“You Are … God’s Building”
In 1 Corinthians 3:9, the apostle Paul tells the Christians of Corinth, Greece that they were “God’s building.” Paul laid the “foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10) when he preached the gospel there for the first time and many were converted (Acts 18:1-8). The apostle then tells them that the only acceptable foundation for the church is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).
In a symbolic sense, the Corinthians themselves were the “materials” used to build on the foundation. Other preachers added more “materials” when new souls obeyed the gospel. These converts also became part of “God’s building.”
All Christians Will Experience Fiery Trials
Later on, Paul tells them the following: “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Paul reveals that the lives of all these “building materials” would pass through trials (that is, through “fire”). Trials of faith are an intrinsic part of the lives of all Christians (Mark 9:49; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:12). Sometimes followers of Christ have to suffer opposition from family members and others who do not agree with their decision to obey the gospel. Other times, it is necessary for new converts to experience difficult problems in the local church. On other occasions, Christians face the challenge of remaining faithful while suffering from a chronic illness. Trials can not be avoided!
Those Who Overcome
Some new converts, upon going through theses trials, are like gold, silver, and precious stones. Spiritual trials serve to purify them because they have made a firm decision to be faithful to Jesus whatever happens (1 Corinthians 15:58). They are men and women of true conviction. They are stable and committed. Despite the difficulties they face in their lives, their faith is based not on men (1 Corinthians 3:4) but on Christ (1 Corinthians 3:23). Ultimately, the trials help them to become stronger. They continue to meet faithfully with the local church (Hebrews 10:24-25) and continue to persevere in the word of Christ (John 8:31).
Those Who Falter
In contrast, other new converts, upon going through trials, are like wood, hay, and straw. These individuals have at least two character flaws that contribute to their instability: (1) they put too much trust in men (or in the group) instead of in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:4) and (2) they refuse to quit their worldly habits (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). When they go through trials, these inconstant converts grow weak and renounce their commitment to follow Christ. They stop meeting with the local church and return to the world. Instead of being refined by trials, their relationship with God is destroyed because the trials are not accompanied by true faith (1 John 5:4).
What About Those Who Preached to Them?
Finally, Paul indicates that when a preacher’s work remains, he will receive a reward. The apostle John said: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). When converts do not persevere in the gospel and fall away because of trials, the one who preached to them “will suffer loss,” but “he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15) if he continues to persevere in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Accordingly, Paul himself speaks of the possibility of suffering “loss” if those who had been converted by his efforts had not persevered in the gospel (Galatians 4:11, Philippians 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 3:5).
What About Us?
What about us? Are we like gold, silver, and precious stones or wood, hay, and straw? Sooner or later, the trials of life will reveal “what we are made of.”