Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 3:10-14

In this message we shall consider from 3:10-14 the subject of the building work with transformed materials.


In 3:10 and 11 Paul says, “According to the grace of God given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid a foundation, but another builds upon it. But let each one take heed how he builds upon it. For other foundation no one is able to lay besides that which is being laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Doctrinally speaking, many Christians understand what it means not to lay any foundation other than Jesus Christ. However, when writing these words, Paul was not speaking in a doctrinal way. He realized that by saying that they were of Paul, Apollos, or Cephas, the Corinthians were actually laying another foundation. Here Paul seems to be saying, “Believers at Corinth, you should not say that you are of anyone or of anything. Christ, the unique foundation, has already been laid. This Christ is the One who is both theirs and ours and also the One into whose fellowship we have been called by God. This Christ is the unique foundation.”

It is common for Christians to lay foundations other than Christ as the unique foundation. For example, when someone declares that he is for immersion, he is laying immersion as a foundation. The same is true of someone who is for tongues-speaking. Whenever you claim to be for a particular person, doctrine, or practice, you are laying another foundation. This is the right meaning of Paul’s word in verses 10 and 11.

Christians have been divided by the many different foundations. Thousands of foundations have been laid, and more are being laid. Thus, we should be careful not to say that we are of a certain thing or of a certain person. To speak in this way is to lay another foundation; it is also to cause division. Furthermore, in the church in our locality we should not say that we are of anything or anyone or that we are for anything or anyone. We are only of Christ and for Christ. It is possible that even the saints in the local churches are laying different foundations. Regarding this matter, my eyes are very watchful, not over Christianity, but over the Lord’s recovery. Even the saints who love the Lord and His recovery may still say that they are for certain things. This is to lay another foundation.

Instead of laying another foundation, we must build upon the foundation already laid. This means that we must build upon the unique Christ. We should understand this not only doctrinally, but also practically and experientially. For example, suppose a brother tells you that, according to his feeling, the church in your locality is not positive. How would you respond to this? The answer you give will reveal whether or not you are building upon Christ as the unique foundation. The best way to respond is not to correct the brother or argue with him, but to pray-read a few verses with him. What matters in pray-reading with such a one is not the particular verses you choose; it is that you have a living spirit filled with the riches of Christ. Then if you pray-read together instead of discussing the situation, that one will be watered and nourished. Nothing waters others and nourishes others more than your living spirit. As long as your spirit is living and is filled with the riches of Christ, others will be watered and nourished, no matter what verses you pray-read. After you have pray-read with this one, there is no need to argue with him about the church or to try to improve him. If he wants to say that the church is not positive, let him do so. What he needs is not correction or adjustment, but watering and nourishing. Every time this one comes to you, simply water him and nourish him. In a sense, such a one is spiritually sick, or he may be hungry and thirsty. For his sickness, he needs some medicine, and for his hunger and thirst, he needs food and water. Each contact with him is an opportunity to water him and nourish him. Eventually, what is supplied to him will become the medicine that will heal him. After a while, having been nourished and healed, he will no longer say that the church is not positive. He himself will realize that it is nonsense to speak in that way concerning the church.

To fellowship with others with a living spirit full of the riches of Christ is to build upon Christ as the unique foundation. It is also to build with Christ. When you contact others in this way, you build upon Christ and with Christ. As a result, others will be solidly built up into the church as part of the Body. This is to build upon the foundation already laid.

I am very concerned that the saints realize that 1 Corinthians is not a book of doctrine. It is a book which deals with practical problems. It is a mistake to regard this Epistle as one based on doctrinal matters. We may say that Ephesians is written with doctrine as the basis, but this is not true of 1 Corinthians. Whatever Paul says in this book is presented in a practical way in order to solve the problems among the believers. Thus, his word concerning Christ as the unique foundation should be understood not doctrinally, but in a way that is practical and experiential. For example, to say that we are for a certain person or for a certain practice is to lay another foundation. It is a very serious matter to speak in such a way. This is to lay another foundation and to cause division. Furthermore, to minister Christ to others is to build upon the foundation already laid. If we would minister Christ to the saints, we must have spiritual experience. It is not adequate merely to repeat in a doctrinal way messages given in the ministry. We must share with others not a doctrinal Christ, but a Christ we have experienced.