Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
1 Corinthians 3:10-23 is a difficult passage. One of the biggest challenges is answering the question, “What are you building?” The Christian builds on the foundation of Jesus. That much is clear. The Christian needs to be sure how he is building. The work could be burned up. In the last day, God is going to test our building with fire. This means that the more perishable work is to be avoided. But what is the Christian building?
Verse 16 seems to indicate that the work of the Christian to build something in God’s kingdom is more inwardly focused than we might usually assume. While most of us might like to see this passage as a call to do great works of evangelism and discipleship, bringing Christ to the nations, that may not be what the apostle is speaking about. It is, after all, quite natural to assume that when Paul speaks of the Christian as God’s temple, that would be what the person is building. Maybe, just maybe, the passage speaks of the work we do, led by God’s Spirit, governed by God’s Word, of building ourselves up in the Christian faith.
This seems altogether too inwardly-focused. It seems we could fall into a morbid navel-gazing form of Christianity. Yet one more look at the apostle Paul should break that tendency. Why? While Paul is building himself up by studying and considering Christ, he is busy loving and serving his neighbor. He is busily being Christ’s hand extended to others. He is busy using his feet and his voice to be the feet and voice of his Lord from one community to another. This, in fact, is central to his building himself up. It is central to his being built up by witnessing God at work. It pulls Paul out of Paul’s little agenda and out of Paul’s little power play. It drives him to grasp the wisdom of God and the power of God.
That wisdom of God and power of God is shown not in grasping, not in seeking gain, but in giving himself for this sin-troubled world. This is the wisdom and power of God. It’s found in Christ crucified. Building rooted in Christ’s death and resurrection will never pass away.
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