If I were the owner of a restaurant, I’d think that the last person I would want to show up unannounced would be the local health inspector. Not because I would want to have a dirty kitchen. But because the health score is posted for every customer to see.
That is what Paul is doing in 1 Corinthians 3:10-23. He is a spiritual health inspector.
He is picking up from where he left off last week in verse 9 with two images:
1) The church as a vineyard/garden
2) The church as a building
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid the foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
- Justification – the foundation (saves us – what Jesus does for us)
- Sanctification – building on the foundation (changes us – what the Spirit does in and through us)
- We need to get these doctrines in the correct order and relationship.
- Sanctification doesn’t save us, but still hugely important – why?
12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.
- Doctrines and motives
- We can’t see most of the hidden construction (wiring, plumbing, etc.)
- But it will be revealed by the Spirit
- Here is why this is so important…
- This doesn’t sound like salvation by grace! But notice, he says “yet be saved.”
- You can waste your life and still be saved.
- But especially in view of eternal reward, why waste it?
- Richard Pratt wrestles with this the tension, saying, “While the Bible makes clear that we receive blessings only ‘in Christ,’ on the basis of his merit, it also says that we will be rewarded according to our works (see Rev. 22:11–12). These two ideas are hard to reconcile.”
- Like God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Hard to reconcile but still both are true.
16Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
- In the OT, the temple – the dwelling of God on earth – was built with precious materials (stones, gold, silver)
- In the NT, the temple of God is not a literal building, but a people – the foundation is not stone but blood – the precious blood of Christ!
- God LOVES his temple – it is sacred/holy
- If you mess with my kids, you are messing with me!
- We get this natural instinct from God.
- The danger facing the Corinthians church wasn’t outside the church; it was from within.
- Spiritual pride. A divisive spirit. A need to be right and win verses a desire to listen and love.
18Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”
- We know there is a problem when we get a flat tire. But what about over-inflated tires? At risk of a blowout. May be more dangerous because we are unaware of the danger.
- Matthew Henry wrote, “The way to true wisdom is to sink our opinion of our own to a due level and be willing to be taught of God.”
- The lesson? We need to let air out of our tires.
21So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
When the Falcons had 5 attempts to win their openinggame against the Eagles and blew each one, I was so frustrated. No, I got angry. My mood completely changed, and I took it out on my family for the rest of the night.
Why? I was making the Falcons victory my boast. I wanted to be a winner by virtue of the Falcons’ football righteousness. Their righteousness as winners would be my righteousness. I would be a winner, too.
We do this with our jobs, with our kids, in our marriages, with our academics, our hobbies, politics and even, sadly, theology. We turn all kinds of things into things from which we seek to gain a righteous identity. That way, to boast in something with which we are associated is, practically speaking, a way to boast in self.
We all do this. I do this. You do this.
Which is why we need Paul’s reminder in Ephesians 2:8-9,
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
There is a well-known poem by English missionary C.T. Studd. The refrain goes like this:
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
What if I really believed that?
And this includes everything—not just missionary work, but how we do any work, whether as a missionary, or a teacher, or a business owner, or a coach, or a salesperson, a writer or a lawncare specialist or a preacher.
Which leads to THE question:
Is my motive for what I do the love of reputation or the love of money, or am I pursuing my vocational labor as unto the Lord, for his glory and with gratitude for the gifts and abilities he grants to me to do my work?
What motivates this kind of life?
- Not my work for him, but his work for me!
- Beholding love without measure and infinite grace that was displayed in the work of the cross.
- It is this love and grace that changes everything.
- Even the rewards I receive are gifts of grace!
But first I must receive the initial gift of new life. Maybe that has happened to you this morning? If so, let’s give thanks and praise to God in prayer together!
 Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 53–54. ”[Nevertheless,] we must affirm, on the one hand, that the rewards we will receive belong rightly to Christ alone. On the other hand, we must affirm that he will share them with us according to our works. At the same time, we need to avoid the error of saying that we earn our rewards by our own merit.”
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2249.
 Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that how we use our financial resources is one of the most telling factors in the kind of eternal reward we should anticipate.