Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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1 Corinthians 3

July 22nd, 2012 by Vic

1 Corinthians 3

“You all are the Temple of God”

July 22, 2012

 

I finished reading the book “Simply Jesus” by N.T. Wright this week.  I was reminded how my Western worldview has limited my understanding of some Scripture.  The Temple of God and the Kingdom of God were very important to Jesus.  He claimed authority over the Temple and lived on earth knowing He was in charge of God’s kingdom.

 

When Jesus walked among us He healed the sick, raised the dead and forgave sins.  That does not happen in worldly kingdoms.  Jesus showed us that forgiveness has the power to change lives like nothing else.  Loving people, healing and preaching the kingdom of God also changes lives.  When Jesus visited His home town synagogue in Nazareth He read the Scripture that promised forgiveness, healing, and freedom.  Then He announced, “This scripture is fulfilled in your own hearing.”   The kingdom of God has come.  Jesus was not doing miracles to prove that He was God.  He was doing miracles because He was God and bringing the kingdom of God upon earth.  His life and teaching showed us what kingdom life should look like.

 

Up until this time God normally forgave sins through the Temple and the sacrifices that take place there.  Jesus is announcing that God is now doing through Him what traditionally happened in the Temple.  As promised by the prophets, God has become King on earth and in heaven.  The Beatitudes and parables show what happens when God is in charge.  They describe what the Kingdom of God looks like.

I was reminded of my prejudice toward illegal aliens.  I find it very easy to categorize “people like us” as basically good and “people like them” as basically evil.  Soon “we” become angels and “they” become demons.  Categorizing people is convenient, but disastrous for both clear thinking and godly behavior.  This is why Jesus was run out of town and nearly killed.  He had suggested that enemies could become friends and good people might become enemies.  His home town friends proved His point.  Satan was influencing ‘good people’ and they ran Him out of town to stone Him.  Later we see the disciples of Jesus influenced by satan.

 

During a visit to the Temple in Jerusalem Jesus calls the respected Jews, ‘children of the devil’ (Jn 8:44).  It is a warning to us.  Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone who will believe his lies.  The battle for freedom is not against Rome, Herod, Pilate, or the chief priests.  Satan is not any of these, but can influence them.

 

Today’s reading is another warning to the church in Corinth.  The church can be influenced by satan.  You can be a Christian and still be influenced by evil.  3:16-17 give us the good news.  Paul tells us who we are and how we should behave.  He says we are God’s temple.  We should behave like citizens of God’s kingdom.  Think about what the Temple meant to the Jews.  Now think about what it meant to Jesus.  He claimed to be the new Temple and we are His body.  Keep thinking.

 

Jesus cleansed the Temple.  John’s gospel suggests He may have done it twice.  Traditionally in Jewish thinking only kings and priests had authority to cleanse the Temple and that usually happened after the people had been set free from an oppressor.  Jesus’ action spoke loudly to the Jewish culture.  He was assuming the role of King and Priest.  Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey like a king of peace and the next day He cleansed the Temple.  Jesus did all this during the time of Passover, the feast which suggested victory over a tyrant, freedom, sacrifice, and the presence of God.  Jesus is making it clear that it is no longer a battle between us and them but against the forces of darkness.

 

The Jews understood that heaven and earth overlapped or intersected in the Temple.  Now heaven and earth were coming together in the healings and the miracles.  Jesus was the incarnation of God, bringing earth and heaven together.  Jesus was behaving like He was the Temple where heaven and earth were overlapping.  He spoke God’s word.  He did God’s will.  He has become the Most Sacred Temple Space where God dwells.  The kingdom of God has come.  God was now beginning to take charge right here on earth.  Jesus taught us to pray that God’s kingdom will be completed on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Paul writes an amazing thought.  “Don’t you know that you all are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (3:16).  As a church we are the body of Christ.  We are to be the place where heaven and earth intersect.  (In 6:19 Paul says our bodies are to be the Temple of God’s Spirit.)

 

Now let’s go back and read chapter 3.

 

3:1  Paul addresses them as brothers and also as worldly—mere infants in Christ.  They were still thinking like the world.  The church is a family and the goal is maturity.  I’ve often used the quote, “If He’s not Lord of all your life, He’s not Lord at all.”  That is not accurate according to Paul.  You can be a Christian and still be worldly minded.  Jesus can be Lord of your life, but not Lord of all aspects of your life.  Your worldview does not change instantly.

 

Paul expected them to be spiritually minded (pneumatikos), but they were still thinking only of the physical or visible (psychikos).  We all live ‘in’ the flesh, but we are not to live ‘according to’ the flesh.  They have not thought beyond their humanness.  The evidence is their jealousy and quarreling.  They are acting like babies.  Maturity is marked by love and unity in Christ for citizens of the Kingdom of God.

 

3:2  When they were new Christians, Paul had fed them milk.  He had preached the gospel in a way they could understand as new believers.  But at least 3 years have gone by and they still don’t seem to be ready for solid food.  They really enjoyed milk and the comfort it gave them.  They did not have to make any effort to find milk.  Their lack of discipline, dullness of hearing or complacency hindered their growth.

 

There is nothing wrong with milk.  But if you are 30 years old and still nursing, something is wrong.  Many churches are connoisseurs of milk.  Hebrews 6:1 says, “Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.”  Feed on solid food—the living Bread.  You will not be hungry for solid food if you are eating spiritual Twinkies and Ding Dongs.  All the things that keep you from feeding on the Bread of Life are milk or junk food for you.  Your appetite indicates your level of maturity.

 

3:3-4  Apparently you are not ready to grow up yet.  Look at yourself.  Is your life any different from your friends who are not Christians yet?  Are you still living according to the flesh rather than according to the Spirit of Christ?  Do you enjoy the same TV shows as everyone else?

 

Your immaturity is also evidenced by your misunderstanding of servant leadership.  You seem to be seeking status and power trying to prove that you are better than someone else.  You are still thinking like the world’s kingdom.  You’re trying to build a church like pagans build an organization.

 

3:5-9  I have been reminded this year that I am not in charge of the harvest.  I tilled the ground.  Nancy planted and watered.  I pulled weeds.  Most of the cauliflower plants died.  The broccoli seems to be slow.  I don’t have many grapes coming on, but the Marian berries are the best ever.  The cherries were a good crop, but the worms came in.  We had never had trouble with worms in our cherries before.

 

So it is in the church.  God makes it grow.  We have to trust God for the increase.  Every minister will have different skills.  Each of us will be rewarded for our ministry and the orientation of our heart towards the will of God (8).  We will not be rewarded according to our success, but according to our faithfulness.  God wants to be our major partner in the garden of life.  The church could also be considered to be God’s field or God’s building (9).

 

3:10-15  At the beginning of this letter, Paul had thanked God for the grace that had been given to the church at Corinth.  Now he says that his ministry springs from the grace he has also received.  Paul compares himself to the architect of a building.  The Christians at Corinth are the building.  He preached Jesus for the foundation of the church.  On Him Christians are to build their lives and the life of the church.  Be careful how you build (10).  The building structure has some limitations required by the orientation, size, and shape of the foundation.  The foundation is also a major influence to the stability and longevity of the building.  Pay attention to the foundation.

 

Paul was writing this from Ephesus.  It was common knowledge that the foundation of one Temple in Ephesus was built with great expense and effort on a compacted bed of sand, a layer of charcoal, animal skins and then large stones to withstand the earthquakes that were common.  It is foolish to build your life without a proper foundation.   Jesus also pointed out the foolishness of a poor foundation (Matt 7).

 

The materials you use for building your life as a church are very important (12-13).  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  This is not the white throne judgment.  This is the judgment of our works.  I don’t know how all this works out, but in this analogy of a building it looks like some pastors can be poor builders and still make it to heaven.  It seems that some things will have enduring value in God’s presence and some things won’t.  I suspect the things that have value will be given spontaneously to Jesus like any crowns or rewards we may have received (Revelation 4:10).

 

We have received the grace tools to add living stones to our fellowship.  If we add shoddy material, fluffy entertainers or feel-good programs to pad the numbers it will be revealed with fire.  God’s fire will test each man’s work (13).  If the preaching is fanatical or precipitates praise to the preacher rather than the Lord, it will be revealed.  Sermon manuscripts and books will perish in the fire.

 

If we are holding on to all these things we will suffer some sever burns, but we will be saved (15).

 

3:16-17  Remember you all are the Temple of God.  You are the body of Christ.  You are the church.  You are where the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of earth meet.  You belong to God.  God cares for you.  You are a sacred space belonging to God.  You are the people where love, acceptance and forgiveness are lived out redemptively.  You are children of the King.  Nobody better mess with you.  It is very dangerous and suicidal to be a church wrecker.

 

3:18-23  “Stop deceiving yourselves!”  Stop doing what you are doing.  You are not growing up.  You’ve hypnotized yourself into thinking you are wise.  You have used the wrong standards to evaluate yourself.  Your false wisdom needs to be exchanged for God’s foolishness (18).  God has a building plan for you that the wisdom of this world cannot find or read.  God’s tape measure is different from the world’s.  God’s building materials are different from the world’s.

 

Build with the right plan, the right foundation, the right tools, the right materials, at the right time, with the right motives.

 

The Lord knows our hearts (20).  He wants us to trust Him.  He wants us to remember that He has gifted us.  Remember who you are and what you have received.  God wants us to honor Him and be thankful.  It is childish to seek status and cause division.

 

 

 

In the OT (1 Chronicles 14) David learned a lesson that some of us pastors have not learned.  God does not help us the same way every time even when the circumstances are the same.  Many good deeds have precipitated good programs that eventually become man’s organization and not God’s.  God wants us to remember to come to Him and listen to His word.  To us it appears to be exactly the same situation as we had before and God helped us when we did this and this.  So if we do this and this then God will help us again.

 

1 Chronicles 14:9-10.  David did as God commanded and the Philistines were defeated.

1 Chronicles 14:13-14.  David again did what God commanded and the Philistines were defeated, but the battle plan was completely different.  The Corinthians were trying to organize their church like the other clubs and societies they were familiar with.  It was not working.  God is doing a new thing among us.

 

Keep the eyes of your heart open to the many colored ways God wants to establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  Build on the solid rock.

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