Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rewards and I Cor 3

In the churches I have been in, the fiery test of I Cor 3 has always been taught as a test of the Christian's works at the judgement. I began to have doubts about that recently and so I did a check of some classic commentaries to see what others have to say.

Overview of Interpretation:

Darby, Geneva, Gill, Wesley, Henry, PNT commentaries:

Foundation: Salvation in Christ
Building: Edification
Materials: Solid or Worthless Teaching
Rewards: Successful life b/c of application of sound understanding of doctrine
Fire: Unsuccessful life lived vainly, not understanding God's word

IFB churches (Sword/Hammond):

Foundation: Salvation in Christ
Building: Work
Materials: Eternal or Temporal Works
Rewards: Rewards based on work performed, or work w. good motives
Fire: No rewards because no work was performed, or not out of right motives

The traditional view is seen to be quite different than the IFB view. Of course I’ll get to the text later but the thing that jumped out at me first was the jump from salvation to work, in the IFB interpretation. In the traditional view, work is implied as the result of teaching, either good or bad as the case may be.

I Cor 3 (KJV)

8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
10 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.

- Notice the change in focus. In v.8 and the first part of v.9 Paul talks about the individual’s labor and his reward for that. In the last half of v.9 Paul calls the individual, God’s labor. So there is a shift from what a man does for Christ to what work goes on in a man- a man’s spiritual growth.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

- Whatever spiritual growth takes place must start with a personal relationship with Christ.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

- Build upon what foundation? Jesus Christ. Who is building? Those who edify to spiritual growth. Remember, the end of v.9 & v.10 set the context, as growth in grace, NOT works of ministry.

13 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.
14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (15) If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

- So what we are talking about here is what kind of Christian are you, as a teacher and discipler, producing? Are you producing a Christian sound in doctrine, able to gain rewards? Or, are you producing a Christian who barely gets in?

Looking at the text Paul actually deals with both types of work. In vs.8-9a Paul tells us that a Christian can labor for rewards. But in vs.9b-14 Paul tells us what produces a Christian that gains rewards- sound doctrine and teaching, without which the Christian can’t earn rewards, because they can’t labor according to God’s will.

I observe that the emphasis is not placed upon the laboring Christian so much as it is upon the equipper- the teacher. To Paul it seems that a well-equipped Christian would inevitably produce good works and gain rewards. Paul’s bigger concern was that those who teach, guide, and disciple other Christians do it properly, and teach thoroughly and soundly, and not teach vain and worthless “doctrines” that will not help the Christian weather the fiery trials of faith.

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