Paul! Apollos! Cephas! – Part Four

1 Corinthians 3:1-23 This week’s lessons teach us that Christ cannot be our Savior without also being our Lord.
One Lord, one faith, one birth.

We ended yesterday’s lesson by looking at an unbiblical view of living for Christ. That view states that you can be saved without any visible evidence of the grace of Christ in your life. I was appalled to have anybody suggest that. I was appalled theologically because regeneration has to mean that you are different. It is true we are justified by grace through faith, but nobody is justified who is not also regenerate. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” If you are born again, there must be differences. The very fact that you are born again is one difference, and certain things have to flow from that new life of Christ. Even the thief on the cross – though he was saved at the last extremity – showed a difference in his life. It would be interesting to study what that thief said and point to the evidence of the grace and the fruit of the spirit in his life, even in the last few minutes before he died.

But I looked at this again. I asked, “If that theology is right, what is Paul talking about when he talks about a person building on this foundation – in the one case, building something of gold, silver, and precious stones that is going to last and, in the other case, building with wood, hay, and stubble, all of which is going to be burned up in the judgment?” I read it carefully, and when I considered it in the context of what Paul is saying, I discovered that Paul is not talking about personal salvation. He is not talking about an individual’s works. Paul is talking about the Christian ministry. He is not talking about a minister who, for the sake of argument, shows absolutely no evidence of the grace of God in his life. Nobody is saved who does not have evidence of the grace of God in his life. He’s talking about a man in the ministry who builds improperly in his responsibility for building the church of Jesus Christ – in other words, who conducts his ministry from a worldly basis.

What is the result of that? The work is not going to last. Do you know anybody who builds like that? I do not want to name names, but I can think of many people who do that. They look at the task of ministering the Word within the context of a particular church and they say, “Oh, this isn’t moving fast enough for me.” They look at the world that puts such a premium on success and growth and they say, “Oh, we’ve got to see better results than this: we need faster results than this.” So, they ask, “What can we do to get the people in?” Consequently they begin to think of the world’s ways of becoming bigger, more successful. They say, “Well, people are interested in concerts today – rock music and such. Let’s have concerts in the church.” So, they give Sunday night over to the concerts. They get people who come for the concerts for a while, but eventually they fade away. Then they say, “Well, that isn’t quick enough. Let’s do something else.” So, they put on a big show and it works for a while. But, it too does not last. I have observed churches that go downhill that way – churches that have been hallmarks of godliness and pillars of theological and spiritual strength in past years. They get somebody in who does not quite have it – at least not the way the men who preceded him did. He does not know the Word enough to preach it well, and he does not know theology well enough to communicate it to his people.

So, he goes after these other things, the world’s methods. And he maintains a certain level of excitement in this way. But the spiritual content and strength of the church shifts, and the godly fade away. Others come in to take their places. Pretty soon, he leaves, and the church falls off even more. They bring somebody else in at a lower level and within two or three generations of ministers, the church is gone. There is nothing left. He has built with wood, hay, and stubble, and it has all been burnt up, in the world.

Study Questions
  1. What is Paul speaking of when he talks about works built on good and bad foundations?
  2. What happens to a church that builds on the world’s methods?

Is your church characterized by the principles of God’s Word?

Key Point
If you are born again, there must be differences.

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