BUILDING ON THE FOUNDATION
by Given O. Blakely
"According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are."
1 Corinthians 3:10-17, NKJV
Preaching, as used in Scripture, is entering the work of the Lord. We thereby become part of a great and eternal enterprise. There is no more lofty activity, nor one of such seriousness and sobriety. The preacher is not an entertainer, humorist, or mere orator. He is engaged in something with eternal consequences. Through the preacher, heavenly influences are brought to bear upon the hearts of humanity. The Holy Spirit of God is called into activity by the word of God, the substance of the preacher's message. The attention of angelic powers is also drawn to the preacher. He is, if true, declaring a Gospel into which they desire to look (1 Pet 1:12). The Father Himself, with the Lord Jesus Christ, stands poised to grant "grace and peace" to those giving heed to the message (Gal 1:3). Jesus, in the capacity of the exalted King, is ready to "give repentance and the remission of sins" to those believing the message (Acts 5:31). To me, conceiving of a more significant work is not possible!
All true preaching is an extension of a work already begun. Preaching that ignores that established work is really not recognized by God, and will not be honored by Divine power. The work of which I speak is the establishment of a foundation. The prophetic Word declares, "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily" (Isa 28:16). That foundation was the Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. He is the "Stone" of prophetic reference. Peter declared, "This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:11-12). Paul declared the essentiality of this foundation, affirming Jesus was a stumbling stone to all who did not receive Him (Rom 9:33). By this, he meant Christ Jesus is the ONLY foundation. There is no valid spiritual construction that is not built upon Him--depending and relying upon Him. Peter declares the same perspective in 1 Peter 2:6-8.
This foundation was set in place by the Apostles and prophets, as declared in Ephesians 2:20. "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone." The "Apostles and prophets" laid the foundation by declaring the Person and accomplishments of the Lord Jesus Christ. They related these to the purpose of God and the need of humanity.
The "prophets" of reference here are not the holy prophets before Christ. They did not "lay the foundation," but announced that it would be put in place (Eph 1:21; 1 Pet 1:10). These are the prophets placed in the church by God Himself (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 3:5; 4:11). These are men inspired to delineate Christ to the hearts of men, opening up His Person and purpose, thereby speaking "edification and exhortation and comfort to men" (1 Cor 14:3).
The foundation has already been put into place. However, because it has been obscured by the traditions of men, throughout history, it has been rediscovered, so to speak, by those with spiritual insight. They did not lay the Foundation again, but, through preaching, drew the attention of men to it. Thus, the construction of the building again became a prominent activity.
There have been periods in history when the Foundation was scarcely visible to the sons of men. Millions of believers have but a sparse amount of understanding concerning Jesus Christ. My prayer is that our day will not be so characterized, but will be one of spiritual clarity.
May the Lord raise up insightful men who can show men the Foundation, then stabilize them upon it. How sorely this is needed, and YOU can be used of God to do it!
WHAT IS BUILDING UPON THE FOUNDATION?
Building upon the foundation is providing for the integration of people with the "eternal purpose" of God. It is bringing people into living association with the Lord Jesus Christ. True preaching provides for the amalgamation of individuals with the Lord Jesus Christ, so that they become "one" with Him. The building and the foundation, in this case, are not two separate entities, but one. They are fitted together, and cannot be separated without destroying the functionality of the building. If you move the building off the foundation, it loses stability, and will soon fall apart. If you move the foundation from the building, it no longer fulfills its purpose, for it is not intended to be alone.
A Savior without the saved, brings no glory to the Lord. To have the saved without a Savior is not possible. Building on the foundation is bringing the saved and the Savior together. It is solidifying the relationship between the individual and the Lord of glory.
Building on the foundation is bringing the support of the foundation to those who require it. The strength, power, and glory of the Lord Jesus thus become accessible to those built upon Him. His grace is thus made accessible to them. His power begins to work in them. They become a vessel in His hands, and a place of residence for His Person. His intercession becomes relevant to them. His purpose becomes their purpose.
Scripture apprizes us, "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (1 Cor 6:17). That is being truly built upon the foundation! In this case, the vicarious atonement of Christ becomes effectual for the individual. The current intercessory ministry of the Lord supports and upholds the one joined to Him. The objective of Christ becomes the purpose for living, and the single aim of life is to "know Christ," and dwell with Him forever. The person on the Foundation enjoys fellowship with Christ (1 Cor 1:9), the "communion of the Holy Spirit" (2 Cor 13:14). Their hearts cry out "Abba Father" to God (Gal 4:6), their names are "written in heaven" (Luke 10:20), and they are being "conformed to the image" of God's Son (Rom 8:29-30).
To be on the Foundation is to have "access" to the Father (Eph 2:18) and His "grace" (Rom 5:2) "with confidence" (Eph 3:12). It is to be in a situation where God Himself is working all things together for the good of the person (Rom 8:28). Everything required for "life and godliness" is available to the one on the foundation (2 Pet 1:3). Those on the foundation will stand when the "world passes away," because they are on an eternal Foundation (1 John 2:17). It is the only place of safety, the only place of permanence, and the only place of blessing. To be on the Foundation is to be separate from the world and united with heaven. It is to be reconciled to God, receiving from Christ, and involved in His work.
THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION
Our text has a covering of sobriety that should arrest our attention. "But let each one take heed how he builds on it . . . each one's work will become clear . . . the fire will test each one's work . . . If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire . . . If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him." Conceiving of anything more serious is difficult, if not impossible. It is my persuasion that a great deal of preaching is done without the smallest awareness of these things.
Take heed how you build
The building materials are not brought to our attention. HOW we build does not refer to methodology, but to the type of materials we are attempting to place on this foundation. The Spirit says, "Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw . . . " The reference is to people--to those addressed by our preaching. "Gold, silver, and precious stones" are not only valuable, they are not combustible. They can stand the test of fire. "Wood, hay, and straw" (stubble) are all inferior, and cannot stand the test of fire.
Anyone familiar with contemporary Christianity knows there are an extraordinary number of uncommitted, weak, and vulnerable church members. Vast numbers are Scripturally illiterate, morally weak, and tragically uncommitted. They have difficulty standing in the normalities of life, to say nothing of standing the judgment of Almighty God. They are "wood, hay, and stubble," yet are recognized as being "on the foundation."
Why is this the case? Men have not taken heed "how" they built on the foundation. Unless they are rebellious and unbelieving, weak Christians are the result of weak preaching. If preaching has no spiritual substance, those embracing it will not be strong. They have dared to place "wood, hay, and stubble" upon the "precious" Foundation and Cornerstone--materials that cannot possibly mesh with the Foundation. Their preaching is what put the inferior materials there!
On the other hand, when men take their preaching seriously, taking heed how they build on the foundation, the pureness of their message will produce spiritual solidity in those embracing it. Such converts will be "gold, silver, and precious stones" that are harmonious with the Foundation, and will pass the judgment of God.
It is our business to think about what our preaching will produce. If people take what we declare, and ingest it into their souls, what will it produce? What will be the outcome? Have we brought them into union with Christ? Will they be in a position to be conformed to His image? Will they have access to God, His grace, His power, and His truth? God will undergird those who enter into this work heartily and in a conscious effort to make men suitable for Divine habitation!
If my objective, for instance, is to produce good families, a large assembly, or an impressive congregation, I am in the area of "wood, hay, and stubble." All these are possible, from a human point of view, without any connection with the Foundation. If my purpose is to get the young people off the street, or provide a place where they can get together, I am again in the area of "wood, hay, and stubble." Mind you, it is not that these are sinful objectives. However, they are not PRIMARY objectives--and preaching deals with PRIMARY things.
There is room for a wide variety of ministries in the body of Christ. If, however, these become our focus, thereby clouding the reason Jesus died, rose again, and presently is reigning, they will be the occasion for "wood, hay, and stubble." If what we emphasis does not require a vicarious atonement, the power of the resurrection, and an interceding Savior, it cannot integrate with the Foundation!
The death of Christ has no efficacy where it is not required! The resurrection of Christ has no power where there is no need for it. The intercession of Christ is not effectual where there is no dependency upon it. This cannot be overemphasized! Much modern preaching does not require a propitiation, Divine enablement, or a Mediating Savior.
Building "gold, silver, and precious stones" upon the Foundation is bringing people to a point where they rejoice in and rely upon the atonement. It is arousing people to believe and joyfully embrace the "power of His resurrection." When men avail themselves of the intercession of Christ, keeping themselves in the love of God, and experiencing cleansing from all unrighteousness, they have joined to the Foundation!
Materials will be evaluated
Those who have responded to our message will be evaluated. As it is written, "Every man's work shall be made manifest" (Verse 13, KJV). Keeping this fact in mind will have a significant impact on what and how you preach!
The evaluation will not be in this world, nor will it be by your peers. "The Day will declare it," we are told. This is the "Day of the Lord," "that Day," "the Day of the Lord Jesus," or "the Day of God" (Acts 2:20; Luke 10:12; 1 Cor 5:5; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Pet 3:12). This is the Day when God will make known the "counsels of the hearts" (1 Cor 4:5). At this time, all things will be made known as they really are. No masks will be upon the people, and nothing will be hidden in any sense.
Made known by fire
Every person will confront the Living God, Who is "a consuming Fire" (Deut 4:24; Heb 12:29). Nothing unlike Himself will survive the confrontation. As it is written, "A fire goes before Him, And burns up His enemies round about" (Psa 97:3). Every person professing Christ will be subjected to Divine scrutiny. If Divine qualities are found in them, they will joyfully survive. If their connection with Christ is real, they will pass the test. The confrontation is inevitable! "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27). Everyone must live with a lively awareness of this coming day--but especially the preacher.
The objective of our text, however, is not to affirm the judgment of all men. Rather, it is to affirm the evaluation of the laborer's work--the people he sought to place on the foundation. In this world, great honor is ascribed to selective preachers. It is not unusual to find men fervently seeking this honor--structuring a religious career for human recognition. Such easily forget this world and time are too early for final evaluation. That will be accomplished at the judgment seat of Christ.
"If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward" (Verse 11). In our parlance, if the people who have embraced what we preached past the test of confronting God, we will receive a reward from God. The compliment of the preacher is found in those who embraced what he proclaimed. This is what Paul meant when he wrote to the Thessalonians, "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy" (1 Thess 2:19-20).
Think of the reward of Paul! Consider how meticulously he built upon the Foundation. He declared "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), "teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col 1:28). He took heed how he built upon the Foundation. He considered the Day when his work would be tested by Almighty God, and labored for the work to stand the test. He will receive an abundant reward.
You will also receive a great reward if your "work" stands the test of Divine scrutiny. Keep "the Day" in mind when you preach! Preach as though it were your last opportunity to prepare people for the day of judgment. Remember, your reward depends, in part, upon what is produced by your preaching. That single consideration will have a remarkable impact upon what you say and how you say it.
Suffering eternal loss
"If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss." If the people we have converted and attempted to nurture are proven unsuitable for glory, we will endure loss. How much loss we endure will be determined by how much of our effort yielded no eternal fruit. Jesus ordained His disciples not only to produce fruit, but that their fruit "might remain" (John 15:16). He had "the Day" in view and we do well to do the same.
Men may not consider things this precisely, but God does. If those upon whom we have expended our labor are not finally received into glory, we have wasted our time. Mind you, this does not mean we never speak unless we are assured people will receive what we say. Jesus preached in the synagogues, where He was rejected. Paul proclaimed in synagogues, market places, and the arena where philosophers gathered. Their extended efforts, however, were not spent here. In every case, those who followed them received extended instruction.
The failure of modern preachers and teachers to make men aware of judgment day has nearly hidden this truth. There is a lot of loose thinking about how we spend our preaching time. Some think of preaching in the context of congregational life and institutional objectives. Paul thought of it in the context of the day of judgment.
The thought of suffering "loss" in the day of judgment is a fearful thought. My own contemplation of it has dictated what I preach and how I preach it. It has determined how I consider the response of people, and where I want to devote my time. I do not want to "suffer loss" when those to whom I have devoted my ministry stand before te Lord. You do not need to be an extraordinarily wise man to understand the reason for such thinking.
He himself will be saved
" . . . but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." Our ultimate salvation does not depend upon the salvation of those who embraced our message. We ourselves must pass through the fire of Divine confrontation. How we ourselves have been positioned on the Foundation will be evaluated. God will determine whether we are "gold, silver, or precious stones" -- or whether we are "wood, hay, and stubble."
Preachers who have technically said the right things, will themselves be judged. If they have preached the Gospel, but have lived contrary to it, it will do them no good. It is the business of every preacher to be in fellowship with Christ. Personal spiritual excellence and maturity are essential. The institution may not require it, but God does. The organization may not be strict about spirituality, but God is. It is true, "For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom 14:10).
God will destroy him!
"If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." There are some very sobering words in Scripture, and this is one of them. God's view of Christ and His church are here perceived. After giving His Son for the sins of the world, and exalting Him to His right hand, God will not tolerate the corruption of His church. The body of Christ is "being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Eph 2:22). Those who dare to corrupt this dwelling place with unacceptable materials will be destroyed, cut off from God. All "wood, hay, and stubble" will be burned out of the building in that day. Those who have placed it there by inferior and distorted preaching will also be burned out.
It is our business to know the truth about this matter. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (Verse 16). Ever keep before your mind that God dwells in the structure you are building. If you, by your preaching, allow into that spiritual structure people who are at variance with God, "the day will declare it."
This word is not intended to drive men from the holy activity of preaching, but alert them to the opportunity to glorify God and accrue a noble reward also. Whatever tends to hide this from us is dangerous, and is to be avoided at all cost.
Next month will be our last meeting. We will meet on Monday, December 29th. Our final subject will be "FRUIT THAT REMAINS." It will complement the theme we have just covered. Consider the following texts for your presentation. Do your best to ponder all of the thoughts we have developed this year.
(1) What God has said about preaching. (2) Focused preaching. (3) Preaching what you can see. (4) Considering your audience. (5) Making preaching relevant. (6) Avoiding Divine judgment. (7) A pleasing fragrance to God. (8) Having your own treasury. (9) Refreshment through speaking. (10) The spirit of faith. (11) Building on the foundation.