Commentary by Walter Albritton

June 18, 2006


Building Together as a Team on the Foundation of Christ


1 Corinthians 3:1-15


Key Verse: For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. – 1 Corinthians 3:9

God’s servants catch a vision of the future by standing on the shoulders of servants who went before them. We all benefit from the labor of those who worked faithfully before we ever picked up the first tool.

A team of men and women from Demopolis, Alabama, went with me to serve Christ in Haiti for two weeks. Our hosts were a missionary family that had worked in that poverty-stricken land for 30 years. They knew the people; they understood the culture. About all this our team was ignorant.

Our team also quickly became impatient. We complained because supplies were not already on hand for the work we planned to do. Our hosts wisely invited us to relax, put our watches away, and get to know the people. We put our agenda aside. Supplies were secured and two days later we began our work – with a slightly different attitude.

We were assigned the task of roofing a building near the beach. It was part of a youth camp. We were told two other mission work teams had begun construction of the building. The first team laid a good, solid foundation. The second team erected the walls. Our job was to construct the roof. First we had to frame it, and then cover it with ply board on which we nailed the galvanized tin sheets.

The work required a division of labor. Some of the younger guys worked on the roof. My job was to hand up the sheets of ply board and tin after others had cut them the right size. The toughest part of my job was to cut some of the sheets of tin to the correct size with tin snips. I can still recall how painfully cramped my hands became.

The team worked hard and finally completed the roof. We were exhausted but satisfied by what we had achieved. We began where others had left off and finished roofing a large chapel. There was much more work to be done by others inside the building. We were encouraged to know that other work teams were coming to finish the job.

What we did was important but it was only one part of the building process. We experienced tension among ourselves, struggling at one time with an angry dispute between two of our men. But we resolved our differences. We resisted Satan’s efforts to rupture our fellowship. Our team was stronger at the end because we had managed to put Christ first and remember that we were his servants and we were a team.

Few things in life are more fulfilling than to work together as God’s servants to accomplish a task that honors Jesus Christ. As a pastor I see this happening all the time. A group of women work together to create Raggedy Ann dolls and then deliver those dolls to a center that works with abused women and children. You can “see” the joy in the eyes of those women

for having worked together for the glory of God.

          Satan can rob us of our joy if he can persuade us to think that what we do is more important than what others do. Our fellowship can be disrupted also when other people make some of us “stars” and give us more credit that we deserve. This leads to confusion and hurt feelings.

          Paul had it right. He insisted that he and Apollos were only servants of God. Paul could plant the seeds. Apollos could water the seeds. But only God could make the seeds come alive and grow. So what matters most is God and what he can do, not his servants and what they can do. Paul understood well the teaching of his Lord: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  

          I have a longstanding aversion to the idea that as Christians we are building God’s kingdom on earth. Pride slips so easily into that concept¸ causing us to think too much of our role. If we use the analogy of building we must do so with the attitude Paul had about planting and watering – what we do is nothing unless and until God adds to it what he alone can do. God is the Architect and the Builder; we are workers he can use if our hearts are right.

          We can avoid the snare of pride by affirming that it is God who builds his kingdom. To borrow a phrase from Jesus, our part is to receive the kingdom, to let it “come” so that his will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.

God has laid the foundation for the kingdom and that foundation is Jesus Christ. We may allow the kingdom to come, to be built, by humbly working together in tasks large and small as servants of Christ. When the kingdom has finally become a reality, its builder and maker will have been God. Thankfully he has invited us to have a small role in the construction. 

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