Every generation tests the infallible word of God found scripture. This generation is no different and seems to be disregarding His Word more so than any other generation. As a proclaimed Christian, your foundations will be tested by fire every day, either directly or indirectly.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 says, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Paul is talking about our foundations being tested by fire.
Proverbs 17:3 says “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts”.
What exactly is Paul alluding to in 1 Corinthians? Is it a house? Is it gold or precious jewels? Is it our spiritual lives?
Revelation 3:18 says (paraphrasing) “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich.”
Refining gold from the ore in which it can be found involves a process in which the ore is “tried” or melted, in order to separate pure gold from the other elements. The word tried originated from refine, or to purify. The LORD used the phrase “gold tried in the fire” as an analogy for growing in faith and truth. See Isaiah 1:25 and 1 Peter 1:7-9.
Backing up to 1 Corinthians 3:8, God rewards those who labor in the spiritual fields in service to Christ our Lord. Every leader should have the same basic vision, one aim, to plant and water seed to receive the harvest which God brings. It is not our responsibility to bring growth to others, merely to do the work God has commanded, planting the Word of God, watering it.
While all true leaders work in the field, The Lord will reward each for their individual labor. The average church leader has many laborers – from pastors to Sunday school teachers, even to those who serve supporting roles in meeting the needs of the church such as janitors. We all work in our individual roles, and each will receive a reward accordingly.
The foundation of our faith and our work is Jesus Christ. There can be NO other foundation. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Our works are not the foundation – nor our traditions, our doctrines, or any other thing. Christianity is intended to be different from mere religion. Other religions are typically founded on works they must do or laws they must obey to reach God. Christianity is based on God reaching out to man through Jesus Christ to show us His love. While certainly works should follow our faith, those works are based on the work God has already done on our behalf.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15. This passage is firstly directed at those in leadership in the church, whose job it is to plant and water the fields and build upon the foundation of Christ. It also applies to every believer, for part of the purpose of church leadership is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry as they build up the church (Ephesians 4:11-12). Scripture exhorts that we will all be judged according to the deeds we have done while on earth at the judgment seat of Christ, and receive rewards accordingly.
Verse 13 says the worth of our works will be revealed by fire. This applies two ways. First is the testings on earth, our trials and tribulations. How we respond under pressure and temptation demonstrates where we have grown in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Life brings many tests to all, believer and unbeliever alike. These give opportunity for us to demonstrate the effectiveness of God’s love and grace in our lives, or else should show us areas which still need more work. When we pass the test, we show spiritual silver, gold, and gems. But if we quickly fail under trial, if the fire of testing usually burns up our potential testimony, then we know that area is still wood, hay and stubble.
Let’s take, for example, manifested anger. Some people naturally have a short fuse and quickly explode in fury. If God is working in that area and you are learning to crucify the angry nature, you should gradually become more self controlled by the power of the Spirit of God. As you do not manifest your anger as quickly, you are showing some spiritual fruit, and a little silver.
But God is looking for a deeper work, where we not only do not let anger get out, but we do not anger as easily. Peter said, “blessed are those who endure testing for a season, for when they are proven they will receive a crown of life.” As we seek The Lord and learn to kill the anger before it can rise up at all, we begin producing spiritual gold. When that thing which used to make you angry and offended no longer stirs up your carnal nature and self righteous anger, greater reward will be awaiting you in heaven. The degree which we mature in our respective areas directly relates to the rewards we will receive on that day.
1 Peter 1:6-9 says testings come because we need them. And it is not our finances, our health, or our family which is being tested. It is our faith – whether we will trust God. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. The testing demonstrates whether we have faith in God in that area in our lives.
When testing comes and we show some improvement in our faith in the area tested, then our faith in that area is genuine. Fire not only proves whether it is gold, but also serves to purify it. Gold is purified by melting it then scooping out the dross which floats to the top. When you begin to show some gold, then testings should show us where we are still short so we can confess to God and He can cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). God will continue to allow testings to come our way, keep applying fire so He can keep revealing and removing the dross.
We may start out with spiritual growth of, say, 5 karat gold. At this point, it has some value, but not very much compared to what it could become with further refining. So as God turns up the heat, we should see the dross, the routes sin can still take hold of us. Then we continue to go to God, learn to take every thought captive in obedience to Him (2 Cor 10:5). He cleanses us. If we keep doing this, eventually our faith in that area will be pure 24 karat gold and great value in God’s Kingdom. The reward we receive will be greater.
The second way this testing in 1 Corinthians 3:13 applies is at the judgment seat of Christ. On this day it is too late to build in more gold and gems, or to refine the spiritual gold. Our works on earth will be tested as by fire. Our rewards will be determined by what remains, whether gold or jewels or a pile of ashes.
Those works which were not done as a result of our faith in Christ will burn up. The good news is that even if very little remains, we will still be saved and will inherit eternal life. For salvation is a gift and not a reward. In John 15, Jesus warns those who bear no spiritual fruit will be cast out, but as long as there is at least a little fruit, Jesus will keep working on them and they will not be cast out.
But do not think the loss of rewards is something to be ho-hum about, for they are of great eternal value. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “the eyes has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even entered into the thoughts and imaginations of man all of the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” But what things we receive depends on how we build our lives in Christ.
Moreover, the suffering of loss will not be a pleasant experience. Paul compares it to being burned up by fire (the works, not us). Imagine the sorrow and embarrassment as we stand before The Lord and realize what great rewards awaited us had we been faithful to grow in Christ as we ought. The Word does not merely say that we will not receive the reward, but that we will lose it, that we will suffer loss.
Rewards await every believer in heaven. But we earn them with our very lives, by putting to death the wicked deeds of that sin nature which we all possess and by choosing to obey God. As we bring forth the fruits of righteousness and faith, we will manifest Christ in our daily lives, mature our born-again spirit and produce spiritual life on earth. In so doing, we lay up treasures in heaven.
Hebrews 11:6 poses a very good question. How do we build gold and gems into our lives, and what are they, that we might receive the rewards promised to those who diligently seek Him?
I pray that you continue to reflect on the everlasting love of God as He sacrificed His Son so that you and I can be free from sin and have everlasting life. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through the Son. I pray that you reflect on the punishment Jesus took for us. Every stripe, every lashing, every beating, every mocking word, every bruise, every piercing, every drop of blood was shed for you and for me. Love hath no greater man that this: that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus loved YOU that much that He would lay down His life for you. Are you willing to lay down your life and be born again for Him?
I pray that you reflect on your foundation. Is it made of gold and silver and gems? Or is it made of rubble and ash? You may be the only Bible someone ever reads. Is your testimony pure, or does it contain impurities?
If you are reading this, and have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I would love to pray with you. If you have been saved by grace, but are struggling in some area of your life, I would love to pray with you. You can submit your prayer request in the prayer link found on the main page.