Building God’s temple with the wisdom of Christ.

Building through the Spirit.

Paul warns that our ongoing ways of building the Temple of God (referring to all God’s people on earth in general and the local church in particular) will be judged. When we read about “the Temple of God” in 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17 it is critical to remember that in this passage the Temple is not each individual person, as this analogy is also often used in the New Testament, but here it refers to the church community. Paul is using the plural: “You yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in your midst.” (16) and (17) If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

This is a stern warning about how we go about the business of building the church together. The church can be “destroyed” through the failed efforts of its would-be leaders. And if we destroyed the church with worldly wisdom – we must repent and change our ways as our penitence.

So, what does faithful building looks like?

1. Building with wisdom which is Christ alone.

Paul refers to himself as a “skilled master builder” (1 Corinthians 3:10). The Greek word that translates as “skilled” is Sophos, “wisdom”.

As a “wise” master builder, Paul builds with what he has been given: Christ himself. Christ, and more specifically Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, is the foundation of the church. This is the message that Paul proclaimed: the only starting point for building God’s temple is Christ, who is God’s wisdom! (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 4:8-21).

2. Wisdom verses Foolishness

Verses 18-23 are the point at which Paul’s warning holds up the mirror, asking us to reflect on what, exactly, we think the wisdom of God consists of.

There is godly wisdom and there is worldly wisdom. When worldly wisdom baptizes itself in the name of Jesus, and masquerades as the wisdom of God it becomes foolishness to God and not useful to build the temple of God.

Therefore, all life-giving ministries will be in Christ. All church-building ministries will thus look like the self-giving love that Jesus put on display in the cross.  To the world, this will always look ridiculous.

But for those who are the called, this is the wisdom of God.

3: 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.

The “wise” of this age are not so smart after all. God allows the wise to carry out their schemes, but he employs their cunning schemes (their wisdom) to bring about their own downfall. Their cunning, which resulted in the crucifixion of Christ, also resulted in the guilt and condemnation of these leaders, unless of course they repented and acknowledged Jesus as their Messiah.

Boasting and Belonging (3:21-23)

21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

Paul now calls for a second act of repentance, we are instructed to forsake “boasting in humans.”

The situation in Corinth is not new.  Throughout history, people have found their “identity” or “significance” in groups. They take pride in belonging to a certain group, a certain leader or a certain tradition.

False teachers, to draw a personal following, must teach “truth” unique to them, which is not being taught by others. The only way to be in this inner circle of “truth,” is to “belong” to the group, especially to its leader. This is foolishness.

Why can we then build up the congregation as a true Temple of God in which the Spirit dwells?  Not through our own interpretations, our social standing, or our status.

It always is the result of belonging to Christ. We belong to Christ, Paul reminds us, and Christ belongs to God (verse 23).

Since all things belong to God, we possess them in Christ.

Christ is the foundation on which we build!

His cross, resurrection and ascension are the only useful means by which people are prepared to become building blocks in the Temple of God!