How to Build A Church

Hope for Today (English)
Hope for Today (English)
How to Build A Church
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1 Corinthians 3:10-17

The disciples gathered on the Day of Pentecost to pray. According to the account in the book of Acts, they were not really expecting to experience what came upon them that day. But the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them as prophesied by the prophet Joel and confirmed by the words of Jesus. When that took place, the disciples began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance. You know something; they had no strategy meeting. They didn’t come together and say, “Now what shall we do? Now that the Spirit of God has fallen upon us, what shall we do?” No, that was not the course they took. They spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Another example of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the early church occurred at Antioch, when Barnabas and Saul were there with the other believers, preaching and ministering daily in the church. As they ministered, according to Acts 13, the Spirit of God spoke to them and said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” No record of a strategy meeting here! “What shall we do? How shall we proceed?” The record simply states that the Spirit of God moved upon them. And they moved as He directed.

In both incidents, the believers obeyed the Spirit. They were in touch with Him. They were so open to His leading that He could guide them. They were so open to His speaking that He could communicate with them.

Today we hear a great deal about “planting churches,” strategizing, and trying to learn how we shall do this. What proceedings shall we take? The apostle Paul spoke of “building the church.”

Paul compared the church to a building. His blueprint is found in I Corinthians 3:10-17:

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 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.

14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

In Paul’s blueprint for building a church, I find several SKETCHES of the details.

The first sketch is:

DEFINE THE FOUNDATION

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Paul said that he was a wise “master builder.” That is the term for an architect. He saw all the details, clearly entwined, as a wise master builder. And he said that he had laid the foundation. That, of course, is first in importance. No lasting building can be built without a foundation, a good foundation, a sturdy foundation, or a well-constructed foundation.

The single foundation is stated. There is no other. Paul said that no man can lay a different foundation than he had laid, and that is Jesus Christ.

That is a single foundation, not many. Some years ago a pastor friend of mine told me that he had an evangelist come to his church, appointed by his supervisor, who one evening stood in the pulpit and said, “The very idea that anyone would say that there is only one way to God. There are many ways to God.” Now this evangelist was wrong according to the apostle Paul. Because Paul said, “There is only one foundation.” That would mean there is only one way to God.

Once when I was in Nigeria, I went to the University of Ibadan bookstore and picked up a book about African traditional religions, written by an African. I was rather surprised as I browsed through this book to find out that the author was like the preacher in the pulpit. He said, “The traditional religions of Africa are the Africans’ way to get to God.” The only problem is they never arrive by their traditional religions. It may be their way, their attempt to get to God, but they never make it. You know what Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

And you know that Peter said there is no other foundation. When he spoke to the Sanhedrin, Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). My friend, I must insist that there is only one foundation.

I have learned that in some countries where idolatry is practiced, there are hundreds of millions of gods. They are manmade. They are well designed. I wish I could take you to a souvenir shop and show you the shelves and shelves and shelves of idols. I have pictures of the little ones, and bigger ones, manmade, molded, shaped and carved. They take this image and set it on a shelf and say, “This is my God.” Oh, no. Yes! It’s true.

To build a church, there is only one foundation. Listen to the writings of Barnes:

The reason for Paul’s unyielding fidelity to the simplicity of his gospel message at Corinth and
everywhere else, lay in his deep sense of the fact that in whatever land or age or grade of social life a man may be found, whatever the level of his civilization or intellectual culture, “Christ crucified” can alone meet his spiritual necessities. And he would pay just a little respect to our dreams of self-sufficiency as he did to those of the men of his own times; for they have just as little solid ground to rest upon. Our nature is the same as theirs. Our spiritual needs are the same. There is the same insatiable craving within us, the same guilt on our consciences, the same seeds of corruption latent in our hearts, and the same moral dangers besetting the pathway of our life. The same eternal spirit world surrounds us, and we must confront the same “righteous judgment of God.”

Oh, my friend, do you know what Jesus said to Peter and the disciples when Peter made that great confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)? Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church” (v.18). There is only one foundation. Define it carefully, my friend, to build a church.

The second sketch is:

REFINE THE MATERIAL

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 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.

14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Look carefully in the Bible, and you will see what kind of material the apostle Paul spoke of. He said, “Some may build one way and some build another.” Every man’s work will be declared. A man may build on the foundation of gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble.

Look at the classification made by these six choices. They are six choices on a descending scale. First is gold, the choice metal, the one that can be destroyed the least. Silver is the second choice and precious stones, are the third choice.

These are indestructible. They don’t burn up. We might melt them, indeed, as the soldiers did when they burned the temple in Jerusalem. The Roman soldiers pried the stones apart in order to get the gold that melted and ran down between the stones. But the gold was good. We might say that is one classification of material: the refining of the material.

Then there are the other three: wood, which is combustible; hay, which is transitory; and stubble, which is a waste product. These do not last. We know in so me countries and cultures they use hay to thatch their roofs. And, of course, if it should catch on fire, the roof would soon be gone. Wood too is burnable, and combustible. Stubble is a waste product that burns.

The revealing day will test all these materials by fire work to last or to be destroyed. Barnes makes a very interesting remark about these matters:

There are many things mistaken for piety that will yet be seen to be false. There is much enthusiasm, wildfire, fanaticism, bigotry; much-affected humility; much that is supposed to be orthodoxy; much regard to forms and ceremonies; to “days and months, and times, and years” (Gal. 4:10); much-overheated zeal, and much precision, and solemn sanctimoniousness; much regard for external ordinances where the heart is wanting, that shall be found to be false, and that shall be swept away in the day of Judgment.

My friend, it is highly important to refine the material. The reward comes when the work is tested, as the apostle Paul teaches us, tested by fire.

The third sketch is:

ENSHRINE THE SPIRIT

16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Oh, these are two glorious verses. Believers are temples that house the Spirit. The image here is the Old Testament tabernacle or temple. God described them and ordered Moses to build the tabernacle in the wilderness. Then Solomon built the temple on Mount Moriah, the land that David had bought for the temple of God. The temple was beautiful and outstanding. It cost millions of dollars even in those days. The point of it all was that God said He was going to meet with His people in the Holy of Holies, by the mercy seat. The cherubim overshadowed the mercy seat, and under the mercy seat was the broken law. This, God said, was the place where He would meet with them. The apostle Paul picked up this image and said we as a church, as a body, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us. The temple enshrouded the Glory of God.

Now I think we can also make some applications to the individual Christian. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, so the apostle teaches us in Romans 6. We are to be occupied, possessed, guided, and enabled by the Spirit of God. His presence is to glorify us, to set us off from the common run of people.

Then there is a warning against defiling the temple of God. The apostle says, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” Oh, in the churches today isn’t there an awful lot of bickering and fighting within? It’s not really very surprising that the people outside look inside and say, “What’s going on there?” There are some churches, unfortunately, where the members have become so controversial that they have had to take their cases to the civil court. That doesn’t make sense, does it?

Take care what you do with the temple of God! Be careful. Oh, what a grand privilege we have to be a dwelling place for the Spirit of God, to have the Spirit of God indwell us and enable us. The Shekinah glory of God may rest upon us. Some members may be like the rotten apple in the barrel.

But let me share with you what another said about this:

If he makes that innermost chamber the “holy of holies,” because his cloud symbol, his Shechinah glory, rests there; his presence makes the outer chamber holy, and the courts all-holy, and the altar and layers and utensils all holy. And if Christ “dwells in our hearts,” and makes them like the holy of holies, we must realize that he sanctifies all our being and all our relations; sanctities mind, affection, will, body, so that the prophetic figure should be fulfilled, and in the Christian life and Christian Church holiness should be inscribed on the very “bells of the horses.” The one anxious endeavour of a Christian life is to get all the “courts” of our body temple, wholly sanctified.

What a grand privilege to have the indwelling presence of God with us! We are the temple of the living God. The Holy Spirit dwells within every believer.

Let every church builder learn from these sketches from the apostle Paul in the blueprint How To Build A Church.

DEFINE THE FOUNDATION

A building is no better than its foundation, and there is only one foundation for the church, and it is Jesus Christ.

REFINE THE MATERIAL

Choose the best. Discard what is combustible. And build with what is lasting.

ENSHRINE THE SPIRIT

Acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life as a Christian.

As a believer acknowledge Him. Recognize Him. Yield yourself to Him. Be what He wants you to be. That way the church will be steadfast.