Fields or buildings, Paul’s point is the same in v.9: the church is the place for growth, change and development. The church is something living, a body of believers belonging to God, where He has appointed gifted and qualified leaders, and where all things are done for the glory of Christ. The church is therefore infinitely important and precious to God. No one, and especially, no leaders, should ever abuse it.
And yet the pride of men intentionally or unintentionally works against all of these truths, and blocks the work of God. Pride in our lives, our traditions, our comforts and our views, gets in the way of what God purposes to do. Pride opposes or fights over leaders, pride breeds exclusivism and lovelessness, and pride ends up dividing and discouraging churches. Pride is the Devil’s energy unleashed against the work of God, the church.
So Paul gets to work with the Corinthians. He is the appointed builder, who had laid solid Gospel foundations with them. But now he sees the false teachers the Corinthians so love as nothing but rookie builders, trying to win them by big promises and through even bigger personalities (v.10). He reminds them that a day is coming when “their work will be shown for what it is” (v.13). Even though the Corinthians have so far missed spotting the dangers, God has seen this shoddy “ministry” so-called, and will call them and all false teachers to account. And some will be saved with nothing to bring them any reward in the Lord’s sight – “as one escaping through the flames” (v.15).
Sometimes we fails to see how serious the Gospel-call is, and how high the stakes are as we seek to live for Christ. Paul reminds us that discipleship matters more than anything else: we are indwelt by God’s Spirit, and share His Spirit together as those in His temple, the church. We dare not be halfhearted about our salvation, or play dangerous games with the church: God guards His people jealously (v.17).
These truths are a call to take an honest look at ourselves. Do we revel in our supposed wisdom, or do we humble ourselves to trust in the apparent foolishness of the cross (v.18)? Do we place importance on our own assessment of ourselves, or on God’s (vv.19-20)? Do we recognise that we belong, body and soul, to Christ (v.21)? God knows and reveals the answers to these questions: are you clear about them, yet?