“Ye are God’s building.”—1 Cor. 3:9.
Who can help admiring the disinterested spirit of the apostle Paul? The Corinthians were divided into parties, at the head of each of which was some great man. Paul himself was one. But he disdained such a distinction. “Who is Paul? or who is Apollos?” “Ye are God’s building.” The emphasis of the text is here. “Ye are God’s husbandry, God’s building;” not ours. Then be not called after our name, but God’s. We are rather yours than you ours, ver. 22.
The building here alluded to is that of the temple, ver. 16, 17. The apostle expatiates upon the same idea in Eph. 2:20–22, which may be considered as the key to the text, and of which, in discoursing from it, I shall avail myself. “Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ—himself being the chief corner-stone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together, for a habitation of God, through the Spirit.”
This description will apply either to the Christian church at large, or to a particular church. There are four things observable in the apostle’s account of a building, each of which is applicable to a Christian church; it must be reared on a good foundation—it must be fitly framed together—it is supposed at present to be incomplete, but in a growing state—and the end for which it is built is, that it may be a habitation of God, through the Spirit.”
I. It must be reared on a good foundation.—On Jesus Christ, himself being the chief corner-stone. This is the foundation that God hath laid in Zion, Isa. 28:16. And all after builders must follow his example. The Jews refused it. They went on to build: but they were no longer “God’s building.”—The doctrine of Christ crucified was the foundation of the apostolic churches, and continued so for ages. When this doctrine was deserted and corrupted, men might call themselves the church, and greatly increase; but they ceased to be “God’s building.—This was the foundation laid at the Reformation; and while these continued, though accompanied with “wood, hay, and stubble,” God blessed the churches. But when these reformed churches went off into a mere heathen morality, God forsook them. They were no longer “God’s building.” Look at particular churches. It is this doctrine that God blesses for conversion. The building will not rise without it. Where Christ is left out as the foundation, he will say, as he did to the Jews of old, “As for your house, it is left unto you desolate.” I trust, my brethren, your minister will lay this foundation, and exalt the Saviour, and that you will encourage him in so doing.
II. It must be fitly framed together.—A building is not a mere assemblage of a heterogeneous mass of materials. This were a heap rather than a building. There are three things necessary to a building’s being fitly framed:—
1. The materials must be prepared before they are laid in it. Such were the orders concerning Solomon’s temple. There was to be no noise there, 1 Kings 6:7. You are few in number, my brethren; but do not be so anxious after increase as to lay improper materials. What if you could obtain hundreds of members, and they men of property; yet if they were haughty, self-willed, and worldly, how could they fit in with the humble, meek, and heavenly-minded?
2. That they be formed by the same rule. It is not enough that the roughnesses and protuberances of their characters should be smoothed down and polished off; they must be made to fit the foundation and each other; if the members of churches fit in with the foundation—with Jesus Christ, in his gospel, government, and spirit—there would be little danger of disunion among themselves. The great means of promoting religious union among Christians is, not by dispensing with disagreeable truth, but by aspiring to a conformity to Christ. Religious uniformity is like perfection in other things; we are not to expect it in this world; still it is our duty to aspire after it. There is no union any further than we agree; and no Christian union any further than that in which we agree is the mind of Christ. It will be of no account to be of one mind, unless that mind be the mind of Christ. The way therefore to promote Christian union is for each to think more, to read more, to pray more, to converse more, on the principles of the doctrine and example of Christ. God builds by rule. He conforms to the image of his Son; and so must you. The house must not be built according to your fancy, or your inclination, but according to the rules contained in the word of God. “See thou make all things according to the pattern.”—“Keep the ordinances as they are delivered unto you.” A neglect of holy discipline is the bane of the present age; but you must exercise a holy vigilance here, or you will not be God’s building.
3. That each shall occupy his proper place in the building. Some are formed to teach; others to be taught: some to lead; others to be led: some to counsel; others to execute. See that each is in his place, the situation for which he is formed, or you will not be in God’s building.
III. It is supposed at present to be incomplete, but advancing:—“It groweth unto a holy temple.” This is applicable to the church at large: it resembles Solomon’s temple—widest at the upper end, 1 Kings 6:6. The church has been widening from the commencement, and will still extend. And may we not hope that there will be some resemblance to this in particular churches? If you would answer to the spiritual model—be chaste, not admitting any rivals in your affections; zealous, spiritual, and faithful—and you will be God’s building, and you must increase.
IV. The end for which the building is reared—“For a habitation of God.” When men build a house, it is that it may be inhabited. So it is with God. If you are God’s building, it is that you may be the habitation of God. This is a vast blessing. “Will God in very deed dwell with men?” Yes. Christ “gave gifts to men, that the Lord might dwell among them.” He hath given you a pastor—that he might dwell among you.…
Excerpt from: “Christian Churches God’s Building,” Sermon LXXXIV in Sermon and Sketches.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 538–539). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.