A Life’s Work that Will Survive Judgment Day (1 Corinthians Sermon 11)
November 25, 2018 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Judgement Day, Eternal Rewards, Good Works
The Two Great Dangers Facing Us
I like to ask you to turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. As I've studied the Scripture for many years, as I think about as a pastor, I think about the people that are entrusted in my care to shepherd and to pray for you and as I think about my own spiritual condition, I think about my own soul. I've come to the conclusion that there is a single greatest danger that faces every human being on the face of the earth. There is no danger like it, of infinite danger to all of us, and that is that we will lose our souls. It’s the danger that on Judgment Day, Christ would say to us, "Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." This is greatest danger that faces every human being. For Jesus said, "What would it profit someone, if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?" The second greatest danger that faces every person (and this is for Christians to hear carefully), is that you will waste your lives on things that don't matter.
And the text we're looking at this morning, comes really in the flavor of a warning, although there's promise in it, promise of eternal rewards, but it's couched and set as a warning. And the idea here is that all of us who are Christians are building something. Really, every human being is building something, there is a life work. The question is; are we building well or poorly? Are we building wisely or foolishly? That's what's in front of us. And what's amazing is, if you're a Christian, God has guaranteed that to some degree, your life will not be wasted. There will be some good works flowing through you of eternal value, and you can rejoice in that. But I think we're all going to feel on Judgment Day there should have been more. I really believe that, I think we're all going to feel that, "Oh, if only there had been more." And it'll be the last moment of regret we will have, because the Lord Himself with His own hand will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there'll be no more mourning, there'll be no regrets in heaven, we will be deeply, richly satisfied with Christ's work and satisfied also with our own. We will not be lamenting missed opportunities in heaven. But I think we will lament them on Judgment Day.
Poor Construction Leads to Ruin and Death
And my job is to help minimize that for all of you. So it would be wise for you and for me to heed the warnings and the encouragements in this text, and to build wisely and well. So not, "How do I put it shoddy workmanship." A little while ago I was reading about an earthquake in Turkey in 1999, August 17, that hit a city in Turkey, and many of the buildings collapsed and killed people, there were 17,000 deaths in this earthquake, 45,000 injuries. And the overwhelming majority of the deaths were caused by the collapse of new apartment buildings that were poorly built. Shoddy workmanship resulted directly in the deaths of people. And so there were poor foundations, they were laid poorly, there was lack of structural integrity in the buildings, lack of reinforcing steel rods, rebar. And the walls just collapsed, the floors collapsed and people were killed. The buildings had not been properly inspected by governmental officials, construction companies paid bribes and cut corners and people died as a result. Similar tragedies have hit in other places as well, I think of an earthquake, similar earthquake in Port-au-Prince Haiti. Same thing, shoddy workmanship resulting in the deaths of many.
Now, we're surrounded by building projects all the time. When we go out of this building, to the left there's a high-rise skyscraper which I'm told is office building and condos. Don't you hope it's being built well? And there's a parking garage straight back there. I've been watching it rise. One of the buildings is prettier than the other, but the other is functional. And I'm hoping that the structural engineers have done their work well. And so, when the cars start going up those spiral ramps that they'll hold the weight. We've got the new public library over here which is growing before our very eyes. And there's all kinds of steel work and concrete work, aren't you hoping and praying that the work is being done well, quality work?
Well, as we turn to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, there is an architectural metaphor, Paul has been using an agricultural one, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it but God made it grow." But now he shifts over to an architectural metaphor: "You are God's field, God's building." So we're both, but now he's talking about structural integrity and building. And he's calling on the workers on the church of Jesus Christ to build well and wisely. The text makes it plain that shoddy workmanship in the construction of the church will be exposed, it will be made manifest, it will be revealed by the day, Judgment Day. Conversely, excellent workmanship will also be manifested, will be disclosed, it will be revealed on Judgment Day as well, everything will be laid bare.
Now, the picture in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is more of a communal building project. It's a community building, we're all working on this thing. Jesus gives us a much more individualized picture at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. You remember after laying out those three incredible chapters of doctrine in which He's talking to his disciples about how to be a disciple of His in this world, He then gives the warning to all those who have heard his teachings, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rains came down and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice, is like a foolish man who builds his house on a sand and the rains came down and the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
It's always been amazing to me that the Sermon on the Mount ends with a great crash. And so that noise, if you can hear it by faith, is an individual person's life crashing down when severely tested. Now, these two images I think, should not be kept separate. It's not like there's two different building project. You got like the Amish barn raising going on, that the whole community works on, and then you've got your individual farm that you're building, and they're two just separate things. We know in the end they must be harmonized, they're the same thing, you as a Christian are building something with your life. And that is part of the building of the church of Jesus Christ, they are not separate but they are together. And so we need to look at both the idea of a collective building of the church well and wisely and also individually, the call to you to ask, "How are you building, what are you doing with your life?"
So there's a focus, first and foremost, I think, on those that are called into the ministry of the Word, like Paul and Apollos were, to do very skillful work in the Word and not shoddy workmanship, those that follow him, as the church in Corinth rises. But then it just becomes the language, it becomes universal, "if any man builds on this foundation…" So it's really speaking to all of us and that we're all involved in this building project.
Now this, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, is one of the most exciting, interesting, provocative paragraphs in 1 Corinthians. It stands as both a continual warning to us and a continual exhortation and encouragement to us. That we should, as those entrusted with the ministry of the Word, build well and wisely and be very careful. And that you as a church should not accept shoddy workmanship from the pulpit or from any teaching ministry of this church. If the Lord doesn't return in our lifetime, if this church continues to be a light shining in a dark place, I will be replaced someday. All of the elders will be replaced, it's up to the church to be certain, you choose craftsmen that will be rightly handling the Word of God, and not put up with shoddy workmanship in the teaching of the Word.
But then each of you has to look to yourself and say, "What am I building with my life? Is it going to last on Judgement Day? Is my work going to survive the testing that's coming on Judgment Day?" Both of those things are in play here.
I. Paul Laid the Foundation; Others Build Upon It
So let's start with Paul and a statement about himself. Paul said, "I laid a foundation," in verse 10. "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder." So Paul laid the foundation. And he makes it plain in verse 11, The only true foundation is Jesus Christ, "for no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." So he asserts that the foundation's already laid. The work is finished. In John 19, when Jesus breathes his last, He says, "It is finished." It's perfect, there's nothing that can be added to the finished work of Jesus Christ in atoning for sins. So he said, "I can't lay a foundation other than what Jesus already laid."
The author to Hebrews, in Hebrews 1:3 says concerning Jesus Christ, "After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." That's a finished work. Purification for sins has been perfectly provided by the blood of Jesus. He sat down, He's finished with His atoning work. There's nothing that Paul could do to add to that work or improve it. This is the sure immovable foundation of the church of Jesus Christ. And it will never move. However, when Christ suffered and died for His people, He did so outside the gates of Jerusalem, in Judea, a long way away from Corinth. And my guess is that the people in Corinth knew literally nothing about it when it happened. Life went on in the pagan Corinth way, just like every other day. They had heard nothing of Jesus. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on someone they've never believed in? And how can they believe in someone of whom they've never heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?
And so Paul sent out to bring the good news of the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world to Corinth. And so he laid a foundation in their minds and hearts by his clear, simple Spirit-anointed preaching of the Word of the Gospel. As he said in Chapter 2, he said, "When I came to you…I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." So that's how he laid the foundation. He didn't lay anything, but by proclaiming Christ crucified and resurrected, he established in their minds and hearts, the foundation for their souls and for the Corinthian church. That was the foundation that Paul laid. And he said no other foundation could be laid.
The Earthquake/Shaking is Coming
It's the only foundation that will survive the massive earthquake that's coming. And there is an earthquake coming. There is a shaking coming on all these structures. Jesus alluded to it, the rains came down, the streams rose, winds blew in beat against the house. There is a testing coming, there's a shaking coming of every structure, all of it. And no other foundation will survive the massive earthquake that's coming. Now, you may say, "Are you talking about literal earthquake? I've lived through an earthquake in Japan in 1995, January '95, I lived through an earthquake, some of the buildings in Kobe survived, some were destroyed.
And I've seen the buildings that were destroyed by that earthquake and some that survived. So are we talking about a literal shaking?" Yes, actually yes, there is a literal shaking of the earth that is coming. As the author to Hebrew says in Hebrews 12:26, "now he has promised, ' Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.'" He's going to shake everything. He's going to test everything. Or again, as we saw in the Book of Revelation, you remember in Revelation 6:12-17; "As Jesus opened the sixth seal, it says there was a great earthquake, and the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat's hair, and the whole moon turned blood red and the stars in the sky fell to the earth as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. And the sky receded like a scroll rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place, and then, the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the generals and the rich and the mighty, and every slave, and every free man, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains, and they called to the mountains and the rocks, fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath is coming, who shall be able to stand?"
So yeah, there's a shaking that's coming. But you could also say it's just a metaphor for the shaking of your life by Judgment Day, the testing of your life, the soundness of the foundation. And Paul says, "There's no other foundation that's going to survive the testing." No other gospel will survive it. Paul says in Galatians 1, "If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than what we preach to you, let him be eternally condemned." That false gospel, those other messages, those other religions will not survive the shaking that's coming. And all of the buildings that they are building on those faulty idolatrous, demonic foundations will crash to the ground, they'll lose it all. There is only one foundation that will still stand after the shaking that God is going to bring, and that is the foundation of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. As Paul said, "By the grace that God gave me, I lay that foundation in your minds and hearts."
And what grace that was, that God gave to Paul? How did he get involved in that? He hated this Gospel, he hated the church, he was against it. But he says later in the same book of 1 Corinthians 59 and 10, he says, "I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God, but by the grace of God, I am what I am." "And so by the grace that God gave me, I have the privilege of laying the foundation O Corinthians in your hearts and minds."
And Paul has already established that he and Apollos were only servants. One planted the seed Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So they're nothing but only God who establishes growth. But they had a role, and it was through Paul and Apollos that they came to believe. And so there was a role that Paul played in laying this foundation. Through human agents, people come to believe or if they've already believed, they believe more and better and stronger, and so we have a work to do through faith in Christ. And it's interesting, Paul calls himself a wise master builder. So you're wondering about Paul, "Where now is your humility?" "I am a wise, I am an expert builder." Well, humility doesn't mean saying falsehood about yourself. Paul actually had through the grace of God, skill in knowing what went into a healthy local church. And so look at Verse 10, "According to the grace God of god given to me, like a skilled master builder, I laid a foundation." The word "skilled," is wise. "With the wisdom that God gave me, I knew how to do this, I knew how to begin a church in Corinth." He was very wise, Paul was carrying on his ministry in a very wise or skillful way. He understands God's will, he understands what he's trying to do and he's doing it well.
And he calls himself a master builder. Literally, in architekton or a ruler builder, from which we get the word "architect". So it would be somebody in charge of the work, in charge of the work site. Maybe he even drew up the blueprints, he knows the whole plan. And you can imagine in our context, a subcontractor who's going to be bringing in other workers and evaluating them and choosing who's going to actually get to work on this project, but he's just in charge of the whole thing. So he is a wise master builder, and so he knew what went into a healthy local church, how to begin it, how to start the work, and then how to disciple and train leaders, how to teach them about the ordinances, water baptism, the Lord's Supper, church discipline, elders, deacons, discipleship patterns, all of these things, healthy marriage, parenting, all the things that goes into a healthy local church life. He says, "as a wise master builder, I've been doing that." But then when that work was done for Paul, it was time for him to leave. And so he left. He was called on to be a trailblazing, church planting apostle to the Gentiles, his time in Corinth had come to an end. And he left, and Apollos came and he implies others came too. And they're building. "Someone else is building on it" in verse 10. So he speaks a warning to everyone who comes after me in this work in Corinth, and then symbolically, all Christian work that follows that first generation.
II. Paul’s Warning: Be Careful How You Build
He gives a warning, and that includes all of us. Each one who follows me in this work better be careful how he build. See to it how you build. You better see it, literally in the Greek, look at how you're building, see it, be careful how you're building. It's a sober warning for all of us.
Now, 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about some that come masquerading as servants of righteousness, they are actually serving Satan. They are false apostles. Satan masquerades as an angel of light and they masquerade as servants of righteousness. He's talking there about false teachers who would come later. However, I don't think that's what he's addressing here. 1 Corinthians 3, he's talking about genuine Christians who are building on the true foundation. Because he mentions that they who do some shoddy workmanship are themselves saved, but only as those escaping through the flame. So we're talking about genuine Christians who come along and don't do good work on the foundation that He laid. So I winna give you four criteria for evaluating the work.
Four Criteria for Excellent Workmanship in the Church of Christ
There are four things I want you to look at in terms of following Paul in building the church of Jesus Christ.
- The method you use
- The materials you use
- The manner in which you build
- The motive in building.
These are going to be evaluated among other things, on Judgment Day.
1) The method you use
First, the method. Paul says, "Let each one be careful how he builds." What is your approach? Now, God ordained that the foundation would be laid through the simple, clear, preaching of the Gospel, but to build on that foundation it must be a careful handling of the Word of God. Careful handling of the Scripture. And so I think about 2 Timothy 2:15, which says, "Study to show yourselves approved unto God, workmen who do not need to be ashamed rightly dividing the Word of truth." So, be certain that the craftsmen who come after have a method in the Word of God that's accurate and faithful. And I would advocate preaching and teaching systematically through the Word of God, not shrinking back from any difficult text.
I like to follow consecutive exposition, not every expository preacher does that, but expository teaching and preaching is the best. It's good skillful work. And by that I mean, you get out of the way of the text and just use the text as the message. And so, the point of the text becomes what we end up talking about. I don't come to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 thinking, "Oh, what do I talk about?" Or "Hey, I think I'll talk about architecture." The text talks about it, so you're just following the text. I advocate that. And it's not enough to just preach the Gospel, that's milk, that's the beginning.
Now, the Gospel is also meat, I understand that as it's applied to the life, but you need to move on from God-man-Christ-Response and move on from just preaching the simple Gospel week after week after week after week after week, at that same church. That is not going to build the church toward maturity. And so Paul says to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:27, "I have not shrunk back from preaching to you the whole counsel of God." The whole counsel of God. So some churches focus on personalities, they focus on entertainment, they have a certain style of public presentation that tickles the ears maybe or uses humor or uses just the big personality in front of the screen or something, others look to other techniques and methods and things like that.
We must trust the Word of God to build the church. That's the method by which a healthy church is going to be built.
2) The materials you use
And then it's not far from the materials, it's almost the same thing. The materials that Paul talks about here, gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay and straw, look at it in verse 12 and 13, "If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his 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 one's work." So this talks about actual building material, so its doctrines, its teachings that come from the Word of God. But also, spiritual leaders need to put their lives on display. There needs to be a role modeling. Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ. So there has to be quality teaching and quality living, and that will build the church well. Now, since the work is going to be tested with fire, the image here is fire. We understand that gold and silver and precious stones survive fire. To some degree you could say they're either forged in fire or purified by fire, but wood, hay, and straw are consumed.
And so the image at the end here is if what you've built burns up, then that would mean that wood, hay, and straw, are bad in this setting. Although you could imagine fine workmanship in wood, and so it's not universally bad, but in this setting, wood, hay and straw represents bad building materials. You don't want to have used those on the church of Jesus Christ. So what we have to do is we have to make certain that the things that we're doing with our lives, what we are teaching, how we are living is of the highest quality that will survive the scrutiny, the manifestation, the disclosure, the testing, all those words are used here, it's really intensive here. This disclosure that will happen on the day, on Judgment Day. So what this says to me, if we go to the individual work that's going on this collective project, each one of you and I, all of us, need to make the most of our brief time on earth. We don't have long here. The days are precious, and it's all we ever have is today. You don't have yesterday, you don't have tomorrow, all you have is today and you're called on today, if today you hear His voice, don't harden your heart. So build with gold and silver and costly stones today, and that must mean obey His word. Do what He told you to do like a servant would. Make the most of your time.
3) The manner in which you build
Thirdly, manner. Paul will make it very clear later in this book, but I want to go ahead and reach for some of that and bring it back here. It matters how you do what you do. He's going to make it very clear in 1 Corinthians 8, in the section on meat sacrifice to idols. The knowledge, right doctrinal knowledge about idols and meat and all that isn't enough. You need love. So knowledge alone destroys actually, it pops up. It's like a bubble economy, you can imagine a bubble structure, it's going to pop, it's not going to survive Judgment Day, but love edifies or builds up. So there's that sense of structural strength in right doctrine plus right affections or love. Oh, he's going to make this very plain in chapter 13 as you well know. He goes on and on right in the middle of the section on spiritual gifts, including prophecy, and teaching, and speaking in tongues, and all of those things. Right in the middle of that he says basically, "Can I just stop and say something about the manner in which you use your spiritual gifts?"
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but if I have not love, I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and I can fathom all mysteries, and if I have all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing. And if I give all that I possess to the poor, and if I surrender my body to the flames but if I have not love I gain nothing." And then he describes what he means, love is patient, love is kind. While you're doing your spiritual gift ministry, are you a patient and kind person? Are you doing it in a patient and kind way, or are you easily angered? Are you arrogant, boastful, rude? Series of negatives that love is not. So the manner in which you use your spiritual gift ministry and in which you build matters a lot.
4. The motive in building.
And then finally, motive. We could say a lot about this, but it must be the glory of God. "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God," 1 Corinthians 10:31. So method, materials, manner and motive, all of these things will be tested on Judgment Day.
III. Judgment Day Testing: What Will Remain of Your Lifework?
And so what will remain of your life work? Look again at these words Verses 12-15, "If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light." It will be revealed. So shown, brought to light, revealed. "And the fire will test the quality of each one's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward, if it is built up he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved but only as one escaping through the flames." So, Paul is going to make this very plain at the beginning of the next chapter. We can't really evaluate another person's work until Judgment Day. There's a lot of things that are hidden, there's just some things we don't know. And so we think we know this pastor, this leader, this godly man, godly woman, but we really don't know them, all we can know is what our eyes show us, we don't really know. And so Paul actually says at beginning of Chapter 4, he says to judge nothing until the day. That day is going to bring to light the hidden secrets and the motives of men's hearts.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, George Whitefield wanted to put on his tomb, "Here lies George Whitefield, what kind of man he was, the day will reveal." That's all you need to put on my tomb. You don't know me, you won't know me, but Judgment Day you'll know me, you'll know who I really am. So it's going to be revealed in the text here, with fire, and fire is going to test the quality of each person's work. There is a warning here but also a promise. Our works all of them, everything we've done in the body, while in the body, whether good or bad, will be tested. 2 Corinthians 5 makes that very plain, whether good or bad, everything will be tested, evaluated. Here, the testing is with fire, and in this image, the gold, silver, costly stones, survive, and the wood, hay and straw gets burned up. So that is shoddy workmanship.
Teachers, preachers, who rely on gimmicks and not the faithful expounding of the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, will see their work was shoddy. And that goes back to 2 Timothy 2:15, listen again to those words, "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman," who what? "Does not need to be ashamed." Well, when will that shame come, Judgment Day? Judgment Day. Hopefully, if it would have been then, sooner the better. Better be ashamed now and change, and start teaching and preaching accurately and faithfully the Word of God. So also for all of us, that we would not be ashamed on that day, let us be ashamed now.
Well, there's time to do something about it. All of us are going to have our works tested. So what kind of things are wood, hay, and straw? I've thought a lot about this, what's going to burn up? Well, certainly sins are going to burn up. All of our sins, things that we did that violated our conscience, that violated God's Word, it's going to burn up, it's worthless in terms of building the church. Sins of omission, sins of commission. But also I think just things that really were of no eternal consequence. God wants us to have common grace blessings, He wants us to enjoy this world, He wants us to be able to enjoy hobbies, pass times, entertainments, pleasures, He gives them to us in measure to enjoy, but we know that there's a possibility we can become addicted to those things.
Netflix, spectator sports, hobbies, shopping therapy. I don't know what all to say, it's not that the Internet itself evil, but it's just too much. And up to a certain point, it was a gift of God, but beyond it, it is just wood, hay and straw. All the time you're spending on, it's just going to burn up. And I think about our words, like our words, James talked about the tongue. Boy, do we say a lot of words? I say a lot of words. I pray, "O God protect my words while I preach." I feel like the Lord says, "Well, I would like to protect you all the time. It's not just when you're preaching, all of the words matter." Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, "I tell you the people have to give an account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken." Do you believe that some of your words will be gold or silver or costly stones, but some of your words will be wood or hay or straw, do you think so? Some things you say you wish you hadn't said. It's like, "Oh God, that I would not speak straw anymore." So we talked about arguments, complaining, conflicts, filthy language, off color jokes, all of these things that the Bible makes very clear are disgusting to God. That we would put a guard over our mouth and say nothing except what is helpful, for what? "Building others up according to their needs," Ephesians 4:29. So build with yours. Oh God, make gold come out of my mouth, may silver come out of my mouth, may diamonds come out of my mouth.
You want to know how to do that? Do a lot of this, talk about this a lot. You know what, Scripture this, Scripture that. Make it be said of you, "you're always talking Scripture." I remember one person they said about him, he was so saturated in the Bible that if you pricked him his blood was Biblin, just Bible came out all the time. I would like to be like that. That's safe for me. Other than that, I'm thinking maybe the more I go on, the more it's going to be wood, hay or straw. And what does it say if what you have built is burned, what does the text say? Suffer loss. I have meditated it, looked at it in the Greek, yes, it's there, loss. And it's hard to see it go. It will be painful, therefore I just cannot get away from a painful Judgment Day for Christians.
He himself will be saved, but…
I know one of you will say to me. Romans 8:1, is the favorite one. "There's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Friends I'm not talking about condemnation, I'm talking about evaluation. You will be evaluated, your works will be evaluated. There is a distinction in the text between the person and his or her works. The works can get burned up, the person can be saved, but only as one escaping through the flame. There is a distinction made. So our persons have been judged if we're Christians, at the cross. Condemnation poured down on Jesus in our behalf, He is our lightning rod by simple faith, not by works, all of our condemnation is gone, hallelujah. We will be saved. But what about the works? They're going to be tested, they're going to be evaluated. And if you see them burn up, it will hurt you. My job is to minimize your suffering and maximize your portfolio, your retirement portfolio. How's your retirement portfolio? I don't mean the one that you're gonna have for 11 years or 16 years, I mean the one you're going to have for eternity. My job as a pastor is make you eternally rich by teaching the Word. I can't make you anything, but to point to riches. And that's what he's calling on us, it says, in Verse 15, "If it is burned up, he himself will suffer loss. He will suffer loss, he himself will be saved but only as one escaping through the flames."
Now, if the individual has literally no works at all, no good works, I would say that they're not born again. They're not born again. This comes from many places in Scripture. But John 15 in particular, Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from me, you can do nothing." It says, "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit. While every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so it will be even more fruitful." The branches that are cut off are collected and thrown in the fire and burned. So what does that mean? It means people, I think in that context, who hang around Christians, who go to church but they're not converted, they're not genuinely born again, there's no fruit, literally no fruit in their lives. They are not talked about in this text. Because the people here are saved, and if you are saved, there will be good works. Praise God, you'll have something to show for your life. But there is a sense of loss here in which you could have had more. So what does it mean that he himself will be saved but only as one escaping through the flames?
Well, I was reading some time ago about the Clipper Ship Era. And I was reading about one particular captain, and this is what they did, this is the fastest way to travel from San Francisco to New York back before the Transcontinental Railroad. And so he put all of his gold that he had gotten from the gold rush on a fast clipper ship, which he owned. And he was going down around the Straits of Magellan and going back up to New York to live a comfortable life. But at a certain place, a certain point, there was a severe storm right near the shore, the boat and everything he owned in that life went down but he made it to shore. Bereft of all of his worldly possessions but he himself survived. So that's a pretty striking image. This one is even more striking. To actually have to have a sense and experience of Christ's disappointment or displeasure with you over the wood, hay and straw of your life. We should feel that now, don't you think? It's good to feel it now when we can do something about it. I don't want to be that kind of person.
The promise of reward
Conversely, there's a promise here in Verse 14, "If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward." And so next time I preach on 1 Corinthians, I'm going to talk more about that. I'm going to talk more about rewards and how to store them up. So I'm going to be getting ready to enhance your retirement portfolio, but you do your own study and we'll come together on that text.
Evaluate your life and your works
Let me do some application and then we'll be done. First, this text calls on you to evaluate your life and works. First and foremost, I just want to ask, are you in the faith at all? Are you a Christian? Are you born again? Do you know that your sins have been forgiven through faith in Christ? Remember I began the sermon saying, the greatest tragedy, the greatest danger that ever faces anyone is to lose their soul. The Gospel is simple, it's easy to understand the God who made the universe and everything in it, also crafted you in your mother's womb, desires to have a relationship with you.
He has given laws by which we are to live and all of us have broken them. We have broken the 10 Commandments, we have broken the two great commandments, we are law breakers, and we could not save ourselves, we are under the death penalty, we stood in danger of dying eternally in hell, and we couldn't save ourselves. So God sent a son Jesus into the world who lived a sinless life and died an atoning death in our place. He shed His blood for us. And He was raised from the dead on the third day and by faith in His name, repentance of sins and faith in His name, all our sins can be forgiven. So let me just ask, are you a Christian? Are you born again? Now is the time, today is a day of salvation, trust in Him.
Evaluate how you have been building your life
Secondly, if you are a Christian, same thing, evaluate your life. Evaluate what you're doing. How are you investing your life? How are you investing your time? What are you spending your time on? What are you spending your money on? What are you spending your strength on? Is it gold or silver or costly stones? Or is it wood, hay, or straw? And the image of gold, silver, costly stones, if you could rearrange silver, gold, costly stones, that's the ascending order of worth and value. So it's almost like good, better, best. I just want to invest my life on the best things that I can do. And that's a challenge, because the flesh fights that all the time. But evaluate, what are you spending your life on?
And if you want to have more gold, silver, costly stones, then I would urge you to saturate your mind and your heart, every day in the Word of God. Strengthen your faith. It will take the gauze, the hazy vision that Satan puts in our minds and you'll realize the significance of today. And then you'll say, "Secondly, God you have ordained some good works for me to walk in today. Help me walk in them, by the power of the Holy Spirit." And then look at your life big picture, what is the big project of your life for Christ? Do you have one, do you have a spiritual gift ministry? Do you have a calling in life? Everyone needs one. I'm in vocational ministry. Most of you won't be. But you should all have a definable spiritual gift ministry that you're doing a lot. Is that going on in your life? So close with me in prayer.
Father we thank you for the time we've had to look at this. I pray as we analyze it and think about it more next week, that you would help us to be as rich as possible in good works. Help us to be as rich as possible in things of eternal consequence. Help us to be strong in the spirit and make the most of every moment, to redeem the time because the days are evil, and Satan is working against, and our flesh is so weak. Help us O God be strong. Thank you for your grace, that first and foremost, you've delivered us from hell. And secondly, O Lord, you have delivered us from wasting our time, wasting our lives. So God give us grace to see the day properly and make the most of it in Jesus name, amen.