Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 7 2013 - 1 Corinthians 3:5-23 – Quitting the church?

Yet another celebrity has hit the headlines saying that for the sake of Christ she wants nothing more to do with the church. She writes, “Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.”

Such a description of the church seems spot on for the church in Corinth. Yet Paul does not give up on them, rather he reminds them of the true nature of the church and of all that they were called to be. Don’t you know, says Paul, that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? God’s temple is sacred. Paul reminds them that the church is not a human organisation but a divine creation. It is his construction; he is building a people for his own possession, a people among whom he has determined to live in the presence and power of his Spirit. The only foundation for this ‘temple’ is Jesus Christ. Paul therefore warns the Christians at Corinth to be careful how they build. And in this, Paul speaks also to us.

Firstly, we need to be careful to build on this one foundation and not upon another of our own making. You can see the shape of a building from the moment the foundations are set into the ground; the whole edifice is shaped by the foundation. The church of Christ is to be cruciform; the life of the people of God is to be Jesus shaped.

Secondly, we are to be careful about how we build. We are to build with materials that will last the test of time. Paul’s word’s here remind me of the story of the three little pigs. Hay and straw, stubble and sticks will not withstand the assaults of the evil one, let alone stand in the day of God’s judgment when all that is not of him is reduced to ashes. We need to build with stones that will last – living stones fashioned by the Spirit of God. How much of what you are building will stand the test of time and of eternity? Will it prove to have been a house of straw?

Lastly, we are to be careful to be building up the people of God rather than tearing down. Paul writes these sombre words of warning, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17). The work of demolition is so much easier than the painstaking work of careful construction. It’s all too easy to discourage others – and to be discouraged. We need to learn to be master builders.

Don’t quit on the church. For all its imperfections, God is building a temple from such people. He calls us not to quit this messy building site but to join him in his building project – to be fellow workers with God in building a people fit to be called his family, fit to live in his presence.

Living God, you are the master builder for you created the universe through the power of your word and declared it to be good, very good. Lord Jesus, you are the architect and finisher of our faith. Holy Spirit, you are the one who creates and provides the living stones for the temple in which you are pleased to dwell. Make us master builders. Help us to build up your people in faith and godliness upon the unshakable foundation of Jesus Christ. Keep us from joining the devil’s work party in tearing down what you have built. By your grace may what we build last for eternity, bring glory to your name and astonishment to the powers in heaven and earth.

Peter Misselbrook