Lambchow readers come from a broad scope of folks from various nationalities, denominations, and ages. But all have or are striving after one common desire. Through this medium of the written word, we are bound together in Jesus Christ while retaining our diversity. In the process, we are demonstrating that the Gospel of Jesus is effective regardless of our differences. To this point, Paul provides a word of truth and caution.
Paul wrote to the faction fractured Corinthians, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder, I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:10–15, NASB95)
When Paul planted the Corinthian church, he laid a foundation. That foundation wasn’t himself, a particular set of religious doctrines, social-political truths, philosophies, or national identity. The foundation Paul laid was Jesus Christ.
Let’s talk about foundations for a second. That first root of a building indicates what the building may be like and the conditions of where it is built. Common house foundations where I live may be very different than where you live. Here in Central Illinois, most homes have a foundation below the frost line, and many have basements. Homes, where you live, maybe a bit different, but they all have a foundation.
What I see in the verses above is this – The foundation of faith and the church rests on the person of Jesus Christ. Often, we act like the foundation is our flavor or doctrines of faith. Sometimes that foundation seems to be a cause such as a theological philosophy or social activism. But if our foundation is anything other than the person of Jesus Christ, we are not building faith or the church. Those other things do come along as faith is developed, but to make them the center is to build with wood, hay, and stubble.
To refine this a bit more, we must distinguish what is meant by the person of Jesus Christ. In my mind, Paul didn’t mean what we understand about Jesus. Neither was he meaning those actions we do in Jesus’ name. Our foundation is our relationship with Jesus. A dynamic, growing relationship that effects all that is built on it. That foundation, as Paul points out, also should affect how we build on it. It’s easy to weld in place our personal preferences and convictions, seeing them as the litmus test for “true” faith. While our foundation in Christ may be the same, how we each build is a beautiful mix of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and how God has shaped each one of us.
One day all that is built on Christ will be judged. Not by me or others, but by God. It’s not our job to judge what others build as long as it is on Jesus Christ. God will determine if we’ve built based on our desires or out of humble obedience to the wind of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s other metaphor for the church as a body with many different parts and functions must inform our acceptance of this diversity. Our commonality is the foundational relationship with Jesus Christ expressed and functional in great variety and unwavering unity.