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Gold, Silver, and
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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Paul compiled a very meaningful, but abstruse, analogy about the produce of our spiritual life. He wrote:
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 Cor 3:9-15).
Paul is likening the work we do as humans, in Jesus’ name, to construction of differing degrees of value. It depends on varying factors that are governed by our response.
If we are lazy, halfhearted, selfish, complacent, etc., we produce a poor quality spiritual product in our character that is likened to wood, hay, straw. These can be destroyed. Poor spiritual produce in us can be destroyed through the fiery (intense) trial(s) that God allows to come to each believer. (See Rev 3:10, and 1 Pet 4:12 about trial we all must face.)
There is also an application of this imagery to the quality of spiritual teaching we give to others. If that is low quality, the depth of repentance in people whom God calls to salvation can be affected by what we say.
If a man teaches (usually this is by inference) that there is little need for obedience to God, and that faith in Jesus is all that matters, converts will have shallow spirituality. In severe trials, such people may fall away from trusting in God. Those who don’t endure could be likened to the wood, hay and straw of Paul’s analogy.
Conversely, those who are prepared to endure suffering for Christ’s sake, with persecution, difficulty, adversity, poverty, hardship, etc., for the sake of retaining the precious truths of God, and stay loyal to Jesus through all the difficulties, they build spiritual character of much higher value, which he likens to gold, silver and precious stones.
Why Human Life? explains the purpose of human life in becoming like God in spiritual character. That is what Paul is talking about here.
We must understand that God is looking on the heart of each believer. Salvation is not dependent upon what you do or know, in human terms. He is looking at how you respond to what He has given.
So, there will be people saved who have not built very well in this life, in relation to the spiritual ideals God has given in His Word. But God does not want to lose anyone. He wants to give eternal life to whomever He can. Only those who deliberately rebel against Him and reject His love will be lost. However, there are some who, although they are not outright rebels, fail to produce the purity of results as ideally as they should, so their reward in God’s heavenly Kingdom will be that much less than those who have been diligent, zealous, and truly single-minded.
We are to love God with ALL our faculties (Matt 22:37). None of us does this to the extent we should.
Everyone Is Tested
A major thrust of Paul’s analogy is the inevitability of trial, represented by fire, which comes to test each person’s work. Since Revelation 3:10 describes the Tribulation as the hour of trial that comes to try all who dwell on earth, it follows that the trials Paul refers to are negative circumstances or situations which will test our faithfulness to God and to His precepts.
The Day mentioned is a reference to the time when we will all stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ (Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10). Paul warned:
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:9,10).
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men... (2 Cor 5:11).
It is a terrifying experience to stand before Jesus’ gaze if you have impure motives. His eyes blaze with the fire of judgement (Rev 1:14). But His judgement is entirely the opposite for those who have done good in this life. He is there to judge you by congratulating and rewarding you.
You Are Judged To Be Rewarded
Paul’s allegory also emphasises your reward. This is another possible explanation of the meaning:
The judgment described in [1 Cor] 3:11-17 is for Christians only and transpires immediately after [death, when your spirit enters the heavenly sphere]... In Rom 14:10 and 2 Cor 5:10, this judgment is labeled the bema (Gk) or the "judgment seat" of Christ. Several important truths about that judgment are presented in this passage:
(1) Only those who have the proper spiritual foundation upon which to construct a life will be able to appear at the bema [for reward]. That foundation is Christ (v 11).
(2) Once the foundation has been laid, believers build a superstructure throughout the years that God allows. That superstructure may consist of the valuable and lasting – gold, silver, precious stones; or the unworthy and fleeting – wood, hay, straw (v 12).
(3) On the day of Christ’s return, all works will be declared and "revealed by fire". This latter expression probably refers to the penetrating, purging and discerning gaze of Jesus (cf Rev 1:14; 2:18).
(4) Those Christian works which are of permanent value abide and become the basis for reward (v 14).
(5) Those works which are worthless in themselves or which are improperly motivated are destroyed in the fire of Christ’s gaze. Consequently, reward may be limited, but the man himself is saved (v 15). This judgment is not to determine salvation or eternal destiny but to determine rewards. (NKJV Believer’s Study Bible, footnote.)
Jesus said a lot about reward, mainly in parable. These discourses contain some of those allusions:
Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work (Rev 22:12).
Jesus promises fantastic rewards to those who overcome. They are mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3.
In Psalms we find this very brief summary of the delights of being with God for eternity:
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fulness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures evermore (Ps 16:11).
You Are The Temple Of God
After the section about spiritual achievements of poor merit that will be burned up (1 Cor 3:15), Paul immediately adds:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (16.)
I don’t think most Christians realise just how loaded this statement is! The comment below will help explain. But first, consider Paul’s warning:
If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are (1 Cor 3:17).
Two different Greek words are translated "temple". Hieron refers to the entire temple complex. The naos is the Most Holy Place in which God uniquely dwelt in the OT tabernacle and temple. This verse speaks of the local church as the naos, the unique dwelling place of the Spirit of God. In 1 Cor 6:19 Paul speaks of each individual believer as a temple of the Holy Spirit of God. Verse 17 urges caution in the use one makes of this temple. Dividing the local church (cf v 4) is the same as defilement of the sanctuary and calls forth the most serious response of judgment by God. As Paul is addressing a visible local congregation, the destruction threatened by God may be applied both to the discipline of genuine believers and to the eternal destruction of those in the church whose profession is insincere. (NKJV Believer’s Study Bible, footnote.)
Remembering that we are the temple of God, and likened to the Most Holy Place, puts into perspective God’s exacting requirements for us to obey. You can’t have God live in you if you don’t care about holiness. And you can’t build the righteous character that befits Him while you are doing what YOU want in defiance of what HE wants.
With that, I’m sure you can see why Paul was inspired to use the allegories of gold, silver and precious stones – the most costly and valuable items you could build with!
What is your temple like?
Is it ramshackle, run-down, tumbledown? Or beautifully constructed on the firm foundation of Jesus through prayer, sanctifying His Word in your heart, and deeds of love, sharing and caring towards others?
If your spiritual image reflects the light of God so beautifully like those expensive substances, you will be afforded a place of high honour in God’s heavenly kingdom. You will be part of:
...the holy city, New Jerusalem... prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev 21:2).
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Rev 3:21).
He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end to him I will give power over the nations... (2:26-27). ...I will give to each one of you according to your works (Rev 2:23). & Malcolm B Heap
Bible quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise stated
Our Sabbath Rest (S)
The Faith Once Delivered To The Saints (FOD)
The Controversy Concerning Law and Grace (LG)
Sunday Versus Sabbath: The Final World Crisis (SS)
Revelations From God About The Judgement Of Britain (Jud)
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