Building Upon The Foundation
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
It takes no more than a casual reading of 1 Corinthians 3 to realize that the message of this chapter is primarily directed to gospel preachers. Paul is not addressing himself to false prophets, but to men who preach the gospel. God the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle to tell us how we are to build upon the Foundation God has laid, the Lord Jesus Christ, our crucified Redeemer.
Gospel preachers are instruments in the hands of God by which he builds his house (Ps. 127:1; Eph. 4:11-16). They know and gladly acknowledge that their usefulness as his servants is altogether of God, “according to the grace” God has given them (1 Cor. 3:5-9; 15:10). Like Paul, as wise master builders, they build upon Christ, the Foundation God has laid. In preaching the gospel all true gospel preachers constantly lay before eternity bound sinners the same Foundation God has laid, building God’s church upon the crucified Savior. — “But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (v.10).
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (v. 11). — Christ is the only Foundation of the church. The church at Corinth had been rightly built and founded upon Christ through Paul's preaching (1 Cor. 1:23, 24; 2:1-5). Christ alone is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). Every other foundation is sand; and all that is built upon sand will perish (Isa. 28:16).
God the Father laid Christ as the Foundation of his house when he set him forth and appointed him to be the Savior and Redeemer of his people in his eternal purpose of grace. He has laid this Foundation in Holy Scripture. In the fulness of time, at the appointed time of love and grace, he lays the Foundation in the hearts of his elect, when he sends his Spirit to reveal Christ to them and forms him in them. And he does so by the preaching of the gospel, building his church upon “the Foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the Chief Cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20).
The Lord Jesus Christ, our God-man Mediator, is the only Foundation upon which God builds his church, the only Foundation upon which every believer is built. Christ alone is the Foundation of the covenant of grace. He is the Foundation of eternal salvation, the Foundation of all true faith hope, joy, peace, and comfort. Christ is the Foundation of all the building of God, both in this world and in the world to come.
“Now if any man build upon this Foundation” (v. 12), let him take heed how he build. Remember. Paul is talking about gospel preachers, not false prophets. He is saying to men who know and believe the gospel, take heed how you go about the business of building God’s house. Every gospel preacher must make it his business to build just as Paul, the other apostles, and the prophets did, with lasting materials, the “gold, silver, precious stones” of pure gospel truth. God’s house must be built by the bold, simple, clear preaching of the gospel, “not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).
God’s servants must be conscientiously and constantly determined to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified relentlessly! If we build the church by constantly laying before men the Foundation God has laid, by the “gold, silver, precious stones” of pure gospel doctrine, that which we build (that which God builds by our labors) will stand the tests of time and of judgment.
Sadly, there are some who labor and build with “wood, hay, stubble.” The wood, hay and stubble they employ is not heresy or false doctrine. Those who preach heretical doctrine do not build upon Christ the Foundation. They build upon a foundation of sand. Paul is here talking about men who believe and preach the gospel. They are not sinister, deceitful, self-serving men. They preach the gospel; but the preaching of the gospel, with such men, is not their singular message. They also defend creeds, rehearse history, debate issues, promote denominations, advance political causes, tickle men’s brains with philosophy, tickle their ears with eloquence, and entertain them with ceremonies, religious customs, and the observance of days and programs that honor and exalt men. They allow empty, useless, trifling things to supplant the preaching of the gospel.
Work Made Manifest
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest” (v. 13). The fiery trials of the day will soon reveal whether we have built with gold, silver, and precious stones of the gospel, or with something (anything) else. That which is built by the gospel will last. Everything else will, in time, be burned. If the preacher’s work stands the fire of time, if those who profess faith in Christ under his ministry continue in the faith to the end, he shall have his reward (v. 14; 1 Thess. 2:19).
Those who gain a following and build a church by mixing other things with the preaching of the gospel shall see everything for which they have labored burned and destroyed. “He shall suffer loss.” Vanity produces vanity, nothing else! “But he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (v. 15). He will be made to see the folly of allowing other things to supplant the preaching of “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Yet, notwithstanding all the faults and imperfections of his ministry, he himself, being built upon Christ the Foundation, shall be saved. He will be like a man burned out of house and home, who escapes with his own life, but loses his entire house.
Donald S. Fortner, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church of Danville
2734 Old Stanford Road
Danville, Kentucky 40422-9438