Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Who Builds? What Burns? A Closer Look at 1 Corinthians 3:9-15.

9For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. 10According 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. 11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every 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. 14If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. KJV

This verse is often interpreted by the mainstream church to mean that an individual Christian’s “works” will be tested by fire. Some say even if the works or the person’s obedience to God are worthless and are burned up, they will still be saved – even if by the skin of their teeth.

However, this appears to be a stretch to include all Christians and their personal works or sanctification because Paul is speaking about himself, other apostles, and teachers of the word (“we”) – not individual saints or Christians (“ye”). The we in this context can only refer to those who ministered the Word of God to the Corinthians. The ye can only refer to the Corinthian Christians. The building upon the foundation is done by the laborers (apostles, teaches, spiritual leaders) not the individual Corinthian believers or Christians. So the laborers’ work refers to their ministries. If they build or minister without truth, God’s will, and God’s power, they are building with hay and stubble and all of the work they thought was good and worthy of reward will be burned up and they will get no reward for their work (ministry). However, they can still be saved individually. Paul also is talking about the laborers work not works. Again this refers to their ministry not an individual Christians purity, obedience, holiness, or righteous acts. This is why the laborer’s work or ministry may be burned in the fire but they can still be saved based on their individual justification and sanctification.

Again, the test is going to be by fire. The man’s ministry, his teachings, his converts, his methods, and everything connected with the building of the “Church” are going to be tested. The primary question a teacher, minister, preacher or apostle must worry about is whether he was, or is, faithful to God’s truth in all that he did. This is not a passage about personal sanctification, but rather a message to church leaders and teachers regarding their ministries.