The disciples of Jesus marveled when they saw Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. Once, as they were leaving the temple precincts, one of Jesus’ disciples said: “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Mark 13:1–2).
Paul probably wrote 1 Corinthians around 55 A.D., fifteen years before Jesus’ prediction would come to pass. But it was already clear that a fundamental change had taken place. Christ’s death on the cross had fulfilled the Old Testament law and made all its sacrifices redundant (Heb. 10:1–18). In today’s passage, Paul is speaking of a new temple, which is the church. God is its ultimate builder, and He works through chosen servants (1 Cor. 3:10–15).
Paul mixes metaphors in this passage and describes the church as a field where one plants and another reaps. His twofold point is simple. He warns all who work on God’s behalf to do their work carefully. Likewise, he cautions those who benefit from these workers to understand that they are merely servants “as the Lord has assigned to each his task” (v. 5).
Paul’s warning is especially relevant in today’s celebrity-worshiping culture. In the last few years, we have seen the tragic fall of several notable leaders whose celebrity status made them vulnerable. Because of their status, they came to see themselves as special cases. The church was complicit in this by failing to hold such leaders accountable and explaining away their behavior. It hurts the church when its members are critical and fail to hold their leaders in high regard. It is just as damaging when believers forget that their leaders are merely servants and treat them in an idealistic way.
>> Pray for your church’s leaders today. Ask God to encourage them in their ministry and keep them faithful. Consider sending your pastor or another church leader an email or a note of appreciation for all they do.