Paul The Masterbuilder
AND THE OTHER BUILDERS
In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians there is a passage which every
preacher and Christian worker ought to ponder over prayerfully.
I COR. 3:10-15
"According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise
master builder, I [Paul] have laid the foundation, and another buildeth
thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus
"Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious
stones, wood, hay, stubble;
"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it,
because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work
of what sort it is.
"If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive
"If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself
shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
It is plain that this solemn warning is sounded particularly to Christian workers
and spiritual leaders, the builders of the Church.
In Verse 9 he says, "For WE are laborers together with God… YE are God's
building." In other words, Paul and those associated with him as workers for
Christ were the builders, while the Corinthian believers as a body were the
building - part of that greater building which is called the Church.
In order to get the full significance of this passage let us consider another
which centers, not around Paul, but around Peter.
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His
disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
"And they said, some say that Thou art John the Baptist; some Elias;
and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
"He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
"And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the
"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona:
for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father
which is in heaven.
"And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will
build My Church; and the gates of hell shah not prevail against it.
"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and
whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and
whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Note carefully that it was Peter's confession that won for him the name "rock"
or "stone," and it was upon this confession that Christ was to build His Church. It
is a great mistake to make Peter himself the foundation for we have just seen
from I Cor. 3:11 that "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is
But notice that Peter confessed Jesus as "the Christ (Heb. the Messiah), the
Son of the living God."
For some time John the Baptist, Christ and the twelve had been crying to
Israel, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The kingdom of heaven,
the Church of which our Lord spoke was, of course, to be set up on earth, for the
Old Testament abounds with prophecies concerning the rule of the heavens on
earth with Christ as King. Now the twelve were told to preach the kingdom (Matt.
10:7) to practice it (Matt. 10:8-10) and to pray for it. (Matt. 6:10, "Thy kingdom
come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.")
Peter's confession agrees with Nathanael's: "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God;
Thou art the King of Israel" (John 1:49).
Thus it was Peter's confession "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living
God," upon which this Church and kingdom were to be built. That is, it was to be
built upon a recognition of Jesus as Christ - Messiah.
This is not to minimize, for a moment, the importance of Peter's position in the
building of this Church, for in view of the Lord's rejection, Peter, as the leader of
Israel's twelve future judges (Matt. 19:28) is given the keys of the kingdom of
heaven. He is given the power to admit or shut out. In this passage (Ver. 19)
Peter is told, even before the others (Matt. 18:18), Whatsoever thou shalt bind on
earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall
be loosed in heaven." That is, he was given official powers until Christ Himself
should return and the twelve should judge and reign with Him.
Before our Lord left this world He went so far as to say to His apostles,
"Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit they are
remitted unto them and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained"
(John 20: 22, 23).
Confused Protestantism has had a difficult time explaining these verses to
Roman Catholics, and we shall presently see why.
However, these high official powers, including even the remission of sins,
should be viewed in the light of Acts 2:4 and 38.
"And they [the twelve] were all filled with the Holy Ghost."
"Then Peter said unto them [the Jews], Repent, and be baptized
even/one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins... "
In their official capacity the apostles were fully under the control of the Holy
We know, however, that Israel did not repent as a nation and the building of
that Church could not go on to completion. With Messiah, the Foundation and
Comer Stone rejected, the building lay in ruins.
It was when Israel resisted the Holy Spirit and refused to acknowledge even
the risen Lord as Christ that God began to unfold the mystery of His purpose and
grace. They had refused to build upon the foundation which Peter had laid. Now
God was going to build another building.
The blessing of the nations through Israel was to be held in abeyance until a
future day (Cf. Rom. 15:8,9 with Rom. 11:15,25,26). He would cast Israel away
nationally (Rom. 11:15) so that He might deal with the whole world in grace
(Rom. 11:32) "And that He might RECONCILE BOTH (believing Jews and
Gentiles) unto God IN ONE BODY by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby"
(Eph. 2:16). This is the Church of this age "the Church, which is His Body" (Eph.
The plans and specifications for the building of this Church were committed to
Paul by the glorified Lord Himself.
"According to the grace of God which is given unto me as a wise
masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation and another buildeth thereon" (I
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
"If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given
me to you-ward:
"How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I
wrote afore in few words,
"Whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the
mystery of Christ),
"Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is
now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
"That the Gentiles should be fellow [joint] heirs, and of the same [joint]
body, and [joint] partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:
"Whereof I was made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God
given unto me by the effectual working of His power.
"Unto me who am less then the least of all saints, is this grace given
that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
"And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which
from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all
things by Jesus Christ:
"To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly
places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.
"According to His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus
Christ our Lord" (Eph. 3:1-11).
We must be very careful not to confuse this Church in Ephesians with the
Church of which our Lord spoke to Peter. That was a prophesied Church; This
was a mystery. The plans and specifications for that Church are found in the Old
Testament Scriptures. The plans and specifications for this Church were "kept
secret since the world began," (Rom. 16:25), "hid from ages and generations,"
(Col. 1:26), "in other ages . . . not made known" (Eph. 3:5).
You say, "Did not Peter and Paul both build on the same foundation?" Yes,
but that Church was built upon our Lord as Israel's Messiah. This Church is built
upon Him as the glorified Head of the Body, rejected on earth but exalted at
God's right hand.
This distinction is clearly seen by a comparison of Acts 2 with II Tim. 2.
In the former passage Peter says distinctly that God raised Christ from the
dead to sit on the throne of David. (See Acts 2:29,30 and cf. Acts 2:31-38).
But in the latter passage Paul says:
"Consider what I say: and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
"Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the
dead according to my Gospel
"Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bands: but the Word
of God is not bound" (II Tim. 2:7-9).
To understand what Paul means when he informs us that the Seed of David
was also raised from the dead according to his gospel, we should turn to Eph. 1
and 2 where Paul prays that believers might be given the spiritual perception to
"... what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of
His inheritance in the saints,
"And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who
believe, according to the working of His mighty power.
"Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and set
Him at His own right hand in heavenly places" (Eph. 1:18-20).
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love where with He loved
"Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with
Christ, (By grace ye are saved)
"And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly
places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-6).
Read the whole passage from Eph. 1:15 right through Eph. 2:11 and see the
wonderful power of God in raising Christ from the dead and exalting Him "far
above all." And see how this mighty power is shown "to usward who believe" as
He raises us from the dead and gives us a position with Christ in the heavenlies!
Surely Peter would have preached such a message at Pentecost had he
known it. But he did not know it. At Pentecost he preached Christ only as the
Savior-King whom God had raised from the dead to sit on David's throne. He
called upon Israel to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins so that the
times of refreshing might come and that God might send back Jesus, whom they
had refused (Acts 3:19,20).
Peter's message was accompanied by great wonders and signs, but who
would sigh for "Pentecostal power" when he knows something of "the power of
His resurrection?" (Phil 3:10). No wonder Paul said "Remember that Jesus Christ
of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to MY GOSPEL."
It is this message which the Devil so hates and for which Paul suffered as an
evil doer. It seemed that with Israel's rejection all hope was gone. It seemed not
only that man had made his own salvation impossible, but that God's promises
had failed. And then came the revelation of the mystery! Before judging this
Christ-rejecting world and setting His Anointed up as King, He saved the very
leader of the rebellion against Christ and sent him forth with the glorious
proclamation of grace, an offer of reconciliation to all His enemies by grace
through faith alone. It could be through faith alone because now the fulness of
our Lord's finished work had been revealed. It had been demonstrated how much
had been accomplished at Calvary and what His death and resurrection had
This is the climax of the divine revelation. No wonder Satan hates it. It
demonstrates the exceeding sinfulness of man's sin and the exceeding
abundance of God's grace. It shows the utter failure of man and the mighty
power of God. Indeed, it proclaims Satan's utter defeat, for in Col. 2:15 we read
concerning Christ and Calvary:
"And having spoiled [made spoil of] principalities and powers, He made
of show of them openly, triumphing over them in it."
PAUL THE MASTERBUILDER
Paul was not self-important when he called himself the "masterbuilder" of the
Church of this age. He makes it clear that this position was given to him
“according to the grace of God." Indeed, he always associates his unique
position with the grace of God and when he emphasizes it he does so not to exalt
himself but God's wonderful grace.
Read carefully Rom. 1:5, 12:3, 15:15,16; I Cor. 15:9, 10; Gal. 1:15,16; 2:9;
Eph. 3:7, 8, and I Tim. 1:12-16 and see how his appointment to this position was
the supreme demonstration of the over-abounding grace of God.
Moses was the masterbuilder of the tabernacle. God gave him the plans and
specifications and said, “See . . . that thou make all things according to the
pattern showed to thee in the mount" (Heb. 8:5).
But as Moses represents the Law so Paul represents grace.
Paul, too, was a masterbuilder, for to him God gave, by a special revelation,
the plans and specifications for the Church of this age of grace. He did not
receive the full plan at once, to be sure, but step by step it was made known to
him by direct revelation, so that he was a "wise" (intelligent) "masterbuilder"
LET EVERY MAN TAKE HEED
HOW HE BUILDETH THEREUPON
Why do the builders fail to build according to the plans and specifications set
forth in Paul's epistles?
Why do they ignore his warning, “I have laid the foundation . . . let every man
take heed how he buildeth thereupon ?"
They have taken Petrine material and build it upon the Pauline foundation.
They talk about "building the kingdom," and try vainly to carry out the so-called
"great commission." They have taken baptism, tongues, healings and signs of
the times from another dispensation and brought them into the dispensation of
the grace of God, until the Church is so confused and divided that no one knows
what to believe.
Perhaps we ought to ponder more thoughtfully over the words of our Lord to
"And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, every kingdom
divided against itself is brought to desolation: and every city or house
divided against itself shall not stand" (Matt. 12:25).
Are our spiritual leaders unaware of the condition of the Church, or have they
forgotten that they will give an account before God when the building is
Surely God is not to blame for the condition of the Church. The builders are to
blame. The truth of the matter is that many of them keep so busy "getting things
going" that they have little time left to study the Word.
Some time ago we received an announcement of 30 services to be held in a
certain Fundamentalist church from then until Easter, fifteen weeks later. A
general theme was announced, together with 30 topics and 30 sub-topics. A few
days later we received another from another Fundamentalist church where the
pastor was to speak on the same general theme with the same 30 topics and
sub-topics. What a strange coincidence!
We venture to say that the Christian public would be amazed to find how
many of their pastors deliver "canned sermons" and spend almost no time in
independent Bible study.
The majority of Christians today have been fed on milk and music so long that
they are spiritually sick - so sick that their pastors must continue to give them
something sensational or entertaining along with a light message to keep them
A musician with a "mystery instrument," a girl playing cow bells, an interesting
movie, native costumes - anything "catchy" to keep the people coming.
Mark well, we do not say all of these things are wrong in themselves, but we
do say that many a preacher today must have these things to keep the people
coming. His preaching does not have the power to draw them. And this condition
has been brought about by the leaders themselves.
It is often argued that souls are being saved, but will the builders of the
Church never awaken to the fact that hands raised and people coming forward
do not measure the success of their work? Does their work abide? (I Cor.
3:14,15). That is the question.
When we think of the thousands upon thousands who have professed Christ
in the evangelistic campaigns of the last three decades alone, surely one would
expect that New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago would be shaken by the
gospel, but not so. Great numbers of these "converts" go back into the world and
the majority who remain are so weak and confused that the world laughs at them.
Beloved, let us face the fact: the Church has lost its power. The Church is much
larger than in Paul's day, but also much weaker. The majority of local churches
as well as the majority of Christians are almost powerless. They may exert an
influence of some sort, but they utterly lack "the power of the Spirit."
REWARD OR LOSS
Fortunately, salvation is by grace through faith, and we do not doubt that even
in the dark ages many were saved in spite of their blind leaders and their limited
knowledge, but we fear that the leaders of today, will fare little better than the
leaders of that day when they appear at the judgment seat of Christ, for they
certainly have not taken heed to build according to the plans and specifications
committed to Paul as the masterbuilder. Just think a moment. What is the Church
at today mostly composed of: “gold, silver, precious stones," or "wood, hay and
stubble?" Many a man who enjoys prominence and popularity today will weep in
that day to see his works go up in flames. It will be a dreadful thing to "suffer
loss" when the rewards are given out.
Ministers, missionaries, Christian workers, we appeal to you in behalf of a
They are God's building, - we are the builders. “We are laborers together with
God." What a calling! Paul, as a wise masterbuilder, has given us the plans and
specifications. We should be intelligent workmen; workmen whom God can
approve, who need not be ashamed.
There is only ONE way. Take your hand off the public pulse (Gal. 1:10),
cease giving so much time and energy to organizing and advertising and begin to
diligently, prayerfully obey
II TIM. 2:15
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not
to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth."