3:12-13, "Now if any many 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."
This morning, one of the spiraling decays - among many - in our society is that
of place, respect, and situational awareness. People today approach every
situation the same: slovenly and lackadaisical. This attitude breeds a mindset
and outlook that lacks respect and promotes self desire rather than self denial.
The whole "come as you are" mentality by modern "churches" is a prime example of
this growing mood among people at large. However, there are different situations
in life that merit different looks, behaviour, etc on our part. For example, my
behaviour with my wife and children should look drastically different than my
behaviour around my co-workers. The way I treat my family will be different than
the way I treat business associates. One is a familial relationship, while the
other is strictly a professional relationship. Some relationships and
circumstances require our best, while others require less. Some situations
require we dress
nicely, while others may be more fitting with casual attire.
Paul is in the midst of addressing Corinth's many and varied problems. In this
chapter, he has vetted the problem of preacher worship by showing that Christ
Jesus is the place where adoration should lie, for He is the sole reason that
preachers are blessed. Without Him, they can do nothing, but through His
blessing, increase, joy, and edification is found. Therefore, when a man is
being blessed and his efforts enjoyed by the people of God, his foundation and
focal point is that of Jesus Christ. (Verses 9-11) Others may build with him or
labour on top of his efforts. Yet, Christ Jesus must be at the heart of it.
Verse 11 - that leads into our verses above - sets the stage for our discussion.
Paul lays out two principles in the same breath that quite often go hand in hand
with each other in Holy Scriptures. Those two thoughts are the eternal security
of God's family, and our proper action as a result of it.
If we are building as we should in our efforts, be they preaching, parenting,
working, etc, we are building upon Christ Jesus. He is the foundation for true,
spiritual effort to be found. If He is not, then our building will fall and come
to ruin. Yet, Paul asserts quite firmly, that Jesus Christ is already laid. So,
which is it? Is He laid, or are we laying Him as our foundation in our lives?
The answer is that eternally speaking He is laid, sure, tried, and precious
forever. (Isaiah 28:16) However, for us to actively enjoy that position that we
are cemented in by His grace and mercy, we must lay Him actively in our lives to
have the joy of His salvation. If we do not, we are not in danger of receiving
eternal woe and misery, but if we do, we will look forward with more joy and
anticipation to that day where we are parted from our sin forever. Knowing that
He is forever sure and laid for us, we can build with confidence upon Him for
needs, uprisings, and downsittings.
So, by building our efforts and labours upon Christ, what have we to choose
from? Paul lays out six things that can be grouped in two sections: 1. gold,
silver, precious stones, 2. wood, hay, stubble. This is what is available for us
to build with. Now, it should not be difficult to reason who Paul is talking
to/about, for the verses that follow speak of a salvation that comes by fire.
(Verses 14-15) If our labours are burned up, due to their own filthiness and
shortcomings, we are saved even though our work is destroyed. This salvation
comes as our flesh receives some destruction that Paul will go on in this
epistle to pray for in one that he encourages them to turn out from their
fellowship. (I Corinthians 5:5) By putting that fornicator from them, one of the
hopes in that situation is that his flesh would receive some destruction, but
likewise receive salvation in the same circumstance. This salvation would not be
pleasant, but would indeed be timely and beneficial as it promotes more
profitable and healthy service here and now to our Lord.
Let us, for a moment, look at these building materials to see how they relate to
place and circumstance. If our behavioral patterns, attire, etc, change - and
rightly so - due to awareness of different situations, let us see how that
thought interacts with these verses. The first group of items, gold, silver, and
precious stones, are things that are rare, valuable, and sought after in this
world. People have spent their lives and resources digging into the earth
looking for these rare and valuable items to get gain. The wood, hay, and
stubble are items that we can commonly find in great abundance. Most people are
not seeking after them with all of their energy as they are readily available.
Dear friends, these two groups are indicative of what the child of God has
available after the new birth to act upon. We can act, according to the
impression and inclination of the flesh, and build with some of the ruined
material from our body of death. Those ruined materials are manifest
(Galatians 5:19), for every person that has drawn a natural breath has them. We
are all capable of committing them, acting upon them, and building with them in
While quite common, they are not valuable, edifying, or suitable at all for
building a lasting structure. However, the child of God, according to the
impression and inclination of the Spirit, has the resources available to build,
act, and do with priceless material of the new man and heart of flesh. This
material is not as common as the ruined fleshly material (for not all that have
drawn a natural breath are thereby born from above), but its worth is above any
of the rubies, diamonds, or other precious, natural stones of the world. These
materials come from a changed soul and spirit that can build lasting structures
that benefit not only us but those that follow after us. (Revelation 14:13) None
of these items get us to heaven, but all of them show how we have been
represented. The ruined materials show that we descend from Adam's race, and the
honed and precious materials show that we are of the family of Christ.
Now that we have laboured to show what things are, one might say, "What does
this have to do with circumstances and situations in life?" Again, while it is
increasingly becoming less common, people would prepare and lay out their best
due to the situation they were in. For example, if esteemed guests are coming
over, the common dining materials are put away and the fine china is laid out.
The finest silver is put at each place setting, the yard is mowed, the kitchen
cleaned, the carpet vacuumed, the floors mopped, and the house looking tidy and
well-kept. However, if it is just "the family," the house will not have that
unspotted look, but will take on the more comfortable "lived in" look. The meals
enjoyed by the family unit will not quite be like meals served to company. As a
young boy, I loved having preachers stay in our home, but it was not due to the
good Bible discussion, or anything noble of that kind. Rather, I enjoyed
breakfast with eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, biscuits, gravy, grits, hash browns,
with all the trimmings, and the works that my mother would lay out in honour of
our guests. That was not a commonplace breakfast, but the situation merited it
during those times.
Now, we have the ability in our daily lives to build with good things and less
profitable things. Some of our items will endure fires, afflictions, and all
situations in life. Other items will not endure, but rather, they will not stand
the tests and trials of life. While not all earthly things are wicked, they
still do not endure. Natural homes are not, in and of themselves, wicked, but
they do not endure. All natural things are fleeting and fading, but the
spiritual items that we can build with will endure beyond this veil of tears.
The question becomes, "If our most important friend is coming, should we give
him our best?" The answer should be, "Yes." Our most important and dearest
Friend, that sticketh closer than a brother, has promised to never leave us nor
forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) If we had had preachers in our home all the time, I
can assure you that my mother would have laid out those big breakfasts every
morning. Dear friends, He is with us every morning and evening. He is with us at
all points in between. Where do we have room to offer wood, hay, and stubble?
As we daily appear before His judgment seat (Romans 14:10), we must be striving
to build with the materials that He has provided us. That is the best and what
endures. When we approach with a house of stubble, many times we are saved by
His fire that consumes it to show us where our real treasure is. Idols crop up
quite quickly, but He can dash them before our eyes with their hands and head
cut off in a single night. (I Samuel 5) If we had house guests every day, how
would we try to keep our homes? He is with us every day, so how should we keep
our homes? Paul will go on to expound on our bodies being a temple of the Holy
Ghost. Befitting such, we should flee fornication and youthful lusts. We should
labour and build upon the laid foundation of Jesus Christ so that when fires
come, we have a building that gets purer and purer (which is what happens to
gold, silver, and precious stones) rather than be consumed away (which is what
happens to wood, hay, and stubble). Finally, as we approach His courts and
pavilions, may we understand that this situation is above even our daily
interactions with Him. As such, it deserves more respect and honour and our all
so that we are willing to spend and be spent in His service in His house and
unto His people.