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Archive for August 9th, 2018

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According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that YOU are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in YOU17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and YOU are that temple. (emphasis added)

From Gregory Lockwood’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians: 

 In addition (and this is most important in the context), these three more valuable items are noncombustible, whereas the materials in the second group are all combustible. The OT refers to gold, silver, and precious stones as building materials used in the tabernacle and the temple. Thus Paul anticipates the temple imagery of 3:16-17.7

The precious, noncombustible materials represent preaching, teaching, and pastoral care that rest upon the Gospel. The combustible items signify teaching and methods motivated by human “wisdom” (1:17-22; 2:1-5, 13; 3:19) and therefore at odds with God’s “wisdom” (1:24, 30; 2:6-7)—the doctrine of Christ.

The way the Church is built and builds has been a disputed topic for some time now. The many and sundry blueprints for the Church at corporate (district and synodical offices) have been promulgated to “grow the church”, e.g. church growth.  There are as many ‘new’ ideas to ‘grow the Church’ put forward as there are many fears that we are not growing and we are going to die.   This ‘new’ plan will save the Church!  Wrong.  The Church is saved and is being saved by the One Who alone finally builds His Church: ” And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (St. Matthew 16: 18)  Anything else is the beginning of sheer unbelief, just as Peter wanted to prevent the Lord from the Cross.

The two lists of construction materials that the Apostle lays out side by side,

“gold, silver, precious stones”

and

“wood, hay and straw” .

Those two contractors’ lists are strikingly different  The first list is obviously more valuable than the second and it is clear from the text, the desirable materials.  Gregory Lockwood in the Concordia Publishing House Commentary on 1 Corinthians notes that the first list were the building materials for the Temple.  It is so obvious in the Apostle’s comparison that the Temple building materials endure because they are non-combustible.  Fire will not burn them but  fire will test everyone’s work.  Further, it is plain to see that the Temple of which St. Paul writes is the Church.  The Greek pronoun “you” is plural, as we say here in the South: y’all

The Scriptures contain the building plans, building materials and the identity of the builders for the Church:

  • Builders :  The Lord is clear He is the builder of His Church.  The Lord also calls builders, such as the Apostles and then pastors and He calls, instructs and encourages the  builders to use the best materials available.

  • Building materials: The gold, silver and precious stones of His Word:  the Word of the Bible, Law and Promise, the Word of God in the Sacraments, the Word in prayer, the Word of rebuke and consolation.

  • Building plans, blueprint: The Scripture is quite clear on the Lord’s blueprint as He He builds His Church:    a Temple formed, reformed and conformed (see  1 Corinthians 6:19,1 Peter 2:5,  Romans 8:29, to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Luke 24:46-48). 

In  verse 15 the translation “skilled” is in Greek, sophia, as “wise”, e.g. as in philosophy, literally “love of wisdom”.  The Apostle clearly identifies the “wisdom” given him:  the wisdom of  the Crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21 ). God’s wisdom is most assuredly not human wisdom.  The Medieval Ages could not have been simply the “dark ages”, as they developed the architectural plan of a sanctuary that proclaims clearly the Cross of Jesus Christ as seen above.

The Greek word for “master builder” is the one from which we have our word, “architect”.  Paul, Apollos and many others build. Paul laid the foundation of the Church in Corinth which is the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, not religious experience, human wisdom, man’s plans and the like.  Jesus Christ, the cornerstone rejected by the original builders (Israel) and men, cast out, has become the chief cornerstone (cf. Matthew 21:42Acts 4:11 Ephesians 2:20).  The Apostle laid this foundation by the only means Christ gave to His Apostles and His apostolic Church:   preaching “Christ and Him crucified”, 1 Corinthians 1:23.  Our preaching is cross-shaped as missionary work and evangelism:  

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2: 2)

and

It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (Galatians 3: 1)

The Sacraments are likewise cruciform, see  Romans 6:3-5;   1 Corinthians 11:26.  The stones for His Church are not quarried out of granite, but out of Jesus Christ, now “living stones” , see 1 Peter 2:5. Peter (Rock) from Christ, not Christ from Peter.  There is no Church of one, no ‘super-Christians’, but a communion, a “spiritual house” is being built.

Wood, hay, straw…one match, it’s ablaze and gone.  Let’s say that synodical and district offices are akin to a contractor’s office, then the only task for which they are to oversee is to see that the building materials are the gold, silver and precious stones of His Word and Sacraments of His Church, as outlined in Scripture and the Confessions. The Word endures to eternity and from eternity and in time and space, flesh and bone.  The Word  is not ephemeral like wood, hay and straw of human wisdom, plans, schemes, techniques and tactics.  We point to the Word of promise, not to church programs.  Episcopos, or bishop, the role of district president, literally means “oversight”, not “overlook”. Bishops, pastors and district presidents are not to be designing new blueprints,nor using substandard building materials.

We cannot keep on using substandard building materials as we have Image result for church as a coffee housedone now for decades, quick let’s have a ministry, get some funding and 5 piece band.  The Lord builds His house, not a coffee house, to sell people a little Christ with their cappuccino.   We do not package and sell the Word of God, peddling it, then the Word becomes  a commodity and the Lord’s House becomes  a whore house:

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.(2 Corinthians 2: 17)

We are not messing around with a weekend carpentry job finishing the basement.  One reason to use easier materials is that the “job gets done” and many a weekend carpenter has worked with wood and that’s fine for finishing a basement.  Using the inferior “plans of mice and men”, of human wisdom and that work will not last.  Building by using substandard materials and they tend to collapse and people die.    Yet, it makes pastors feel useful and the job is done quickly.   The basement, the foundation has been laid and it is precious in God’s sight.  The original builders rejected the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  what the Lord is building and which is precious in His sight.  “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”  The Law of God is frightening as well it should be. We are using sound building materials, that is “sound doctrine”.

The other aspect of the two groups of building materials is this:  I opine that “gold, silver and precious stones” not only are more costly, but harder to work with than wood, hay and straw.  Gold and silver take time to smelt and burn the dross. Pearls were not cultivated then, but one had to dive into the depths of the ocean to find them. In fact finding one, one sells all he has to buy it.  This triumvirate lasts as the Word of the Lord  endures forever.

Our calling is not to master the public but to make public the Master.  What is the Church to do?  Like seed, cast His Word to all (see St. Matthew 13: 1-23).  Ours is not to figure out how it will work but to trust He is at work in His Word according to His Word.  We are to confess Christ.  

Pastor Bonhoeffer preached it well in 1933, in Berlin, about building the Church and confession Jesus Christ:

…it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

 

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