This post is by Lauren.
I’m no poet. If the human mind roughly consists of math and art, mine is 85% math, and the art side is used to figure out new ways to make life even more logical. Believe me, I have tried to write poetry. I end up focusing most on making sure the rhyming words rhyme and the meter is perfect.
I wish I was better at metaphors and analogies, but I’m just not. Paul draws a great metaphor in 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 about “building” the church. I read it the other day, and to be honest, it freaked me out a little. In the passage, Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, comparing it to a building (notice that this means the church is in fact NOT a building, but a group of people):
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 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. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. If will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames.” (emphasis added)
Whoa. Okay, let’s take this apart.
Who are the builders? I would say it is anyone who is a part of the church, following Christ, and mature enough to be ready to guide others to Christ. Not everyone is at that point yet in their spiritual journey, but Paul makes it clear that this is our duty as Christians. So, reading this, I saw myself as a builder of the church and I had to stop and seriously ask myself, what am I building the church out of?
What is the significance of the building materials? A couple of things. First of all, they differ in value. Some are precious minerals that would require work to obtain and shape into the walls of the building. The others are a dime a dozen. You can grab hay off the ground with almost no effort. When we are “building” the church, are we going out of our way to give it the best? Or are we just grabbing up whatever is convenient so we can say that we did the work? Secondly, the materials differ in how they stand up against fire. If you set a wall made of wood on fire, it will more than likely burn to the ground. But a wall made of gold? The fire will purify it! Precious stones? Fire will burn off blemishes and make them shine brighter than ever!
What is this “fire”? To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what Paul is referring to in the passage. He seems to be speaking about Judgment Day. But I think it’s safe to say that “fire” tests the church all the time. There is persecution and opposition to God’s people everywhere. If we halfheartedly build the church, it will not be prepared for the trials that come. If we build the church with effort, being intentional, using the very best we can find, the trials will edify it, purify it, and make it stronger than it was.
What happens to us if we build with straw and wood? It’s not that we won’t be saved. Paul says “he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames”. Running through a wall of fire might not kill you, but it will singe your hair and your clothes and you’ll come out looking a little charred. Those that build the church well will be rewarded in heaven, but those that did it poorly will make it by the skin of their teeth.
So what are you building the church with? Is it whatever you find lying around? Are you doing the bare minimum just to check it off the list? Or are you taking time and effort to make sure your work is of the highest quality, fit for a king? If this is convicting for you as it was for me, ask God to show you what it means for you to build the church with gold. The church is God’s bride. We want her to be beautiful, to be ready when the bridegroom comes. I want to be rewarded for the work I do on this Earth. I want my Father to say, “well done”.