and fragile life, we are blessed to have a sure foundation in Christ.
2 months after Nicole and I moved here was the great tornado in 2005. I remember afterwards see the frame of a trailer bent around a tree. It hadn’t been secured to its foundation and the wind picked it right up. This life is stormy- we need a sure cornerstone…
We are the building of God made up of men.
Let’s read verses 12 to 4:1…
Last week I pointed out to you that when Paul was in Corinth things were not going well and God told him to not quit because God had many people in that city. Corinth was a broken place. It was a corrupt place. But it was from this city that God called people to build his church. They were the bricks that he was laying to build up this church…
From an article on Listverse:
“The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple in Thailand was built with a million beer bottles. Decorative mosaics at the temple are constructed from beer bottle lids. The mixture of brown and green glass allowed the incorporation of intricate patterns within the temple’s walls. Since the walls are colored glass they allow for privacy but also a beautiful but diffuse light to spread throughout the buildings.
The monks who built the temple wished to highlight the wasteful nature of consumption and the possibility of reclaiming beauty from rubbish. Since glass is rather too brittle to make a complete structure, the temple does have a concrete core to support its weight.”
God was building a temple out of the broken down sinners in Corinth. Many would have looked at these people as trash and rubbish, but God saw the materials needed to build His church. The people of Corinth who had been saved were also the block layers that he was calling to lay more brick.
Paul says that as people build on this foundation they need to be careful because they will give an account for the work that they do. One day they will answer for the work that they have done and what type of material their building is made out of… Paul says that in the final day their work would be tested by fire. If their building was of fine and precious metals, this judgement would only further refine the work, but if the building was done with wood, hay, and stubble then it would be burnt up. Then in Chapter 4:1 he says we must give account to God for the work that we do…
Now this is so very sobering.
Paul says that believers will face God in judgement, not to determine if we will get into heaven but to try the work that we have done for the Lord. The work that we do in building the church of God- not the building but the people, the work of the ministry, this work will be tested by fire one day to see if it was truly for the Lord or if it was self serving… To see if it was enduring or if it was vanity…
The work that we do in ministry is the most important work that we do. No other work will be examined in heaven… If I told you that the work you were doing would be examined by someone that you respect- perhaps your boss, a great artist, or a great powerful leader- you would probably do your best…
All of the work of ministry will be examined and tested by God. This is why Paul says that any who build upon the foundation he has laid should be careful of the work that he does. I must tell you, God has worked me over this week with this thought. I was blessed this past week to go spend a few days with one of our most successful church plants in Arizona. 20 pastors were invited in for some high quality coaching and training… One of the principles that the lead pastor emphasized is the development of the pastor and leaders. With this passage on my heart as I prepared for this Sunday and seeing the work that this church has put in to build ministry upon the foundation of Christ- I was convicted. I need to get better. I must get better.
We are blessed to do the most important work upon the best foundation, let us be careful how we build.
One day we will face Christ, the one upon whom all of this work is based, the one whom all of this work is for- one day we will look into his eyes and thankfully we will be able to because of His gracious work on the cross- We’ll have the opportunity to stand there because of the work he chose to do for us on the cross, then we will discuss the work that we get to do because of what he has done…
If it wasn’t already on us thick, Paul says in verse 16 & 17 this is the Temple of God, if you defile it I will destroy you. God says, don’t take this body of believers lightly. Those of you that are causing disagreements, those of you that are creating division, if you tear apart this body of believers, I will hold you responsible. Then he launches in to this mini sermon on pride.
He says, if anyone thinks he is wise in this world, let him become a fool. The wisdom of men is the foolishness to God. In other words, if you think you know better than God what needs to take place in his church, you are truly a fool. You need to be careful you don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you are doing the Lord’s work when you are really just wrecking things. Many churches have been harmed and the work of God has suffered much loss due to the pride and arrogance of “someone who knew better than everyone else.” I would not want to be that person when we face God.
We are the building of God filled with the spirit.
In verse 16 Paul speaks in the plural again when he says that We are the Temple of God with the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Paul is saying that God no longer dwells in a temple or meet with his people at altar or on sacred ground, rather He dwells with His people, among His people, within His people.
The Scripture teach that when we place our faith in Christ, the Spirit comes to take up residence within our hearts and lives. He is now with us everywhere we go. Challenging us, guiding us, convicting us… Sometimes were good at listening for his voice, other times we get pretty good at ignoring His presence… This is what makes the church, the church.
People see men and women when they look at the church, but it is the foundation of Christ and filling of the Spirit that gives the church substance and power.
Like the concrete that gives the substance and structure to that beer bottle temple, Christ is the foundation and the Spirit is the structure to this temple that God is building out of us broken sinners. It is the foundation of Christ and the filling of Spirit that make it possible for ordinary, broken men and women to make up the divine institution of the church.
Only when our lives are founded on Christ and filled with the Spirit we are built up as the church.
If your life is not founded upon Christ and filled with the Spirit, you’re just a guy or girl hanging out in a building on Sunday mornings. But when we stand on sacrifice of Christ and welcome the Spirit into our lives, we find meaning, connection, purpose, life, joy, peace, happiness. We don’t deserve to be the very temple of God, but by the grace of God I am what I am. I am the Temple of the Holy Spirit. I was worthless like a bottle you’d find laying on the side of the road, but by the grace of God I am what I am…
How about you, what is your life? Is it being built into something beautiful? It is being built upon the foundation of Christ and filled with the Spirit?