Ephesians 4:4-6, One hope of your calling: Eternal Reward, 1Co 3:1-17, part 11.

Class Outline:

Tuesday February 9, 2021


1CO 3:10-17

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. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 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. 14 If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.


The theme of “taking care how he builds” is now expounded upon as the central motif of vv. 11-17 with a Christocentric frame.


The Corinthians were trying to build the church which false doctrines. They were trying to build something, but it was wood, hay, and straw on top of a marble foundation.


That day will show the value of each believer’s building work (to others and to the church), which would be a direct reflection of their spiritual lives.


The good church is built upon the foundation of the Person and work of Christ. The people in the church are either growing or not, and if they are growing, the church brings more and more glory to God.


Christianity grew rapidly from its beginning in Jerusalem and did so under unfavorable conditions. It was achieved in the face of an indifferent or hostile world, and by purely spiritual and moral means, without shedding a drop of blood, except by their own martyrs. Gibbon in the fifteenth chapter of his History, attributes the rapid spread to five causes: 1) the intolerant but enlarged religious zeal of the Christians inherited from the Jews; 2) the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, concerning which the ancient philosophers had but vague and dreamy ideas; 3) the miraculous powers attributed to the primitive church; 4) the purer but austere morality of the first Christians; 5) the unity and discipline of the church , which gradually formed a growing commonwealth in the heart of the empire.


We do know what to do to build the church. Keep all things centered on Christ. The doctrine, the work, the outreach, are all to be Christocentric. We are not to allow any division, open displays of sin, or open celebrations of sin. We are not to allow monetary profit, or being a house of merchandize. We are only to allow authority to those who are qualified spiritually. We are to be of the same mind, purpose, love, and spirit. We are to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, and we are not to forsake our assembling together. Our purpose is to always be the training of Christians in the truth and through the Holy Spirit to be like Christ.


However, we cannot fully evaluate the work of our church. Only Christ can do that, and He will at His judgment seat. Each of us will be judged individually, and by that, the work of the church, good or bad, will be judged as well.


And since we can’t fully judge our own church, it makes sense that we can’t fully judge others as well. Yet, like Paul, we can see if a church is not building on the foundation of Christ. If given the opportunity, we can correct them in gentleness. If a church is building upon the foundation of Christ, then we cannot judge their works. Christ will do that.


The properly built church will last forever as gold, silver, and precious stones - its impact on people.


The fire itself will test (dokimazo) the quality of each man’s work.


“quality” - hopoios = of what sort. The fire will test “what kind of work” each has done.


The Corinthians knew what trial by fire meant. They knew how the flames had traveled over their own city, consuming all that fire could kindle on, and leaving of the meagerly built houses nothing but a charred and useless rubble, while the massive marbles stood erect among the ruins. Nothing stopped the fire.


There is no place for admitting extenuating circumstances, excuses, or explanations. It is a judgment of absolute truth concerning things that have already been done. Were they good or bad?


This sets the stage for our understanding of vv. 14-15.


1CO 3:14-15

If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.


The two outcomes of the two kinds of work consist on one side in permanency (remaining unharmed and undamaged as the work survives the day of judgment), and on the other side being thoroughly consumed. Kata prefix intensifies the verb to burn.


Katakaio = burn down. We use “up” to intensify the verb.


This means that when a work is bad, there are not parts to it that are good, in other words, there are no gray areas. Either we do good or bad.


Paul maintains the reference to building a superstructure on a foundation. The contrast after the day of judgment is that one stands unharmed and another is burned down.


The parallels to this are: will receive a reward, and will suffer loss.


In that culture, if a building project was delayed or inadequate, penalty clauses allowed for fines or loss of payment. So then, this loss fits the analogy. But what believers may lose by ignoring their spiritual lives is not specifically stated.


Something is lost, however, and that must be clearly stated from the pulpit. It is difficult, if not impossible to state what it is. Many conclude it is crowns and there is good argument for that.


Paul stated that the crown of righteousness will be given to all who love Jesus’ appearing.


It seems to me that anyone who knows the Lord at all would love His appearing.


One question is whether our passage is a point-by-point allegory that has to be decoded, or that it is a broad image designed to make a forceful point. Meaning, should we interpret the fire and the loss of reward as some definite situation that will occur for some at Christ’s judgment seat or should we avoid that and receive the main point of the image, i.e., that neglect of our spiritual life and hence our neglect of the church will be detrimental to us.


1CO 3:14-15

If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.


Even Christian service seriously flawed by self-interest (fleshly) cannot imperil the Christian believer’s salvation.


“he himself” - the use of autos is emphatic. He shall be saved!!


“shall be saved” is in the third person singular, making the use of the pronoun “autos” unnecessary. The pronoun is added for emphasis.


He is saved but flawed work will not survive the divine judgment on that day, and the work fails to find a lasting place among the works wrought by God the Holy Spirit through spiritual believers.


All of these good works will survive into eternity in some form. It is a glorious privilege to be asked to add to this tapestry or collage of God’s works among men.


Paul admits that some Christians will do shabby or poor work. There will be some, we would imagine from this passage, who will have all their work, the world they built around themselves burnt and gone. It was for nothing but a temporary and worldly pleasure, yet he, a believer, will pass through unscathed for he is God’s work.


The warning from Paul is that some believers may not do any good. Throughout their lives they haven’t affected any good unto others, had no impact for Christ.


It is not enough that Christians are doing something. It is the type of thing we do that is of eternal importance, and for that, we must be, in experience, the type that God has made us to be. The work done by us in this world must be the type that will stand inspection by Christ.


The believer is God’s work - he shall survive the fire.

God’s work in and through a believer - shall survive.

Believer’s work without God - shall be burned down.


“Yet so as through fire” seems very likely to be a metaphor, like saved by the skin of one’s teeth. There is a range of Greek literature that has similar proverbial parallels.


Paul comforts them, as he does us, and reminds them that salvation is by grace and not by works, and that the saved man is called to do the works that God has determined for him to do beforehand. We do not work motivated by the grave fear that our lives will perish, separated from God and His goodness forever, but rather, we work from the joy of knowing that we are eternally saved and will live forever in the light and glory that is the presence of God.


Take the warning seriously, if you neglect your spiritual life and so neglect these works, you will lose the reward that God has planned for you, which, if we may add after a number of hours of study, is experiencing the mature life of Christ in time and whatever reward that relates to in eternity.


1CO 3:16-17

Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.


“In this epistle and in Pauline theology as a whole, issues about the ministry are inextricably woven with questions about the nature of the church. The ministry exists for the proclamation of the gospel in word and life, and for the benefit and building up of the church. The church can devalue the role of ministry, but, even worse, ministry carried out for reasons of self-esteem, status-seeking, or self-interest can damage the church.” [Thiselton, Commentary on 1Co]


This leads Paul to explore the third piece of imagery on which he draws in this chapter. First was the field and fieldworkers, then the building and the wise master builder and the other builders, and now the temple of God.


The temple carries forward the previous image (the building) but in a specific way which narrows its focus to the issue of holiness and to God’s sanctifying indwelling.


The Greek word translated “temple” (naos) denotes the temple building itself. There is another word for denoting the holy area of the temple. Therefore, Paul is referring to us as the building called the temple.


What can be missed in the English is that “in you” is plural.


“the Spirit of God dwells in you all (enhumin - plural).” Paul refers to the Spirit dwelling in the Christian community corporately.”


The church as a whole is viewed as a temple and the individual believer is the temple of God as well.


Certainly, that does not detract from each individual’s responsibility as each are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In chapter 6 he states:


1CO 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.


1CO 6:19

“your body (singular) is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you (plural - all of you)”


Singular and plural make a picture composed of individuals and not containing just “you.”