1 Corinthians 3:11-15
11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
foundation (v.11) — of the church, the Body of Christ
which is laid (v.11) — by God, apart from man
gold, silver, precious stones (v.12) — right teaching regarding Christ
wood, hay, stubble (v.12) — man’s wisdom, unsound teaching
In such cities as Ephesus, where this letter was written, or Corinth, to which it was addressed, there was a signal difference (far greater than in modern cities) between the gorgeous splendor of the great public buildings and the meanness and squalor of those streets where the poor and profligate resided. The former were constructed of marble and granite; the capitals of their columns and their roofs were richly decorated with silver and gold; the latter were mean structures, run up with boards for walls, with straw in the interstices and thatch on the top. This is the contrast on which Paul seizes. — Laurin, page 78.
the Day (v.13) — The Day of the Lord
declare (v.13) = make plain, make evident
fire (v.13) — God’s holiness as a revealing agent
each one’s work (v.13) — the Judgment Seat of Christ — It isn’t the believer who will be judged, but his work
This judgment is called the “Judgment Seat of Christ.” We have it mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
This judgment will take place following the coming of the Lord for His Church in the air. It will concern rewards or loss of rewards. It will have nothing to do whatsoever with salvation or our eternal destiny. That was forever settled at the Cross, and appropriated by the grace of God. This judgment will determine our position in the kingdom [where we will] reign [with] Christ, and the rewards which we will receive at His hand. — De Haan, page 40.
endures (v.14) — stands the test of God’s “fire”
loss (v.15) — of the reward — lit. “pay a fine”
yet so as through fire (v.15) — as escaping naked from a burning building, alive, but with a loss of all possessions
It is hard to understand why neo-evangelicals are pressing their unscriptural involvement with the world, when, despite their well-meant efforts, society is becoming more and more like Sodom and Gomorrah.
For such involvement Lot barely escaped with his life. Yes, he was saved, but his home, his riches, his Sodomic friendships and all his efforts to change Sodom went up in smoke.
This, we believe, is the sense of the term “so as by fire” in 1 Corinthians 3:15. — Stam, page 84.
A lot of the commentaries ran with this passage and used verse 12 to deliver an application about how it’s not what we do but why we do it that counts. That our good works matter little if they aren’t done by faith and for Christ. While this is true, I don’ t think it’s the main point of the verse. I believe, based on the context, that Paul is referring specifically to those who teach in the church and the value of the message they are teaching. Teachers who build sound doctrine on the foundation of Christ will be rewarded. Those who teach man’s wisdom will suffer loss of reward.
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