Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day [we all stand before Christ] will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. – 1 Corinthians 3:12 (NKJV)
What materials are you building your life with? Is it with pure motives, like gold, silver, or precious stones? Or is your work driven by selfish ambition and conceit, i.e. wood, hay, or straw? Paul’s message above to the Corinthian church is one that every Christian needs to hear again and again.
One of Those “Amen or Oh My” Verses
When Jesus saved me, I was a club DJ—and truly godless in every sense of the word. I didn’t grow up in Church, I had never read a Bible, nor can I remember ever meeting an authentic Christian person before college. But in the middle of my chain-smoking and wild ways, I had a revelation of Jesus at my father’s deathbed, and within a year’s time God sent me a friend who bought me a New Living Translation Bible because she wanted me to have something I could understand.
I would do my DJ-thing at night and pour over the Scriptures during the day. Reading the Word for the first time, I was enthralled with the beauty of it all—especially the “red words”, the teachings of Christ. But I continually had this thought come to me, “DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY READ THIS BOOK?”. So much was shocking. The verse above, 1 Corinthians 3:12, caused a similar reaction in me. I call it one of those “amen or oh-my” verses of the Bible. To this day, I still wonder if we Christian folk really catch the gravity of what Paul is saying here!
What is Paul talking about?
In context, Paul is teaching about leaders in the Body of Christ. He’s saying to the church, “You Corinthians are so enamored with this leader or that leader, but you are not enamored by the right things. You draw your worth and value from the leader that you follow, thinking so highly of yourself, and your leader. But your judgment is off: you’re seeing things in the flesh and not from God’s point of view. You’re so infatuated with gifted people that you forget a gifted-leader is simply a servant of God, working for God’s glory (the One whom you should really be enamored with). Stop putting so much stock in people. Remember, when Jesus returns, ALL of us believers will stand before Him, and with eyes like fire He will see through all the flash and external stuff and give us a TRUE opinion of how well we’ve built our ministries.” (Paraphrased, 1 Corinthians 3:3-13)
What are we building… and how are we building it?
All throughout the Bible, God refers to both our personal lives and our ministry (our work, our calling) as buildings. In Psalm 118:22, people are referred to as builders: “the Stone that the builders have rejected, this became the Chief Cornerstone.” [emp. added] (NKJV) Likewise, Jesus taught people to build their house (their personal life) on the rock of His Word. (Matthew 7:24-27) The Psalmist warned, if we build something that God’s not building, we labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1) This labor represents our calling, work, ministry—anything we set out to accomplish before God. Of course, then we have the Apostle Paul here in our passage using both the building metaphor and the imagery of the chief cornerstone from Psalm 118:22. Paul says, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11, NKJV) Jesus is our solid foundation, the chief cornerstone rejected by the builders, that we are to build our life and ministry on.
So with this in mind, I want to ask you, what are you building… and how are you building it?
First, are you building the right thing? Are you doing what God has called you to do? Not what you want to do or what people think you should do. Have you sought after God and His calling for your life?
Second, are you building it with a pure heart? Or do you approach God’s work with impure motives? Is your labor fueled by love or self? Is there a mixture? When it comes to our motives, according to the Scriptures, you have two options: you can have God reveal them to you NOW or THEN… but either way He’s gonna show you. The “Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire,” is “that One who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person” and He says, “I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.” (Revelation 2:18,23 NLT) Now… or then. He will test each man’s work and see what it’s really made of. I don’t know about you, but I’m of the opinion it’s far better for Him to deal with me now!
May we all seek God, and ask Him these two very important questions:
- What have you called me to do, Lord? (the what)
- How do You want me to go about doing it? (the how, when, and where)
If we call upon God, He will answer. If we seek, He’ll show us the way we are to go! Don’t be discouraged, we all have stuff in our hearts that God needs to deal with. But, dear reader, be a person who seeks after God, bearing your heart before Him. Get real with Him, and He’ll surely not allow your feet to slip. He has enlarged a path for you—your life is divinely orchestrated by the Most High God. He’s more than able to finish the work He has started in you. Yes, He’s got it all planned out. Seek Him!