SC Gen Session 2: Pennington on building the local church

Tom Pennington, Speaker

Tom opens by briefly reviewing George Barna’s Revolution, the book in which Barna pronounces the local church dead. In contrast, Tom builds off MacArthur’s message by stating “if you want to save the planet, build a biblical church.”

1 Corinthians 3 gives us the motto for church, specifically in vv. 9–17. We need to be constantly assessing how we build the church.

1. Build on the right foundation (1 Cor 3:10)
Paul says he laid the only legitimate foundation for the church: Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 2:20 (written about 6 years later), he further elaborates: the foundation is the what the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone. In 3:5, he explains that the apostles and prophets have received the revelation of Christ.

Either you will build your church on human wisdom, or you will build upon the revelation of Scripture.

The church is found only where people hear the Word of God.

2. Use the right materials (1 Cor 3:12)
It is not the six materials that are what Paul focuses on, but valuable vs. invaluable. The first group will not burn. In 146 BC, Rome burned Corinth to the ground, and in Paul’s day they were still rebuilding.

God will judge us on the character of our preaching and teaching. We are stewards, and we must be trustworthy with our handling of the mysteries of God. How do we prepare our messages?

Again, how do we prepare our hearts? What motives are important to God? Consider what Paul has already written in the first three chapters of Corinthians. In 1 Cor 1:1–17, we need to make our people more loyal to Christ than to us. In v. 18–31, we should be consumed with God’s glory, not our own accolades. In 2:1–16, we should be more concerned with people placing their faith in the power of God than our own wisdom. In 3:1–9, we must remind people of God’s work, not our own accomplishments, for we are mere workmen.

We can build on the right foundation but with all the wrong motives. Look at verse 13: “each man’s work.” God will judge us individually. God will reveal its nature and test its purity. In verse 15, the term “suffer loss” was used in building contracts, referring to a wage penalty for shoddy work.

3. Remember who owns it (1 Cor 3:16)
We,” plural, are the temple of God. We are building a temple of God, and we are to be holy. God is just as jealous of his spiritual church as the physical one, and we had better not damage it.

Be careful how you build the church.

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