The Real Meaning
Welcome to the final part of “Under Construction!” Thank you for following along on this journey with me. I hope that it has served as an inspiration to pursue the things that Christ has called you to do. I’m going to finish up this series by talking about what I probably should have started out with: explaining the real meaning behind the passage. If we don’t really take the time to understand its meaning, it can lead to a totally incorrect view of the means of our salvation and how we view the final judgement.
My first in-depth look into this passage came earlier this summer through a radio program on the Christian Satellite Network. The message was taught by Dr. Jeff Shreve on his program “From His Heart.” While listening to Dr. Shreve speak, my first thoughts formed that then blossomed into this full blown series. It actually served as one of the primary motivations that pushed me to start up this blog. If you really desire to dig deeper into the meaning of this passage, I would suggest listening to his full 40-minute message title “Judgement Day for the Child of God.” This post will not be nearly as detailed as his message, but I hope it captures the general idea behind the topic.
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved-even though only as one escaping through the flames.”
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NIV
We know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), that our due punishment for that sin is death and eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23), that Christ came and died on our behalf so that we would not have to suffer that punishment (Romans 4:25), and that faith in Christ is the only way to right standing before God (John 14:6). All of these are indisputable truths laid out plainly throughout Scripture. So how does a passage like this one fit into the knowledge that salvation comes by faith alone. It speaks of judgement based upon our works, not our faith in Christ.
The resolution to this supposed conflict is found in the realization that this passage is not referencing the final judgement—where all will be judged by whether or not we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. It is referencing something different entirely that I think it is best understood looking through the lens of the Parable of the Minas:
“While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’”
Luke 19:11-27 NIV
In this parable, the master gives each servant something. To some, he gives more and to others he gives less. None of the servants did anything to merit the things they were given, but the master gives out what ever pleases him. Christ has also given us things other than just salvation. He created us with talents and attributes that can be used to glorify Him, and He expects a return on His investment in us. We are to use what Christ has given us and multiply it, not hide it in fear that we might lose or misuse it. God has been gracious in what He has given us, and we show our gratitude in using it to the best of our abilities.
That is what this passage in 1 Corinthians is talking about. One day we, as Christians, will stand in judgement, but not to determine our salvation. Paul specifically states that, even if what the builder constructs is burnt up, he himself will be saved because the foundation—which is Christ—still remains. Our judgement will be to determine the reward we receive from Christ for our work, which we will then lay at His feet. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)
None of us wants to come before our Savior and Redeemer empty handed which is why we must choose to live for the eternal today. We need to intentionally build on the foundation of Christ. God has given us all we need to do it. He has provided us with a plan to accomplish, the motivation to work through it, and the tools necessary to complete the job. There is a fantastic quote by Jim Elliot that says:
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
It may cost us time, energy, pleasure, and money to truly work for Christ, but, unlike all that we give up to build, what we receive will never fade. Now is the time to get serious about building for the eternal over the temporal, the incorruptible over the perishing. Christ has called us to action, equipped us with His power, and sent us to do His work. The least we can do is forfeit some of our time for His will, as He forfeited His everything for us. That is the meaning behind 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, and that is our response to our Savior’s sacrifice.
As always, with the love and strength of Christ,
“The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
Revelation 4:10-11 ESV