9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their 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 person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e. “us”):
In the founding documents of Harvard University we find the following paragraph:
Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him. (Proverbs 2:3)
To lay Christ in the bottom . . . it’s a word about the foundation. The big problem though was the way they proceeded over the ensuing centuries to build on top of the foundation. Somewhere along the way, they started building with materials that bore little resemblance to the stated foundation. The irony is the way Harvard is today considered the “gold” standard of higher education. I’ll leave it there.
The foundation matters most. If the foundation is corrupt, everything built on top of it is also corrupted. Remember Jesus’ prescient words,
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
While the foundation is critical, it’s hardly all that matters. It’s not enough to have a solid foundation. The rest of the structure must be built on the same quality materials. The building materials must be worthy of the foundation.
In this instance, Paul is clear that he laid the solid foundation of “Christ crucified.” His concern is about those who have come after him building with shoddy materials. Perhaps it was this worldly wisdom he was referring to. Maybe it was false teaching altogether. Whatever it was, Paul clearly indicated that it may take years for the flaws to present themselves, but they could be sure their work would be tested.
What about today? How are we to understand this text? We might think about our children and the kind of foundation being laid for them. Are they being raised to stand on the unshakable gospel of Jesus Christ or on the shifting sands of the seductive culture around us. How are we building on that foundation? Are we training them up in the strength of the Word and the security of the Holy Spirit? How about our churches? Are we building real Christians or are we content to assume everybody has their “ticket” punched and is A-OK?
I think this is precisely the cancerous epidemic in the American church. We are fairly competent at letting people know they need to have a personal relationship with Jesus in order to go to heaven when they die, but we seem pretty content to leave it there. What about the “rest of the gospel?” There’s justification by grace through faith: the foundation. Then there’s sanctification by grace through faith: the building on top of the foundation. The New Testament makes a clarion call to the second half of the gospel at every turn.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
I could go on. I think you see my point. It’s time to get on with the gospel. It’s time to build with gold and silver and costly stones. If I can be so bold to say it, this is what Seedbed most aspires to be about. This is the purpose of the emerging New Room Network. It’s about banding together in order to break free from our arrested development in the grace of God.
Father, thank you for all the ways the foundation of Jesus Christ was built into my life. Thank you for all the ways my family and other people have built into my life with gold, silver and costly stones. Show me this way of investing in others and building into their lives. Come Holy Spirit and lead me into the kind of transformation of which only you are capable. Let me settle for nothing less. In Jesus’ name, Amen
1. How about the foundation on which your life and faith are built? Are you securely planted on the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ who gave his life for you while you were a sinner? Are you attempting to stand on your own merits in any way, shape or form? If so, your foundation is corrupted. See Ephesians 2:8-10.
2. How about your own growth in the gospel? What is the shape of the gospel building project of your life? Where might you be arrested in development?
3. What kind of materials are you using to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ in your family? With people you are leading in discipleship in one form or another? Have you accepted this call to be a co-laborer with God—a builder of Kingdom quality into the lives of others?
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