The Foolish Faster Builder
Robert Wurtz II
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. (1 Corinthians 3:9-13)
Our passage relates to a problem that existed in Corinth in which the people were factioning; that is to say, they were lining up behind their favorite ministers. Paul will deal with this factioning and division by going to the foundation of the issue. He begins by reminding the people in a figure that one farmer plants, another farmer waters, but God gives the increase. It is God’s field, seed, rain, sunlight, etc., but the assisting agent in the process is the farmer (husbandman). So if there is praise to be received, it must alone belong to God. We then have a transition in our metaphor from husbandry (farming) to building (carpentry). Ye are God’s building, says Paul. We are owned by God, having been saved as a consequence of His grace. It is God’s building project and it is God’s building materials. We are the builders. As in any building project we must bear in mind that we are not the designers. As we will see Paul tells us that the foundation has been laid which is Jesus Christ. Paul followed a simple pattern as he preached the Gospel: repent and bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, believe the Gospel, be baptized in water and receive the Holy Spirit. This was the grace of God working in Paul setting up the pattern. We are to follow God’s pattern as would a carpenter his blueprints. Keep that very clear.
The wise master builder
This grace that brings salvation came to us, as it did the original first century readers of this epistle, through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul describes his role in this process saying, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation…” God gave Paul the tools and the direction to lay the foundation for the churches under his care. He referred to himself as a “wise master builder”. “This is the Greek word architektōn or “architect”. “Tektōn” is from tiktō, meaning to beget, and means a begetter, then a worker in wood or stone, a carpenter or mason (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). “Archi̇” is an old inseparable prefix like archaggelos (archangel), archepiscopos (archbishop), archiereus (chiefpriest).” (Robertson) Notice Paul was not just a master builder, but a wise master builder. This implies that he understood the absolute seriousness of what he was doing. He approached the work soberly and with great wisdom. Why? Because what he was building would have to support what came after. He knew that someone would build on top of what he built so it needed to be able to endure the weight. He also understood that the early pattern of the work was setting a standard and precedence.
I placed a placing
Paul said, “I laid the foundation.” This is literally, “I placed a placing.” When words are doubled in Hebrew idiom it is done for emphasis. This is the ultimate laying of a foundation, and it is Jesus Christ. Jesus is sometimes referred to as the Chief Corner Stone. This is insightful. I used to work a job where we stacked various sized and weight boxes of grocery goods on a skid for transport. If this is not done correctly the stack will topple over once the skid is being moved. The stack begins by placing the largest and heaviest items on the corners. These are your ‘cornerstones’. Going upwards one must insure that the lower boxes can support the weight of the stack. As this process went on the boxes were to be overlaid and interlocking so the stack would be “tied in”. Sort of like laying a brick wall. Everything has to overlap three dimensionally like a chimney or it will topple over. This is what Paul is saying. The cornerstone is laid as well as the foundation…
In our picture above, I have tried to illustrate what Paul means when he says, “But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.” You will notice that the brick is going up uniformly and then suddenly there is an abrupt shift. Obviously we have had a shift change and there are some new builders on the project. It is as if the new crew paid no attention at all to what had been laid already, and just went off on their own thing. This is a picture of our times. There is a wholesale breaking loose from the faith of our fathers. Whereas Christ was the foundation, and many truths were added biblically, a new series of falsehoods and compromises have been introduced into the work that emphasize all manor of things other than what were foundational to our faith. Jesus Christ is foundational, genuine faith is foundational, repentance is foundational, etc. We discussed in our previous entry entitled, “Televangelicalism” how awful modern methods of “building” can become. Televangelicalism in the U.S has built upon the foundation of Billy Sunday, who built upon DL Moody, who built upon Finney. P. Reidhead discovered in the 60’s that the invitation to come to Christ had shifted to “an appeal to selfishness”. This was added to A.W. Tozer’s observation that people were coming to Christ based on logical deductions drawn from proof texts. This is a very serious problem and represents a dangerously shoddy building strategy.
The foolish faster builder
In modern times almost everything seems to be based on speed. We have forsaken quality for quantity and as a result have totally lost the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that characterized former generations. Paul called himself a “wise master builder”, inferring that there is a foolish side to building. I suggest that what we see today is “foolish faster building” in place of “wise master building.”. It is a wholesale dosage of hay, wood and stubble being built upon the firm foundations of bygone layers of godly labors. Paul said in effect, “take heed how you build upon the foundation that was passed to you.” We could drink a hundred cups of coffee and not be sobered to how serious this subject really is.
Souls at risk
It was a Friday evening in Kansas City on July 17, 1981 when our local television program was interrupted to bring a special report. A Tea Dance was rolling at the Hyatt Regency, arguably the city’s poshest hotel; 1600 people were in attendance. News was beginning to stream in that something very terrible had happened. Two connected walkways collapsed and plunged under the weight of those standing on them and into the lobby holding the tea dance, killing 114 people and injuring 216 others. The TV then seemed to flash a “SPECIAL REPORT” and the incident had awakened our nation. It would not be until 30 years later in 2001 that the tragedy of 9/11 would surpass the loss of life in the U.S. by construction collapse.
Concrete and steel fell killing many instantly. Others were given morphine and told they were going to die.The scene was so horrific, that it looked like a war zone. But this was not caused by an aerial or terrorist bombing attack, but by an unwise building modification that was never properly reviewed to determine the consequences of such a design change. No one responsible took the time to do the calculations to make sure that the structure could hold the additional weight of the change. As best as I know there was no one to sound an alarm. It resulted in mass loss of life, grief, post-traumatic stress, lawsuits, etc. The firm responsible lost it’s license to do architecture and the men in charged lost their engineering certifications. It is exceedingly sad to know that such a lesson would have to be learned the hard way.
There is nothing that we can do about the past. It is not our job to go back and tear out things that have already been built. To do so is to put the whole project (as it were) at risk. the day shall declare it. This is similar to the idea of allowing the tares to grow with the wheat. To make changes in some areas now would only prove to be destructive. We have to take heed ourselves and build according to God word in our own lives.
We read as Paul continues, If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:17) We can warn, but we must never wreck the churches. This is a complicated matter. Sometimes it is hard to know just what to do. Inaction can be the same as action, so each of us have to be sensitive to what God burdens us with. We need a double portion of “take heed”. Why? God’s warning is clear, “God will wreck the church wrecker.” If what we are doing is destructive, we are in danger and need to repent.
What about what Paul said to the Corinthians? He laid the foundation rightly, but what will other people do that arrive on the work site later? This is the great question. We are responsible for our work. Will others build as wise master builders or as a foolish builder that builds the walls of false teachings. Someday it will all be tested by fire.