God's Building Expansion Plan

 

 

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God’s Building Expansion Plan

Text: 1 Corinthians 3: 5-17

By Dr Alex Tang

Summary

We are all equal builders of Holy Light Church. If the foundation is on Jesus Christ and we build with right motive, conduct and service, the Church will be approved by God.

The topic tonight is God’s building expansion plan. You must be thinking, “Oh,no!  Alex is going to talk about the proposed multipurpose hall. He is going to talk about the church building on Hisland. Then he is going to ask us for money”.  Well, folks. I am not going to ask you for your money tonight. I am going to ask you for your souls.........Don’t everyone rush for the door at the same time.

The text tonight is

1CO 3:5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

    1CO 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1CO 3:16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

Today Corinth is a small tourist town. In New Testament  times it is a thriving, prosperous city because of its location. Greece is divided geographically into two parts. The southern part is attached to the north by a narrow, 4 mile wide isthmus. It is like an hour glass. In the middle of the isthmus, to the south, situated on a plateau is Corinth. In ancient times all north and south overland traffic, including that to and from Athens, has to pass through Corinth. Sailing 250 miles around the peninsula is also dangerous. The mariners had a saying “ A sailor never takes a journey around Malea [ the cape at the end of the isthmus] until he first writes his will]. Thus most captains will chose to carry their ships on rollers overland across the isthmus, directly past Corinth.

Corinth had a famous temple to Aphrodite, goddess on love, situated in a hill, high above the city. The temple normally has about a thousand priestesses, ritual prostitutes, who each night will come down into Corinth to ply their trade. Thus Corinth has a reputation for gross immorality and drunken debauchery. It is famous for its nightclubs, its pubs, its robbery, drug taking, VCD pirating – like Johor Bahru.

The church in Corinth has many serious problems. One is that of factionalism. The church was split into many factions or group. Some follow Paul, the founder of the church, some Apollos who pastors after Paul, Cephas and even a Christ group.

Their most serious problem is not detaching themselves from the world around them. They usually managed to stay a bit higher than the world morally but will gradually move downwards. They wanted to be in God’s kingdom while keeping one foot in the kingdom of the world. They wanted to have the blessings of the new life but hang on to the pleasures of the old. They wanted to have the best of both world but Paul plainly warned them that this was impossible. Paul writes to them to unite them and to show the true church.

1.                  The Builders v.5-9

1CO 3:5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

Here Paul uses the example of farming, God’s field and construction, God’s building. And he speak of 

(1)   the one who planted the seed = Paul who founded the church.

(2)   the one who watered (or irrigated or cultivated) = Apollos who continued a teaching ministry among them.

(3)   the one who make it grow = God to whom they all belong

(4)   the field or farm = church in Corinth.

i.                    What is the Holy Light Church?

Is it the building? Is it the compound the building is located? Or is it the members? If the Holy Light Church is in the members, then it is not only in this building. It is also in banks, in hospitals, in schools, in factories, in offices, on project sites and in supermarkets.

ii.                  Who are the builders of Holy Light Church?

           Most of us will say the pastors. Then the deacons. Then the various ministry leaders, teachers and helpers. But if you listen carefully to what Paul is saying, he is saying all of us are builders of Holy Light church. You may or many not be holding a post in the church or involved in a ministry of the church, but you still is a builder. As long as you are a Christian, you are a builder.

You are builder in your home and in your work place. If you are a homemaker, as you go about the daily task of cleaning the house, cooking, driving the children around and praying for them, you are building Holy Light church. In your office as you deal with the daily endless task you do, you are building the Holy Light church.  And we are all equal. Paul is not greater than Apollos and Apollos is not greater than Cephas. Church, let us remove this artificial dichotomy that ‘full time’ work is more holy than ‘secular’ work. We are all God’s fellow workers, we are all ‘full time’ workers.

 We are the builders or farmers, but God is the one who causes the crop to grow, the church to grow, the building to come up. We are to do our job, whatever it is. Big or small. Glamorous or not. God rewards on the basis of labor, not success or results. Sometimes, it take a long time to see the results.

2.                  The Foundation v.10-11

1CO 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

i.                    What is the foundation of Holy Light church?

Is it Jesus Christ? Of course, the correct answer is Jesus Christ. But think carefully. What is the foundation of Holy Light church? 

·        Is it the pastor?

·        Is it the church building and the piece of land that was given by the late Sultan Bakar.

·        Is it the Presbyterian tradition of this church? We have always done things this way and no other way. The Synod is in challenge.

·        Is it by management skills? We can base our church on guidelines. We can structure the church that it can run well without the Holy Spirit.

·        Is it the moral standards of the members who are sitting in the pews listening to me? Acceptable behavour.  Goody, goody.

We should be careful how we build. There is only one foundation that will support the weight of God’s building- Jesus Christ. Building on other foundation is like building on sand. The building will fall.

 

3.                  The Materials v.12

12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,

i.                    What materials do you use to build?

From the earliest history of the church from Acts and the epistles, and from the accounts of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, it has been obvious that Christians and their churches are of many types. There are gold Christians and there are wood Christians. There are silver churches and there are hay churches. There are costly stones church projects and there are those made of straw – in every degree and combinations.

ii.                  What is ‘gold, silver, costly stones’?

‘Gold, silver and costly stones’ appear regularly in the Old Testament  as the building materials of Solomon’s temple. Thus Paul is using the imagery of God’s building. He does not mean we are to use gold, silver and precious stones to build this church. What then does Paul means? Paul means that the materials represent the believer’s response to what they have – how well they serve God with what he has given them. How do we serve God with what we have. Not what we do not have.

We build for the Lord and use the various materials in three basic ways: by our motives, by our conduct and by our service.

(1)   we build by our motives

Why we do a thing is as important as what we are doing.

·        Visiting the sick in the hospital because it is done by compulsion is wood, but visiting the sick because of love is gold.

·        Singing loudly in church and being concerned about how people like our voice is hay but singing to glorify the Lord is silver.

·        Giving large amount of money out of duty or pressure from other men is straw; but giving generously with joy  to extend the gospel and to serve others is precious stones.

(2)   we build by our conduct

Why we behave the way we do is important.

·        Coming to church every Sunday because it is  what we are supposed to do every Sunday is wood, but coming with an expectation to worship and to listen to God is gold.

·        When we are shopping in Giant and we do not steal is silver, but taking home office equipment for our own personal use is hay.

·        Offering a seat to a pregnant lady in a crowded bus is costly stones but putting chewing gum on the seat is straw

(3)   we build by our service

How we serve is important.

·        Taking up an important post in church and use our gifts to serve others is gold but in order to glorify ourselves is wood.

·        Praying loud and long prayers in order to show others how spiritual we are is silver but prayer to speak to God is silver.

·        Acknowledging the importance of prayer yet not praying regularly is straw, praying regularly is costly stones.

4.                  The Issue of CFO v.13-17

, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

    1CO 3:16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

In the building industry, a new building must be issued with a CFO before it can be occupied. A CFO is a Certificate of Fitness for Occupancy.  God will come and test his building.

Only God can judge what is our motive, our conduct and our service.  God judge it by bring it to light (Day) and by fire.  Fire is the symbol of testing.

Illustration : Gold Refining

My family was in Ballarat last year. This is a gold mining town, about an hour outside Melbourne. There we watched the demonstration of gold refining. Gold in Ballarat are mined underground. It is found in the ground in lodes or veins. . It is found mixed with silicates-sand.  The gold ores was heated in a container to a high temperature and then  mercury was added. Mercury caused the gold particles to stick together while the heavier impurities sinks. Then the pure gold was decanted into an ingot sized container and dropped into water. It cooled rapidly  and looks like gold! Supposed to be pure gold.

God tests his church the same way. By fire which separate the pure gold from the impurities.

i.                     What are the three groups of people?

(1)               Constructive builders v. 12-13

Believers who have the right motives, the right conduct and effective service build with gold, silver and costly stones. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.

·        When a preacher preaches sound doctrine and application, he is building constructively.

·        When a Children’s church teacher teaches the children with love and commitment, he or she is teaching constructively.

·        When a homemaker manages her household well, she is building constructively.

They do constructive work for the Lord and will receive a reward.

(2)               Worthless builders v.15

Many impressive, beautiful and worthwhile things that Christian do in the Lord’s name will not stand the test . It will be evident that they are made of wood, straw and hay which will be burn easily. . 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. The believers will still be saved but they will not receive any reward. Let us be careful and not waste our time building with wood, straw and hay.

(3)               Destructive builders v.17

This third group are made of unbelievers who will seek to destroy the church, both from outside and from inside. 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

These the Lord will destroy.

 

Conclusion: How are we building our church?

We are all equal builders of our church. If the foundation is on Jesus Christ and we build with right motive, conduct and service, the Church will be approved by God.

Illustration: Waterfront project: Lot One

A few years ago, a number of my friends bought retail lots at the Waterfront City Lot One. I was laughing at them. They are buying the air above the Straits of Johore. Nothing is there. But today, we can see the completed building in the space where the air is. God’s church is like that. We do not see it now, but we will see it soon.

John MacArthur says,’ As long as believers are alive they are building. They are building some sort of life, some sort of church, some sort of Christian fellowship and service. It may be a beautiful structure or a hovel, it may be by intention or by neglect, but it cannot help by being something’.

 

                                                                                                                                                      Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

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