1 Corinthians 3:10
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.
When I was in college, I was not very excited about history. Too often, history was taught in a dry, boring manner. Other topics seemed much more interesting to me. When I got to Seminary, I had to take Church history. It was one class among many, and it did not grab my attention. I waded through Church history in the same way I waded through World history.
A number of years ago, I developed a series of classes that I taught on Sunday nights. One of those classes was on Church history. As much as I had not been thrilled by Church history in the past, something had changed for me. I had started to put the pieces of the puzzle together in some new ways. I began to see how the events and people of the past had laid a foundation for who the Church is today. I began to discover the answer to the “Why do we do that” question. I also began to become aware of the answer to the “Why is that important” question. Church history began to make more sense to me. It also took on greater meaning and importance. I realized that, if we are going to be fruitful in ministry going forward, we need to be aware of where we have come from.
Although our faith history begins with Genesis 1:1, Church history begins with the New Testament, and, in particular, the book of Acts. In the book of Acts, we see the birth and the growth of the Church. Through the first 12 chapters of Acts the main character is Peter. But in chapter 13 the focus shifts to Paul. While Peter’s ministry was primarily to Judah, Paul carried the good news of Jesus into the rest of the world. Everywhere that Paul went he established small groups of believers, who were knit together by the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Later on, Paul wrote letters to those little bands of believers to encourage and strengthen them in the faith. We are the beneficiaries of the truth and wisdom of those letters.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth Paul wrote the following. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
Paul stated clearly that he had laid a spiritual foundation for the Church. That foundation is secure. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that Jesus died on a cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures. Because of what He did for us on the cross, we can be forgiven, redeemed, and restored into a proper relationship with God. That is the foundation of the Church, the foundation of our faith.
Paul went on to say that each of us is building on that foundation. The way we build, the materials we use as we build, matter. Our efforts will be tested by God. If what we have done passes the test, we will receive our reward. If it does not pass the test, it will be lost.
Church history is the record of that building process. As we look back, we can see both gold and silver, and wood and hay. There are parts of Church history that shine light the sun. There are parts of Church history that are as dark as any night. Both the bright spots and the dark times have played a part in shaping and molding the Church today. But the building process is not over.
We, the Church of today, are standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We are placing new stones on old foundations. We are part of creating a spiritual house where the very presence of God may dwell. Therefore, we must be careful how we build. We cannot afford to ignore the lessons of the past. If we do, we will surely repeat the failures of the past.
Let us rejoice in the solid foundation that has been laid in the past. Let us also build on that foundation carefully, with wisdom and discernment. How we build today will set the course for generations to come.
1 Peter 2:4-5
As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.