1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NRSV) – “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.”
After Christ’s return, we will undergo a review of our lives. My understanding is that by the time this happens, believers will have already been resurrected or converted to immortality. So, on a physical level, we will fully embody the new creation. However, our intellectual understanding of matters will still need to be adjusted. That is what the process described in the passage above will accomplish.
As I said in the first post in this series, when all is said and done, we accomplish in this life what we were made to accomplish. But at the same time, we do things and think things that are not in line with the new creations that we were made to be. It is often difficult to tell what deeds are in line with God’s ultimate vision for us, and which ones are not. We do the best we can in this life, but it is the fire described above that will ultimately set it all straight. The fire will reward acts that are in keeping with the gospel of grace and transformation, and also show us which acts were out of line with that message, so that we can arrive at a full understanding of the new creation.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 – “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
This means that a believer’s physical and psychological being is illuminated by God’s Spirit. Suppose there is a house that, normally, would not be very attractive to you. Maybe you don’t like the design or colors, or you think it’s messy. But if a person you really like and respect lives there, and you can think of the house as that person’s place, then perhaps you think more positively about it.
So it is with ourselves and God’s Spirit. Suppose that you do not particularly like another person’s personality, in and of itself. But if you can see that person’s brain as part of the Holy Spirit’s temple, then the person’s personality should seem fascinating and inspiring.
There is also a concept of justice associated with the treatment of God’s temple, as Paul writes, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.” This applies to both physical violence and psychological violence. On a psychological level, if you destroy a person’s self-confidence over perceived faults, then the consequence is that your own conscience will disrupt your self-confidence by constantly nagging you over your own flaws.
1 Corinthians 3:18-20: “Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’”
The Holy Spirit works with people in ways that confound normal sensibilities. Instead of focusing on judging or critiquing other believers, why not just watch them out of curiosity and see what God is up to? You are going to see a lot of fascinating, and sometimes perplexing, things happen. To “become fools so that you may become wise,” as Paul writes, I think the key is to just get off the soapbox long enough to be intrigued and perhaps amused by God’s working with somebody else, and then you will see others with new eyes and be more capable of giving useful advice if needed.
On that note, Paul returns once again to the subject of sectarianism in the Corinthians church:
1 Corinthians 3:21-23 – “So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”
Sometimes, unhealthy sectarian dynamics result not from substantive disagreement, but rather, just differences in personality or manner of speaking. But the teaching of believers being the Holy Spirit’s temple should enlighten people to be open minded to the way God works with others and resist the urge to separate into groups as a knee-jerk reaction to perceived differences.
Since this post opened with the subject of limitations in our understanding of spiritual matters, I will close by being honest about something. When Paul says, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you.”
I don’t know what that means.