PICTURES OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST – PART TWO
PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH
27 AUGUST 2023 1 CORINTHIANS 3
If you will remember, last week we talked about God’s Church as a Field. That, of course, was seeing the Church with an agricultural image. There we saw workers sent to plant, and to water, to cultivate, and to reap the harvest.
Today we will look at God’s church – the Church of Jesus Christ – with an architectural image. The Church of Jesus Christ is also His building. We see Paul saying, in verse 9, “For we are God’s fellow worker, you are God’s field, God’s building.
Then in verse 10 Paul speaks of how God called him, as a wise master builder to lay the foundation for His church. And Paul says that, then, another is building upon it.
In that same verse, Paul warns us though, that each of us as a builder of the church must be careful how he builds on it.
Paul is encouraging Christians in the church at Corinth - and I believe he also is speaking to Christians today – with instruction to the local church – to each individual congregation - he is encouraging us to build with materials of excellence. Those materials which will withstand the purifying fires of revelation on the day of judgment that he refers to in verse 13 --- that judgment which will come from the judgment seat of Christ.
Paul says – According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder. And Jesus sends other laborers and workers to build with materials of excellence – materials that will last until the church is gathered up at the second coming of our Lord.
When Paul speaks of “a foundation on which another builds” he is instructing us as Christians to work together as a team. – to work to build a local congregation – a local church that will grow in knowledge of the Word and strength in our faith and practice. And that, all for the glory of God. And by the evangelization of the world.
And, because it is the church of our Lord Jesus, we must be careful how we build. We must be careful to continually build up His church with excellence and integrity.
Carefully building up the church of Jesus Christ means that we work with good motives methods and goals ---- all of which are presented clearly to us in the New Testament.
I mentioned last week that how we work IN the church and how we work FOR the church really matters. And the WHY, or the reason for our work in the church matters just as much.
The reason we work to build the church as Jesus desires is found in verse 11. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” He is the foundation so the way we build matters greatly.
The foundation of every church must be Jesus Christ. And, not just the recognition of Jesus as the foundation – but also recognizing that He died for His church.
Look at 1 Corinthians 2:2 where Paul says that very clearly – “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
There is no other starting place when we are talking about the church. That is the Gospel. In God’s eyes, there is nothing above recognizing that the church cannot exist without Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and rising again to life.
If we attempt to build on any foundation other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we will not have a true church.
Warren Wiersbe has written much about the church and our Lord, and in regard to the building of the church he wrote these words:
“The foundation is laid by the proclaiming of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The foundation is the most important part of the building because it determines the size, shape, and strength of the superstructure. A ministry may seem successful for a time, but if it is not founded on Christ, it will eventually collapse and disappear.” (From Be Wise 46)
If you take a close look at so many churches today, you will find that they are built upon something other than the foundations Paul is teaching here. Take a look at their websites or Facebook pages and you will soon see that the building materials don’t match up with Paul’s instructions.
The building materials you might see are personalities, programs, social emphasis, and even politics.
In verse 16 of our text today Paul begins to speak of the building in a different way. He says there, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you ?” “If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what we are.”
Did you catch that?
The Spirit of God dwells IN you.
You remember that in the Old Testament, in Exodus and Leviticus, God resided in the temple in Israel. But now God’s Spirit dwells in the new temple – the church of Jesus Christ.
Paul emphasizes the church as God’s temple later in 2 Corinthians 6:16 and in Ephesians 2:19-22.
2 Corinthians 6:16 - “…what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God…”
Ephesians 2:19-22: “…you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household., having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
The Jewish and the Gentile believers of the first century would be flabbergasted if someone told them that God dwells in a small, insignificant group of misfits – who we know as Christians today – in fact, us – who the Scriptures call the church. The church is the current temple of God.
You know, the Church was purchased at an enormously high price. That price was the blood of God’s own Son – Jesus Christ. And, because God was willing to allow the blood of His Son to be poured out, He loves His Church. He cares deeply for His Church. Because the Church IS His Son.
That is why it is so important that we, as servants in His Church, and as workers in His Church, must take great care in how we treat His Son, His Church.
Hear again the warning Paul gives to the church in 1 Corinthians 3:17: “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.”
If we truly take that verse in the manner in which Paul wrote it, that should make us very mindful of how important and vital the church is to God.
One commentator, in his book titled, The Cross, has said it like this:
“The ways of destroying a church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it. “
Earlier I mentioned that by looking at some churches today we may see anything but the blood of Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the foundation of those churches. The focus may be on music – most of which is unsingable by a congregation – so they don’t sing. Or programs that may mention someone named Jesus, but He is not the focus of the program. Great impressive buildings, focusing on materialism, with very little, if any, evangelistic emphasis.
When the focus is anywhere other than on Christ, it is surely a route to draining the life out of the church.
Remember Paul said, Destroy God’s temple and God will destroy us. But, praise God, we know that those who build the Lord’s church with the prescribed tools and materials will be greatly rewarded.
We can see Paul saying much the same thing to the church in Galatia (Galatians 1:8-9): But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed?”
In those two verses, Paul pretty much says the same thing in each one. Why do you suppose he would repeat that statement: “if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed?”
Well, I think the reason has to be – because it is so vitally important to the church.
We don’t know what the punishment or the curse will be. But I am confident that it will be something terrible and I expect would not lead to eternity with Jesus Christ.
The Church of Jesus Christ is holy. When we say something, or someone is holy, that means that that person or thing is separated. It has the idea of being separated.
Through faith in the crucified Christ, the Church is now separated from the world. Separated to Christ to live a pure life – a life of devotion to Christ. We are His. God chooses to live in, and among His people – the Church.
Salvation is not a reward for the things we do or have done. It is a gift we cannot earn.
That gift is available to every person on this earth. But so many reject it.
We are His church. We are His people.
We become His people when we hear His Word spoken and understood.
We become His people when we recognize that we have sin in our lives and need to rid ourselves of that sin.
We become His people when we know, and confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and believe that He came to this earth to save us from our sin.
We become His people when we are willing to be baptized, buried with Christ, to have our sins washed away
We become His people when we rise from the watery grave as a clean, washed whiter than snow, whiter-than-snow child of God.