1 Corinthians 3:10-15 I'm giving you an awful lot here, and I won't be at all disappointed if you can't make it through the whole thing all at once, okay? I suggest that you open your own Bible so that you can follow along as you read. That way you can look all around the verses that I'm quoting. I'm confident that you will be stirred in other ways as you read, for that is how it has always worked with me and with many that I've spoken with over the years. You may even see much of this more clearly than I do. When I was 12, I wanted a new bicycle for Christmas, and believe me I dropped lots of hints hoping the message would reach the ears of the Christmas gods (yeah, I knew who they were by then). Now, I can't remember what it was that I did, but I fell out of favor with one of my benefactors. I was told, "If you think you're getting that bike after what you just did". The rest is a little fuzzy, but I'll bet you've heard it before. The concept of rewards sounds really cool, as long as you think you're getting some. Now, I could give you all kinds of convincing stories and poke holes in the traditional views of rewards in my next 100 letters, but it wouldn't change a truth that is taught in the Bible. If you think that I'm trying to get around what the apostle Paul was teaching about this then I challenge you to honestly look at the WHOLE LETTER to support your view and not rest on a concept built from a collection of seemingly related verses. If you can't find your point in the context of the letter it's supposed to be in then it's just not there. By the way, this is not a response to any replies I've received lately, but instead is put here for those of you who desire to study the Bible. Be honest with it . and don't force it to say what you would like it to say, okay?
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Let's jump right into the part that says,
... he will receive a reward
Now, just what do you suppose this reward is? Is it the stuff that's left over after the fire hits the pile? If so, notice that building materials don't make it through this fire, so what are you going to build your mansion with? But it doesn't even say that the reward is taken out of the gold, silver, or precious stones that remain, does it? Now, even though it may seem that Paul left much to our imaginations as to the nature of these rewards, he did not intend it to be so. For he told us EXACTLY what the reward for his planting ministry was.
For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a REWARD; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. WHAT THEN IS MY REWARD? THAT WHEN I PREACH THE GOSPEL, I MAY OFFER THE GOSPEL WITHOUT CHARGE, SO AS NOT TO MAKE FULL USE OF MY RIGHT IN THE GOSPEL.1 Corinthians 9:16-18
Hey, his reward isn't even substantial. You know what? Compared to all the rewards Christians are expecting to receive it sounds like Paul is getting the raw end of the deal, don't you think? I know, I know, this is SIX chapters away from the passage in question so you may think he's talking about something else altogether. But what if he was really driving home his whole reason for bringing it up in the first place? I know you've had your hopes set on a beautiful mansion next door to Jesus (of course) with a few luxury Mercedes chariots in the garage, but you're going to have to support that idea on some other verses. Just let me know which ones they are so I can mess them up for you. Hahaha! :) Who do you think Paul was referring to when he said, "I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let EACH MAN be careful how he builds upon it"? Now, if Paul told the Corinthians that THEY were the building - of which he laid the foundation - and that OTHERS were building upon it does it follow that he is telling THE BUILDING to take care how it builds itself? Sounds kinda ridiculous, doesn't it? The identity of the guys with the tinker-toys should be obvious because Paul had been ragging on them from the beginning of his letter. These were the men who were dividing the believers by creating their own followings. I'm not suggesting that Paul was talking TO these men. No, he was talking to the Corinthians in view of their insanity in following these men. He was drawing a contrast between those who preach Christ (the wisdom of God) and those who preach themselves (the wisdom of the world).
For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as bond-servants for Jesus' sake2 Corinthians 4:5
Notice: this is from the next letter he wrote to the Corinthians where he was STILL talking about this!) Paul's wording (even in a translation) is very important to follow if you are trying to figure out what he said. Notice the flow of this: Paul laid the foundation (which is Christ), and he told those who build on it to be careful BECAUSE no man can lay another foundation than the one he laid. Considering that Paul had previously spent about a year and a half with these believers do you think he was just now getting around to telling them that there is no other foundation than Christ ... or is it more likely that he was jarring their memory? Paul knew who the real teacher was, and he also knew that even in the midst of their confusion the Spirit of God was actively at work in them. So he plowed ahead knowing full well the conflict he was creating within them. Here's what I'm sure they were experiencing at this point: Paul's words had been shaking them - as those who are being awakened from a deep sleep - into a growing awareness that they had been living their lives based upon a rapidly fading facade. With his reminder that he had laid the one and only foundation (Jesus Christ), and that it is impossible to lay another, they found themselves having to face something that had been nagging at them for a while. For they inwardly KNEW that something was very wrong in their dealings with one another, and they were probably asking themselves at this point, What kind of insanity has driven us to the mess we're in? Paul presented them with one of two options with these words, 1) "For no man can lay (another) foundation" or 2) "Now IF any man builds upon the foundation" Are you following that? Their perspective leaders had either presented them a bogus reality altogether - OR - the work of those leaders was a mix, sometimes from the wisdom of God and sometimes from the wisdom of the world. Either way they looked at it, it would have proven unacceptable to the mind of Christ within them. For gold, silver and precious stones are refined and/or hardened by the same fire that turns wood, hay and straw to ash (This whole fire-thing is an excellent picture of a spiritual truth, but I hope you aren't going to be too disappointed if you don't see a real bonfire in the hereafter! :). Why did Paul bring this up here? To remind them that the judgment of God through Christ will eventually make hidden motivations seen for what they are. Why? To condemn them? Or to make them feel guilty? Or to tell them how they were going to lose what they had? If that was true then why would Paul tell them,
SO THEN LET NO ONE BOAST IN MEN. FOR ALL THINGS BELONG TO YOU.1 Corinthians 3:21
It was to shake their confidence in men. He was telling them how they - as the work of God - were not to tolerate other men's attempts to build the stuff of man upon them. He wanted them to know that no man's tinker-toys belonged on the rock.
Each man's work will become evident (seen); for THE DAY will show it1 Corinthians 3:13
Somehow, we think our systematic theology, and/or our charts and time-lines have given us a handle on this Day of Judgment. The religious leaders of Jesus' time missed the day of his appearing NOT because they didn't go to Bethlehem after their scholars figured that part out, but because they rejected HIM the whole while he was standing right in front of them. We misunderstand this day that Paul refers to because we keep insisting on a day that has a date attached to it. Just as Paul spoke of TWO wisdoms and of TWO minds he also spoke of TWO days. Did you know that? One was the day of Christ and the other was the day of man. Look a few sentences ahead
But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.1 Corinthians 4:3
See "human court"? Guess what the words say in the Greek? Yep, "man's day". These Corinthians had Paul under intense scrutiny (behind his back, of course) and he let them know that their examination - or even man's day - meant nothing to him. Do you know why he added that? He placed THEIR judgments where they belonged: right alongside the world's judgments (do you remember how well Christ rated by that?). Man's day is the whole mindset of man upon which all humans have made their individual examinations every day of their lives, including the official ones. The day of 1 Corinthians 3:13 is just like that, for the judgments of God are based upon HIS mindset of Christ, and him crucified. God is not confused on that point, as we often are. Now, the time WILL come when all will be SEEN for what it is, but the judgment is nothing less than the reality created by Christ in his death and resurrection. The day is God's righteous judgment in Christ, and for us there is NO condemnation.
If any man's work WHICH HE HAS BUILT UPON IT remains, he shall receive a reward.1 Corinthians 3:14
Consider again the reward spoken of by Paul
THAT WHEN I PREACH THE GOSPEL, I MAY OFFER THE GOSPEL WITHOUT CHARGE, SO AS NOT TO MAKE FULL USE OF MY RIGHT IN THE GOSPEL.1 Corinthians 9:18
Now, contrast this with the words of Jesus as he commented on those religious leaders who did what they did "in order to be seen by men".
Truly I say to you, they have their reward in fullMatthew 6:16
Come again, what was their reward? TO BE SEEN BY MEN. Listen, the reward of man has everything to do with appearance. And this is what the Corinthians were aspiring to under the leadership of human wisdom through these teachers. The wisdom of the world produces its own reward, and those who build upon it receive the reward of the temporary praise of - and reciprocation from - MEN. Paul, on the other hand, spoke of the reward HE HAD BEEN RECEIVING through his work. Did you realize that "he shall receive a reward" was describing an ongoing thing in Paul's life? It was the continuing joy of Paul's life to offer the good news of Christ for FREE! It was his direct suggestion that if the men they were following had been preaching Christ then they would have been satisfied with the joy of doing it freely. Instead, these men had taken advantage of them. You can sense it in Paul's comments,
Shall I come to you WITH A ROD or with love and a gentle spirit?1 Corinthians 4:21
For you bear with anyone if he enslaves you, if he devours you, if he takes advantage of you, if he exalts himself, if he hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison2 Corinthians 11:20-21
Certainly I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I?2 Corinthians 12:17
Simply stated, the contrast between the treatment they received from Paul and that which they received from their leaders was painfully obvious. Why hadn't the believers in Corinth rejected such harsh treatment? Isn't that also obvious? Because they had been playing the same game!! Let me cut to the chase. These Bible verses have nothing to do with some kind of Judgment Seat Movie Show of your life that God is going to play in front of everybody! NOTHING! That may be the motivation needed for those who don't have the Spirit of God, but it has no place in one who does have the mind of Christ. I sure hope you're not disappointed that Paul isn't teaching you in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 that God is still waiting to judge you for your sins. If you are disappointed then you may want to reconsider Christ's payment for sin.