309: Paul the Wise Masterbuilder – Lesson 3 Part 1 Book 26

Through the Bible with Les Feldick

LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 26

PAUL THE WISE MASTERBUILDER

Now for the beginning of our study we are going to pick up where we left off in our last lesson and that will be in I Corinthians chapter 3, verse 9. I’ve been emphasizing throughout this whole study of the Book of Corinthians (both letters really), that they were in response to questions from the congregation at Corinth. And remember that these believers at Corinth had come out of the most ungodly pagan, immoral background that you can imagine, and so it took them quite a while to get everything sorted out, and as a result of that Paul makes it very plain that the Corinthians were so carnal. They were not a spiritual Church like Ephesus or Philippi, but rather they were a Church that was beset with all kinds of problems. Now the first problems we noticed were their divisions, as some wanted to follow the teachings of Paul, some Apollos, some Peter, and yet others, Christ and His earthly ministry teachings. So this was causing a division in the Church, and Paul had to address it, and as he addressed that, he was constantly having to defend his apostleship.

In his early ministry he always went first to the Jew, to the synagogue where at least he would have a halfway civil hearing, and when the Jews would reject his message then he would go out into the Gentile areas, the marketplace, and whatever. But wherever he went there was that constant slur on the man, that he was an impostor. he wasn’t a true representative of Judaism, and he was a renegade Jew. He always has to come back and defend his apostleship and the fact that he is God’s man for the hour, and we’re going to see this especially now in verses 10 and 11. But now beginning in verse 9, after straightening up some of the problems Paul comes to these Corinthians, and always keep in mind that they’re carnal, but nevertheless they were still co-labourers with the apostle. That puts us in the same place in the fact that “We are also co-labourers all of us together to bring to fruition the eternal will of God.” And that of course to bring the “Body of Christ” to its completeness to where the Lord can take it unto Himself, and yet then be able to pick up where we left off with His Covenant people, Israel, after He Raptures out His Church. Now reading verse 9:

I Corinthians 3:9a

“For we are labourers together with God:…”

My, what a Partner we have here, have you ever thought of that? You know people a lot of time get wealthy because they got hooked up with a wealthy person. I’ve run into several people like that who just fall into wealth because they got hooked up with a wealthy person who already had things going. Well, we as believers have something even better than that, we are hooked up with the Creator God Himself. And we can just feed on all these promises day in and day out, and lots of time God doesn’t necessarily do it the way we think He should. But nevertheless He’s Sovereign, and in control, and even if we’re a little bit on the carnal side as the Corinthians were, that doesn’t cancel out the fact that we are still labourers with God, and I hope this study encourages those of us who are not spiritual giants.

I shared with my class last night that years ago I read a little book on true spirituality by the great Chinese Bible teacher, Watchman Nee, and this book on true spirituality just sort of made me feel so far beneath a man like him, and the thought came, “Who was I to even try?” And I almost got discouraged through the reading of it, but I think this is why Paul writes now to these Corinthians that they not become discouraged. Oh yes, they’re carnal, they’re still “Babes in Christ” but Who are they laboring with? The Eternal, Sovereign God. God wants to use every last one of us whether we’re weak babes, and maybe a little carnal, or whether we’re farther up the ladder, and more spiritual than even the average. So looking at the verse again:

I Corinthians 3:9

“For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”

Now do you see where the possession lies? All the possessive term is with God. He’s the Owner of everything, not just the cattle on a thousand hills, but rather He owns everyone of us. And of course He owns us by virtue of the redemption price of His shed Blood, and we will always preach that to people because it’s the “Preaching of the Cross” that gets people into this position, and nothing else will do. So as believers in the finished work of the Cross, yes God is our partner, God is our Overseer, He is the One that oversees everything that we say, think, and do. So we are His workmanship, as it says in the Book of Ephesians. We are His husbandry, and we are God’s building. Now we’re going to stay with that word “building” rather than the husbandry aspect because when we get down to verse 12 we are going to be dealing with building materials.

But let’s put that on hold for a moment because I want to come into verse 10 where Paul brings out something that just shook me up many years ago when I discovered it in that verse. I remember a man in one of my classes had been plaguing me with a particular question, and it was after I had taught the early chapters of Acts. This individual was highly educated, and came to me one evening after class, and said, “Now Les, after hearing you teach, and hearing you say over and over be just as careful what is not in the Scripture as what is in the Scripture, I’m suddenly beginning to wonder did the Church begin at Pentecost? Because there’s no Church language in these early chapters.” Now remember, I was raised traditionally like most people are, and told him I had never heard such a thing. “Well,” he said, “You’re the one who got me to study, you should be able to see that.” I said, “I know what you’re driving at, but I’ve never really caught it,” and I hadn’t. But with him egging me on I began to search these things, and almost every week he would ask me, “Well, what do you think?” And I would tell him that I hadn’t decided yet, and then finally the Lord, in His own time, showed me verse 10. Now I don’t say that if you don’t agree with me that you’re out in left field, or doomed, or anything like that, but I just maintain that if you see it the way it’s meant to be seen, then this Book is just going to open up like you’ve never seen it open up before. Now look what Paul says in verse 10:

I Corinthians 3:10a

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me,…”

Now always remember when Paul speaks in the first person of himself he’s not bragging, but rather he is writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: every word, even when he commends himself, is Holy Spirit inspired. Don’t forget that. Now reading on:

I Corinthians 3:10a

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon….”

Now I always ask my classes here in Oklahoma when we teach this verse, when any of you are building a home or building, and you need a contractor, when does your major contractor come into the scene? When the home is half built? No. When you first begin to lay plans to build that contractor comes right into the picture with you, he’s the one that goes out and stakes where it’s going to be built, and he’s the one who lays the foundation. Right from the beginning he is involved, and that’s the role of a masterbuilder. He is not someone who comes on the scene when the building is half built just to finish it up, but rather he’s going to be there from day one. That’s what the apostle is claiming to be, that he is the masterbuilder, and he’s speaking of course of the Church, the Body of Christ. Now completing the verse:

I Corinthians 3:10b

“…I have laid the foundation, (He’s been there from day one overseeing this building, which is the Body of Christ) and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed (Following in Paul’s footsteps) how he buildeth thereupon.”

Now you might say that’s not enough to convince you. Well then, let’s turn to the Book of I Timothy, Chapter 1, and verses 15 and 16. When you start studying all these verses, things start following, because that’s the way the Holy Spirit works. In this passage I couldn’t help but see this is a verse that I’d heard sermon after sermon where the preacher would use“chief of sinners” as making Paul (formerly Saul) the worst reprobate that had ever lived. Yes, he was awful, I mean let’s face it, he had persecuted those Jewish followers of Jesus of Nazareth. And do you remember why Paul was going to Damascus when he was struck down by the light? He was going to arrest those Jewish believers because he thought that to stamp out anything connected with Jesus of Nazareth was doing his God a favor. He was a religious nut, and that’s all there was to it. He was a fanatic who was trying to stamp out anything that would oppose Judaism. And we find that he regretted doing this, as it comes up through his letters how he persecuted those early Jewish believers.

For the most part Christendom has taken this verse as the “chief of sinners” that Paul was the worst that was ever saved. He was bad, there’s no doubt about that, and it was the Grace of God to the extreme that saved Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, we know that. But that’s not what verse 15 says. Now look at the verse with me.

I Timothy 1:15

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

Now most of Christendom takes that word `chief’ to make Paul the worst, but that’s not what the word `chief’ means. The word in the Greek is `Protus’ and now let’s look up where that term is used in other Scriptures. The first place I want to show you is in Luke Chapter 22. Remember this is the same Greek word that is used in I Timothy 1:15, and Jesus is speaking here:

Luke 22:26

“But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.”

Now look at that verse. Would it be fit to imply that Jesus was talking about somebody intrinsically bad, awful, and wicked? Of course not. But what was Jesus talking about? He that is the most prestigious among you. In fact I looked up “Protus” in the dictionary, and it means prestigious. Someone who was in leadership, someone who was at the head of the line. That’s what the word means, it doesn’t mean the worst. So Jesus is saying let him that is the most prestigious, the one that is at the head of everything, let him go to the bottom of the ladder. Now the next reference I want to take you to is in the Book of Acts chapter 14. And remember this is the same Greek word, `Protus’ Here in this passage Paul and Barnabas have come into Lystra, and they have performed a miracle, and so these pagans thought they were one of their pagan gods.

Acts 14:12

“And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.”

Does that mean Paul was the worst? Does that mean that he was vile? Does that mean he used awful language? No, he was the most important of the two. He was the chief speaker rather than Barnabas. Now I’m just trying to show you how the word is translated in all these other areas, and why have we twisted it to mean something entirely different? Now let’s go on to Acts chapter 28, and verse 7. This is what I call Bible study, this is the only way we can learn, you just compare Scripture with Scripture, and don’t just take what I say, but rather search the Scriptures. Now reading on, and this was just after the shipwreck where Paul and all that were on board made it safely to this little island called Melita.

Acts 28:7

“In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.”

Was this Publius a wicked man? Is that what the Scriptures are trying to tell us? Of course not, but rather Publius was the head honcho on the island. He was probably the governor, and consequently he was the chief of that island. Now let’s look at one more. Let’s turn to Romans Chapter 3, where the word `chief’ is an adverb, and so it’s a little different form of Greek, but the same root.

Romans 3:1,2

“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way (They had all kinds of advantages, they were the Covenant people, they had the Temple, they had the very blessing of Jehovah God upon them, but): chiefly, because that unto them (The Jews) were committed the oracles (Word) of God.”

So that wasn’t the worst thing about the Jews, but rather the most prestigious thing about the Jews was that they had the Word of God. Now coming back to I Timothy again, let’s look at that word `chief’ in that light. Remember it’s the same word we have been comparing. We have no right to put anything evil or wicked on the word `Protus’ that I can see.

I Timothy 1:15

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

Or the leader. Paul says, “I am the head of the line. I am the first to be saved by such Grace.” And I admit that it took the Grace of God to save that rebel who was trying to stamp out every instance of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. So God saved him by Grace. The verse does not imply that Paul was the worst, the most wicked, the most vile of all sinners. But instead Paul is the head of a line of sinners who would be saved like he was. And even though I may have never persecuted someone, or put people to death, yet I was just as great a sinner in God’s sight as Saul of Tarsus was, and so were you. Everyone of us was just as vile in God’s sight because the picture in Romans chapter 1, and another one in Corinthians, is not pretty at all. And Paul tells us that some were such as you, and some were such as us, but always remember the chief, the head of the line was saved first. And now down through the ages here we come being placed into the Body of Christ. Now come into verse 16, and this verse just makes it so plain and makes all the sense in the world. Now I never read commentaries, but once in a while someone will give me one, and when I look at them these writers skip over verses like this. They just pretend that these verse are not even in the Bible. I know why they do that, because they don’t want to stick their neck out like I’m doing today, because when you stick your neck out and say, “Hey, this is the way it really appears in Scripture,” the traditionalist is going to disagree. And that’s their privilege, I don’t mind that a bit, but I have to teach it this way and it just thrills my heart.

I Timothy 1:16

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first (Now first has always meant the same thing. It means at the head of the line.) Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

Now what’s a pattern? The first. If you’re cutting cloth, or lumber, you don’t make a bunch of things and then decide that you draw up a pattern. The pattern comes first. Do you see the connection now? Paul was the chief of sinners, a sinner saved by Grace. He was at the head of the line. He was number one. He was the pattern for all other sinners saved by that kind of Grace, especially Gentiles that will be following after him. He was the first to be placed in the Body of Christ. Now looking at the last of the verse again:

I Timothy 1:16b

“…for a pattern to them which should hereafter…”

Paul doesn’t say that is retroactive all the way back to Pentecost. But from that point onward from his conversion on the road to Damascus, from that point on God is going to be calling people into the Body of Christ which is a revelation given only to Paul. Watch all the rest of Scripture, and I don’t care whether it’s the Four Gospels, the Book of Acts, or in the Old Testament, there is no such thing in any other Scripture except in Paul’s writings that uses the term, “The Body of Christ.” Let’s look at the verses again so we don’t miss the point.

I Timothy 1:15,16

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (Remember, not the worst but the first, since Paul was going to play the role of being the Apostle of the Gentiles.) Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

Now with that I think we can come back to I Corinthians Chapter 3, and maybe this term, “Masterbuilder” will, I trust, make a little more sense. And like I said, Paul is always defending his apostleship, that he was the one that brought the Gospel to the Gentiles. He was the one that the ascended Lord had revealed to him all these mysteries. And in one of our classes we will cover all the mysteries given Paul. Paul is the only one that claims to have had revealed to him the mysteries. Now as we come back to I Corinthians let’s look at verse 10 once more:

I Corinthians 3:10a

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder,…”

Now what’s the other word tied to `wise’ that Paul has just been drumming into our minds these first three chapters here in I Corinthians? Wisdom. He’s always comparing the wisdom of God as over against the wisdom of this world. And how that the wisdom of this world knows nothing of the wisdom of God, and here in this verse he’s still sticking to that term `wisdom.’ As a masterbuilder with wisdom, is a way it could have been put. Now looking at the verse again:

I Corinthians 3:10a

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation,…”

Now you all know about buildings. The foundation is the heart of your building isn’t it? Whether it’s a home, or commercial building or whatever. If you have a rotten foundation then you will have a rotten building in short order. But when the foundation is solid and secure the rest of the building is apt to be the same. Paul is making that same analogy here. That unless our faith rests upon the foundation which he laid, which is Christ crucified, was buried and was risen from the dead (Ref. I Corinthians 15:1-4), unless that is our foundation, we’re hopelessly lost, and the world just can’t accept that. You know they call that exclusivism, and it is exclusivism, because there is no other Name given among men whereby we must be saved. It is Jesus Christ plus nothing, and faith in that finished work of the Cross. And so that’s the foundation that this man claims to be laying, for Jew and Gentile alike, but it’s going to end up primarily for the Gentile because the Jew is just going to reject it. So don’t lose sight of this fact that this man claims in Romans 11:13:

Romans 11:13

“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles,…”

And now to this Gentile Church he writes, “I have laid the foundation, (and that foundation is Jesus Christ of Nazareth) And another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”