Rewards And Losses: 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 Explained

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 [1 Cor 3:13-15] each one’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.

What is the reward representing in this verse? What is the loss? Let’s find out.

The actual context of this work it’s about sharing the gospel, and it needs to be the true gospel. The reward is someone receiving salvation. The loss is someone not receiving salvation because we did not accurately share the gospel. Let’s look at the verses before the aforementioned to get the context.

[1 Cor 3:10] 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it.

Paul is explaining the proper way to share the gospel, and he’s comparing it to building a house. So, what we see here is the apostle Paul is laying the foundation of the gospel. A foundation built on Christ, alone. And then coming right behind him building on the foundation is Apollos. As long as these things are built correctly, the house/gospel we’ll stand and be strong.

Immediately after that, the apostle Paul urges us to be very careful about how we build on it. Because building on the gospel incorrectly my cause someone to think we get saved other than faith in Christ. An example that might be I go to someone and tell them that whoever calls on Jesus will be saved, and then someone comes behind me and says yeah but you also have to keep the commandments. Well, that might sound religious and ominous, it is definitely a dangerous way to build on the gospel of faith in Christ alone for salvation. They’re trying to build on salvation by strapping the mosaic law around someone’s neck. That will not stand.

[1 Cor 3:11] For no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

So once again what we’re seeing is that the context of this letter is about sharing the gospel and not building onto it with bad theology. The only foundation that will stand is one built on Jesus Christ. You cannot use anything else. And what we’re learning, is according to how we share the gospel, be it correctly or incorrectly, that will be a direct impact on whether or not they understood what really saves them. Let’s look at the next verse.

[1 Cor 3:12-13]  Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one’s work.

So the work would be sharing the gospel with somebody. And if I did it correctly, by building it on the right foundation, it would be revealed and stand the test of fire on judgment day for that individual. If I had shared the gospel incorrectly by distorting it because I built onto the foundation with a bunch of garbage, it would not stand the test of fire. But remember, as long as I’m a believer, even though that other person might not get saved, I still will be saved because I’m a believer. And Paul’s going to make that clear in a moment. Next, Paul is going to talk about a reward. People want to turn this into some kind of heavenly jewelry, but the reward is somebody receiving eternal salvation. Remember, the context is gospel sharing. Not a bunch of works to earn heavenly gifts. And is there any greater reward than someone receiving eternal life?

[1 Cor 3:14-15]  If anyone’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.

Show the work is sharing the gospel, and it will either result in a reward of salvation, or someone being burned up eternally. But either way, as long as you’re a believer you will be saved. But the point is, don’t build onto the foundation incorrectly because you may be affecting someone else’s eternal life if they don’t understand that the only way we get saved is by trusting in Jesus. It’s trusting that the only way your sins can be taken away it’s through faith. It’s trusting that Jesus is enough. Everything else it’s just an after-effect.  But none of it activates our forgiveness or causes God to love us more. Jesus took care of all that on the cross. Our role? Say thank you. And live out your new identity.

Author: Mike Cynar

Mike Cynar was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.

It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.


  • Amber Posted October 23, 2022 11:51 am

    Can you talk some about how this verse is used in colonialism and taking people from their cultures?

    • Mike C Posted October 23, 2022 4:44 pm

      Colonialism is more about acquiring political control over another and exploiting it economically. I’m not sure how or why somebody would use the above verse for that. Evil will always do things like this, so I think it’s more important that believers are not quick to fall for the schemes of the evil one.

  • Daniel Condon Posted December 24, 2022 9:03 pm

    Why do most preachers never preach 1 Corinthians 3 in context? Paul is cleanly talking to believers, some are babs should be more spiritual, than Paul talks about there works being burned up, that are saved as though going through fire. Most Christian’s do not understand Justification, sanctification, glorification, they mix justification and sanctification together, not rightly dividing the word.
    We are justified by believing that Christ died for our sins. Was buried, rose on the third day. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 . The Gospel of salvation.
    Sanctification is we are saved to do good works .we walk by faith…. Fellowship, serving, worship, etc.. We cannot add or subtract from the gospel. John 6:47 . Those who believe in me have eternal life.. i heard some preachers say to get saved there are 2 things one must do, stop sinning, and believe on Jesus. . Ray comfort has a false Gospel. We have to catch the fish before we clean it. It’s the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin. It’s the Holy Spirit convicts the believer of sins. Besides if you say you don’t sin you make god a lier . We who are saved by trusting / believing the gospel. We should have good works, it definitely does not save us. Like the thief on the cross, thank you for letting me share

  • Daniel Condon Posted December 24, 2022 9:24 pm

    As a 62 year old significantly Disabled man who use a wheelchair for more than twenty four years, I don’t have many good works , I try to share the gospel when I’m around others, maybe not as much as I should,
    As I hope that I let my light shine around others, I’m thankful it’s all about Jesus and not me., I still have my sin nature, yet I’m not sinless, I just sin less, by the power of the Holy Spirit all glory to God.
    Thank y’all again 🙏🏻❤️

  • Sherman Posted July 24, 2023 7:02 am

    Very well said, I feel those words are spiritually spoken because I felt them in the spirit. Thanks for the confirmation Brother. I must be clear on speaking about faith in Jesus Christ alone is what saves. I have been wondering about these verses for awhile and now by the spirit it clicked for me.

  • John Karlsson Posted March 12, 2024 1:43 am

    These verses are about believers being judged at the judgement seat of Christ giving account for the works they did in their lives as Christians. Vs 15 talks about suffering loss but clearly says that salvation is kept. These verses are not about sharing the gospel correctly.

    • Mike C Posted March 12, 2024 9:32 am

      I think it’s a big mistake to teach that believers will be judged for works.

      The book of Acts tells us that God is not served by human hands as if he needs anything.

      The apostle Paul tells us that the work that pleases God is that we believe.

      In Romans, we discovered that the one who does not work, but believes his faith is credited as righteousness, but the one who works he is already received what is due him.

      On one hand, people are saying we’re not saved by works, but then they turn around and say we get judged for them. In other words, works not save us, but they get us a bunch of heavenly rewards. That is a very terrible interpretation of the Scriptures.

      Works for simply an outpouring of what’s already been worked inside. It’s exuding, the love of Jesus. And if your reasoning for doing works, it’s because you’re hoping to get a bunch of heavenly gifts, you’ve completely missed it. You’re doing works to earn something (that’s selfish), instead of doing works to let the outside reflect what’s been done inside (that’s love).

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