(1 Corinthians 3: 9-17)
Today’s passage from the first Epistle to the Corinthians compares the faithful of the Church to a building, and our bodies (as Christians) with the holy temple of God. It is worth noting that St. Paul uses the word “building” in the sense that it is not finished and is a continuing work. To build properly, one has to lay the correct foundations. As St. Paul writes, acting as the “architect,” he set the “cornerstone,” Who is Jesus Christ. This stone cannot be moved anywhere else, nor can it be replaced. Anyone who comes to Corinth to serve the Church in the work of building up souls has to add to the already existing foundation, which is Christ. Everything that is taught must be based in the doctrinal and moral teaching of Christ.
The Holy Apostle begins the reading with a reminder that “we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (verse 9). It does not matter what work we do, be it apostle, preacher, or teacher because in the end, we are simple workers in the “employ” of Christ. He commissioned us to do this work, so whatever we do must be united with our Lord. With this, the construction can be completed successfully.
Of course we “fellow workers of God,” as St. Paul emphasizes, must be careful in choosing the right materials to build with. A regular building needs materials that can resist time, earthquakes, and harsh weather. For the building of the soul, we need the solid and eternal materials of Christ’s revealed truth. Words that are not merely pleasant to the ear, but those that keep people united with Christ.
Every Orthodox Christian has this responsibility to choose what is needed to shape the soul. To find the right people who will teach them and guide their lives. If these teachers are without the love of Christ and are ignorant of His will, then there is a real danger that the soul will crash, as a ship does when it hits a reef or rocks. It will sink. The same can be said for the types of books a Christian reads, or any other printed or electronic media. Such materials can influence a personality even without their realizing it. No matter how appealing they may be, a person has the power to avoid such things when they discover the truth that these things do not build up, but tear down what was built on the foundation laid down by Christ.
St. Paul then goes further. The building that he refers to is exalted, as the highest and holiest that can be built: It is “God’s temple!” From the moment we were baptized, cleansed from all sins, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit, we became the house of God! Every Christian respects the Church in which they were baptized and where they receive the Sacred Mysteries. They respect this place and would never allow themselves to disrespect or defile it. This is how Christians must act also with their own bodies as God’s house. To avoid sinful circumstances and activities, and not be involved with controversies or schisms. If a person does not do this, then the consequences will be disastrous. St. Paul is very clear on this point: “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him” (verse 17). This warning is not intended as a threat or curse, but to make us vigilant about what is at stake. “For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (verse 17).
After hearing these words from the Apostle Paul, who followed the steps of Christ in his life, let us seek genuine “materials” to build up our own lives on the foundation of Christ. Let us also stay away from anything that could lead to division or conflict, tearing down the holy temple of God and all those members of the Church who are a part of it.