Christian Workers Are Responsible for their Work (3:12-15)Paul admonishes each Christian leader at Corinth to "be careful74 how he builds75" (3:10b). Every person is held personally responsible for the quality of workmanship he or she provides to build the congregation. Now Paul explains how their work will be evaluated.
"12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work." (3:10-13)
The temples built by Solomon, and later by Herod, were made of fine materials -- "gold, silver, costly stones." In the temple, gold and silver plated many surfaces. The "costly stones" (lithos) aren't jewelry here, but quarry-cut stones such as limestone and marble that were reserved for the finest buildings -- such as the temple (Mark 3:1).76 Wood was expensive, since it was rare in many places. It was used for lintels or rafters. However, wood would burn, while metals and stones would not.
I always thought "hay or straw77" were rather foolish building materials. Yes, they were inferior, but they were legitimate components to strengthen the mud bricks that constituted most of the buildings in the Mediterranean region. Straw provided a binding substance to keep bricks and large pieces of pottery from cracking when they dried (Exodus 5:10-18).
The test will be the fire of the Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment. Peter says that on the Day
"The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare."
(2 Peter 3:10, also verses 7 and 12)
This brings to mind a poem by C.T. Studd (1860-1931), a British missionary to the Congo. He was famous as a cricket player. But when his brother became seriously ill it affected him deeply. "What is all the fame and flattery worth," he wrote, "when a man comes to face eternity?" He realized, "I knew that cricket would not last, and honor would not last, and nothing in this world would last, but it was worthwhile living for the world to come." He wrote a poem which has since been set to music, with the refrain:
"Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last."78
Q3. (1 Corinthians 3:9-13) In terms of building congregations in our day, how would you assess quality vs. slip-shod building materials and methods? How important is improving your ministry skills through training? Prayer? Practice? Diligence? Faithfulness? Doctrinal accuracy? Devotional life? Openness to spiritual gifts? Etc.