Faithlife Sermons

Blanket Fort Architects

Pastor Dusty Mackintosh
Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Paul corrects the Corinthians view of leadership. First, leaders in the church are servants, deacons, and scum of the earth (more about that next week). Second, leaders are coworkers with God, tilling the field, building the temple - His temple. Paul gives them a warning - take great care in how you are building the church: there is great reward and great danger. Are we building well? Architects building temples or children building couch forts? We enter God’s temple in fear and reverence. We are God’s temple in fear and reverence.


Blanket Forts

Many many thousands of years ago a man discovered he could huddle under the skin of an animal for warmth during the night. The first blanket.
Later the next afternoon, his kids made a blanket fort out of it.
Blanket forts
Really poor construction materials.
But here’s the great thing about blanket forts. The consequences are extremely low. If the “roof” falls in… a blanket falls on your head. Hilarious.
Pillow forts on the stairs however, those have a different story:
<Video of Dylan and Ella on stairs>
When building a blanket fort, you don’t have to be a master builder, you don’t have to be a great architect. And that’s good because the consequences are minor.
But as you scale up, the consequences grow.
We are building and rebuilding the church, here. That isn’t just the nature of where we are right now as a church, that is always true. A church is growing or it’s dying… it is being built or it is falling apart.
But, especially now, we are engaged in building and rebuilding the church - the community of God’s people.
How we do this is of tremendous importance. The stakes are quite a bit higher than with the blanket fort. It matters what we do here… and it matters how we do it.
So it is providentially timely that we encounter the Corinthians. They are building the church… and they are at great risk for doing it poorly… or worse, destroying instead of building.
Now remember, just to start with, Paul sees the Corinthians as immature Christians who think they are spiritual… but they’re just wee babies!

Recap - Spiritual Infants

1 Corinthians 3:1–4 ESV
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
How does Paul know that they are not mature? Because they are not one in Christ… because they are divided and divisive… and the Spirit is never divided, the mind of Christ is never divided.
There could be endless diversity of ideas and preferences and opinions and culture and every other thing among them… but if they were spiritually minded and spiritually mature they would be unified in Love, in Christ Himself, who is our wisdom, and salvation… and all the things.
Instead, and he circles back to what he brought up in Chapter 1: they are particularly divided first on the issue of leadership. Denominationalism, following this leader or that and distinguishing themselves from one another by it.

That isn’t how building the church works

1 Corinthians 3:5 ESV
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.
Servants. The word here is diaconos, where we get our word Deacons. The point is that leaders are never to be placed upon a pedestal. That isn’t how leadership works in the Kingdom, it is an upside down pyramid in every way. Leaders are the lowest, servants, scum of the earth even. (More about that next week).
Paul grabs a lowly metaphor.

Field Metaphor

1 Corinthians 3:6–8 ESV
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.
Paul puts himself on the same tier as Apollos. He isn’t better than Apollos, they are fellow workers on the same field. And working in the field… there’s nothing glamorous about this. This would have been seen as menial, lowly labor… work for servants or slaves. Corinthians, like the Romans they were, value oration and philosophy.
Paul turns that around, the greatest privilege is this: being fellow workers with, alongside “God HIMSELF!”
1 Corinthians 3:9 ESV
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
That is amazing!!! Fellow workers!!
And to unpack the metaphor… you are the field! The place where Paul was working and Apollos was working… you are the field!
Now I think Paul knew that metaphor was about to get weird so he switches gears. Now a new metaphor enters the “building.” (see what I did there)?
You are God’s building!

Building Metaphor

1 Corinthians 3:10 ESV
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.
Skilled master builder = architect.
I am a “software architect” which means I get paid to know how to put all the pieces together. To design how it will all work.
KK is an actual architect. She knows how to draw it all out, measure it all out, calculate the tensile strength of every rivet, know the building in its entirety, so she knows how heavy it will be… and what kind of soil they are building in… and so exactly how deep and wide the foundation needs to be.
Paul says: you are the building. I poured the foundation… the only foundation worth pouring and worth building on: the bedrock, the sure foundation; Jesus.
1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Jesus said this, right? The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The waves came up… and the house came tumbling down.
The wise man built his house upon the rock! Epi Petra!
And then other laborers will come along and build you up upon that foundation:
1 Corinthians 3:12 ESV
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—
What does it mean to build on the foundation?
1 Corinthians 3:13–15 ESV
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. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
What does it mean to build on the foundation?
Every “Christian” church is built on that foundation of Jesus Christ. They add to that discipleship, teaching, worship practices, covenants, ways of living and being and working together.
Some will come and build huge mega churches upon that foundation. Some will build tiny churches upon that foundation.
But appearances can be deceiving. You can’t truly judge the worth of what has been built until the Day.
And “The Day” has a special meaning in the Bible. It is the end of days, it is Judgement Day, it is the Day when God says “Okay, that’s enough… dead are raised, everyone to face judgement, those with Jesus over here to new heaven and new earth eternity with God.
The others… not so much.
On that day we see what survives. Not the buildings, not the programs, not even the habits and disciplines or practices, or writings or ideas.
What was the fruit?
How many disciples of Jesus? What is the character of the disciples you encouraged and taught? What is their relationship with Jesus? Did others know Jesus because of you? Learn to grow in Him, walk with Him?
He said it this way to the Thessalonians
1 Thessalonians 2:19–20 ESV
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.
Or to the Philippians:
Philippians 4:1 ESV
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
There is a reward for what? For making disciples, for “encouraging and equipping one another.” What is the actual prize, how does that work in glory?
I don’t know, but Jesus said I could “store up for myself treasures in heaven...” and that I should… and that chasing after any other kind of treasure or reward was done in comparison with what waits for me there.
The rewards are great. We joke about Jesus points… and the way we use that phrase is ridiculous. But don’t be fooled: there are indeed treasures in heaven. And this is the absolute clearest way I know of to store up for myself treasure there.
Making disciples of Jesus. Teaching them, encouraging them, equipping them towards maturity, towards relationship with God.
That’s the reward. What’s the risk?
People can build poorly on the foundation of Jesus.
I bet we can all name at least a few churches that, like some of the churches in Revelation, have every appearance of life but are actually dead inside.
There are some huge mega churches where everything built on top of the name of Jesus is a health and wealth prosperity gospel that sounds nothing like the New Testament I read. And that can look amazing and wonderful… but God is not fooled. And the Day will come.
And this is the beautiful thing: I don’t decide… because I truly don’t know. A church isn’t bad because it’s huge. I have listened to the podcasts for a lot of huge churches. The Village church with Matt Chandler, our local Flat Irons… these guys are preaching some pure gospel.
On that Day, every pretense and illusion will be stripped away and we will know. He will know. And some will receive treasures and glory. And some will think they built something awesome, but it was all illusion and it burns in the fire and they make it through “by the skin of their teeth.”
(What a gross metaphor).
And it’s not just any building.
1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
You are God’s temple… so no tattoos!
That’s what I always heard growing up. I thought of this as individualistic, each of us is a temple of God.
Not “each” of you but “all” of you are God’s temple. Y’all are God’s field. Y’all are God’s building - his temple.
That is what Paul was building, Apollos was building, it is the church and we are all contributing to building it… either like a poor blanket fort or a majestic temple.
Brutal warning:
1 Corinthians 3:17 ESV
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
And things just got terrifying.
But we don’t take these warnings seriously enough. The earth should rumble when we read that… we should tremble. Be afraid!!!
It is one thing to “build poorly.”
It is quite another to actively destroy God’s church. There is intention in that, maybe even malice. The church hurt me so I’m going to hurt it, I’m going to take it down!
This is a straight up retributive threat. You destroy God’s temple, that is y’all, that is the church community or communities in Corinth… and anywhere they are called by Jesus’ name, so that’s y’all.
These are the stakes. There is great reward if we do this well. There is salvation by the skin of our teeth if we do it poorly, or lazily.
There is destruction if we seek to purposefully hurt God’s temple - that is His church.
Paul corrects the Corinthians view of leadership. First, leaders in the church are servants, deacons, and scum of the earth (more about that next week). Second, leaders are coworkers with God, tilling the field, building the temple - His temple. Paul gives them a warning - take great care in how you are building the church: there is great reward and great danger. Are we building well? Architects building temples or children building couch forts? We enter God’s temple in fear and reverence. We are God’s temple in fear and reverence.

We Are the Temple

In 2012 I had the incredible opportunity to tour Israel. Thank you, Mom and Dad! The most amazing place for me was the bedrock foundation of the temple. This huge building, dating all the way back to Jesus time in the temple. The bedrock foundation of the steps, you know these are the very same steps Jesus walked in and out of the temple on. Incredible. Most of the “Jesus was here” places are tourist traps… but this one is pure bedrock, pure history.
And there is the Temple Mount, the foundation. But what is built on that?
It isn’t the temple. It isn’t the holy of holies. It is the Golden Dome and a mosque where they pray to a twisted and false version of God - Allah, and they ultimately deny Jesus.
What will happen in the Day? Or before that by some prophetic interpretations?
Jesus is going to clear the foundations and rebuild His temple. God will have His temple, beautiful and perfect in every way. He doesn’t need our help to get their. God doesn’t need co-workers.
What an incredible invitation to get to be part of building His church, His temple, alongside Him, for Him.
What an incredible invitation we have; terrifying and audacious; God has invited us to replant and rebuild our community of believers. To examine what we have built so far, and to build one another up into His glorious Temple.
That is a fearful and wonderful, a sacred and sanctified Calling.
This isn’t a Blanket Fort that will be torn down tomorrow.
Because y’all are disciples of Jesus, you will all be there on that Day. And the extent to which I have helped build you in Christ will be counted to me as glory.
The extent to which you have helped build others in Christ will be counted to you as glory. Or not.
God help us. And He will. And He is.
This is a God sized mission. Thank you Lord for being our foundation… and our senior architect…
For God’s temple is holy. And you are that temple.
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