God’s People are His Building – I Corinthians 3:9-17

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Those of you who were able to stay awake through last week’s afternoon message, might remember that our scripture for this evening takes up where last week’s scripture left off. And I will begin with essentially the same introduction. Even though this epistle is addressed to the entire church in Corinth, the lessons of this chapter are directed toward the individual members of that church. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” At this point Paul isn’t speaking to the nursery, but to the babies in that nursery. Four times in the verses we have just read, the Apostle says, “if any manif any individual. And he says, Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” Paul is thinking of the individual members of the church in Corinth. And in verse 9 he says of them – ye are God’s husbandry, YE are God’s building.” Each child of God is the Lord’s cultivated field – His garden, designed to produce a crop for His glory.

And every Christian is also the Lord’s building. That is not to say that in other scriptures the entire church isn’t described as God’s building. Ephesians 2 for example: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” The entire membership of Calvary Independent Baptist Church is a building of God – you are building blocks, windows and support beams in that building. But beyond that illustration, each of you are also described as individual buildings of God.

How are we buildings of God?

My investigation of this word “building” proved to be a bit interesting. In fact, I found that my initial assumption about this verse might not be the Holy Spirit’s original intent. “Oikodome” (oy-kod-om-ay’), I am told is an adverb not a noun. We think of a building as an object – like a house, a temple or a skyscraper. But usually this word is speaking of the building process rather than of the completed edifice. The word is found eighteen times in the Bible and its most common translation isedifying.” In Ephesians 4 Paul says that God gave the church apostles, prophets, teachers and others… “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Then later in the same chapter he exhorts, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” The word “edifying” in both these verses is the same word translated “building” here in I Corinthians. And a moment ago, I referred to the Lord’s church as a building, and I quoted Ephesians 2. The same Greek word is used the sentence – “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” It is a complicated word which can speak about the building of a building – the construction of a building. This adverb – “oikodome” (oy-kod-om-ay’) – is speaking about the process of building, before it speaks of the building itself.

But in three scriptures it IS used to speak of a specific building – and it refers to only one such building. The word is never used in the Bible to describe someone’s house, or a bank building, a court house or an office building. The three specific uses are in Matthew 24 and its twin in Mark 13. “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.” “And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” How many buildings comprised Herod’s temple? We might ask the same question about the Smithsonian Institute. The Smithsonian, in Washington DC, is perhaps America’s greatest museum. For the average American who has never visited Washington, he might think that the Smithsonian is one big building. In reality, it is nineteen separate museums occupying at least that many buildings. When one wants to visit the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, for example, to which building must he go? When Jesus spoke of the buildings of the temple, to what was He referring? John Gill says that he was talking about the temple itself, plus all the court yards, the porticos, gate ways, stairs and every other aspect of the temple site. Briefly put, in the Bible, the only time that “oikodome” was used of a specific building, it was the temple. And the Lord says, “Ye are God’s building.” Was He saying, “Ye are God’s Temple?”

Before we get to what the Bible says about this building, let’s use our sanctified imaginations.

Generally speaking, of what do buildings consist? When a child draws a picture of a building – perhaps his house – what does it look like? Before he learns about perspective, that building is flat – one dimensional. But nearly all children will give their houses certain essential elements. They will all have a door, windows, a roof, an exterior wall and perhaps some flowers or a tree or two. And if there are crayons or colors nearby, that house will be well-decorated.

“Ye are God’s building.” “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” You should have a doorway – there should be some means for the Lord to invite His friends to visit Him. There should be a constant steam of visiting scriptures, sermons and lessons entering into your heart. You should have that door thrown wide open; it shouldn’t be necessary for the things of God to find some back door into your interior. On the other hand, your door should not be merely a gaping hole in your hull. You should be able to close that door when Satan and temptation come knocking. You should know when it’s necessary to slam and lock the gate to your heart. A lot of front entryways have either a small window, or a security peephole, so that the residents can see who it is who has come knocking. There are occasions when it might be best to pretend we aren’t home rather than open that door, even a crack, to possible danger.

God’s buildings should have a window or two, like a pair of eyes. Through those windows we should be able to see the needs of our neighbors. And windows are another excellent way for the light of Christ to shine in. Through the windows we have a natural means of maintaining a proper temperature. And with windows, our neighbors should be able to see our soul – the kind of person we are. In many ways we should be transparent. Could we use Noah’s ark as an example of a special kind of building? Why not? It was designed by Jehovah Himself – it was not as Noah had envisioned it or planned it. And it had a door – only one door. It had a roof designed by God to keep the world’s problems away. Over its head it had the helmet of salvation. And it had a window – a sky light, which opened toward heaven.

At my house we have several rooms, more than we actually need for just two people. How many rooms are there in the White House? There are 132, with 35 bathrooms, but I’m not sure if they are included in the 132. How many rooms are there in the Empire State Building? Didn’t go to the trouble to try to find out, but with more than a hundred floors, there are thousands. Whether there are two thousand or ten thousand offices or rooms, they are all contained in one building. They are housed under one roof, and they stand on one foundation. Those rooms are all accessed through a specific number of doors, elevators and stairways. And the color of the exterior is the same for all of those thousands of rooms. It is one building with hundreds of different businesses, all colored by the same characteristics. “Ye are God’s building.” And as such, every compartment of your life, despite their various functions, should have God’s characteristics. Your living room; your rec-room, your study, your hobby room, your shop, your bedroom and even your kitchen and dinning room should all belong to the Saviour. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” The Lord should occupy every room in your house and in your soul.

We might be able to go on with these man-made illustrations, but we do have some scriptures.

“Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” We aren’t talking about Satan’s building or society’s building; we are talking about the building of God. The foundation of the saint of God is not a good set of genes – great parents and grand-parents The foundation of this house is not a sufficient education in the three R’s. The foundation of the child of God is not developed in the gym or the dungeon or the work house. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

We are all familiar with the building – the house – which the Lord described in Matthew 7. Christ began His point with the words, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man.” It was not human ego which made Jesus begin by pointing to Himself. Christ is the center of the solar system – the universe. He is life itself – the Creator and the Sustainer of creation. He is the one true and living God. He is the foundation of everything that is important – including life. “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” Paul was only repeating the lesson of the Master Architect Himself when he said, “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” If your Christian life is built upon the foundation of baptism then you are not a Christian – you aren’t even a Baptist – although you might be a Roman Catholic or a Protestant. If your religious life is founded in Luther or Calvin, Zwingly or John Knox, you are not a building of God. “Other (Christian) foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Clearly, once the foundation has been laid, and you have been born again, you have some input in what is build upon that foundation. Even though Christ is the foundation and the Architect of this building, you are the assistant foreman. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” It is often difficult to differentiate between well-constructed and poorly-constructed buildings. Before we buy a house, we hire professional appraisers to tell us, not only the value, but also the defects in the house we are considering to purchase. And we have all heard horror stories about buildings where the appraisers missed things. I know several people – acquaintances – who on one day, I would say, “He is not a Baptist, but I think that he is a child of God – he is God’s building.” But then a few days later I hear him blaspheme, or hear that he has entered into a tavern. He claims to be a child of the King, but he doesn’t know where to find the words of the King. He says that he worships Christ Jesus, but the music which he uses to honor the Lord – doesn’t. He claims eternal life, but he supports the taking of the innocent life of an unborn child. It is impossible to judge the quality of the foundation when the building material sitting upon that foundation is warped, knotty, and naughty wood, hay and stubble. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

There is little we can do to help the other person in his building project. Nobody knows this any better than the pastor, urging the church young people to “build upon this foundation gold, silver (and) precious stones.” It seems that for every one who listens, learns and applies, there are three who insist on building with wild oats and hay. There is little we can do for those who refuse to listen to Christ and His Word. But we have a great deal to say about how WE build upon the Lord – this foundation. Notice that Paul refers to two things “Let every man take heed how he buildeth” and then he refers to the building materials themselves. “If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”

“Ye are God’s building project.” Be careful how you build and carefully select your building materials. And remember that your building will never be finished until the day the Lord calls you home. You will always be God’s building project. And what kind of building? “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”