Please read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 21-23 in your favorite Bible. I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.
Our common life is founded on the reality of God.
The Internet search company Google is probably the world’s biggest data collector. No surprise there. It may surprise you to hear they have spent millions of dollars measuring their own employees, attempting to learn how to compile “the perfect team.”
They assumed building good teams required combining the best people, but it wasn’t that simple. In 2012 Google started Project Aristotle. Abeer Dubey, a manager in Google’s People Analytics division “We looked at 180 teams from all over the company. We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’’
The study concluded that in good teams, members show sensitivity, listening to one another. This lead to a concept called “psychological safety;” a belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. That feeling of safety allows all members to contribute to the conversation knowing that their ideas and emotions will be respected. Putting together a successful team has less to do with who is on the team, more with how the members interact.
(Adapted from https://www.scoro.com/blog/teamwork-stories-importance-of-teamwork/ on 11/3/17.)
Once again, this is a case of science affirming what was already revealed to the writers of Scripture. We see affirmation of the fact that being a church requires an agreement to love one another.
Love forbears, forgives, and forgets. Love welcomes the practice of trial and error as a means of discovering God’s will and is never guilty of putting someone on trial for making an error.
In Christian families and churches we are called to create the kind of safe environment that Google’s data revealed as the most productive type of environment. Psychological Safety will exist among people who emphasize grace and gentleness. People who follow Jesus and who want their church to grow begin with love, which is manifest in purpose tempered by positivity, success achieved by means of interpersonal support.
Realistic Identity = Who are we?
a. We must not be worldly (vs. 1-4, 18-20).
b. We must be godly (vs. 16-17, 21-23).
First, godliness involves knowing who you are. According to this passage, you are GOD’S TEMPLE (16) and YOU TOGETHER ARE THAT TEMPLE (17). The Gk word for TEMPLE (naos) refers specifically to the building itself; the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, not the whole temple campus. This gives the analogy a depth of meaning.
Here in 1 Corinthians 3, believers joined together in a church form GOD’S TEMPLE. (See Ephesians 2:21-22 and 1 Peter 2:5.) Later, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul’s emphasis seems a bit more centered on individual believers as God’s dwelling-place:
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Individual believers being “little temples” (God’s “mobile homes,”) going about the world is a thought that follows Jesus’ description of Himself. He said His earthly body was a TEMPLE (JHN 2:19-21).
Whether together or apart, believers are God’s dwelling-place. That fact alone makes us responsible to behave like a believer everywhere we go.
How do we know we’re His temple? We know it is true because God the Father has given God the Spirit to us. This is what Paul meant when he wrote: GOD’S SPIRIT DWELLS IN YOUR MIDST. In 2 Corinthians 1:22 & 5:5, Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit is our GUARANTEE that all God’s promises are true; they will be kept.
Part of God’s guarantee is His promise to protect us. GOD’S TEMPLE is SACRED as indicated by His promise to avenge us against all who DESTROY us. The word SACRED means “holy” and “set apart.” It is a state of moral/spiritual purity and a state of separation from sin and worldliness, as we saw last week. DESTROY also means “to defile or corrupt,” so it doesn’t only mean persecution in the form of acts of physical violence. It includes spiritual corruption. This warning is not limited to persons outside the church. People inside the fellow-ship who are divisive or in any way impede the ministry of the church are in trouble.
Paul was concerned this is what was happening at Corinth. He didn’t exaggerate the situation: they were dividing over flagrant
immorality, idolatry, relationships between WEAK and STRONG members, Spiritual Gifts, mis-practiced communion and the resurrection, just to hit the highlights. Competitiveness and false doctrine had created separate parties in the church and anyone who pushed the success of their party over obedience to Christ was destroying the church. God Himself opposed them.
People of faith should be encouraged to know that God will defend His own. Justice will be served.
YOU ARE OF CHRIST AND CHRIST IS OF GOD explains how it is that ALL THINGS belong to God’s people. This is a theological statement that reveals the fact that God the Son and God the Father are one, just as Jesus said (see John 10:30).
– It is through our faith-relationship with Jesus Christ that the unlimited resources of God the Father are made available to us.
– In His death and resurrection, Jesus redeemed us. That is, He paid the price for our sins; He bought us out of slavery to sin.
– Through Jesus Christ – God the Son – we have access to God the Father, and that is the life-giving chain by which all this is possible.
Second, godliness involves knowing what is in store for you (21-23). Good things are in store for those who wait upon the Lord. Paul’s words ALL THINGS ARE YOURS (22) and ALL ARE YOURS (23) leave nothing to worry about. Because we have God’s unlimited provision in the PRESENT and FUTURE, we can obey God’s command in Philippians 4:6 = Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Your future does not depend on any of your leaders; WHETHER PAUL OR APOLLOS OR CEPHAS. This should be obvious; God is in charge. Church leaders have their roles to play, but God decides whether a church will be fruitful or not (as we’ll see in v. 7).
Your future does not depend on the WORLD’s approval or support. That’s good news because we can generally depend on the WORLD’s disapproval and, in some places, outright persecution.
Everything – LIFE and DEATH, PRESENT and FUTURE – is in God’s hands. God is going to work in favor of His family. He is going to work for the betterment of His children.
Our common life is founded on the reality of God.
Last week we observed that one of the appeals of the Christian faith is that we offer the world something real. We hold forth words of assurance that there is more to life than what the world offers. We can make such claims until we run out of breath, but when our actions are merely worldly, then the claim is denied.
We need to work at having a culture of safety in our church. Competition and condemnation shut down imagination and experimentation, which forbids the innovation we need to succeed.
Churches tend to fall into one of two extremes just because it’s easier to think in extreme terms. The one extreme exalts innovation. With an evolutionary point of view, the assumption is that newer is always better.
The other extreme is imitation. People in these churches have an opposing view that older is always better. They assume that if we better imitate the way we’ve always done things, recreating the good old days, they better off we will be.
A more biblically realistic view, but one that is more difficult to achieve, puts imitation and innovation on an equal level, understanding these are both merely tools to achieve what is our true goal: pointing people to God.
Philosophies and programs are not goals; they are means to the real goal, which is making Jesus Christ apparent in our lives, whether we are together in this building or apart from it. Good builders know how to use a variety of tools to complete their job. If all you have in your toolbox is a hammer, then hanging pictures is easy, but sawing wood is practically impossible.
What we see here in 1 Corinthians 3 is that God’s people use God’s methods and His tools to faithfully build more of Jesus in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.
Realistic Expectations = What can we do?
a. We must build on a good foundation (vs. 10-15).
b. We must be faithful builders (vs. 5-9).