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"No Other Foundation"
1 Corinthians 3:10-17

Wednesday AM Bible Study
April 25, 2007

In the previous section (vv. 1-9); Paul sought to free the Corinthian believers of their undue “sectarian” attachment to specific “teachers” and “leaders” by establishing the nature of teachers in the church. They are simply “ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one” (v. 5). The role of one is to "plant", the role of the other is to "water"; but it is, in the end, the Lord alone who "gives the growth" (v. 6). Thus, he seeks to solve the problem of "sectarianism" by drawing the attention off the teachers, and on to the Lord those teachers serve.

But that's not to say that the work those teachers do is not important. Paul also stresses to the Corinthians that they were something remarkable—that is, “God's field” and “God's building” (v. 9). And as such, it was vital that those who worked and served in the church in a teaching and leading position rightly understand the work they do. If the Corinthians themselves had rightly understood this aspect of the nature of the church of Jesus Christ, they never would have inordinately divided Christ's church up under mere human teachers.

In verse 9, Paul spoke of the church as God's “field”; and it was this metaphor of the church that Paul developed in verses 1-9. And now, he expands on the second metaphor in that verse; that the church is God's “building”. Notice how he speaks of . . .


A. Paul set himself forth as one who has laid the foundation of the faith of the Corinthians (v. 10a). He calls himself a “wise master-builder” (using the word from which we get the English word “architect”). He sought to build “wisely”; looking to the sort of foundation-work that would endure all others and whether all storms in life (Matthew 7:24-27). But He doesn't claim this as an authority he took to himself. He readily asserts that he received this role as a commission from God; and built, as he says, "according to the grace of God which was given to me" (Gal. 1:11-17; Eph. 3:1-13).

B. Because this was done under God's authority, Paul warns that each one should take care how he builds on this foundation (10b-11). He warns that those who would seek to be "teachers" and "leaders" in God's church should "take heed". No other foundation can be laid than that which was laid, which is Jesus Christ. The church rests on the testimony of who He is and what He has done (Matthew 16:16-18; Ephesians 2:19-22). To seek to build on any other foundation would be to seek to undue the foundation that was already laid.


A. It had been given to Paul to lay the foundation, which is Christ. The work of building on the foundation is left to others. But however they then build, they need to know that their work will be tested (vv. 12-13). Paul lists six building materials. The first three are of great value and can endure the trial of fire; the second three are of lessor value and cannot endure the trial of fire. They are listed in a descending order of value; and the value of that which is used to build on the foundation will be proven on the Day of the Lord—when He tests the work of each builder.

B. The testing of the work will result in either reward or loss (vv. 14-15). If anyone's work endures—proving itself to be of quality materials—that builder will be rewarded. If anyone's work is burned up—proving itself to have been of inferior quality—the builder will suffer loss. Paul is careful not to say that such a believer would be "punished", because the punishment has already been placed on Christ. But clearly, such a one will suffer loss. They will be saved; but as a man is saved who is delivered from a completely destructive house fire (Amos 4:11; Zech. 3:2). How many believers will be in heaven—glad to be there by grace, but suffering regret for having failed to build upon the foundation wisely?


A. Paul affirms that the believers are built up into the temple of God (v. 16). Paul emphasizes the worthiness of God's house. It is nothing less than the dwelling place of the Spirit of God Himself. It is, in the fullest sense, God's "temple" (1 Corinthians 6:19- 20).

B. As such, the temple of God must be honored (v. 17). Paul issues a warning—not to those who are of the faith, but to those who are outside the faith—that those who defile the temple of God (that is, the church) will be destroyed. In this context, we should understand this as a reference to false teachers who seek to capitalize on the sectarian spirit of the church. He warns, "For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are"— or literally, "which you are".

* * * * * * * * * *

As believers, we are not destined for judgment. But we are scheduled for evaluation (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). When you stand before the Lord to give an account, how will you prove to have built on the foundation of Christ (2 Peter 1:5-11)?


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