The context leading up to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 Last time I suggested that the same fallacies that have created the Santa Claus myth have also affected our understanding of the judgment seat of Christ so that we read them into what is written in the Bible... In doing so, we have created the conflict that causes us to ask the same question, in one form or another, over and over: Are we going to be judged for our sins or not?
I've been there just as much as you have ... and I always hated the sense that I was forced into a Catch-22 compromise between faithfulness to the message of grace (as taught in the Bible, especially Paul's writings) and faithfulness to "the whole counsel of God" (including some of Paul's writings)! But the contradiction was only in my head, for it turns out that the whole counsel of God REVOLVES around the grace of God in Christ... So, how did I come to this conclusion? I learned it from the Bible... So, all you gotta do is to believe what I believe and then you'll be okay, right? Gimme a break!
Let me tell you something, nobody has disagreed with ME more than ME... You want to know what I think you really need? You need to have your eyes opened by the Spirit of God, JUST LIKE I DO, to see how far-reaching the life of Christ in you really is! The fact that I am in union with God through Christ is much, much bigger than I ever thought possible... And it touches everything in my life ... even though it usually doesn't look like it...
Okay, I told you I saw the context of the letter of 1 Corinthians as being crucial in the understanding of the judgment seat of Christ, so here it is:
- The believers in Corinth were splitting up into factions (groups in competition with one another) based upon their favorite teacher/leader... [1 Corinthians 1:12-13]
- Paul's referral to "baptism" was not accidental ... it was obviously the source of the contention... The believers were finding their importance in claiming "I am of (my baptizer)" [1 Corinthians 1:13-17]
- Paul removed himself from the contention by stating "I thank God that I baptized none of you except ... " and His indifference to the matter was obvious, as he couldn't remember if there were any others! It was not Paul's or Apollos' name they were dividing under, for Paul substituted their names in place of the real ones... Why? He didn't want them to misread his purpose in bringing the matter up and somehow use what he had written to validate their claims of importance over one another (You know, stupid stuff ... like whose name was mentioned first, maybe)... [1 Corinthians 1:14-16;4:6]
- If you read this letter - not as a theologian, but as a detective - you would soon realize that Paul knew these guys... He suggests later that factions were just the sort of thing he should have expected... After all, what kind of rivalry had elevated these approved-ones to such a position in the first place? [1 Corinthians 11:18-19]
- Paul made a big distinction between HIS ministry and that of those who seemed to be such wise & powerful servants of God... Why else do you think he made the point that he was not sent to baptize? Don't you get it ... they were competing with each other to gain more converts than the others! Paul's message popped their balloons and he was despised for it... [1 Corinthians 1:17-25]
- The message of Christ-crucified is an offense to the religious mind... Why? Because crucifixion was the open rejection of a man ... by men AND God... For God to do such a thing to His chosen was a detestable idea... It offended their concepts of God ... and of themselves... To them, the gospel message was the weakness of God... [1 Corinthians 1:23-25]
- The message of Christ crucified is absurd to the logical mind... Why? This wisdom ultimately holds that knowledge is God and that salvation is within its grasp... It believes that man is capable of delivering himself... To kill one's SAVIOR just doesn't make sense for it demands that man himself is ineffective... To them, the gospel was the foolishness of God... [1 Corinthians 1:21-25]
- Paul distinguished "the Jews demand for signs" vs... "the Greeks demand for knowledge" calling them both "the wisdom of the world" ... stating that God cannot be known through it... [1 Corinthians 1:21-22]
- Into this world God sends those who deliver a message that cannot be understood by its intended audience ... but He finds pleasure in delivering those who believe... Who do you suppose will get the credit for such a thing? The recipient? Not hardly! The preacher? Not a chance! It is God's doing and no man can boast before God... [1 Corinthians 1:21-31]
- Paul told these Corinthian believers that they were in Christ Jesus by God's doing... Christ had BECOME something to them: wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption... [1 Corinthians 1:30]
- The message of Christ is not contained in one's ability to word it or to speak it... It is not found in the ability to manipulate... Nor is its power found in one's ability to persuade... The power of the message of Christ is found in God... He does the work Himself through the power of His Spirit ... in those who miraculously hear and believe... [1 Corinthians 2:1-5]
- What did a man preaching Christ look like? Not very impressive... Paul reminded them "And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling"! The gospel declares the power of God and NOT the abilities of the man... [2:3] The "minister" of God is merely a servant... How did those who had confidence in their abilities view Paul? They said, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible" [2 Corinthians 10:10]
- The miracle of God in the believer is found in the reality that God has put His Spirit in him... This is to know the things freely given by God... The one who has the Spirit is able to assess ALL THINGS... It is the mind of Christ in him that gives this ability... [1 Corinthians 2:10-16]
- The natural man (one without the Spirit) CANNOT understand nor has the ability to receive the things of the Spirit of God... He is unable to assess the spiritual man for the same reason he cannot assess the mind of God... [1 Corinthians 2:11,14-16]
- Paul rebuked the believers because they had been judging all things by the judgment of the natural man... These people, WHO HAD THE MIND OF CHRIST, had become as men without the Spirit unable to make a true assessment of themselves or each other in the matters of life... The deception that their identity was found in the man they claimed to be of was the root of their problems... [1 Corinthians 3:1-5]
- The reality of the matter is that God causes the growth and it makes no difference WHO did what... Paul likens the situation to workers in a field who plant and water... The workers are all the same regardless of their individual parts ... for they are working the same field ... and they will be paid according to their labors... Paul's point is that the workers are God's and the field is God's... [1 Corinthians 3:5-9]
- We get caught up in a misunderstanding of rewards because we have focused our attention on the very thing that Paul had described as being nothing, and have built a facade around the thing Paul was saying... We have forced the concept that Paul taught that EACH AND EVERY BELIEVER represents the workers who are building into their own lives... So, was Paul really saying that I am the worker who works the field, which is ME, and that I will be rewarded according to what I have built? Well, here I am again, leaving the conclusion till the next time ... but something tells me that many of you will see it for yourselves with the context established... :)