Rewards will be received on the basis of motive, intent, and a new heart. Such a heart is received from God and at His discretion.
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
In this section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he tells his hearers that they are living in a manner that pertains to the flesh. He contrasts people who are spiritual from people who are of the flesh. This is a difference in the way he spoke to the Corinthians from the way he taught the Romans when he said, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)
In this verse, he makes it clear there is a distinct difference from the person who belongs to Christ and the one that does not. The words are similar in Greek but not the same. It is not always clear who belongs to Christ and is acting fleshly, from him who acts fleshly because he does not belong to Christ. He tells his Roman hearers that the person who belongs to Christ is not in the flesh but in the Spirit, otherwise, they do not belong to Him.
Let us just say that it is better to be spiritual. Herein lies a huge problem for the contemporary “Christian”. In writing to the Corinthians Paul made it very clear that divisions were fleshly, as they create the environment for jealousy and strife. People, Paul says, who live out their lives enslaved to jealousy and strife and create divisions are either acting as babies or they are not saved at all. There are reasons for sects within Christendom and some are good. However, among true believers, it would be better to be one.
In his letter to the church at Corinth, he went on to clarify the judgment that will come upon all those who believe. Such a judgment will not be for sin because the believer has passed from such judgment as it was laid upon Jesus Christ. There can never be double payment for the evil of sin in God’s kingdom. God is a fair in judgment; when Christ has suffered and died for an individual, that person can never face the fires of hell.
Therefore, the judgment of 1 Corinthians 3 cannot be for sin. It is indeed the handing out of rewards for faithful service or the loss of rewards for unfaithfulness. Observe what he told them.
“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. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’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 man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
The foundation of Jesus Christ is said to have been laid by Paul. At the exact same time, Paul says, no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. In other words, men like Paul proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and God saves whom He will. The means of salvation is Christ alone, no man can be saved any other way. He is the foundation that is laid by God. For this reason, we read in Acts 13:48, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”
Upon receiving eternal life men believe. Such life generates not only belief but the freedom to live acceptable to God and render admissible service. Such freedom in this life is not absolute because the believer is not made perfect. Believers can be swayed by deceptions that come from the world, the flesh, and the devil. The problem is always the same, who are you going to believe?
At the judgment of the believer, all service will have to stand the test of fire. If the service is made of gold, silver, or precious stone, like marble, it will remain and a reward will be rendered. If it is made of wood, hay, or stubble, it will be burned up, no reward will be given, and the believer will be saved, as though through fire.
As you read this blog is your life being built upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation or are you working according to your own good merits with faith in good works generated by you and in some institution, church, cult, religion? Such organizations may have a very close similarity and appearance of Christ but they in and of themselves cannot stand before the God who knows the foundation which He Himself has laid.
When God lays a foundation a fundamental paradigm shift occurs. First, the person is born again, receives eternal life (That is the life that is derived from God, as contrary to the life that is generated within men). Second, the person is given a new heart, wherein the law of God is written. Such a person enters upon a path wherein they learn to care more about what God thinks, feels, and wills than they do.
Like every believer, the journey that I have been on has not been easy. It has been filled with trials, rejection, temptation, heartache, and disappointment. At the same time, the blessings, knowledge of God, love of God, hope for the future, the meaning of life made clear so far outweigh the difficulties that they are not worthy to be compared.
I hope the same for you all!