April 13, 2017

How the Day will declare it

How exactly does one “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”? (Matthew 6:20).

One of the most vivid and thorough descriptions of eternal rewards in all of Scripture is found in one of Paul's letters to the Church in Corinth.
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 (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Most times I have heard this taught, there's a dichotomy drawn between the “gold, silver, precious stones” and the “wood, hay, straw.” I've explained it that way myself. This is quite natural considering those words are immediately followed by “the fire will test each one's work” and if you were to literally put all six of those things in a fire, the “gold, silver, precious stones” will endure and the “wood, hay, straw” will burn.

The next question is, How do you distinguish between “gold, silver, precious stones” and not “wood, hay, straw” in a spiritual, non-material sense?

I went back to the text looking for the answer to the question. I looked. I didn't find anything. I don't see anything in this text that teaches us how to distinguish between “gold, silver, precious stones” and “wood, hay, straw” in a non-material sense.

However, there must still be a basis for differentiating between the work that “endures” and the work that “is burned.” What is it?

I backed up in the text and read more of what leads up to us reading about these six things that have two different results.
Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. 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 (1 Corinthians 3:8-15).
Notice, “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13a).

What's the foundation?

“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” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

Hark! It's not about the six material things!

Now, how do we “take heed” to build with those things, though, on the foundation of Jesus Christ?

Paul illuminates that further in other letters. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24). We know “that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” (Ephesians 6:8).

How much does “whatever good anyone does” include? How far does that really go? How generous dare we think God really is? Can even “wood, hay, straw” have eternal value? I would contend that as long as we are using those temporary material things to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ, then, yes, temporary material things can produce and store up for us eternal value and treasure in heaven.

With this understanding I would contend that any temporary material thing, even if it's of as little substance as transmitted electrons can be of eternal value. Whether you're a farmer in the country, a banker in the city, someone who works with your hands or with words, someone with much power or little power, whatever you do, as long as you're using those things to do good work building on the foundation of Jesus Christ, then those works when tested by the fire would endure and “he will receive a reward.” How amazing is that?!

The converse is also true. If one is building with “gold, silver, precious stones” and it's not on the foundation of Jesus Christ, then that work will be burned and “he will suffer loss.” I can do many good works, but if I “have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).

To love God and to love people in Jesus' name is to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

How broad of a reach can these truths have for you?

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