1 Cor. 3: 5-23 Building the Lord's Church


Intro: In 1 Cor. Ch. 3 Paul paints a 3-fold picture of the Church & what it is to accomplish      V.1-5 The Church is a family & the goal is maturity.

A) (1 Cor. 3:5-9a). The church is a field and the goal is quantity fruit

9b- 23 The church is a building and the goal is stability


C) The church in Corinth resembled none of these things it wasn’t stable - it wasn’t fruitful and it wasn’t mature

1)  Last week Paul….. spiritual - but can’t because of carnal - act like babies.


D) THE REASON - The problem Paul has been addressing all along - the people were focused on Human leaders instead of Jesus

1)  Human philosophies & wisdom instead of God’s word.


The cure for division is turning away from self and setting our eyes on the one God whom we all glorify. When our attention is focused on our Lord, as it always should be, there will be no time and no occasion for division. When our attention is on Him it cannot be on ourselves or on human leaders or human factions.


Our days are few, and are far better spent in doing good,  than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions. After everything has been said that can be said, neither party is any the wiser, and therefore the discussion no more promotes knowledge than love, and it is foolish to sow in so barren a field. Questions upon points wherein Scripture is silent; upon mysteries which belong to God alone; upon prophecies of doubtful interpretation; and upon mere modes of observing human ceremonials, are all foolish, and wise men avoid them. Our business is neither to ask nor answer foolish questions, but to avoid them altogether; and if we observe the apostle's precept (Titus 3:8) to be careful to maintain good works, we shall find ourselves far too much occupied with profitable business to take much interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings.   SPURGEON

Here in 1 Cor. 3 Paul gives us a blue print of what the Church is to be about & how it is to be built & what happens to those who don’t follow instructions


V. 5  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?

A) Paul & Apollos were simply instruments in the hands of God - tools for His use & not the source of salvation


B) Paul had reminded them earlier, (1:13).  he had not died for them and they were not baptized in his name.

1)  The word ministers It is not the same word often translated “servant, slave, or bond–servant”


C) Paul uses a different word that simply meant a menial worker of any sort, free or slave.

1)  It was often used of a table waiter or what we would now call a busboy.


D) Paul was saying in effect, “No one builds a movement around a waiter or busboy, or erects monuments to them.

1)  If an artist is to be honored, you do not make a statue of his brush or his palette


Paul was saying Apollos and I are just paint brushes / instruments /  waiters or busboys whom the Lord used as servants to bring you food.



The world honors and tries to immortalize great men because men are the highest thing it knows. The world cannot see beyond itself.

A) But Christians know God—the Creator, the Sustainer, the Savior, the Lord of the universe, and the Source of all things. He alone is worthy of honor.


B) Paul wanted nothing to do w/ this type of mentality - he continues v.6


6  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

7  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.


Here Paul begins by using the analogy of the field - illustrating 2 main points

A) 1st - There is diversity in Christian service - Paul planted - Apollos watered -


B) They both played a part in the farming process of the Church in Corinth.

1)  Paul started the Church & planted the seed of God’s word in their hearts - Paul left and Apollos came & Watered the seed.


C) Both played an important part -

1)  You plant seeds - bring person to Church - I water - / they go talk to someone else - Harvest. ( All 3 played important & equal part )


D) But the 2nd thing to see - bottom line - God gave the increase!

1)  The instrument is really nothing - it is God who causes growth


E) Paul says Apollos & I are nothing - not anything - It is God !


1)  When we realize that there is no Competition just cooperation - God what do you want to do!


F) Partnering w/ Greg O in Hungary - Conf. & Church plant - nationals

1)  Teach 75% - then let the nationals -     GOD THING


8  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.9   For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field,


A) All of God’s workers are one in Him, and to Him all glory should go



Hodge For we are Laborers together w/ God This is at once the reason why

ministers are one, and why they are to be rewarded according to their

labors. They are one because they are all co-workers with God in the same

great enterprise; and they are to be rewarded according to their labor,

because that is the rule according to which laborers are rewarded.


B) The rewarder is God - we have the tendency to reward here

1)  Quick to judge ministries by size - someone is not a good teacher because their church is small - not necessarily true.


C) God gives the increase! God adds & subtracts


D) God rewards on the basis of labor, not success or results.

1)  A missionary may work faithfully for 40 yrs. and see only a handful of converts. Another may work far fewer yrs. & see far more converts.


E) Jeremiah was one of God’s most faithful and dedicated prophets, yet he saw little result of his ministry.

1)  He was ridiculed, persecuted, and generally rejected along with the message he preached.


F) Jonah, on the other hand, was petty and unwilling, yet through him God won the entire city of Nineveh in one brief campaign.

1)  Our usefulness and effectiveness are purely by God’s grace


G) God is going to reward for faithfulness & motives



At this point Paul moves on to the analogy of Building a building. V.9b

you are God's building.  10  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.



Paul calls himself here "the wise master builder," and the word for master builder, is the word from which we get our word "architect."

A) But he really uses this word in a different sense than we use the word "architect" today.


B) To us an architect is the man who thinks up the building. He conceptualizes it; he designs it; he sees it in his mind's eye;

1)  he plans it, and programs it, and draws the designs for it.


C) Now In that sense, God is the architect of the church of course . The Lord Jesus said, "I will build my church," {Matt 16:18}.

1)  He has conceived it; he has designed it; he has planned its structure; he has programmed its activities,


D) The term I think we would use to describe what Paul speaks of here is "a general contractor." Paul is a master contractor.


The next thing Paul does here is lay out the ingredients essential for building the Church. Where Begin - most essential ?  Foundation

V.11 11  For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.


A) Foundation of any Church must be Jesus Christ


B) One of the fundamental problems with Roman Catholicism is that it is built on the foundation of the Papacy, rather than on Jesus Christ.

1)  Popes word stands above God’s word


C) The Anglican Church had similar problems The parliament of 1532-1536 declared Henry VIII ‘Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England’.


In more recent times the People have attempted to build the Church on such things as signs & wonders.

A) New winds - new experiences

B) Very popular today is the model of building the church on  public opinion. There is a Church is Chicago - Willow Creek - THE MODEL CHURCH.

1)  Started - by going around in their area & taking a pole w/ people and asking them what they wanted in a Church


C) Answers - Relevancy - ( talk about things that I am interested in marriage - love life - business - etc. )

1)  Short sermons / Drama & creative Arts / etc.


D) So in this Church each week - go and it is a big production in fact every Monday the whole staff gets together watches a video of the service

1)  Run through each aspect of it to critique it.


E) There is a drama - special music & the Pastor or speaker might do a 5 wk series entitled money sex & power. ( Hook )

1)  5th week share the gospel.


F) Youth Program is similar - 1000 kids each week - enter the auditorium & what is blaring over the loud speakers the latest secular song.

1)  Appeal to them - socially - be relevant


E) One of these Churches - here in Calf. Walk in theme song to a sitcom or a beer commercial.

1)  Trying to build on the foundation of public opinion.


Paul said there is only one foundation we can build upon & that is Jesus Christ!

A) Supremacy of Christ and the authority of His word.



Next Paul considers the building materials v. 12  12  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13  each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.

A) The materials listed here are in contrast to one another - important to note the context here - Human Wisdom & God’s wisdom


B) The thing to notice right away about these materials is the first group Imperishable & the 2nd group is perishable.


C) What do these elements represent? Gold silver & precious were used in the adorning ancient temples,

1)  they appropriately used as the symbols of pure doctrine  - that which stands the test !


C) Gold silver & precious stones are that which corresponds w/ the truth - Jesus Christ & Him crucified

1)  Sought to know nothing among you ……


c)   Gold and silver and costly stones are permanent; they are abiding; they never fail; they do not slip off the foundation;

1)they are in line with the nature of the foundation.


D) God has given us basically three things with which to build His  

       church.   1st  The Word

1) 2nd  The Holy Spirit - His  Power/ manifest His Love

3rd  Prayer


The other three, of course, are exactly the opposite. They are highly combustible material -- wood and hay and straw ( Stubble is )


Wood, hay, and stubble are the perishable materials out of which ordinary houses were built, but not temples.

A) Wood can make  an impressive structure, but when it is beset by fire it does not last very long.


B) Wind can blow it down, fire can burn it, attacks using metal implements against it can cut it and destroy it, so a wood building is not very enduring.

C) Wood Hay & stubble represent mans wisdom & ingenuity in all its forms


When Paul wrote to the church at Colossi he saw them severely threatened by three things that were coming into the Church in their worship together:


   1.One was formalism. They were going through ceremonies and rituals in a set way as though that was what God was after and not the change of heart that these things represented. That formalistic pattern of worship is a destructive thing   to the life of the church that God is seeking to build.


   2.The second thing was emotionalism. Many of the Colossians were caught up in a kind of a mystical experience. They were talking about these things and they had forsaken, therefore, clinging to the Head of the body, which is Jesus himself. That was destroying the church, as it does in many places today.


   3.And the third thing was an asceticism, a legalistic spirit that was taking pride in its dedicated heart and its willingness to give up so many things, to go in for fasting and beating the body, and not touching certain things. They were glorying in  that fact. The apostle saw the church being threatened, choked and sabotaged by these kinds of practices.


D) Today we have sum of those same problems plus / leaders trying to build on   Philosophy - Pop Psychology /  managerial techniques - ( clients )

          1) IBM TRAINING



Paul declares there is a day of Judgment coming when each ones work will be manifest to see of which kind it is - declared by fire!

a. Church leaders will one day answer to God for how they built HIS church.


b. Those who followed God’s plan will be rewarded. Those who did it according to human wisdom, be it their own or someone else’s will suffer loss

1) Let not many become teachers - stricter judgment

C) Often wonder what is going to be like for some of these pastors who pastor the “ seeker sensitive church “

1)  Taught them about marriage /  better love life / better in Business / but you never taught them about me .


D) To know me & walk w/ me !   Repent from sin - Sin ( bad things )

1)  What about the person who goes to hell - because they weren’t there the week that the gospel was preached


14  If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  15  If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.


A) He will be saved - because his salvation was based on his faith in Jesus Christ - but everything else - was the flesh - human wisdom.


16  Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?   17  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.


Heavy Warning to those who destroy God’s Church !


Hodges The apostle justifies the representation given above of the responsibility

of ministers. The unfaithful builders deserve to be thus punished, because

they are engaged in the erection of no ordinary building. They are not

raising up a house for themselves, to be constructed of what materials and

on whatever plan may suit their taste. They are building the temple of

God. This truth the Corinthians seem to have forgotten, for they regarded

their teachers as men allowed to preach their own speculations, and valued

them according to their proficiency in “the wisdom of words.”


The temple of God is Holy sacred & cannot be violated



18  Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

19  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness";

20  and again, "The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile."



Paul ends this chapter By presenting a solution to the problem of the disunity among them .


. Typical of Paul, the solution to the problem is found in correct thinking. To gain and maintain unity in the church, we must have the proper view of ourselves, of others, of our possessions, and of our Possessor.


Much division in the church would be eliminated if individuals were not so impressed with their own wisdom.

A) A person who thinks that he is wise in this age—that is, wise in contemporary human wisdom—does nothing but deceive himself.


Pride is always at the heart of human wisdom, the wisdom of this world, which is foolishness before God.

          It is difficult to teach a person who thinks he knows everything


B) Paul says If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.


H. Let him renounce his own wisdom in order that he may receive the wisdom of God. We must be empty in order to be filled. We must renounce our own righteousness, in order to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We must renounce our own strength, in order to be made strong. We must renounce our own wisdom, in order to be truly wise.


The first step in a Christian’s becoming truly wise is to recognize that his own human wisdom is foolishness, a reflection of the wisdom of this world, which is foolishness before God.


The church must create an atmosphere in which the Word of God is honored and submitted to, in which human opinion is never used to judge or qualify revelation.


As far as the things of God are concerned, Christians must be totally under the teaching of Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.


Where the Word of God is not set up as the supreme authority, division is inevitable..


 When the truth of Scripture is not the sole authority, men’s varied opinions become the authority.[1]

Eventually God will trip up those who oppose His Word. He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness.


Like Haman, they hang on their own gallows (Esther 7:7–10). Their cunning plans turn to condemn them as God catches them in their own trap. He knows the reasoning of the wise, that they are useless.[2]


2nd The Proper View of Leaders

21  Therefore let no one boast in men

To glory in any person or thing is to trust in him or it as the ground of

confidence, or as the source of honor or blessedness. It is to regard

ourselves as blessed because of our relation to it. Thus men are said to

glory in the Lord, or in the cross; because God, or Christ as crucified, is

regarded as the ground of confidence and the source of blessedness.



3rd Right view of Possessions - So blessed - Word - insight into Gods Plan.

For all things are yours:  22  whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours 


4th  Need to remember who we belong to ! 23  And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's


[1]MacArthur, John F., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press) 1983.

[2]MacArthur, John F., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press) 1983.