************ Sermon on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 31, 2005
1 Corinthians 3
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
"Will God Reward Us for 2005?"
Old Years Service - December 31, 2005
I The Foundation - vs 11
A At the end of 2005 the Lord asks one thing: what has been built upon the foundation of Christ Jesus?
I need to admit there are other foundations upon which so many believers and churches try to build their Christianity, but for the true believer and the true church there is only one foundation. It is the same foundation that Paul in his preaching laid down for the Corinthian church: "Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2).
This is basic. When it comes to the church and faith no one can begin anywhere else. The bedrock of our faith and religion is Jesus.
The church as well as the individual believer rises or falls, is victorious or defeated, is redeemed or damned by God, on the basis of the foundation. If anything other than Christ is foundational then the church ceases to be church and her faith ceases to be faith.
B It is so necessary to emphasize this because, as I already said, there are other foundations upon which so many believers and churches try to build their Christianity. There are those, for instance, who wish to displace Christ with humanism or science. And then there are those who want to add something to the foundation: liberation theology, for instance, tries to add Marxism to the foundation of Christ; others wish to add good works to the foundation of Christ. The result is a flimsy foundation which can support nothing for long.
C But, as Paul says, there is really no choice for the true church or believer on the matter of foundation: "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ" (vs 11). This means He is the bedrock of our faith, the captain of our souls, the head of the church. What security and comfort it gives to the Church and Christian to be built on the foundation of Christ.
Many people see the church in grave peril from a variety of dangers: secular humanism, worldliness, heresy, or plain old sin. They decry her condition and worry about her state. But they forget that the church is built upon a rock, a secure foundation – and that Rock is Christ (Mt 7:24ff; Mt 16:6ff; 1 Cor 10:4; cf 1 Pt 2:4-8). Therefore, not even the fires of hell can overcome her.
II The Building - vs 10,12
A In the mid 1970s engineers and builders dug a hole more than 600 feet deep in the center of Toronto. Tons of concrete and reinforced steel were poured into this hole. Upon this foundation they built the CN Tower – at that time the world's tallest free-standing structure at 1822 feet. Can you imagine the engineers building a one-story house on this foundation? That would have been ridiculous! It is the same way with building upon the foundation of Christ: it is ridiculous if we establish something which barely survives a breath of wind!
For this reason the Apostle says "each one should be careful how he builds" (vs 10) on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
According to Paul, what the Lord is looking and asking for is quality; He cares not at all about size or numbers. It is quality that counts with the Lord.
I need to ask, congregation, what have we built in 2005 on the foundation of Jesus Christ? Have we built and are we building a quality structure upon the foundation of Christ Jesus? During 2005 have we taken care what we built upon the church's one foundation?
B The Lord, through Paul, asks for quality because there are so many churches and Christians that build poorly upon the foundation of Christ Jesus.
At the time of Paul, architects could incorporate various materials into the buildings they were making. Among other things, they could choose between "gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw" (vs 12). These six materials are listed in terms of decreasing value and increasing flammability. The first three materials are valuable – structures made from them would be durable and of the highest quality. The last three are far less valuable, worthless even – structures made from them are known for neither durability nor value. Paul is reminding us that upon the one foundation of Jesus you can build something that is worthy of Him, or you can build something that does a disservice to His name, glory, and honor.
C I read through all of Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth this past week. It becomes obvious that Paul was dissatisfied with what the Corinthian church was building upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus.
What did the Corinthian Christians build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ? Let me list what Paul mentions:
-divisions, quarrels, jealousy (1:11; 3:3)
-wisdom of the world added to the wisdom of God (1:18ff)
-pride and arrogance (3:21; 4:6ff; 4:18)
-sexual immorality (5:1ff; 6:12ff; 7:1ff)
-lawsuits among believers (6:1)
-creating stumbling blocks for the weak in faith (8:1ff)
-dishonorable and disorderly worship (11:1ff; 14:26ff)
-they despised those without the "spectacular gifts" of the Spirit (12:1ff)
-a lack of love (13:1ff)
-a denial of the resurrection (15)
One can only wonder how this church and her members could build so poorly on the glorious foundation of Jesus Christ. It becomes plain, doesn't it, that sin and Satan were working hard to make this church abandon even the foundation of her faith.
D What about us? What have we built in 2005 on the foundation of Jesus Christ?
With Christian love let me mention some things of concern I have seen and heard during the last year:
-we have fights and quarrels among members
-some are quick to criticize or complain about what they don't like and slow to encourage, to build up, to give praise
-sometimes things are done and said without love
-some depart from the truth and the ways of the Lord
-some unjustly condemn others without even giving them a chance to defend themselves
-there is talk and gossip about others
-some do not acknowledge their sin and remain unrepentant
-we do not have the level of involvement that we had when the church first started
-too much importance is given by some of our members to sports and recreation
God wants quality workmanship, not this, built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
With Christian love and joy let me also mention some of the positive things I have seen and heard during the past year:
-the faithful attendance of God's people at worship services, including the evening service
-those who are involved give 100% of themselves
-we hold each other accountable and exercise church discipline
-we are very concerned about our theology and doctrine without being antagonistic about it
-just about everyone finds us to be friendly and welcoming
-we are very concerned for our children & youth & young adults
-the faithful giving of God's people
-the large number of programs and ministries we have so there is something in our building almost every single night
-strong Christian marriages
-Christ-centered homes in which children are taught to know and serve the Lord
-a spirit of thankfulness and joy among our members
-a real desire to reach out in love to those in need
-a positive attitude and outlook by most of our members
-we have lots of men who are willing to serve in church office when they are called upon
-Trinity is a church that grows warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, and larger through evangelism
Quality workmanship like this is what God wants built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
So let me ask, congregation, what have you built in 2005 on the foundation of Jesus Christ?
III The Test - vs 13
A A "Day" will come, says Paul, when each man's work will be tested and shown for what it is (vs 13). That day is the "Day of the Lord," the day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. The implication is that now all things are not clear. The work of builders is not always evaluated correctly in their own times.
Topic: JudgmentIn the same way, there are times the church undervalues the work of some; other times she makes the opposite error and overvalues the work of some. In any case, the Day of the Lord will reveal the real quality of each man's work.
Subtopic: Of God
Title: Eiffel Tower
This reminds me of what I read about a world-famous tower. When it was built for an international exposition in the 1800s, the structure was called monstrous by the citizens of the city it was built in. They demanded that it be torn down as soon as the exposition was over. Yet, from the moment its architect first conceived it, he took pride in it and loyally defended it from those who wished to destroy it. He knew it was destined for greatness. Today it is one of the architectural wonders of the modern world and stands as the primary landmark of the city. We know it as the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
B The testing of the Day of the Lord will be done with fire. Go again to Paul's image of building. In the cities of the Ancient World, fires which broke out would usually spread rapidly throughout an entire city. Structures built of durable material would survive with little damage, while wooden shacks with straw roofs would go up in smoke. In the same way, those who have built well upon the foundation of Christ will suffer little or no loss from the Lord's refining fire.
In the Day of the Lord each man's "work will be shown for what it is ... It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work" (vs 13). Just like fire, when applied to metal, burns out impurities and leaves the pure metal behind, so the fire of the judgment day will burn off the foundation of Christ everything that is contrary to God and leave untouched only what is pleasing to God.
Will what we built in 2005 upon Jesus Christ stand the test of God's purifying fire?
IV The Reward or Loss - vs 14,15
A I want you to notice how Paul ends our text. Paul says if what a man has built survives the test of God's purifying fire, "he will receive his reward" (vs 14). As is described in the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Ten Minas, he will receive the reward of a good and faithful servant (cf Lk 19:11-27; Mt 25:14-30).
This reward for good and faithful service, for building well upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, is always future. The Lord does not promise us wine and roses now; rather, our present lot is to be one of suffering and battle (Mk 8:34). Our reward lies in the future, when the kingdom of God becomes a full reality upon the earth.
Topic: RewardsYes, there are rewards for faithfulness, for building well upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, but not necessarily in this life.
Subtopic: For Service
An old missionary couple had been working in Africa for years and were returning to New York City to retire. They had no pension; their health was broken; they were defeated, discouraged, and afraid. They discovered they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions.
No one paid any attention to them. They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President's entourage, with passengers trying to catch a glimpse of the great man.
As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, "Something is wrong. Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these many years and have no one care a thing about us? Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us."
"Dear, you should not feel that way," his wife said.
"I can not help it; it does not seem right."
When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of the President's arrival, but no one noticed this missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap apartment on the East Side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city.
That night the man's spirit broke. He said to his wife, "I can not take this; God is not treating us fairly."
His wife replied, "Why do you not go in the bedroom and tell that to the Lord?"
A short time later he came out from the bedroom, but now his face was completely different. His wife asked, "Dear, what happened?"
"The Lord settled it with me," he said. "I told Him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us as we returned home. And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and simply said, "But you are not home yet!""
B If what a man has built does not survive the Lord's purifying fire, if it is burned up, "he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames" (vs 15).
There is no question here about their salvation. All those who are considered here are saved. The distinction is not between the lost and the saved, but between the saved who have built well and the saved who have built poorly upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Those who build poorly will "suffer loss;" i.e. they will lose their reward. They are like a man who has built his house of highly combustible materials: when the fire comes he may escape, but his property is lost and all his labor comes to nothing.
C Lastly, it can not be emphasized enough that if what we have built survives God's purifying fire, it is not because of anything within ourselves. As with Paul in vs 10a we must point to the enabling grace of God. It is only in the power and strength of God that any of us can build well upon the foundation of Christ Jesus.
In conclusion, let me ask three questions about the old year of 2005:
-what have you built on the foundation of Jesus Christ?
-will what you built upon Jesus Christ stand the test of God's purifying fire?
-will the Lord reward you for what you have erected on the church's one foundation?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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