Rewards And Losses: 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 Explained
[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 grew up in church and observed that countless people would go to church and then just stop. The church always referred to them as ‘fake Christians’ or ‘backsliders’ but Mike discovered the problem was deeper. The problem was the church message. The message was 90% behavior improvement and how bad you are, with a pinch of who you are in Christ, It was like every sermon was being preached to the church of Corinth. It’s in the Baptist church, Catholic, Pentecost, and most every other church. After discovering the true gospel message and how we are made right with God because of what ‘Jesus did’ (not what ‘we do’) Mike set out to free believers from behavior improvement programs and bring them back to Jesus. The Result – Jesus Without Religion was launched.