by Dr. Ken Matto
(2 Cor 5:10 KJV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
One of the most widespread teachings in the free will church today is the teaching that a Christian will receive some type of rewards for their effort in doing Christian work. This belief is based upon a few verses which speak of the receipt of crowns. Let me list those verses now so we have an understanding of where they come from.
(1 Cor 9:25 KJV) And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
(2 Tim 4:8 KJV) Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
(James 1:12 KJV) Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
(1 Pet 5:4 KJV) And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

(Rev 2:10 KJV) Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Incorruptible Crown
Crown of Righteousness
Crown of Life
Crown of Glory
We see there are four different crowns in Scripture which relate to the believer. Every one of these crowns are symbolic of the Christian life. In Revelation 1:6, the Bible refers to Christians as Kings and Priests:
(Rev 1:6 KJV) And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
So in keeping with that description of the body of believers, God would give crowns as the symbol of Kingship of believers. Each of these four crowns represent a tenet of Christianity.
Incorruptible Crown - (1 Pet 1:4 KJV) To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Righteousness - (Rev 19:8 KJV) And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
Life - (John 10:28 KJV) And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Glory - (2 Pet 1:3 KJV) According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
There is no great mystery as to the meanings of those crowns, yet hundreds of books have been written proclaiming that they are special rewards and all without biblical justification. They just isolate the verses and run with it.
Dangers of Belief in a Rewards System
It creates a wrong motivation for Christian work
The rewards system in Christianity is modeled after the worldly system of working. If a person does a good job they are awarded a raise and bonus and if they are less than a good performer, they will receive nothing in the area of a bonus. If a Christian comes in contact with the idea of rewards for a good job, it may become the catalyst rather than obedience to God in the area of Christian involvement. A person may begin to think, if I go the extra mile I will get a bigger crown and more rewards. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to go forth into the world with the gospel which is our marching orders. Any motivational concept outside of obedience that supplants those orders is religious fiction and will cause a person to stray from true understanding. See what Luke 17:10 says:
(Luke 17:10 KJV) So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
It creates a competitive spirit rather than a cooperative spirit
Have you ever experienced two Christians trying to “outholy” one another? A competitive spirit within Christianity causes division because it seeks to build improper competition between believers. Instead of Christians working together to build the kingdom of God on earth, they tend to try to do it all themselves while keeping an eye on the progress of others so they don’t get outdone. This type of spirit engenders jealousy and strife in the camp of believers. When I say a cooperation between Christians, I am not speaking of the ecumenical cesspool, I am speaking of like-minded believers in a church who should be working together and not in opposition to each other. The rewards concept produces a wrong spirit in a congregation.
It stops Christians from sinning for the wrong reason
As Christians it should be our desire to avoid sin in obedience to God and His Word. I heard Dr. Jack Van Impe on his program some years ago state, “If you sin, you will lose your rewards.” This is a common teaching that sin negates rewards. The Bible clearly states that each and every Christian still sins because we are in this fleshly body which still lusts after sin. (1 Ki 8:46 KJV) If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;
Let us compare: According to Dr. Van Impe if you sin you will lose your rewards but the Bible teaches that there is no man or woman who does not sin. Therefore, if every human on earth sins then it must follow that no one on earth will receive rewards and that has to include Christians since they are still on earth. Read Romans 7, according to their philosophy Paul lost his rewards. Our motivation to cease from sinning after salvation must be our desire to be obedient to God.
It creates pride
“Look at all the works I am doing.” A person who does a lot of Christian work may begin to swell with pride and begin to think they have more pull with God because of the works they have accomplished. Instead of realizing that whatever is accomplished is only by the grace and mercy of God and not anyone’s talents.
It creates a works gospel
Many people will begin to do Christian works for the wrong reason and then will begin to start believing you have to do a certain amount of works, so this belief compels them to go on and burn out. Some Christians burn out because they think this is what God requires of them. When this happens, it is a sure sign they are on their own. God does expect Christians to be involved in sending forth the gospel:
(Mat 5:16 KJV) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
(Eph 2:10 KJV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
(1 Tim 2:10 KJV) But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
(2 Tim 3:17 KJV) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
These four verses give us the insight that we are to be involved in Christian work of some kind. This does not mean everyone will have a public ministry but you may have a talent of accounting which can be used by a ministry or church. There are countless other talents God gives to keep churches and ministries running smoothly such as customer service reps., estate planners, managers, printers, computer literate people, etc. The key to understanding works in relation to our Christian walk is found in Eph. 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” It is God who gives us the works which we are to do since He gives us the spiritual gifts to accomplish these tasks. We are never to do works to try and influence or impress God nor are we to seek some great rewards, because that is a tenet of being a double-minded person. (James 1:8 KJV) “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” We do them because we are obedient and empowered to do them plus we are commanded to.
2 Corinthians 5:10
(2 Cor 5:10 KJV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
This verse is consistently isolated and used as the proof text that there is going to be a judgment of believers concerning their post-salvation works. It is taught that this is not a judgment for salvation but it is a judgment on the works of the believers which will result in either loss or gain of rewards. Do you notice what is absent in this verse? It is the word “reward,” because this verse has been isolated, it has been abused and misused to attempt to portray a non-existent doctrine in Scripture. I wish to show that this verse is simply teaching the single judgment and final separation of the last day.
We read in this verse that all are going to appear before the Judgment or Bema seat of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this particular verse there is no time frame given as to when this appearance must happen. For us to get into this we must define some of the words in this verse from the Greek which will open the meaning up for us.
Must - “It is necessary or has to” - This word tells us that it is necessary or that we must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ. In reference to time frames, this word is in the present tense which gives the meaning that we are before the Judgment Seat at present.
Appear - “Manifest, reveal or disclose” - The meaning behind this word is that we are to manifest or reveal ourselves before the Bema.
Judgment seat - “Bema” - A High Judgment seat in which the Roman authorities conducted court. They believed that everything should be out in the open and therefore the Judge sat in a higher place than the rest of the court.
Receive - The people are there to receive whatever they are to receive.
Good - “Upright, perfect, acceptable, good deeds” - The word here describes the works as having to be perfect and acceptable.
Bad - “Evil, wicked or worthless” - This is the other side of the spectrum of works in view. It is the bad works in which the word describes it as evil or wicked.
The word “must” is a time clue in that it indicates a present time for us standing before the Judgment seat. Since that word is in the present tense, it means that every believer down through time has been standing before the throne. Now let us ask the question, was there an initial time of judgment when the believers stood before the Bema seat? The answer is a resounding yes!
(1 Pet 4:17 KJV) For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Many people believe that this verse is speaking about God’s judgment on the visible church when that is an absolute misrepresentation of this verse. This verse refers specifically to the redeemed body of believers. What trips everyone up on this verse is the phrase, “must begin,” which makes it look like some future event. The truth is that the phrase should really be translated “to have begun.” The word is “arxasqai” (arxasthai) which is derived from the word “arcw” (archo) which means to “rule, reign, or begin.” Our word is not in the present tense but is in the Aorist tense. The Aorist Tense denotes an action without any reference to duration, repetitiveness, or completeness. This same word is used in Acts 11:15: (Acts 11:15 KJV) And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. As you see, this verse is not saying that the Holy Ghost began to fall, it states He fell. It is interesting to note that the only two times we see this word used in the New Testament is when Peter is using it.
Now let us return to 1 Peter 4:17. We read a little bit more clearer that judgment had already begun on the House of God in Peter’s time. It is believed the Books of Peter were written between 64 & 68 AD. So now let us ask the question, when did judgment previously happen on the body of believers? It was at the cross when the body of believers was judged. Christ became the atonement for all the Elect He planned to save. This is the meaning of the Household of God being judged. We were judged and found not guilty because the Lord Jesus Christ took our sins on Him and removed them. God judged the Lord Jesus Christ as He became sin for us. As we think in the Aorist tense about the judgment, we realize that the completeness of Christ’s atonement for the entire body of Christ will be complete on the last day, when the last one is saved. So throughout recorded time, every believer has and will stand before the judgment seat of Christ but not for rewards, only to get their full pardons from the Judge.
As we continue to look at 1 Peter 4:17, we see the next part of that verse deals with judgment of the unsaved. Peter is making a comparison between the judgment of the body of Christ and the judgment of the unsaved. He was posing a rhetorical question in that what will happen to those who do not obey the gospel AKA the unbelievers? He goes on in verse 18:
(1 Pet 4:18 KJV) And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
Peter states that if the righteous scarcely (with difficulty or toil - not our works but the work of the Lord Jesus Christ) be saved, where shall the ungodly appear. The answer to that question goes back to our original verse. The unbeliever also has to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
(2 Cor 5:10 KJV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
The unbeliever stands before the Judgment Seat of Christ, but he stands there in a different capacity. The unsaved have no Savior or any substitutionary sacrifice for their sins. Now with this information, let us look at the second part of 2 Cor. 5:10, concerning good and bad works. Now we must bring in the judgment of the bad works or as we saw the definition, evil or wicked works. When we speak of the judgment of evil and wicked works, what comes into mind? It is the Great White Throne Judgment where all the unsaved will be judged along with their evil works. Here is the answer to Peter’s question concerning what will happen to those who obey not the gospel. Remember, Revelation was written about 25-30 years after 2 Peter. Peter knew about Hell, but he didn’t know what was to fall upon the unbeliever before they went there.
What about good works that Christians do? Will there be some kind of rewards for them? I have heard that some equate the following verses to some kind of rewards program.
(Mat 25:14-29 KJV) For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. {15} And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. {16} Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. {17} And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. {18} But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. {19} After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. {20} And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. {21} His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. {22} He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. {23} His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. {24} Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strowed: {25} And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. {26} His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strowed: {27} Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. {28} Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. {29} For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
Here we see that the ones who had the two and five talents went and doubled their master’s money. We see they were lauded by their master but if you notice the one who was given the one talent hid it and did not gain any increase in his master’s worth. So naturally, the master was angry with this servant, calling him “wicked and slothful.” This is another parable showing the difference between the believers who had the five and two talents and the one talent unbeliever who was judged as wicked and sent to Hell. Notice the reward of the two believers. Even though there was a difference in monetary return, both of them received the same reward, “enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” There was no extra reward given to the one who made the five. This is because God has made each believer different and with respect to that difference, has ordained works to suit each one and He has empowered those believers to do those works. Since so many believe in a rewards system, let us create one according to how we, as humans, might visualize one.
Five Talents - Evangelist, Pastor, Radio or TV Preacher - These all have the ability through public speaking and outreaches to reach millions of people.
Two Talents - Sunday School Teacher, Elder, Deacon, Counselor, Missionary - These people have an effect on people but do not reach the great crowds the above reaches.
One Talent - (Not speaking of the wicked) - Letter writer, praying ministry, giving, Nursery in Church, tracts in letters. This group reaches less than any other since their ministries are small in contrast to the “big boys.”
Now if we were to give rewards, who would get them? According to human analogy it would be the ones with the biggest ministries and widest outreaches. As people, we are attaching worldly standards to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why so many build mega-churches to draw the people in. They build churches with 10-20,000 people and then write books on rewards. Of course, they are writing their own reward system according to THEIR works but not according to the Bible. What does God have to say about rewards?
(1 Cor 3:7 KJV) So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
Here is the essence of the matter. God is the one who gives the spiritual increase and the one who plants and the one who waters are not significant in the salvation process because Salvation is of the Lord. He is not saying that you and I are useless or our ministries are useless, but He is telling us that in reference to His salvation plan that man cannot add anything to it, no matter what part he plays in the spreading of the Gospel. So if God views the sending forth of the Gospel from this point of view, then how could a rewards program be instituted by the same God who views man’s involvement in the sending forth of the Gospel as not being anything? This is because God has one reward program for His children.
(Luke 18:28-30 KJV) Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. {29} And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, {30} Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
The one reward program that God has for all His children is eternal life. Here we see Peter trying to see what type of reward he may get in heaven for leaving everything behind and going forth with the Gospel. According to Luke 18:30, Peter won’t get any more of Eternal Life than the little old lady who has a prayer ministry in the nursing home.
Going back to 2 Cor. 5:10, we see that the judgment is going to be for “good and bad.” This, of course, is dealing with works. Now I want to give another passage of Scripture which shows us when good and bad will be brought into the picture.
(John 5:28-29 KJV) Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, {29} And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Many teach that the believers will be raptured and for seven years the believers will be judged for their rewards while there will be a time of great consternation on the earth called the Great Tribulation. However, the Bible does not teach this as we see in John 5:28-29, that the time will come when all who are in the graves, key word being “all,” will come forth. This is a general resurrection when both believers and unbelievers will come forth. We have a picture of this resurrection in Matthew 25.
(Mat 25:31-34 KJV) When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: {32} And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: {33} And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. {34} Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Notice the wording in these verses. The entire world will be gathered in front of the Lord and then comes the great separation of the believer and unbeliever. He tells the believers to come into the Kingdom. He didn’t tell them to go to judgment first. Why? Because the kingdom was prepared from the foundation of the world for His children. Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev 13:8 KJV) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If we look at Matthew 25:31-34, we must pose a question. If the believers were already raptured seven years prior, then what are they doing in the general resurrection of John 5?
What is the reward for the good in 2 Cor. 5:10? The only ones who can do good works are the believers and those works are already ordained for us by God and are not of ourselves. (Eph 2:10 KJV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Summary of 2 Corinthians 5:10
We have looked very closely at 2 Corinthians 5:10 and we realize that the verse cannot be isolated to build a doctrine on it. The verses we have looked at show an equality of all believers in the sight of God. It is man that likes to create reward and bonus systems. We cannot pin the earthly on the heavenly, because the earthly is tainted by sin while the heavenly is not.
1 Corinthians 3:6-15
We are now going to look at a section of Scripture which is also used to try and prove that there is a reward system in place for the believer.
(1 Cor 3:6)
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
Here we see the context being formed in this thread of verses. It is surrounding the believer in sending out the gospel. Paul is saying that he planted. He was the first one who brought the gospel to Corinth but after he left, it was Apollos who either began the discipling ministry of new believers or continued in evangelism. Now the Scripture teaches that both of these men were involved in the ministry of the Word but we see that neither are capable of causing one to grow or become saved. God is the one who gives the increase in both knowledge and souls. The three words “gave the increase” are in the Imperfect tense. It may also be translated “was giving growth.” The Imperfect tense shows us that something is a continuous action occurring from the past. It reveals the progression of what is in view. So we see in this verse that God was giving the growth, and it could have been the church itself or individual Christians growing in the Lord.
1 Cor. 3:7
So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
This verse is teaching us that all Christians are on even ground. There is none that is above anyone. Neither the one who brings the gospel initially or the one who disciples and nurtures the Christians, are better than each other. To God, all Christians stand equally. God is not saying that the work is in vain or means nothing, what the Bible is doing is placing our earthly ministries in a proper perspective. He wants us to realize that the public ministry holds no greater place than the personal ministry of a believer.
1 Cor. 3:8
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
The Bible has just previously established that Christians have different offices and different ministries but the goal is always the same, and that is to further the Kingdom of God in this world. Now if you notice, the subject of rewards arrives on the scene in the context of ministry. This verse tells us that a Christian will receive a reward according to their own labour. For us to understand what a reward is according to the Scriptures, we must look at a passage of Scripture which will help open up our understanding of the rest of 1 Corinthians 3. The word “reward” in this statement is the Greek word “misqos” (misthos) which may also be understood to mean “payment or wages.”
(Mark 4:14-20 KJV) The sower soweth the word. {15} And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. {16} And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; {17} And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. {18} And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, {19} And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. {20} And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
Now as we look at this parable, we see that a sower went out and sowed the seed. This sower did not take the seed and plant it only on the good ground, but he went and planted it on all different types of soil. Each particular soil reaped a different result.
1. The first was sown by the way side and Satan immediately stole the word from them.
2. The second was sown on stony ground which gave no root to grow.
3. The third was sown among the thorns which was choked by the cares of this world.
4. The fourth was sown on good ground and brought forth 30, 60, 100 fold fruit.
It seems that three quarters of all the seed sown fell on bad ground and had no permanent fruit. One quarter was sown on good ground and the seeds germinated and abundant fruit was realized. Now do you remember when we looked at the one, two, and five talent Christians and the abilities God gave them? Well here we see the same principle in action. The good ground, which represents the believer, brought forth many fold of other believers, which is represented by fruit. Do you remember how Paul used agrarian representations concerning planting and watering? Here we see the same principle concerning growth. All the farmer can do is plant the seeds and only God can make the crop grow. It is the same in Christianity. We just send forth the gospel but it is only God who can produce a crop of Christians. Now we see the sower as losing seventy five percent of his reward because of no fruit. Keep in mind that the word “reward” is “payment or wages.” Now what is a laborer paid for? Is it for growing the crop or planting it and nurturing it if there is growth? He gets paid for the planting of it and the care if it grows. This verse states that every man will receive his own reward according to his own labor. In other words, the reward is payment or wages due on the work he has done. Now when we talk about receiving wages, what does the Lord have to say about it?
(John 4:35-38 KJV) Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. {36} And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. {37} And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. {38} I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
Notice the Lord speaks in another agrarian setting and mentions wages of the reapers and gathering fruit unto eternal life in the same sentence. This is the sending forth of the Gospel to reap the Elect that God has throughout the entire world. When we enter into someone’s labor, it is a sharing in their ministry with the same goals. For example, we did not labor fifty years ago but we are building on the ministry of those that did. Many local churches in my area of central New Jersey (USA) were started in the 1700’s and the 1800’s. Those true believers involved in these churches are, in essence, building on the ministry of past generations, a place where they did not labor. Someone starts a ministry and other Christians join in by financially supporting it, they have not labored yet are entered into their labors. Do you see how intricate the body of Christ is when involved in sending forth the Gospel? The idea that some Christians will get a reward for certain ministries but other will not, is non-existent in the Bible. Let us go on in 1 Corinthians.
1 Cor 3:9 (KJV)
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
All the true Christians are laborers together with God. We are fellow workers with each believer and it is God who oversees the sending forth of that Gospel. There is no such thing as an independent Christian. He also states that we are “God’s husbandry.” That is, we are the field that is worked in. We send the Word into the world and when someone becomes saved because of it, then they become part of God’s field. Remember, it is God who brings forth the fruit unto salvation. We just sow the seed. This verse also introduces a new concept about the body of believers. God goes from the agrarian description to the architectural description of the body of believers. We are now considered a building. Let us look at a parallel passage concerning the body of believers.
(Eph 2:19-22 KJV) Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; {20} And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; {21} In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: {22} In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Remember in 1 Peter 4:17, we saw that the house of God is not the corporate church which contains both believers and unbelievers. This verse tells us that the true Christian is a member of the household of God which confirmed our findings in 1 Peter 4:17. The Christians are being built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with the Lord Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone. The body of believers, being identified as the building of God, reveals that we are passive in the building of it. The Holy Spirit is the one who is building the house.
1 Cor 3:10 (KJV)
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
The word “masterbuilder” is really the word “architect.” The Apostle Paul is giving an example of how to build the body of Christ. The foundation that he laid, was the preaching of the true Gospel in all the places he went. It is the full counsel of God. Now since he could not stay in one place all his life, there are others he left in charge to continue the building of the Kingdom through the churches in those places. For example, there was Timothy and Titus. In the next part of the verse we have an admonition to all believers that we are to be very careful on how we build upon the foundation. In other words, truth must be built upon by truth and we must be very careful about what we teach.
1 Cor 3:11 (KJV)
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Here is the only foundation that a Christian is to build their ministry on. We are not to build it on saving whales, feeding the hungry, political issues, someone’s teachings, etc. The entire life and ministry of every believer is to be built on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other salvation foundation in the universe.
(Acts 4:12 KJV) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
1 Cor 3:12 (KJV)
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
There are two ways to build on the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can present Him to the world in two ways. Truthfully or untruthfully!
Truthfully is represented by the gold, silver, and precious stones. As we see in this verse below, that all three items were used in the building of Solomon’s temple. The items were donated by David who is a type of Christ. Christ is also building His temple which will be completed on the last day. Gold, silver, and precious stones are only refined when placed through the fire.
(1 Chr 29:2 KJV) Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for things to be made of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and the brass for things of brass, the iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood; onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance.
Untruthfully is represented by wood, hay, and stubble. When the false gospel is presented, there will be no salvation which will result in eternal damnation. Wood, hay, and stubble burns on contact. The wood, hay, and stubble which is in view may also represent false teachings which pervade many churches and ministries.
(Jer 5:14 KJV) Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.
(Mal 4:1 KJV) For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
1 Cor 3:13 (KJV)
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
When wood, hay and stubble are touched by fire, they are instantly consumed but when gold, silver and precious stones are touched by fire they become purified.
(Heb 12:29 KJV) For our God is a consuming fire.
The work being tested here is that of the believer. Fire always represents judgment. The true believer brings the gospel but not all those they bring the gospel to becomes saved. Therefore the fires of judgment shall test the works or the ones being witnessed to and if they remain unsaved, then they will face the fire of judgment on the last day. Do you remember the parable of the sower that the majority of his witness fell on bad ground? Well, on the last day the works of that believer will be tried, that is, those who received the knowledge of the Gospel and remained unsaved, will be judged and sent to eternal damnation. Therefore, the works of that believer in sowing will have been a loss. The believer’s faithfulness for sending out the Gospel is not on trial, it is the results that it produced which will be on trial. This will take place at the Great White Throne Judgment.
1 Cor 3:14 (KJV)
If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
The word “abide” means “remain permanent, continue or endure.” Now what work will endure or abide? It is the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. Remember, how Paul told us to build on the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Acts we read that there is no other name whereby you can obtain salvation from. The abiding work here are those whom God had saved through the ministry of a Saint. Now it speaks of a reward or “payment or wages.” What is the reward that we receive? Let us go back to the parable of the sower. Do you remember what happened when the seed fell on good ground, which typifies the Elect? Those that became saved produced fruit of thirty, sixty, or one hundred fold. The reward of the sower is to share in the ministry of those producing the thirty, sixty, and one hundred-fold. Now is this principle revealed any place else in the Bible? The answer is yes!
(Mark 10:28-30 KJV) Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. {29} And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, {30} But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Do you notice what is revealed in this verse? Look at verse thirty, all the rewards and material goods will be given in “this time” and in the world to come eternal life. The reward is we may get to see some of that fruit that we helped to reap in this life. But the next life is eternal life. Eternal life is the reward, payment, or wage of the believer! It is not crowns or a special place in Heaven or special honors. After our work is complete, the wages God gives His children is eternal life. Isn’t that enough?
1 Cor 3:15 (KJV)
If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
When we witness to a person and they do not become saved, we suffer loss, yet we do not lose our salvation or reward. What is the loss that we suffer when any of our works do not abide? Let us go back to the Parable of the Sower again. Remember, three out of the four groups he sowed the seed (the Word) on, did not produce any fruit (salvation). He lost time, effort, seed, money, and maybe one or two things else. But his loss happened in the faithful execution of his duties and that is why he himself was saved, not because of works but he was faithful in sending forth the Gospel not knowing who God’s Elect was.
The majority of our works will be lost because in the Bible the body of believers is also known as “The Remnant.” This means that it is a small group in comparison to the billions which have lived and are presently living.
We have shown in detail that there is not going to be any special rewards for any works done by the believer. Those who isolate verses to create a teaching are building on wood, hay, and stubble. As I asked before, isn’t eternal life enough? If not, then you have a serious problem with materialistic lust.
(Mat 25:34 KJV) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

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