for no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. if the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. [1 corinthians 3:11-15]
solomon’s temple was built with materials designed to withstand the test of time, things that could survive fire and the assaults of nature–wood, hay, and straw, cannot. paul emphasizes in this passage to the corinthians two major ideas:
we must build our foundation upon Christ alone for our salvation
we must not depend on ourselves and our works in order to save us–we must be people of confession of our weakness. our inability to save ourselves is readily apparent by our daily behavior. we are weak, we are helpless and hopeless–when we build our lives around the vain philosophy that we are justified by our own actions, we mock God and his Son who came to save sinners like us.
our works will reveal where we have built our foundation.
everyone will face judgment on the day of Christ–but not everyone will receive an equal measure of Christ’s rewards (matthew 6:1-6, 16, 18, matthew 10:41-42) . while it remains a mystery as to exactly how these rewards manifest, we are to live in such a way that our foundation in Christ and our interaction with other believers stirs us to good works (hebrews 10:24). we strive for an imperishable prize that Christ will reward those who finish well (1 corinthians 9:24). we don’t do all of this to get “rewarded” in some worldly way–we work to show that our works are alive–that Christ is alive (james 2:14-26)! we know that the thief on the cross was saved in an instant because of his confession of Christ (luke 23:43) but he died shortly thereafter but the pattern of a believer in Christ after their justification is to strive for a life of sanctification and doing the work of the gospel, longing for the day when they will hear “well done, good and faithful servant–enter into the joy of your Master.” (matthew 25:21,23)
our reward is connected to God’s joy–and ours! we seek our highest pleasure in delighting in the Son. (matthew 3:17)
“this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” [matthew 17:5b]
we would do well to heed this command: listen to him!
for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [ephesians 2:10]
as you set aside some time to enter into the presence of God today, spend some time with Jesus in the gospels–look for the words of Jesus, look to how he asks us to live…spend some time reading matthew 5 and ask–
“am i living a life like this? are my works built on the foundation of Christ and these commands? does the evidence show that my deeds are about building my brand, my reputation, my self righteousness, or resting in Christ’s finished work?”
forgive me for my pride, forgive me for seeking my own glory and not the glory of your name. let my life be one that points to Christ alone! let my foundation be built on Christ alone! let my works not come from my desire to be exalted, but from a pure heart desiring to make your name and your glorious work be known to all! in your precious Son’s name, amen!