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Receive Reward

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God.

The title of our sermon is: “Receive Reward.”

Our text is from First Corinthians 3:10-15 in the New Testament.  Please listen to the Word of God:  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should build with care.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames. This is the Word of God.  May he add his blessing to his word.

Everybody enjoys rewards. Our children, or nephews and nieces, would often

get rewarded with a favorite dessert if they ate their vegetables. A dentist may offer a child a lolly-pop as a reward if he or she kept still while in his chair, which seems counterproductive unless it is sugarless, which is no reward at all.

Today credit card companies are competing for our dollars by offering all kinds of reward points for: cash, merchandise, gift cards, special travel-related rewards, discount rewards and more. What’s aggravating is that the rewards program tends to be so complicated, with so many conditions and fine print that I just say, “Give me the cash reward,” and be done with it.

For many, rewards from God seem to be complicated, often misunderstood. Here we are talking about reward beyond salvation, because salvation itself cannot be earned, worked for, merited, deserved, it is only by the grace of God through faith.  And yet beyond salvation the attitude is sometimes: `All I want is to go to heaven” and be done with it. The scriptures reveal important truths regarding rewards to believers, beyond salvation itself. Salvation, heaven, or eternal life is strictly of God, not of ourselves. EPH. 2:8-9 fully reveals this to us “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Let’s look more closely at our main text: 1 Cor.3:10-15. In our passage, the apostle Paul is using construction imagery, figurative language, symbolic language to describe our labor for the Lord. Using the symbolism of constructing a building, Paul details five aspects of our work in God’s kingdom on earth. These are: builder, foundation, materials, testing, and workers.

This work can lead to rewards from God, beyond salvation. All believers are equally saved. However, rewards beyond and apart from salvation, and based on the quality of our work for the Lord, are not equal.

BUILDER: 1 COR. 3:10 “…I laid a foundation as an expert builder”

One of the Apostle Paul’s spiritual gifts was to be used of God to plant churches such as in Corinth. Others came and built up what Paul had planted. Someone planted this congregation here at Sellersburg, and many have built up and added to this work which continues through us today. God is the actual Builder through His people.

FOUNDATION: V.11 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the One already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  Neither the Apostle Paul nor any other person can take the place of Jesus Christ as the one and only rock-solid foundation of His church. At Corinth, Paul only pointed to the foundation by preaching Christ, not himself, only Christ and Him crucified and raised from the dead to purchase and become the Head of His church. This truth has not changed after 2,000 years. The true church of Christ is built on Jesus Christ Himself and the gospel, the good news of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and resurrection on our behalf, ultimately as effectual for believers only. It is salvation by grace but it is through faith.  Faith in Christ and his work in our behalf.  Any other foundation is faulty, unstable and will collapse. A most important work and service of all Christians is to witness, testify to the truth about Jesus Christ, the gospel to skeptics, and unbelievers as well as to build up the church.

MATERIALS: 1 COR. 3:12 “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw.”  Using construction imagery, symbolism, Paul is also teaching us that the quality of materials used is important. Gold, silver, and costly stones obviously represent good quality materials. These are durable, valuable materials. These would represent spiritually consecrated, dedicated service, a labor of love for our Lord, His church, and unto others. For example, teaching godly principals needs to be anchored in the Bible as golden truths. Exercising hospitality and helping others is as valuable as silver in God’s eyes.  As a work of love for him and others.

Whereas, wood, hay or straw are progressively poorer, of inferior quality

materials, representing spiritually superficial, shallow activity with little value.

These activities are not necessarily evil but are without eternal value, unworthy of reward from God. For example, service done for human recognition rather than for the glory of God, will be rewarded here on earth but not in heaven. Or work done grudgingly, joylessly only because one may feel obligated to do it. So, a poor attitude has only the perishable value of hay or straw and will not be rewarded, we lose that reward. Attempting to teach God’s truths based only on human wisdom or opinions has the value of rotting wood, of no value to God, will not be rewarded, we lose that reward.

TESTING: V.13 “…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.”         What is “the Day?”

Answer: 2 COR. 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  That’s the day.  “We” here means Christians only.  “all appear” means a mandatory appearance individually for all accountable Christians.  “judgement seat of Christ” means this is the Christian’s judgment before Christ not for sin but judging our service for our Savior.

Christ will evaluate Christians’ work for rewards apart from Salvation to which where are accountable and responsible for. EPH. 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Therefore, we have no valid excuse. We have been prepared by God with physical talents and spiritual gifts in advance.  We need to exercise or gifts from the LORD in qualitative way, with a good attitude in our work for the LORD.  Judgment seat comes from the original Greek term “bema” which metaphorically refers to the elevated platform where victorious athletes during the Olympic games went to receive their rewards.

“Things done while in the body” refers to us as Christians, that we are responsible for the time and opportunity we have to do good deeds for the Lord, to exercise our talents and physical gifts for His church, and to further His kingdom. Our lifetimes in Christ will be appraised, evaluated, judged by an omniscient Judge according to our godly service accomplished.

“Whether good or bad” means here according to the original Greek terms not morally good or bad. The Christians’ sin has already been completely dealt with at the cross as we persevere in Christ.

ROM. 8:1 “…There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Good and bad here refer instead to worthwhile or good deeds versus worthless or bad deeds during our lifetimes. So, this judgment is about rewards given or rewards forfeited, lost. And these are rewards enjoyed

forever into eternity or forfeited forever. The testing is as 1 COR. 3:13 ends with “the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” Fire here refers to judgment.  A judgment of the quality of our labor for the LORD.

THE WORKERS: 1 COR. 3:14-15 “If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

The meaning should be clear.  Even with this symbolic language.  If the Christian’s service for the Lord is characteristic of valuable, durable materials as with a dedicated, godly manner then rewards will be given. If work is done without godly character, as in grudgingly then there will be no reward.  It will be lost, forfeited.  There is still salvation because it is based on the grace of God, His gift in Christ Jesus, through persevering faith. No one can ever work enough to earn one’s salvation. Yet service for the Lord with the right attitude does count.

Some may think: “Oh well, being saved is good enough for me!” That’s also a bad attitude. We prove our genuine faith by our works.

JAMES 2:17-18 “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” Food for thought for all of us.

MATT.16:27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”

That is Done, not intended to do.  Works for the LORD in the right attitude will be rewarded beyond salvation.

GAL. 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” The proper time is at the judgment seat of Christ. The reaped harvest will be eternal rewards apart and beyond salvation awarded to us individually, publicly, by Jesus Christ Himself.

II JOHN 8 “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.” Caution is here given because we can lose rewards.  We are talking again about rewards beyond salvation, because we cannot work for our salvation.

Some of the last recorded words of Jesus to believers: REV. 22: 12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”  Rewards beyond salvation, done, worked for in the right attitude.

Our mindset should be as the Thessalonian church revealed in 1 THESS. 1:3 “…your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is, often asked: “Does the Bible reveal special rewards to be awarded upon Our faithful service?” Yes! For example:

Reward for enduring persecution in this life.  We have this reward described to us, again this reward beyond salvation.  A reward for enduring persecution In MT 5:11-12.  Listen to what it says: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Again, our salvation is equal, but our rewards beyond salvation are not equal.  This is a reward for something done, as we are able to be blessed when people persecute, insult and say things falsely, because we preserve and overcome and know that we have the right attitude regarding our persecutors.

Reward for hospitality. For example, in MT 10:41-42 of course this is only for believers.  In verse 41 it says: “anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet receives a prophet’s reward.  Anyone who receives a righteous man, because he is a righteous man, receives a righteous man’s reward.  And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.  Obviously, these are thing done while in the body.  Done for the Lord and done for others.  We cannot earn our salvation by anything we do or merit.  It then by our works.  Then therefore this is a reward beyond our salvation, that Jesus himself promised, and Jesus never lies or deceives us.

Lastly there is a reward for soul-winning. And this is in the Old Testament but it applies to us as New Testament saints also.  DAN 12:3 “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens.  And those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.  What a beautiful reward.  Here we have a qualification, that we will shine more for special things done while in the body as we lead others to the LORD.

So, we have some wonderful promises of rewards beyond salvation that we must exercise.

 

           David Johnson is minister of Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

 




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10