The first question that Paul addresses today in I Corinthians 3 is whether he in fact is the founder of Christianity. It had been commonly claimed that Jesus only ever intended to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God by reforming Judaism, not to begin a new religion, and Paul is accused of being the actual founder of this new faith. In fact, Paul addresses this question by acknowledging that he was the founder of many different Christian communities, but in every instance all that he has done was to build on the work of Jesus the Messiah – using images of motherhood and farming to make his point. There can be no other foundation, other than his beloved Jesus.

He then talks about the different kinds of building materials that might be used, listing six types in two groups of three. The first three – gold, silver and precious stones – are what adorned the temple in Jerusalem and these will survive the pending fire; the second three –  wood, grass and straw – are clearly much more inferior and will not survive any kind of fire. His encouragement is to build worthily on the great foundation that has been given to us by the Lord, striving for something that will endure.

He brings this section that began in chapter 1 to a conclusion by reminding the community in Corinth that they are already the Temple of God – indeed, “God’s spirit lives in you!” Lest we attempt to read this through overly individualised western 21st century eyes, Paul uses the plural for you throughout this section – reminding us that it is only together that this is at all true. So let no one boast in this. Indeed, ‘It isn’t a matter of knowing that you’ve got it all together; you haven’t. It’s a matter of knowing that somewhere it is all together—and that you’re part of it.’

Paul then concludes this section by repeating this quite incredible declaration: “For everything belongs to you…” providing a list that is absolutely and completely inclusive of time and space and then concluding with the declaration and invitation: “And you belong to the Messiah;
and the Messiah belongs to God.”

Recorded at St Paul’s, 6pm (12mins)
Sunday 07, Year A. 1 Corinthians 3:16-23.