1 Corinthians 3:12-15 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
This is an extremely important passage, because it answers a question many people have, as well as countering a common misconception. Some people are so fixated on the grace of God that they think, and even teach, that it doesn’t matter what you do, everyone gets the same reward. That isn’t Biblical generally, and this passage directly counters that severe error. All it takes for salvation, that is, eternal life, is faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 is still true, and that was written by Paul just as this was. However, Ephesians 2:10 is also true, and that states that we are saved to serve God, not just to wait for heaven. Jesus’ famous parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) does indeed mean that whoever does what God tells them to do is equally rewarded, but the thing is, our obedience varies a great deal. “Deathbed conversions” do get to go to heaven, which is the greatest as well as the most fundamental prize, but once there, they don’t get assigned the same station as those who have sought to serve God for as long as they have known of Him. Length of service isn’t the issue, but rather quality. There were instances in Japan, for example, of people who were martyred as soon as they proclaimed their allegiance to Jesus as Lord. Such a person will receive the same reward, or better, than someone like me who was born into a Christian family. As the Bible states very clearly, we can’t fool God. (Galatians 6:7)
I have operated in conceit and hypocrisy far more than I like to think about. That certainly fits into the “wood, hay, and stubble” category. Other areas of my life fit into the “gold, silver, and precious stones” category, but the valuation is up to God, not me. I am sharply aware that it is only by the grace of God that I am able to do the good things He has planned for me, but in every instance my will is also involved. It is when I will to do His will that the results are of eternal value. Anything else gets burned with the rest of the trash. Growing up in a missionary family in Japan, I saw “real live missionaries” do things that I now recognize as noble, and things that I now recognize as worthless. Job titles aren’t what matter, but rather faithfulness. I am to seek to listen obediently to my Lord at all times, whether He tells me to do something that seems huge to me, or something that seems inconsequential. If He says it, I need to do it. Today I will have the honor of speaking to a group of non-Christians about heaven and eternal rewards. I am not to speak out of my own intellect, and I am certainly not to spout churchly platitudes, but I am to speak God’s truth in love, and allow the Holy Spirit to use His words through me to draw many to repentance and faith, for their salvation and the glory of God.
Father, thank You for the past two days and the various opportunities You’ve given me already to speak as Your representative. I pray that this morning will be a fitting continuation and culmination of that, so that this group may be transformed into a growing fellowship of believers, rather than just a group of people united by a common pain. Thank You. Hallelujah!