The Church for the Glory of God | 1 Corinthians 3.10-15
FROM SUNDAY, AUGUST 19 2015
10 God has given me the grace to lay a foundation as a master builder. Now someone else is building on it. But each one should build carefully. 11 No one can lay any other foundation than the one that has already been laid. That foundation is Jesus Christ.
12 A person may build on it using gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay or straw. 13 But each person’s work will be shown for what it is. On judgment day it will be brought to light. It will be put through fire. The fire will test how good everyone’s work is. 14 If the building doesn’t burn up, God will give the builder a reward for his work. 15 If the building burns up, the builder will lose everything. The builder will be saved, but only like one escaping through the flames.
What comes to your mind when someone says the word, “purity”? While there are several images and definitions that could come up, is the Church one of them? Probably not. After all, the Church is full of people. And people, the Bible tells us, are ‘sinful.’ In fact, the Bible is choc full of shame, judgment and fire for ‘sinful’ people.
Now, If you’re human, this will make you uncomfortable. As a Christian, you probably don’t enjoy hearing about fire and judgment. I know I don’t. It’s much easier to focus on the child-blessing Jesus or the loaves-and-fishes Jesus. And even if you’re not a Christian, you probably don’t enjoy reading a book that points out how unacceptable to God you are – much less being around a bunch of other ‘sinners’ who think they’ve found a loophole that allows them to stay imperfect and sill avoid the fire.
So if we read the text above, why would Paul bring it up? Why risk turning people away? Why play the ‘fear card’ if there’s no need for it? The answer is, purity.
The Church is not a building, or even a group of really good people. The Church is a group of horribly impure people whose impurities are mercifully placed on shoulders of a crucified and resurrected Son of God.
In this case, Paul is talking about the Church – particularly the church in Corinth. Now, he doesn’t mean the ‘church’ like the building with hard benches we go to on Sunday. Paul means the Church as, “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”a He’s talking about ‘sinners’ who really do get to escape the fire their sin deserves because they are made holy in Jesus who took their judgment for them. The Church is not a building, or even a group of really good people. The Church is a group of horribly impure people whose impurities are mercifully placed on the shoulders of a crucified and resurrected Son of God.
God is building a new group of people out of an old one – and these new people are called to be just as pure and holy as God himself is. But there’s a final judgment yet to come. That’s why, as a Christian, you feel such a drain on your efforts to work well, raise your family and love people near you. It’s why, as a skeptic, you can’t understand why those Christians do the things they do and say the things they say. God is bringing these horribly impure people into the purity of Christ, but the whole work of God isn’t finished…yet. Listen to how Jesus’ brother James builds up faith in Christians:
“ 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” b
Jesus’ Kingdom is coming, and it’s completely different from the way this world works.
You might ask, “Why are trials great? Why would I want a difficult time on earth? Isn’t Jesus supposed to make everything better?” He is…but he’s still working. James’ words here are great because he builds us up on the hope of Christ alone, just as Paul is claiming is needed for the Church. Jesus’ Kingdom is coming, and it’s completely different from the way this world works. Paul wants us to continue being built up in Christ’s grace alone because he is working through the impurity of this world and of our own selves to bring a pure people into a pure kingdom.
Your struggle this week is not for nothing. Your work this week to live and to love as Christ has shown us may not be perfect, but it is being purified if you are in Christ, and that is the work that will last eternally. Keep the faith, brothers and sisters. We’re not perfect, but he’s working on it.
a 1 Corinthians 1.2
b James 1.2-4