Building on a Right Foundation with Fire-Resistant Materials
“Each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire; and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is.”—1 Cor 3:13.
1. How do fire-resistant materials put into a building, at extra cost, prove their worth?
THERE is a great safeguarding and salvaging of costly buildings by making them fireproof. This is largely done by making them of fire-resistant materials. If a local fire were started in a fireproof building, it would be hard for it to spread and finally envelop the whole building in flames and reduce it to ashes. If a general conflagration were started in the surrounding community, the fireproof building would remain, somewhat tarnished in outward appearance and smelling of the singeing fire, but standing structurally, just the same. The fire-resistant materials put into the building would thus prove their worth, and the extra cost of labor and money would have justified itself.
2. How does the classification of a fireproof building by the National Building Code emphasize the vital part played by construction materials?
2 Thus it would pay for a builder to conform to the National Building Code, which classifies a fireproof building as “one in which the structural members are of non-combustible construction having a fire resistance of four hours for exterior walls, columns and wall-supporting girders and trusses; and a three hour fire resistance rating for floors and walls. All exterior and interior weight-bearing walls are of masonry and reinforced concrete.” (The Encyclopedia Americana, 1956 edition, Volume II, page 246, under “Fire Protection”) Very plainly the construction materials of a superstructure on any foundation play a vital part.
3, 4. What element destroyed Herod’s temple at Jerusalem, and how did this occur?
3 One of the grandest, costliest buildings in human history was destroyed by fire. This was the temple built by King Herod the Great on the same site where King Solomon of Jerusalem had built his magnificent temple, which likewise had been the victim of fire. Regarding the destruction of Herod’s temple nineteen hundred years ago, a Cyclopædia* tells us:
4 “During the final struggle of the Jews against the Romans, A.D. 70, the Temple was the last scene of the tug of war. The Romans rushed from the Tower of Antonia into the sacred precincts, the halls of which were set on fire by the Jews themselves. It was against the will of [the Roman general] Titus that a Roman soldier threw a firebrand into the northern outbuildings of the Temple, which caused the conflagration of the whole structure, although Titus himself endeavored to extinguish the fire. . . . [The Jewish historian Flavius] Josephus remarks, ‘One cannot but wonder at the accuracy of this period thereto relating; for the same month and day [the tenth day of the fifth lunar month called Ab] were now observed, as I said before, wherein the holy house was burned formerly by the Babylonians. Now the number of years that passed from its first foundation, which was laid by King Solomon, till this its destruction, which happened in the second year of the reign of [Emperor] Vespasian, are collected to be one thousand one hundred and thirty, besides seven months and fifteen days; and from the second building of it, which was done by Haggai in the second year of Cyrus the [Persian] king, till its destruction under Vespasian there were six hundred and thirty-nine years and forty-five days.’”
5. How was King Solomon’s temple destroyed, and by whom?
5 As regards the destruction of Solomon’s temple at Jerusalem by the conquering king of Babylon in 607 B.C.E., the Bible historian tells us: “And he proceeded to burn the house of the true God and pull down the wall of Jerusalem; and all its dwelling towers they burned with fire and also all its desirable articles, so as to cause ruin.”—2 Chron. 36:19; Jer. 52:12-14.
6. (a) Why did no statue of Jehovah perish with the destruction of those temples of Jerusalem? (b) In behalf of Jehovah’s worship, what building is now being constructed, and according to what Building Code?
6 No statue or image of the God worshiped at those temples of Jerusalem perished in the flames, because the God who was there worshiped forbade any idol image to be made by His worshipers. (Ex. 20:1-6) Furthermore, the worship of the God who was adored at those temples survived the destruction of those material temples and has survived till today and is, in fact, flourishing. This God needs no material temple in which to be worshiped here on earth. Still, in behalf of his worship, he is constructing the grandest temple of all time. (Isa. 66:1; 1 Ki. 8:27-30; Acts 17:24-28) This temple will stand eternally, for it is being made of fire-resistant materials. It will pass unscathed through the fire of the world’s coming day of trouble, and it will shine with even greater glory and beauty for the experience. In its design and in the materials of its construction, this temple is being conformed to no Building Code and fire-protection regulations of any earthly nation. It is being conformed to the Building Code of the Supreme Designer, the Creator of heaven and earth. It is being built with the materials that he specifies and can supply.
7. How does the time of construction of Jehovah’s eternal temple compare with that of Herod’s temple and that of Saint Peter’s Basilica?
7 God the Creator has been at the building of this temple longer than the time spent on putting up any other building ever constructed. Regarding Herod’s temple, the Jews said to Jesus Christ nineteen centuries ago: “This temple was built in forty-six years.” (John 2:20) The main building of Roman Catholicism, Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, was founded by Emperor Constantine the Great in the fourth century and it was still under construction in the days of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther, in the sixteenth century. But God has been constructing his eternal temple of worship from the days of the apostles of Jesus Christ in the first century till now, and only now, more than nineteen centuries later, is it near completion.
8. (a) In the temple construction work, whom is God pleased to use? (b) How does Paul argue that point and also warn against sectarianism in the congregation?
8 In the construction of his fire-resistant temple, God has been pleased to use fellow builders here on earth. Are you a fellow builder with God in this temple construction? The Christian apostle Paul was one; so was an eloquent Christian disciple with whom he was acquainted, Apollos, a converted Jew of Alexandria, Egypt. Concerning their working together with God, the apostle Paul wrote to the Christian congregation in ancient Corinth, Greece, and warned them against becoming sectarian followers of any religious man, saying: “When one says: ‘I belong to Paul,’ but another says: ‘I to Apollos,’ are you not simply men? What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow. Now he that plants and he that waters are one, but each person will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.”—1 Cor. 3:4-9.
9. How was Paul a planter, for instance, with reference to the Corinth congregation?
9 Planting comes before watering; and the apostle Paul, being likened to the planter, was doing the initial or opening work. He was doing the pioneering in behalf of Christianity. This was true with reference to the Christian congregation there in Corinth. Paul arrived there as a missionary and began preaching Jesus as the Jewish Messiah in the synagogue. Later it became necessary for Paul to transfer the believing Jews to a meeting place in a house next to the synagogue. Paul baptized Crispus, the presiding minister of the synagogue, and his family, also a believer named Gaius, and also the household of Stephanas.
10. How did Apollos come to water what Paul had planted at Corinth?
10 After his teaching Christianity there for a year and a half, conditions arose that made it advisable for Paul to go to Jerusalem. On his way there he stopped at Ephesus in Asia Minor, leaving his traveling companions Aquila and Priscilla there. (Acts 18:1-22; 1 Cor. 1:13-16) Later Apollos, partially instructed in Christianity, came to Ephesus and preached in the synagogue. Aquila and Priscilla got acquainted with him and explained Christianity more fully. As Apollos now wanted to go to Achaia (Greece), the Christian brothers in Ephesus sent along with him letters of recommendation. Thus Apollos got in contact with the congregation in Corinth and did a helpful work among them. Figuratively speaking, he watered the seed that the apostle Paul had planted. (Acts 18:24 to 19:1) Who, though, produced the growth? It was God.
11. (a) By his work at Corinth, what was Paul really planting? (b) Who caused the growth, and to whom did the field of growing products belong?
11 What was the seed that Paul planted in Corinth? It was Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ. The case was like that of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds (tares). Jesus said: “The field is the world [of mankind]; as for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom.” (Matt. 13:38) Paul was preaching and was planting, not just the seeds of Christian truth, but Christians, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was ‘making disciples,’ as Jesus told his followers to do. (Matt. 28:19, 20) As Paul was a fellow worker of God, it was correct for Paul to say to the congregation of believing, baptized Corinthians: “You people are God’s field under cultivation.” (1 Cor. 3:9) It was really God who made the members of that congregation grow as Christians. It was really God who brought them to life as disciples of Jesus Christ his Son. Paul was merely a fellow worker, whom God had used to bring the life-giving good news about Christ to them, which good news Paul had got from God. So that field of growing Christians did not really belong to Paul. It belonged to God as the true and rightful Owner. So unless God imparted his blessing and spirit, all the work that Paul or Apollos did would be without results.
12, 13. (a) How do these facts affect the matter of setting up religious sects? (b) How many ministers are we entitled to have, and, as disciples, whom should we follow?
12 Hence the credit for Christian growth or existence was not to be given either to Paul or to Apollos. Also, the members of the Christian congregation in Corinth were not obligated to become followers of either Paul or Apollos, who were mere “ministers,” servants, by means of whom the Corinthians believed. Rather, they were to be followers, disciples of God, the Owner and the One with the power to make Christians come into existence and grow to maturity. How narrow-minded it was, therefore, to set up religious sects and follow prominent men! God is so much bigger than a mere man and than all men put together. Even those men whom he uses as ministers belong to God, and so in the final analysis everything belongs to God.
13 We do not belong to any minister, and we are entitled not to have just one minister from God. We should be enjoying the ministry of all his ministers. “Hence,” as Paul says, “let no one be boasting in men; for all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas [Peter] or the world [of mankind] or life or death or things now here or things to come, all things belong to you; in turn you belong to Christ; Christ, in turn, belongs to God.” (1 Cor. 3:21-23) So let us follow God, recognizing his ownership of us and of all who are his special ministers in our behalf.
14. (a) Besides a farmer, to what else is God likened in his work with Christians? (b) Hence, what also are workers with God, and, besides being offspring of Adam, what else can we be today?
14 God’s work with regard to Christians may be compared not only to farming but also to building. God is a Builder, an Erector of a building; and if we are “God’s fellow workers,” then we must be builders also. This is the inescapable fact that the apostle Paul reminds us of by saying: “We are God’s fellow workers. You people are . . . God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9) Do we grasp that thought? “People” are God’s building. It is a staggering thought for a person to realize that, aside from being a descendant of God’s first human creation Adam, he is built by God, he is part of God’s building of a particular kind. All men are offspring of God’s first human creation, but how many today are “God’s building”?
15, 16. (a) In his building operation whom on earth is God pleased to use? (b) Do all have the same assignment of work, and how did Paul illuminate this fact in 1 Corinthians 3:10, 11?
15 In this building work, God is pleased to use human “fellow workers.” What part of the work does a human fellow worker do? Not all fellow workers have the same part or same type of work to perform in the building activity. Some may have a more prominent or important part, according to the undeserved kindness of God granted to them. The apostle Paul saw and appreciated his own special assignment of work. He tried to shoulder the responsibility of it, not sidestepping the extra calls, the continual calls, that it made upon him. So, describing his own special work, particularly in connection with the Corinth congregation, Paul wrote:
16 “According to the undeserved kindness of God that was given to me, as a wise director of works I laid a foundation, but someone else is building on it. But let each one keep watching how he is building on it. For no man can lay any other foundation than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”—1 Cor. 3:10, 11.
17. In what part of the building was Paul, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, especially interested, and how does Revelation 21:9-14 show the fitness of this?
17 Having been made an “apostle of Jesus Christ through God’s will,” Paul had a part in God’s building program like that of a “director of works” or master builder or chief artificer. As such, Paul would be interested in the building from the bottom up, for, as a wise director of works, he knew how important the foundation of a building is. Christian apostles had to do with the foundation work of the congregation, for, in Revelation 21:9-14, the congregation under Christ is likened to a city, New Jerusalem, and the foundations of this symbolic heavenly city are said to be apostles, “the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (1 Cor. 1:1, 2) It was very fitting that Paul always tried to be in on the groundwork of the Christian building program. He made it his special effort to do pioneering in new, unworked territory. Thus he could say:
18. With regard to his working territory with the good news, what did Paul write to the Romans?
18 “I will not venture to tell one thing if it is not of those things which Christ worked through me for the nations to be obedient, by my word and deed, with the power of signs and portents, with the power of holy spirit; so that from Jerusalem and in a circuit as far as Illyricum [part of what is today Yugoslavia] I have thoroughly preached the good news about the Christ. In this way, indeed, I made it my aim not to declare the good news where Christ had already been named, in order that I might not be building on another man’s foundation; but, just as it is written: ‘Those to whom no announcement has been made about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.’ Therefore also I was many times hindered from getting to you [Romans]. But now that I no longer have untouched territory in these regions, and for some years having had a longing to get to you whenever I am on my way to Spain, I hope, above all, when I am on the journey there, to get a look at you and to be escorted part way there by you after I have first in some measure been satisfied with your company.”—Rom. 15:18-24.
19. In his appreciation of the vital part of a building, how did Paul show he had the spirit of God and of Christ?
19 In this way Paul had, not only the hard work, but also the pleasure of getting things started and then seeing them grow. He knew that a builder could get things started off in a wrong direction, or on an improper footing. He appreciated so much the importance of a right and good foundation for things. In this regard he had the spirit of God and of Christ. God, the great Builder of all things, emphasized the importance of a foundation when he said to the God-fearing Job: “Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you do know understanding. Who set its measurements, in case you know, or who stretched out upon it the measuring line? Into what have its socket pedestals been sunk down, or who laid its cornerstone?” (Job 38:4-6) Jesus Christ illustrated the importance of a firm foundation when he said: “He is like a man building a house, who dug and went down deep and laid a foundation upon the rock-mass. Consequently, when a flood arose, the river dashed against that house, but was not strong enough to shake it, because of its being well built.”—Luke 6:47, 48.
20. (a) To be a fellow worker of God, to whose specifications must one give regard? (b) Why could a fellow worker of God not lay a foundation other than the one that Paul laid?
20 A person could not be a fellow worker of God and at the same time disregard the specifications of God, who is the Main Builder and to whom the building is to belong. With regard to the base on which the building rests, God approves of only one foundation for it. The apostle Paul knew what that foundation was. When he founded the Corinth congregation, this was the foundation that he laid in order to work in harmony with God and have God’s approval upon his work. Every other fellow worker of God had to recognize that foundation that Paul had laid and then build upon it rather than try to lay some other foundation and transfer the superstructure to that other foundation. That was why Paul warned: “No man can lay any other foundation than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11) This was the rock-mass to which the Lord Jesus referred when he said to the apostle Peter: “On this rock-mass I will build my congregation, and the gates of Haʹdes will not overpower it.”—Matt. 16:18.
21. As regards baptism in water, how did Paul lay Jesus Christ as the foundation?
21 Pioneering Paul said with regard to the Corinth congregation: “I laid a foundation.” (1 Cor. 3:10) Now, in what way did Paul lay Jesus Christ as the foundation? Well, when Paul first came to Corinth to preach, he did not preach Simon Peter or Cephas, nor the eloquent Apollos, nor even himself; nor did he baptize anybody there in his own name. In a challenge he could say to them: “No one may say that you were baptized in my name.” (1 Cor. 1:15) Shortly after having left Corinth, Paul was reported as being in Ephesus and there baptizing in Jesus’ name. (Acts 19:1-7) So he baptized in the same name in Corinth.
22, 23. (a) When working with the Jews in Corinth, how did Paul lay Jesus Christ as the foundation? (b) Because of his being the Foundation, Jesus Christ was made by God to be what to his disciples?
22 The apostle Paul laid Jesus Christ as a foundation in that he taught that Jesus Christ is the basis for our salvation from sin and death. The record of Paul’s pioneer work in Corinth says plainly: “He would give a talk in the synagogue every sabbath and would persuade Jews and Greeks. When, now, both Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began to be intensely occupied with the word, witnessing to the Jews to prove that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 18:1-5) Even in that land of pagan Grecian philosophy Paul did not try to blend Jesus Christ with intellectual pagans or worldly-wise philosophy, but he preached Jesus Christ impaled on a torture stake as a human sacrifice to God. Paul says:
23 “Christ dispatched me, not to go baptizing, but to go declaring the good news, not with wisdom of speech, that the torture stake of the Christ should not be made useless. For both the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks look for wisdom; but we preach Christ impaled, to the Jews a cause for stumbling but to the [non-Jewish] nations foolishness; however, to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men. But it is due to him that you are in union with Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God, also righteousness and sanctification and release by ransom; that it may be just as it is written: ‘He that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.’”—1 Cor. 1:17, 22-25, 30, 31; Jer. 9:24.
24. When coming into the stronghold of pagan philosophy such as Corinth was, whom did Paul persist in preaching, and why?
24 When Paul came to Corinth to preach the good news, he was not overawed by the worldly wisdom of the pagan Greeks. He did not try to display great intellectualness in a worldly way in order to compete with Greek philosophy and to show that he was smarter than pagan philosophers and thus to win followers. He did not try to tickle the ears of men who were seeking worldly wisdom, human theories and philosophies. He came there to lay Jesus Christ as a foundation for a Christian congregation. “And so,” says he, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom declaring the sacred secret of God to you. For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and him impaled. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling; and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power, that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power.”
25. In a situation like that of Paul in Corinth, how may a pioneering Christian feel, but what can he do?
25 Thus, like Paul the apostle, a pioneering Christian today may be trembling and feeling quite weak on coming into a stronghold of worldly philosophic wisdom. Yet he can make a demonstration of God’s spirit and power and establish the faith of others in God.
26. (a) How did the Lord encourage Paul in Corinth, and so what did he do? (b) Why was the Corinth congregation found still standing years after that?
26 Little wonder that it was necessary for the Lord to encourage Paul in Corinth, just as we read: “By night the Lord said to Paul through a vision: ‘Have no fear, but keep on speaking and do not keep silent, because I am with you and no man will assault you so as to do you injury; for I have many people in this city.’ So he stayed set there a year and six months, teaching among them the word of God.” (Acts 18:9-11) God’s Word was not put to rout by worldly-wise pagan philosophy. The congregation that Paul founded in Corinth was still there and flourishing years later when Paul wrote his first and second letters to the Corinthian Christians. It had been founded on a right foundation. It could stand firm.
See Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M’Clintock and Strong, Volume 10, page 252, paragraph 1. Also, see Wars of the Jews, vi, 4, by Flavius Josephus.