TEXT: 1 Corinthians 1-11
If this morning’s passage from 1 Corinthians sounds familiar it is because we touched on it a few weeks ago when we talked about our GROW theme from Acts 2. I mentioned Paul and Apollos and how God causes growth, but also uses people in the process. God did the miracle, but Paul shared the Good News and Apollos pastored the young church. Likewise, God still changes human hearts, but invites us to do the human work of sharing the message and encouraging folks in faith. Toward that end I ended with two Christmas Challenges.
Two Christmas Challenges
First, I challenged you to pick one of the things described in Acts 2 that the early believers were devoted to and commit to it between now and Christmas. At that point there were 70 days until Christmas. Now there are 55! Here’s the list again:
- Apostles’ Teaching (i.e. Scripture/God’s Word)
- Fellowship & the Breaking of Bread
- Generous Sharing
- Generous Caring
- Cultivating Joy (gladness and sincerity of heart)
Have you done it? Will you do it now for the next 55 days? Is there one thing on that list that you will devote yourself to daily between now and Christmas. Historically that’s how God has partnered with human beings to grow the Kingdom through the Church. Will you be a part of that? It doesn’t have to be mysterious or super-long, but I challenge you to start a small holy habit and see what God does with that in your life and in our church.
Second, I asked you to commit to inviting two or three people into something we are doing at Good Shepherd? Two of you shared that same day how you were doing that. How’s that going? November activities (check the newsletter!) or December worship are great opportunities!
Building with God
So previously we focused on vv. 1-8 in 1 Corinthians 3. Today I want to zero in on vv. 9-11. There Paul continues teaching about God’s role and our role in GROWTH. He does so with a building metaphor. Let’s look at that.
He begins in v. 9 with what we’ve already been talking about. God causes growth, but “we are God’s fellow workers.” God involves us; God includes us; God invites us to be a part of what He’s doing! Paul concludes his previous metaphor about planting and watering and says “You are God’s field.” Then he shifts to the building metaphor that he’ll follow through the end of our passage: “We are God’s building.” And in both metaphors we are God’s fellow workers.
Paul has laid the foundation: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation.” (v.10a)
Presumably Apollos and other church leaders is building on that foundation. Paul urges “each one take care how he builds upon it.” (v.10b)
But he is clear: Jesus IS the foundation. (v.11)
It’s very similar to the gardening/planting metaphor that precedes. There Paul planted, Apollos watered, and God caused the growth. Here Paul poured the foundation; Apollos built; and the foundation is Christ.
So the point is still the same that God uses ordinary human beings like you and me to grow His Kingdom through the Church. But the new part added in this metaphor is the reminder that Christ is the one and only foundation to this work. Ultimately you don’t build or grow a church around music, money, or even ministries. You build it on Jesus Christ. Again, God has done the miraculous and essential work and invited us to be a part.
Jesus as Foundation
What does it mean to have Jesus as the foundation of our church? It means that our core belief is that Jesus is Lord and Savior, the promised fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham and heart for the world and people God created. It means that our ministry and mission is anchored in the “follow me” of Jesus Christ and obedience to that call. It means that we don’t set our own agenda or vision or purpose, but look to God’s revelation in Christ for our direction.
Is Jesus the foundation of our church? I believe he is! This came out last week in Quay’s testimony about what drew him to Good Shepherd. After sharing a number of things that were dear to him and Cathy about Good Shepherd, he shared that first and foremost it was because we are Christ-centered, that “everything we say and do is in the name of Jesus Christ, to serve him, love him, and honor him.” That’s what drew me to this church as well, and it is why I continue to serve Christ here with joy.
This isn’t to say we haven’t weathered storms or won’t face new ones. But think about the building imagery in our passage. If your foundation is solid, if it is secure, then you are secure. If your foundation is rotting, it doesn’t matter how good the house is built upon it. Jesus told a parable about building a house on shifting sand. But if your foundation is secure, then even if a storm takes the roof off or damages a wall, you can rebuild. You are on solid ground. We are on solid ground!
So God does the miraculous; He changes the human heart. And God has sent His Son, Jesus, to establish the Kingdom on Earth, to be the foundation of the Church. So what is our part? What does it mean to be “God’s field, God’s building?” It means that we are the ones in whom and through whom God does this Kingdom work. God could do it without us, but God chooses to do it with us!
Let’s look again at Paul and Apollos. They each played an important role in God’s Kingdom work in Corinth. Using both metaphors Paul planted and laid the foundation. His work introduced the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of Corinth. He served God primarily in WORD. Apollos watered and built on what had gone before. He stuck around and pastored the people, helping them mature and deepen as followers of Jesus Christ. His work might be described as serving God in DEED (though he surely also taught as well). Let’s consider then three essential aspects of the Christian life, of life in the Kingdom of God.
- Jesus is at the heart of it. Whether understood through the metaphor of the foundation or the Gospel declaration of Jesus as Savior and Lord, Jesus is at the heart of God’s Kingdom work in this world and through the Church.
- We are to share the Good News. Jesus is the hope of the world and God’s clearest expression of love to the world.
- We are to live out the Good News. Old Testament scriptures and Jesus described this as freeing the captives, healing the sick, doing the right things in the face of injustice. It is living out the Kingdom of God in our lives and in our communities.
All three together make the ‘house’ that Paul describes in our passage today. Each is critical in the living out of our faith.
This is how God grows the Kingdom; this is how God grows His Church. Amen!
Some Music Used
- Build Your Kingdom Here (Rend Collective)
- He Saved Us to Show His Glory (Tommy Walker)
- Speak, O Lord
- Goodness of God
- Everlasting God
- Days of Elijah
- Postlude: Shall We Gather at the River (arr. Bean)