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Wicker & Stone | Corinth

Commentary on Paul’s Letters to the Corinthian Church

ARC Guide Level 1
Ideal for those getting acquainted with our thought process at Ammi Ruhama Community.

1 Corinthians 3:10-17

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled[b] master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 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. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you[c] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3:10-17 English Standard Version

Wicker Dwellings and Roman Villas

Paul builds out the construction metaphor and says that if another builder comes on site, assumingly Peter or Apollos or any other mature believer, that they must build on top of the foundation that is Christ and will be either rewarded or suffer great loss based on the work they have done when it is tested by fire (likely persecution). He says that the proverbial work being done is the building of the temple of God which is done to specification (by the Spirit) and that anyone who thinks they can build using the materials they are used to building with like wood, hay and stubble; the usual iron age building materials for a double walled, wicker dwelling stuffed with straw for insulation and topped with a stubble roof, will find that these are unfit materials for the house of God and will burn up in the day of testing. These materials are used symbolically for the wisdom of the world, while the adornments of gold, silver and precious stones are symbolic of the wisdom from the Spirit. One type of dwelling comes from a deep, generational custom, especially among the farming community of building the same dwelling, the same way every ten to fifteen years and moving with the land when it goes fallow. The builder of the wicker dwelling builds only for themselves for the next 10-15 years. The builder of a Roman Villa, by contrast, does so not only for their own sake but for the sake of generations who would come after them. In this way, Paul sees his work and the work of Peter, Apollos and the other mature believers as progressive to the point of testing. If what is built on top of the foundation is made of wood hay and stubble, it will need to be rebuilt every ten to fifteen years and moved to where the soil seems more fertile as the common human wisdom says. However, if what is built is made with permanent things and adorned with gold, silver and precious stones like the temple of Solomon then the world will come to us to marvel at the beauty of the temple which we have built to God. The twist is that we collectively; the whole people of God who have received mercy are the temple of God built either with wood hay and stubble or adorned with silver, gold, and precious stones and headed for the day of testing. Will we burn up and move to more fertile ground to build another straw hut, or will we build the house of God on the foundation that is Christ and adorn it with silver, gold and precious stones?

Plural Not Singular

This is not a new passage to most of us. We have heard this passage preached again and again and again as a personal call to holiness, but it is in fact a continuation of Paul’s analogy of the one who plants and the one who waters, only this analogy focuses on the one who lays the foundation and the one who builds on it. It is Paul’s version of, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. When Paul says, “do you (plural) not know that you (plural) are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells within you (plural),” this is another corralling statement by Paul to say that the Spirit of God is in all of us that we have all been given a portion of the Spirit of God and so when we dwell in unity we adorn ourselves as the temple of God with silver and gold and precious stones, and that the world sees us and marvels at the beauty of the temple and proclaims that Jesus was sent from the Father. However, when we live in our little enclaves we build ugly little huts of human wisdom for ourselves until the next wave of popular Christianity moves through and the fallow land around us causes us to burn our old models and move on to the next big thing; a slightly bigger wicker hut.

Ammi Ruhama Community Christian Union

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