Reading for Wednesday, Aug 29: 1 Cor 3
With the cross set before them, Paul is now ready to delve into some of the issues plaguing the Christians in Corinth. They have not attained the level of maturity befitting the mind of Christ (v1-2), as they continue to be consumed with jealousy and strife (v3). Specifically, factions have broken out among them: a camp of Apollos followers, a camp of Paul followers. Paul sees these divisions as arbitrary, yet insidious. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” (v5-6). Paul rebukes the Corinthians for these petty divisions, hearkening them back to an emphasis on God and His work: “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth,” (v7).
Paul then shifts to the metaphor of a building. Paul takes pride in his work as a foundation-layer, but his heartfelt desire is for these Christians to continue to be “built up” into the kind of community God desires. How does this sort of building occur? By committing ourselves to work that is eternal in nature. “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire,” (v12-15). Paul makes it clear he isn’t talking about salvation here. But he is talking about the kind of work that endures. Often times, we can be consumed with matters that seem important at the time, yet in the eternal scope, these are nothing more than gold, hay, straw. What matters is the kind of work that builds upon the true foundation: “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ,” (v11). What would it look like if we committed ourselves to only talking about matters of eternal significance? What would our churches look like if our people determined only to contribute toward matters of eternal importance? Are we wrong to talk about the ball game in the hallway? No. But perhaps if we were a bit more intentional in our speech and thought, we could look back someday and recognize that we contributed to the great building project of the Lord, building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.