Questions & Answers
Rewards - is there a catch here?
Why does Paul even mention rewards to the Corinthians. I guess what I'm asking is there a catch?
An excellent question: why did Paul even mention it ... if this is a misunderstanding isn't it all his fault? :) Well, I address the one in 1 Corinthians 3 first.
It's crucial to understand that everything Paul had written up to that point revolved around the theme the wisdom of God versus the wisdom of the world.
Now, this main theme begs a more important question that causes the whole issue to be seen in an entirely different light. The question: Why was Paul addressing this distinction with the Corinthian believers? Or was there no real direction to the things he was mentioning? After all, if he followed the pattern of our contemporary teachers he may have just been hitting random topics that weren't in any particular order. :)
The situation that had happened in Corinth (and in other groups) after Paul left was that there were men who were vying for prominence among them. These men jumped for the chance to lead this group. Paul wrote,
I have been informed ... that there are quarrels among you. 1 Corinthians 1:11
Now, when Paul quoted them as saying "I am of Paul" etc. he was being very facetious about it because the truth of the matter is that NO ONE would have claimed Paul's name as being some kind of boast. Paul had later said,
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes... 1 Corinthians 4:6
The Corinthians had gotten caught up in divisions based on a human pride of "my teacher is better or smarter than your teacher!" ... which, of course, means that "I'M better than YOU!" They had fallen back into the wisdom that they had learned in this world. Everything Paul dealt with in the letter had to do with the results of this attitude.
Each of the two wisdoms has an opinion of the other: foolishness (Of course, there is only one valid opinion ... and that is God's). Paul made this clear distinction to establish the fact that neither mind accepts the other, nor can one transmit from one to the other. The Corinthians had been deceived into thinking that they could understand and receive the things of God through a deeper wisdom ... basically, logic. This is why they gathered around certain men who seemed to hold the key or the understanding necessary to receive more from God.
I do not write these thing to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. ... Now, some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 1 Corinthians 4:14,15,18
For there must also be factions among you, IN ORDER THAT THOSE WHO ARE APPROVED MAY HAVE BECOME EVIDENT AMONG YOU. 1 Corinthians 11:19
how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1 Corinthians 15:12
By time Paul wrapped up his argument in the letter of SECOND Corinthians he really tore into these impostors, saying that I consider myself not in the least INFERIOR to the 'super-apostles' (or 'most eminent')
For such men are FALSE apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:13
So, what does this have to do with the judgment and the rewards? Everything!
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. BUT LET EACH MAN BE CAREFUL HOW HE BUILDS UPON IT. For no man can lay a foundation OTHER THAN THE ON WHICH IS LAID, WHICH IS JESUS CHRIST. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11
If you followed me, you're probably already ahead of me here! But if not, I'll continue. :)
Paul did not say, Let each of YOU be careful how you build upon it! We made this up. Paul is referring to those among them that came after himself to build upon the foundation (Christ) he laid in Corinth. The only way we could even consider the model of rewards as taught in modern Christianity is to pull the passage out of context.
Obviously, the gold, silver & precious stones is the stuff of the Spirit: the wisdom of God; and the wood, hay & straw is the stuff of man: the wisdom of the world. And this stuff will become evident. But was Paul even slightly suggesting that they were to look at their individual lives and to produce good materials with which to build? Would he approve of our concept of sending up the proper building materials to build our mansions in heaven? What a crock! The passage doesn't even come close to saying that. It only fits that way if we force it into the mold we've made.
He was calling their attention to the OBVIOUS stuff of man that was being presented to them AS SPIRITUAL, not to the stuff they considered obviously fleshly.
The reward. Remember how Jesus made it known that those who were seeking rewards in front of men HAD ALREADY RECEIVED THEIR REWARD? Their reward was to seen by men. These men were already getting what they wanted which was to be held as authorities and teachers among them. Paul spoke instead of something that came later ... in the sight of God not in the sight of men. "if it remains": If it was of God it would remain.
Do I suggest that all who were participating in this fleshly wisdom were unbelievers? Not at all, but they were influenced by what had been brought in by them. This is the same reason James urged the people to take care in their mad desire to become teachers. Masters of Blab!