In chapter three of 1 Corinthians Paul comes to the church. Although the word church cannot be found in this chapter, what Paul covers here is very much related to the church.
Paul composed this chapter in a very wise way. Paul did not use superficial expressions with regard to the church; here he speaks of the church by using deep and profound expressions. In this chapter Paul uses three main terms for the church: the farm, the building, and the temple.
In verse 9 Paul says, “You are God’s farm, God’s building.” The Greek word rendered farm in this verse literally means cultivated land. The believers who have been regenerated in Christ with God’s life are God’s cultivated land, a farm in God’s new creation to grow Christ, that precious materials may be produced for God’s building. Hence, we are not only God’s farm, but also God’s building. Corporately, we as the church of God have Christ planted in us. Christ must also grow in us, and out of us He must produce, in the sense of this chapter, not the fruit, but the precious materials of gold, silver, and precious stones for the building of God’s habitation on earth. Thus, the building of God, the house of God, the church, is the increase of Christ, the enlargement of Christ in His unlimitedness.
In verses 16 and 17 Paul twice refers to the temple of God: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God shall destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which you are.” A temple of God in verse 16 refers to the believers collectively in a certain locality, as in Corinth, whereas the temple of God in verse 17 refers to all the believers universally. The unique, spiritual temple of God in the universe has its expressions in many localities on earth. Each expression is a temple of God in that locality.
The temple of God in these verses is the explanation of God’s building in verse 9. The temple is the building, and the building is produced by the materials grown on the farm. Thus, we have the farm, the building, and the temple. God’s building is not an ordinary building; it is the sanctuary of the holy God, the temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. We, the builders of such a holy temple, should realize this so that we may be careful to build not with the worthless materials of wood, grass, and stubble, but with the precious materials of gold, silver, and precious stones (v. 12), which correspond to God’s nature and economy.
In the Epistle of 1 Corinthians Paul spends more time to speak concerning the church than concerning Christ. We have seen that in the first two chapters Paul has much to say about Christ. The problems among the believers at Corinth were caused by their lack of experience of Christ. For this reason, Paul begins this Epistle with Christ and then continues with the church.
Where Christ is, there the church must be also. If we preach Christ, we must also preach the church. Likewise, if we have Christ, we should be in the church. Christ and the church cannot be divided, just as a person’s head should not be separated from his body. To separate the head from the body is to bring death to the body. Therefore, we should never separate Christ from the church or the church from Christ.
The title of this message is “The Church, God’s Farm and God’s Building.” This title indicates that the church is both God’s farm and God’s building. We all know that the purpose of a farm is to produce food for us to eat. A building is a structure made of certain materials. Apparently, a farm is not related to a building, for a farm produces food for eating, not materials for building. No one would build a house with the produce grown on a farm. Farm products seemingly are not useful for building. Nevertheless, the farm in verse 9 is for the building. Whatever is produced on the farm is for the building.
In verse 9 Paul speaks first of God’s farm, then of God’s building. The reason for this order is that the building depends on the farm. If there is no farm, there cannot be the building, because the farm produces materials for the building.
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