For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
To be honest, I had not been given to meditate on this section of verses before you asked me about them. I am very cautious with giving my sense on it, but I also feel like I have been given at least some insight or a little light on the subject.
If we go back a verse to verse 10, we see the setting of these verses. “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.” (1 Corinthians 3:10)
We see from this verse that the setting is “now” and not later. Paul is warning his readers on how they build upon the foundation from there on out. Look at his words again, “...let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.” Then we get to our verses. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the solid foundation, the sure foundation, the only foundation! And upon this foundation, we build gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and stubble.
Verse 13 says: “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it,...” My understanding of this verse used to be that it pointed to the end. And in fact, in my computer program, all of the cross-references to “the day shall declare it” have references to the end. But, I don’t see it that way anymore. This is not talking about judgment but a declaration. Or in other words being made manifest for what it truly is. “The day shall declare it,” as opposed to it being covered in the darkness of the night. When the light of Christ shines on it, it is declared for what it truly is. Everyday, the child of grace is being refined as of by fire in everything they do. And of those that the apostle mentions in our verses, only gold, silver and precious stones can be refined. When they are tried by fire, the impurities are removed. This declares the work of the Spirit in our lives. In Ephesians, Paul makes it very clear that our works that we do have been ordained from time before that we should walk in them. This would be the “gold, silver and precious stones.” But the flesh still gets in there and tries to take the credit and that is where the refining comes in and the impurities (the flesh) is burned away. Think about the impurities when tested by fire. What happens to them? When gold is refined, all of the impurities in it comes to the surface and is easily seen for what it is. It is easily observed that it doesn’t belong in with the purity of the gold. That is the same way with our flesh. When God does the refining, he makes manifest or reveals to us our sinful flesh! He makes it painfully obvious to His children their infirmities, their sinfulness, their selfishness, their egos, etc. But the wood, hay and stubble all go up with the flames and nothing is left. This declares the works of the flesh and they cannot be refined, and has nothing pure in it whatsoever and is burned up.
In verse 14, Paul says: “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” Let me ask you, what work of ours shall abide when it is put to the refining test of our Lord? Every single bit of everything we do on a daily basis is infected with sin. None of man’s work shall abide, it shall all be burned up. There will always be refining to remove the flesh in anything that man has a hand in. The only work that shall abide is the work that man knows nothing about. If we look at the parable of the sheep and goats we see this first hand. The goats were bringing up all that they had done and what did the Lord say to them? “Depart from me for I never knew you.” But what did the sheep say to Him? “When, Lord, did we do these things?” They had no clue as to what He was talking about, because they did the works that the Spirit had guided and directed and had nothing to do with the flesh.
In this verse, Paul mentions “a reward.” What does he mean by this? Are we to look to a reward or a prize when we get to heaven? Is that what he is saying here. Again, going back to the context, I don’t think so. The context of these verses is pointing us to the here and now. Later in this same letter, Paul seems to clarify what he means by reward here. In chapter 9 verses 17 and 18, he says to the Corinthians: “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.” Paul looks at being able to proclaim the gospel of Christ without charge his reward. I don’t believe he has money in mind here. When he speaks about proclaiming the gospel of Christ without charge, he means without accusation, without error, without flesh getting in the way. He looks at being enabled to not abuse his power in the gospel as a reward also.
Now to look at the last verse in this section. “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Maybe I am mistaken, but the way I see this is that all of my works, every single thing that I do while still partaking of this flesh will be burned. Some will be refined and the dross taken out. But most unfortunately will be the wood, hay and stubble. So, yes, I will suffer loss and I do daily. But, that loss is for my good and for God’s glory. It is not easy getting rid of baggage that I want to cling on to. It is not easy abandoning what you believed to be the truth, when the Lord comes to you and reveals His truth to you. When the Lord burns and refines the child of God, then that child suffers loss partly in the fact that now their thoughts are in a new way. He will suffer loss of friends (or so-called friends), he might suffer loss of a place to worship because there are so few assemblies who proclaim the truth as it is in Scripture. In some instances, he might suffer loss of a job. When the heat of God’s refining process comes upon a child of grace, it is for their good. Yes they suffer loss, but the loss is the goop, the junk, the infirmities that float to the top that they are better off without anyway!
My hope is that I be not deceived with my thoughts above.
In hope of eternal life,
July 18, 2005