September 13, 2012
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #2: The Problem of Divisions, 1 Corinthians 1.10-4.21



Lesson 2.7: Apostles and Wisdom
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3.5-3.17

1 Cor 3:5-17 (KJV)

5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry [tillage], ye are God’s building.
10 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.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 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.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile [destroy] the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.


In verses 1-4, our Lesson 2.6, the Corinthians were criticized for their strife and divisions. This lesson deals with Harvesting and Building.
• Harvesting (5–9). Every child of God has a place in the Lord’s harvest, and all are doing His work (John 4:34–38). There must be no competing or comparing, because the Lord alone acknowledges the work and gives the reward. It makes no difference who the servant is so long as Jesus Christ is Lord of the harvest.
• Building (10–17). Paul writes about the local church and the materials we put into it as we minister (Prov. 2:1–5; 3:13–15). Substituting man’s wisdom for God’s Word means building with perishable materials that will burn up at the judgment seat of Christ.


5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos,
The apostle used his own name, since there was a faction in the Corinthian Church that adopted his name and claimed he was the superior minister. It is wrong to suppose that either Paul or Apollos encouraged or approved of the factions, and there is not the slightest hint that any rivalry existed between them. Paul always spoke of Apollos with respect and affection.

It was probably due to his large following that Paul felt free to ask the question, “What do you think about me, and other preachers (Apollos)?; are we more than men.” He could have added—“what authority and power do you think we have; do you think we are the founders of a new religion, or of a new sect that will bear our names?” Certainly, such persons even as Paul and Apollos are not worthy of receiving any honor or praise for their work or the success of it. It is important to say here that Paul and Apollos were instruments only, and not, in any sense, the source of divine grace. The Corinthians were not saved because they believed in them, but they were saved because they believed in Christ through what they learned from Paul, Apollos and the other ministers.

but ministers by whom ye believed,
Although Paul was the greatest apostle of the New Testament, he nevertheless refers to himself here with a title which has received various translations; the meaning being, "servant," "minister," or "deacon." Paul would not tolerate factions, not even one that proposed to honor him as a man. He believed they were servants to Christ and to his churches, and not lords; they did not assume any authority over men, or pretend to lord it over God's people; there is but one Lord and master, and that is Christ, whom they served, and taught others to obey. They were only instrumental in the hand of God, by whom souls were directed, encouraged, and brought to believe in Christ; as for faith itself, that is the gift of God, conveyed and put into effect by the Holy Spirit. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith; knowing that, they laid no claim to His power or His work, or imagined they had any control over it; that they could either implant it, or increase it by themselves. It was honor enough that it happened through their ministry.

They are only ministers, mere instruments used by the God of all grace. Some of the combative people in Corinth, who had formed factions, seem to have made more of them than was appropriate, placing them on a pedestal as if they were lords of their faith, and authors of their religion. Note, We should take care not to deify ministers, or put them into the place of God. Apostles were not the authors of our faith and religion, though they were authorized and qualified to reveal and preach it. They acted in this office like they were common men. Note, All the gifts and powers that even apostles received and exerted in the work of the ministry were from God. They were intended to help them in their mission. It was entirely wrong to transfer that respect to the apostles which was only to be paid to the Holy Spirit, by which they acted, and to God, from whom they had their authority.

Paul says, “Both of us are workmen for God.” Paul was the one who was the missionary—he had opened up new territory. Apollos came along and held meetings and preached and built up the saints. They were both servants of God.

The Vulgate Latin version reads, "his ministers whom ye believed"; that is, the ministers of Christ, whom they believed in; not in the ministers, but Christ; the Arabic version renders it, "but two ministers, by whom ye believed"; referring to Paul and Apollos.

as the Lord gave to every man?
Humility is a quality that should be present in all servants of God. Time and time again, Paul gave evidence that he had that quality; and he does it again with an analogy in which he and Apollos were represented merely as laborers working on a farm belonging to another. Paul and Apollos were in highest office and they have the highest gifts; but they are only servants, waiters, and attendants in the service of Almighty God; so called, not just due to their relationship to God, but also because of their relationship to the church, whose they are, to whom they belong, and whom they serve. It was entirely wrong for the Corinthian believers to transfer that respect and affection to the apostles which was only to be paid to the Almighty God; by whose power they acted, and from whom they received their authority. Any benefit that had come to the Christians at Corinth did not originate with the instruments through whom it was conveyed, but with the Lord of glory.


6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

I have planted
Paul liked agricultural images and often used them in his letters. Jesus also used them; in the Parable of the Sower, He compared the human heart to soil, and the Word of God to seed (See Matt 13.1-9, 18-23). The apostle is using this illustration collectively; the local church is a field, and it ought to bear fruit. The job of the minister is sowing the seed, cultivating the soil, watering the plants, and harvesting the fruit. Paul planted ministerally; he was the first one to preach the Gospel to them; and he was an instrument of God for the conversion of many souls, and forming a Gospel church in their city. Paul had done what God called him to do, and he did it well; but God alone planted their souls in Christ, and implanted grace into them; these things are purely divine, and peculiar to God, and the power of his grace. He is the only one who can produce growth; the laborer can only wait.

How did this image of the church as a field apply to the special problems of the Corinthians? To begin with, the emphasis must be on God and not on the laborers. Paul and Apollos were only servants who did the tasks assigned to them. It was God who gave life to their efforts. Even the faith of the believers was a gift from God: Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?(1Co 3.5). It is wrong then to center attention on the servants. Look instead to the Lord of the Harvest, the source of all blessing.

Notice that the verbs here are in the past tense, indicating that Paul came to Corinth first and did the initial work, and the subsequent work was done by Apollos, who came along later.

Apollos watered;
He came after Paul, and his ministry was blessed for its teaching; he was a means of building up souls in faith and holiness, and of making them fruitful in every good work: each minister of the Gospel has his appropriate gifts, work, and usefulness; some are planters, others water; some are employed in cutting down the sturdy oaks, and others in squaring the ends and removing the limbs; some like Peter are sons of thunder, and are generally useful in convicting and converting; and others like Barnabas are sons of consolation, who are mainly useful in comforting and edifying the saints. But God gave the increase: the gardener may put his plants into the earth, and water them as he does so, but he cannot cause them to grow, because growth is a divine blessing. The farmer cultivates his ground, casts the seed on it, covers up the seed with soil, and waits for the former and latter rain, but he cannot cause it to spring up, or grow until it is ready for the harvest, because this is done by a superior influence.  So ministers of the Gospel plant and water, cast in the seed of the Word and preach the Gospel, but all the success is due to the Lord; only God causes it to spring up and grow.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? (1Co 3.5). They are ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

but God gave the increase.
Christian workers have different jobs, and see different results. But God is the one who gets the work done; God . . . gives the increase.
i. When a farmer plants a seed, and waters it, he really does not make it grow. The miracle of life does that. All the farmer can do is provide the right environment for growth, and trust in the miracle of life. We do the same thing in ministering Jesus to other people.
ii. Some people are frustrated because they want to water when God has called them to plant, or they want to plant when God has called them to water. Others are frustrated because they want to make the increase happen, when only God can do that. Real fruitfulness in ministry happens when we are peacefully content with what God has called us to do.

The literal translation is “God was giving the increase,” signifying “something going on all the time.” God was giving the increase moment by moment, day by day, as the preached Gospel was watered and new seed was being sown all the time. Note, that in the following verses, God … opened the door of faith. Again we observe that Christ, the Lord of the church, is sovereignly directing her affairs from heaven.

• “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14.27; KJV).
• “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16.14; KJV).

God’s word will never return unto Him void; on the contrary, it continues increasingly. Paul planted the incorruptible seed of the Word, Apollos watered the seed planted by Paul; but it was God who gave thee increase and saved them for Christ’s sake. It was God who was continually saving any and all who would yield to the Spirit. It was God who was continuing to keep them, strengthen them, and permit them to grow. If you will study Acts 18.1-18 and Acts 18.24 through the entire 19th chapter, you will find the work of Paul and Apollos recorded.


7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

So then, neither is he that planteth anything,
The term  “Anything” is to be taken comparatively, since there is nothing or no one comparable to God. There are presidents and kings, but their office, authority and power is of no importance compared with his—“And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (1 Co 1.28; KJV). This does not mean that their position is not needed; that it is not important, and indispensable; but that the honor is due to God. Their position is indispensable. God could make seed or a tree grow if they were not planted in the earth. But he does not do it. The work of the gardener is indispensable in the ordinary operations of his providence. If he does not plant, God will not make the grain or the tree grow. God blesses his labors; he does not work a miracle. God rewards his effort with success; he does not interfere in a miraculous manner to accommodate the lethargy of men. So the same thing can be said about the salvation of the soul. The efforts of ministers would never succeed without God. Ministers can plant and water, but for the miracle of salvation to take place in the heart of the sinner it is absolutely necessary that God give the increase. But the labors of men are as indispensable and as necessary, as are those of the farmer in the production of a harvest. And just as every farmer could say, "my labors are nothing without God, who alone can give the increase," so it is with every minister of the gospel.

neither he that watereth;
One minister may plant the seed, but who then  is the one that provides the means of carrying on the work of salvation: it is not that they are simply and absolutely nothing; they are men, they are Christians, they are ministers, and useful ones at that. Sinners come to believe through their ministries; they are laborers together with God, and so their position should be respected; but they are nothing in themselves, or with respect to God. They are nothing by themselves as ministers and they have nothing except what they have received; all their gifts are from God, but they cannot exercise them without the grace of God. Friends, I have to say they are just like me in that it is impossible for them to have a good thought emerge from their old nature; and they can’t do anything that would make their planting and watering effective; and so they are not due any glory; nothing is to be attributed to them, they have no part in these things. I am sure there are some preachers today who are angry because of what I have just said.

but God that giveth the increase;
What the apostle is saying is simply, “God is everything!” The emphasis is upon God. The minister of God has to realize his own insignificance, and inability, his own insufficiency, and recognize his total dependence upon God if he hopes to produce fruit to God’s glory. We who are God’s ministers need to give God all the glory for the results in our ministry. And I want to also emphasize that if you are doing a service for your church such as a Sunday school teacher, usher, treasurer etc., you have a ministry that God blesses and gives the increase.  The Lord gives ministers their abilities and He gives you your abilities, He assists them in the exercise of their gifts and He assists you in the exercise of your gifts, He makes their ministries useful and He makes your ministry useful too, and he has, as he ought to have, all the glory.

Why compare preachers or statistics. God is the source of the growth; no man can take the credit. Furthermore, no one person can do all the necessary work alone. Paul planted the seed, and Apollos watered it, but only God could make it grow. The important thing is not who the preacher is; the important thing is whether God is using him. If God is using him, then God should have the credit for the results. Give God all the praise and the glory because the seed is his, the ground is his, the laborers are his, and the produce all comes from him. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Pe 3.18).



8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one:
Paul does not mean that he that planteth and he that watereth are the same in every respect; they were different in the same vein that all men are individuals and unique. Paul was an apostle, Apollos only a preacher of the Gospel, Peter a simple fisherman who became an apostle and preached the first great sermon of the New Testament; but they did not have the same gifts or the same quantity of gifts. Furthermore, they did not do their work in the same way, and they did not attain the same level of usefulness. But they had one and the same commission, which was to preach the Gospel; and the Gospel they preached was the same; and so were their views, and their reliance upon the Lord, their aims, and their goals, which were to labor to promote the glory of God by the salvation of souls; and they had the same affection for one another, and that carries with it a good argument for why the members of this church should not compete against each other and align themselves behind their favorite preacher. Paul and Apollos were one in the following respects:
1. They were united in that they did the same work. Although they were engaged in different things—because planting and watering are different kinds of work—yet they are one in regard to the end result. The work they did was not alike, but both tended to accomplish the same end. It is not as if one planted, and the other was engaged in pulling up.
2. Their work was one, because each of them was as necessary as the other. If the grain was not planted, there would be no use in pouring water there; if it is not watered, there would be no use in planting. The work of one is as necessary as the work of another; and the one should not undervalue the labor of the other.
3. They are one in regard to God. They are both engaged in performing one work; God is performing another. There are not three parties or portions of the work, but two. They perform one part of the work; God alone performs the other. Theirs would be useless without him; he would not ordinarily perform his, without their performing their part. They could not do his part, if they wanted to—just like they cannot make a plant grow; he could perform their part; he could plant and water without the farmer; but it is not in accordance with his planning and methods to do it.

Keep in mind that Paul and Apollos were not rivals and they were not founders of separate sects; but they were not mere theologians either. God’s preachers are one in Christ and one in ministry; they are one in their interests, aims, and methods; and for the believers in Corinth to consider these men as rivals was unscriptural and shows their ignorance of the Word and work of the Lord.

Note: There is no reference to baptism in "watered."

and every man shall receive his own reward
Jesus expressed the same idea as recorded in John 4.34-38: “ Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 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. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” The sower and reaper not only work together, but one day they shall rejoice together and receive their own rewards. There can be no such thing as an isolated ministry, because each worker enters into the labors of others. I have had the privilege of leading some to the Lord who were strangers to me, but others had sown the seed and watered it with their love and prayers.

And every man. The argument of the apostle here has reference only to ministers; but it is equally true of all men, that they shall receive their proper reward.

Shall receive. The Christian will receive his rewards on the Day of Judgment, when God decides the eternal destiny of men. The decisions He makes on that day will be simply determining what every moral agent ought to receive.

His own reward. Every person will receive his fit or proper reward; it will be that which pertains to only him and it will be a proper expression of the character and value of his labor. The word reward (misyon) means something given or received in return or recompense for service, merit, hardship, etc. In the Scriptures it denotes pay, wages, recompense given to day-laborers, to soldiers, etc. It is applied often, as here, to the reckoning or justice which God will appoint to men on the Day of Judgment; and it is applied to the favors which he will bestow on them, or to the punishment which he will inflict as the reward for their deeds. Instances of the former sense occur in Matthew 5:12, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven …”; of the latter in 2 Peter 2:13,15, “And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you … Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:13-15; KJV). In regard to the righteous, it does not imply merit, or that they deserve heaven; but it means that God will give to them that which he has promised, according to the terms of his new covenant, and it will be a fitting expression of his acceptance of their services. It is appropriate, according to these preparations, that they should be blessed in heaven. It would not be appropriate for them to be cast down to hell. Their sole title to eternal life is the grace of God through Jesus Christ; the nature and amount of the rewards bestowed on them will be according to the services which they render on earth. A parent may decide to divide his estate among his sons by some arbitrary means; but he may decide that it should be divided according to their expressions of love, and their obedience to him.

according to his own labour.
There is only one true Church. And Jesus is the head and foundation of that Church; every born again, blood-washed believer is a member of it, and each member of the Church will receive his or her own reward. The scripture does not teach that all believers will share and share alike in eternity—far from it! Each believer will receive a reward for “… the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10; KJV).

Salvation is entirely of the Lord, but rewards are earned by and through faithful service. If we are faithful servants we will receive a full reward; if we are unfaithful we will lose our rewards. In 2 John 8, we are warned, “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2 John 1:8; KJV). John is not speaking of losing our salvation, but of losing “those things which we have wrought”—that is our stewardship and faithful labor.

The gospel preacher's reward will be measured according to his work, and not according to his success. The injunction of God is not that men shall go and "convert" all nations, but that they shall "preach the gospel to the whole creation."

What men may think of our ministry is not important; what God may think is of supreme importance. Our reward must not be the praise of men; but the “well done” of the Lord of the harvest.


9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry [tillage], ye are God’s building.

For we are labourers together with God:
Ministers are laborers in the Lord's vineyard; their work is often difficult and taxing, both to body and mind, because they must devote themselves to Bible study, meditation, constant prayer, and preaching; and administer the ordinances of baptism and communion; they must be able to dispense discipline, reprimands, and encouragement, and they are often called upon to council members of their flock. Of course ministers are expected to preside over weddings and funerals, and visit the sick and potential members. It is a work, which no man is adequately prepared to do; a work requiring diligence, patience, and faithfulness. It is an honorable profession, and, when rightly performed, it deserves respect. However, they do not labor alone, since they work with God; not as co-workers, but as subordinate workers, because even though they may plant and water, they have no part in giving the increase. The Lord is the husbandman, the chief master builder, and they are laborers under him; however, he works with them; therefore their labors are not in vain, and they receive great encouragement to go on in their work; and they are God's laborers with one another, which is a sense of the phrase we must not overlook. A similar expression occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:1, “We then, as workers together with him …” The apostle often, in his epistles, speaks of his fellow workmen, and fellow laborers, who worked together with him under God. We do nothing by ourselves; we labor together in that work which God has given us to do, expect all our success from him, and give Him all the glory. The ASV gives the true meaning: “For we are God's fellow-workers.” They, he and Apollos, were God's laborers, and fellow laborers with each other.

ye are God's husbandry (A better translation may be “Ye are God's farm.”)
Husbandry is vague. The Greek word “georgion” is used here and it means tilled land, or tillage. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The Corinthian church was God's field in which they labored; the Lord is the owner of the field, the husbandman, or cultivator who breaks up the fallow (uncultivated) ground, which here is the hearts of his people; he casts in the seed of grace, he makes the ground good, and causes it to bring forth fruit; the churches of Christ are his property, land of his fertilizing, and all the fruit belongs to Him; they are gardens of his planting, and vineyards of his watering, and which he watches over night and day, in case any are hurt.

Paul and Apollos were fellow workers serving under God. Now, they who serve under Him do nothing by their own strength, but only by the strength given them by grace, and it is this grace which makes them fit for service. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5). I am sure that you have already sensed the weakness of the apostle Paul. But Paul could say, “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). God is not looking for some big something or some big somebody. If He had wanted that, He couldn’t use me and He couldn’t use you. God chooses the weak things of this world, little things, and insignificant things to accomplish His purposes. Our sufficiency is of God. “All the increase that comes by their labour proceeds from God in such a way that no part of the praise of it may be given to the servant” (2 Co 3.5; KJV).

ye are God's building.
If the former metaphor was taken from agriculture, this one came from architecture: believers in a church are God's house, in which he dwells, and which he himself has built; he has laid the foundation, which is Jesus Christ; he makes his people lively stones, and lays them on the Foundation; He raises up the superstructure, and He will complete the building, and He ought to receive all the glory, even though He makes use of his ministers as tools in the construction of Christians.

The object of Paul was to show that all that had been done for them had really been done by God. For this purpose he first says that they were God's cultivated field; then he changes the imagery; draws his illustration from architecture, and says, that they had been built by him like an architect designs and oversees the construction of a house. It does not build itself; but it is built by the Master Builder. So he says of the Corinthians, "Ye are the building which God erects." The same idea is found in the following verses:
• 2 Corinthians 6:16—“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
• Ephesians 2:21—“We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.”
• Hebrews 3:6—“But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”
• 1 Peter 2:5—“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”

You are not only the field which God cultivates, but you are the house which God builds, and in which he intends to dwell. No man when viewing a splendid building praises the quarryman that dug up the stones, the hewer that cut and squared them, the mason that placed them in the wall, the woodman that hewed down the timber, the carpenter that cut it to length, etc., but he praises the architect who planned it, and under whose direction the whole work was accomplished; so no man should consider Paul, or Apollos anything, because they are merely the persons employed by the great Architect to build a building which is to become a habitation for Himself through the Spirit, and the design of it is entirely his own. The idea is that God is the supreme agent in the founding and establishing of the church, with all its gifts and graces.


10 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.

According to the grace of God which is given unto me,
Paul must have been thinking of what he is about to say about himself, and it may have occurred to him that there is a chance he might become a bit elated as he recounts his service for the Lord; therefore, he attributes all of his gifts, and his usefulness as a laborer and builder in the church of God, to the rich grace he had received from the Lord; by which he was called and qualified for the work of a wise master builder. According to the grace of God  means “By the favor of God” which is given to me. All that Paul had done had been by the sheer favor of God. His appointment as an apostle of Jesus Christ was from God; and all the skill which he had shown, and all the leadership and authority which he had employed, had been from him. Paul, by the grace of God was the apostle to the Gentiles, a status which had been conferred on him by the pure favor of God along with all the wisdom, and skill, and success which he had evidenced in beginning and serving the church.

The grace of God which is given unto me is the special endowment for his apostolic work. He places this first to guard against seeming to lack humility when he pronounces himself a wise masterbuilder. The "grace"  "given" to him is the common grace given to all Christians (See 1 Co 3:5), only the quantity of grace is proportioned according to the work which God had for him to do. Paul was certainly humble as this verse, and others show: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly , according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12.3; KJV).

as a wise masterbuilder,
This same phrase, "a wise master builder", is used by the Septuagint interpreters, in Isaiah 3:3 by which they depict, "the cunning artificer", or the wise man of the carpenters, or artificers—“The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator” (Isa 3.3; KJV). The architect of all is God the Father, Son, and Spirit; God the Father is the builder of all things; Christ builds his church on himself the solid rock; and the saints are made a habitation for God, by the Spirit; ministers are builders under God, instruments he makes use of, and who would labor in vain, unless the Lord build the city. The apostle was such a minister, despite the fact that he calls himself a masterbuilder with respect to inferior ministers. He was installed in the highest office in the church, and as an apostle he was not a bit behind the chief of the apostles; and was the chief apostle of the Gentiles, and was principally concerned in preaching the Gospel to them, and in establishing churches among them; the apostle was a Gospel builder, a builder of Gospel churches based in Gospel truths, and in faith and holiness. But there were others, who were foolish builders, but he was a wise one; and his wisdom rested in the knowledge he had of Christ, in preaching him, and in winning souls for him; and for the most part that he lay a good foundation for his ministry.

The Greek word for a wise master-builder is also our word; "Architect." The word does not imply that Paul had any superiority over his brethren, but that he had performed his work like a skillful architect, who begins with a firm foundation. Every builder begins with the foundation; and Paul had started the same way, by laying first a firm foundation on which the church could be put together. Here the word "wise" means "skillful" or "shrewd"—“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matt 7:24; KJV); the rock of true discipleship, or genuine subjection to Christ.

The design or plan of the building comes from God, and all things must be done according to the pattern which he has conceived; but the execution of his plan was entrusted chiefly to Paul; he was the wise or experienced architect which God used in order to lay the foundation; to ascertain the essential and indisputable doctrines of the Gospel—they came exclusively from God, and he alone would bless them and use them to save men.

I have laid the foundation,
He says, I have laid the foundation; meaning not only that he had done the same thing at Corinth that he had done other places; but he was the first to preach the Gospel to them, and was instrumental in their conversion, and he laid the foundation for a Gospel church. "What" this foundation was, he states in 1 Corinthians 3:11. The meaning here is, that the church at Corinth had been established by Paul, and through his preaching  he laid Christ as the one and only foundation, for men to build their faith and hope upon, and for everlasting life and happiness, mentioned in the following verse.

and another buildeth thereon.
Now he speaks to those teachers who succeeded him in the church of Corinth, and in this regard to all the pastors of congregations, since they followed the planters and chief builders. I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. As he said before, I have planted, Apollos watered. It was Paul that laid the foundation of a church there in Corinth. He had led them to faith in Jesus (begotten them) through preaching the gospel to them: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15;KJV). Whatever teachers they had besides him, they did not have many fathers. He was their father in that they were born again under his preaching. He would not demean any that had served among them, and he would not be robbed of his own honor and respect. Note, Faithful ministers may have, and ought to have a concern for their own reputation. Their usefulness depends to a great extent upon it. That is why he issues this warning in the next phrase But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon. This is a suitable caution, since there may be a very unresponsive building on a good foundation. It is easy to err here; and great care should be used, not only to lay a sure and right foundation, but to erect a regular building upon it. Nothing must be laid upon it that the foundation cannot bear.

The apostle’s remarks do not apply to private Christians, who were directed by the apostle's ministry to build his soul upon the rock of ages, Christ the sure foundation; though it can be said that the apostle laid Christ as a foundation, and encouraged others to build their faith and hope upon him for the accomplishment of their eternal salvation; and many were enabled to do so, which was the happy fruit of his ministry, and what gave him pleasure; and in this sense he also built upon this foundation, for this cannot be said of another, to the exclusion of himself. But he would never lay a foundation, and direct others to build on it, and not build upon it himself. But here he refers to Apollos when he says another buildeth thereon; Apollos being another minister of the Gospel. Apollos, or any other who might follow him, should build upon the foundation he had laid; and on it there should be the birthing and edifying of souls; and the rearing up of a superstructure of Gospel truths.

But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
Every person must give an account of the nature of his instructions; and he should take care to expound the true doctrine—“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim 4:16; KJV). Here is the two essentials of a good pastor: His teaching will be of no avail unless his own life is in accord with it; and his own purity of life is not enough unless he is diligent in teaching doctrine that will bear the test of the great Day. And from this we learn, that it is important that the church should be built on the true foundation; and that it is no less important that it should be built up in the knowledge of the truth. Great evils are constantly occurring in the church because young converts lack proper instruction. Many seem to feel that if the foundation is properly laid, that is all that is needed. But the essential thing which is needed at the present time, is, that those who are converted should, as soon as possible, be instructed fully in the nature of the religion which they have embraced. What would you think of a farmer who planted a tree, and never watered or trimmed it; who would plant his seed, and never cultivate the grain as it springs up; who would sow his fields, and then think that was all he needed to do, and leave it to be overrun with weeds and thorns? Faithfulness is often stunted, its early shoots blighted, and its rapid growth checked, because of the lack of early education in the church. And perhaps there is nothing in which ministers fail more frequently than that which relates to the culture which ought to be imparted to those who are converted - especially in early life. Our Savior’s views on this were expressed in the admonition to Peter, "Feed my lambs," John 21:15. Note, Ministers of Christ should take great care that they do not build their own daydreams or false way of thinking on the foundation of divine revelation. What they preach should be the plain doctrine of their Master, or what is perfectly agreeable with it. In other words, they should not advocate and set forth anything in the Church, either in what is taught, or in how it is taught that is different from the apostles who were the chief builders.
People should pay attention to the instruction they or others give to a church:
1. Because of the fact that the church belongs to God, and they should be cautious what directions they give to it.
2. Because it is important that Christians should not only be on the true foundation, but that they should be fully instructed in the nature of their religion, and the church should be permitted to rise in its true beauty and loveliness.
3. Because of the evils which result from false instruction. Even when the foundation is firm, countless evils will result from the lack of honest and discriminating instruction. Error sanctifies no one. The effect of it even on the minds of true Christians may be to mar their piety; to dim its luster; and to darken their minds. No Christian can enjoy religion except under the full-orbed shining of the word of truth; and therefore, every man, who gives false instruction, is responsible for all the darkness he causes, and for all the lack of comfort which true Christians under his teaching may experience.


11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

For other foundation can no man lay
The emphasis in this verse is on “foundation,” as it has to do with Paul’s work in Corinth. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6-7; KJV). There is only one Gospel, there is only one salvation—One way, one Name, one Door, one Church, one Foundation, one Head, one body. The one foundation of the New Testament Church, who just happens to be the only salvation of men, is Jesus Christ; there is no other true foundation. A foundation is that upon which a building is constructed; the foundation of a church is the doctrine on which it is established; that is, the doctrines which its members hold—those truths which are the basis of their hopes, and by embracing them they have been converted to God. This foundation was laid by God: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16; KJV). Paul's work under God was to point to this foundation, to induce them to believe, and thus to build them upon it. His preaching laid it in their hearts. To preach Christ is to preach the fundamental or foundational truth of the church.

Men may attempt to lay other foundations than Christ, and build upon them, but they will be of no avail; all other foundations besides him are sandy foundations; such as sexual obsession, a worldly perspective, a religious education, an external profession of religion, a man's own righteousness, and the unconstrained mercy of God; but men ought to lay no other, nor can they, that will be of any advantage to themselves or others. These inferior foundations will not support a proper ministry, even though it is built according to the plans of other successful ministries. There is another reason why Churches and ministries fail and it may happen more often than the former; it occurs when an improper use is made of this heavenly doctrine that results in a bad superstructure being built on the foundation.

than that which is laid,
God the Father has already laid the foundation through his eternal counsels and covenant, when he appointed Christ to be the Savior and Redeemer of his people; and in the fullness of time, when he sent him into the world in human flesh; and when by the Spirit of God, he revealed Christ to them, and formed him in them; and by the ministers of the Gospel, who by the Gospel ministry have laid him, as the foundation for their souls to build their hope upon: hence he is called the "foundation of the apostles and prophets", as he is here, and the foundation of our faith, salvation, and future hope. A man cannot lay any other, since the only one recognized by God has already been laid.

which is Jesus Christ.
As God-man and Mediator, He is the foundation on which the church, and every believer is built; he is the foundation of the covenant of grace, and of eternal salvation; of the faith and hope, peace, joy, and comfort of all the saints; and of the building of God, that house not made with hands, that city which has foundations, eternal glory in the other world; and he is the foundation of all true doctrine; that is, the doctrines of his deity, of his divine and eternal sonship, of his incarnation, of his Messiahship, of his obedience, sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead, of justification by his righteousness, pardon by his blood, and atonement by his sacrifice. These doctrines are fundamental; but the doctrines relating to the person, offices, and grace of Christ, are the only foundation of the Gospel.

Christ is often called the foundation; the stone; the cornerstone upon which the church is built: “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” (Matt 21:42; KJV). The meaning is, that no true church can be built which does not embrace and hold the true doctrines respecting him—those named in the preceding  paragraph.  The reason why no true church can be established without embracing the truth as it pertains to Christ, is that people can only be saved by faith in Him; and where this doctrine is missing, everything is missing that enters into the essential idea of a church. The fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion must be embraced, or a church cannot exist and where those doctrines are denied no association of people can be recognized as a church of God. Nor can the foundation be modified or shaped so as to suit the wishes of people. It must be laid as it is in the Scriptures; and the superstructure must be built upon that alone.

Here, in this phrase, the apostle informs us what foundation he had laid at the bottom of all his labors among them-even Jesus Christ, the chief corner-stone: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph 2:20; KJV).Upon  this foundation all the faithful ministers of Christ build. Upon this rock all the Christians base their hopes. Those that build their hopes of heaven on any other foundation build upon sand. It is in Christ only that God is reconciling a sinful world to himself—“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19; KJV). This explains more fully the ministry of reconciliation. It was not God who was to be reconciled, but the world. In Christ it is offered peace and shown the love of God. The ministry of reconciliation is to persuade men to accept God's love and mercy, and to repent so that he can forgive their trespasses. Jesus is the firm, immovable Rock of Ages, and he is in every way sufficient to bear all the weight that God himself, or the sinner, when he believes, can lay upon him.


12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

Paul described two opposite kinds of materials, as the chart reveals. It will become important to see that those materials on the left will not be consumed by fire, while those on the right are consumed by fire. Generally speaking, the different materials represent a variety of teaching and works by the builders on God’s foundation.

Gold, Silver, Precious Stones                     Wood, Hay, Stubble
            Permanent                                                  Temporary
            Beautiful                                                     Ordinary, even ugly
            Valuable                                                      Cheap
            Hard to obtain                                            Easy to obtain


Now if any man build upon this foundation

Now, if any man represents any teacher of biblical doctrine; or any individual Christian. The main discussion in this chapter has centered on the wisdom of apostles, preachers and teachers of religion. We must not overlook the fact, however, that the principals laid down here are applicable to all Christian conduct and Christian service. Paul carries forward the metaphor concerning building construction in this and the following verses, except now he assumes that the foundation is laid; that it is a firm foundation; that the essential doctrines in regard to the Messiah are the real basis on which the structure is raised. But, he says, that it is of vast importance to take into account the kind of structure that will be built; whether it will be really beautiful, and valuable in itself, and will it be able to stand up to the scrutiny it will have to bear on the last Great Day; or whether it will be squalid, worthless, erroneous, and therefore will be destroyed by the One who sets upon the throne. It is His desire that the church and the individual Christian has a solid foundation that has been laid well, and on this foundation a truly magnificent structure has been built; not one that is shameful and worthless. So the true foundation of a church may be laid, or an individual can be converted, in the true doctrine relating to Christ. That church or that individual may be built up and decked out in all the graces which truth is able to produce; or there may be false principles and teachings added; doctrines that will dilute the Gospel and lead men astray; or feelings of piety, which may have nothing to do with true religion, but are mere delusion and fanaticism.

There has been some difference of opinion in regard to the interpretation of this passage, since some question whether the apostle intended to represent one or two buildings. The former has been the more common interpretation, and the sense according to that is, "the true foundation is laid, and it would be wrong to construct the building with degraded and worthless materials. It would be absurd to work them in with those which are valuable; it would be absurd construction that uses wood, and hay, and stubble along with gold, and silver, and precious stones, since that would present a lack of conformity and beauty; and so it is with the spiritual temple. There is offensiveness and unfitness when the spiritual temple is raised by interweaving truth with error; sound doctrine with false.”

When you remember that Paul has been writing about wisdom in these first three chapters, you can easily see the connection. The Corinthians were trying to build their church by man’s wisdom—wood, hay, and stubble. They were following the wisdom of this world, when they should have been depending on the wisdom of God, as found in the Word—gold, silver, and precious stones.

gold, silver, precious stones,
These materials are precious and enduring; apostolic doctrines and men molded into the image of Christ are this type of material, as well. The "gold, silver, precious stones," can all withstand fire—“And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald” (Rev 21:18-19; KJV). This was the New Jerusalem as seen by John in a vision, and it was pure gold. The symbols indicate that the city is beautiful and rich beyond comprehension. The costliest materials known to mortals are named in order to give us some idea of its beauty and opulence. The three materials should be considered individually if we are to understand why each one is considered a proper building material, and how it relates to the Church and Christians.

Gold. Gold is the symbol of that which is valuable and precious, and may represent truth and holiness which will withstand the assessment of the great Day. So the precious doctrines of truth, and all the feelings, belief, opinions, habits, practices, which truth produces in an individual or a church, will endure the trial of the last great Day. It can also be said with certainty that Gold represents the character and moral attributes of the Godhead—and the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Col 2:9-10; KJV).

Silver. Silver represents the redemption brought about by God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Precious stones. By the stones referred to here, the apostle does not mean "gems" which are valuable and cherished for jewelry, but beautiful and valuable marble slabs. Here the word "precious" means that which is obtained at a "price," which is both costly and valuable; and is particularly applicable, therefore, to the costly marbles which are used in building. The figurative sense here does not differ materially from that conveyed by the silver and gold—truths which set forth the righteousness, the glory, and the excellencies of the person and character of Jesus Christ

It may be quite enough for the purpose of edification to say, that, by gold, silver, and precious stones, the apostle certainly means pure and wholesome doctrines. Those who build with gold, silver, and precious stones are those who receive and spread the pure truths of the gospel, which hold nothing but the truth as it is in Jesus, and preach nothing else. This is building well upon a good foundation, when ministers not only depend upon Christ as the great prophet of the church, and take him for their guide and infallible teacher, but receive and spread the doctrines he taught, in their purity, without any corruption mixed in; without adding or diminishing.

wood, hay, stubble;
Wood, hay, and stubble are nothing more than mere imitations of pure Bible doctrine. These materials, instead of rightly dividing the Word of Truth, symbolize the persuasive words of man’s wisdom: “From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm” (1 Tim 1:6-7; KJV). These materials could represent heretical doctrines, and damnable heresies, which are diametrically opposite of rightly dividing the Word of Truth; but what is probably meant is the empty, trifling, useless things; such as fables, endless genealogies, human traditions, Jewish rites and ceremonies; which through the intolerance of education, and through ignorance and accident, without any bad intentions, might be introduced into their ministry by men who had been brought up in the Jewish religion. Then there is also the wisdom of the world, the philosophy of the heathen, oppositions of science (falsely stated), and speculations, vain and idle notions. Or in a word, everything that may now be advanced in the Gospel ministry that does not honor the grace of God, or is in keeping with the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, or is consistent with the Spirit's work of grace. The same minister at different times, and sometimes at the same time in his ministry, lays the foundation, Christ, and builds on it for a while with excellent and valuable truths, raises a superstructure of gold, silver, and precious stones, and then covers it with trifling, impertinent, and inconsistent things, with wood, hay, and stubble; and so at last, this promising, stately building becomes a thatched house.


13 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.

The apostle’s testimony is that all are not good builders, not even those who stand upon the one true foundation, which is Jesus Christ. However, this work of bad builders will not last, because one day the light of the truth will shine on it and dissolve the darkness that surrounds it, and show it for what it is—false doctrine. And God in his time will check out all buildings to see if they are good or not.  Those which are found to be pure and sound will still continue, and the workmen will be praised. But those that are not pure and sound will be consumed, and the workman will be frustrated because they labored in vain, and they will be embarrassed on the great Day.

Every man's work shall be made manifest:
The dictionary defines manifest this way: “readily perceived by the eye or the understanding; evident; obvious; apparent; plain: a manifest error.” By every man's work the apostle is probably referring to doctrine, which is the religious principals every Christian either advocates or teaches. He says here that sooner or later every man's work will be seen for what it truly is, both to him and to his hearers; who will be able to see the inconsistency, irregularity, and deformity of such a building; it may have a solid foundation and excellent materials were used to construct the building, but in the end it was covered with trifling or incoherent stuff—wood, hay, stubble.

God keeps perfect records. Not even a cup of water is overlooked when it is given in his name or two mites when it is dropped into the offering plate by a poor widow. Every minute detail of stewardship and service, right or wrong, is kept on record; and on the Great Day it will be declared gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or stubble.

for the day shall declare it,
Bible scholars disagree on what day Paul is referring to here; whether it is the Tribulation, the White Throne judgment, the Bema Seat of Christ, the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, time in general or the Second Coming of Christ. I believe he is talking about the Bema Seat of Christ, because he is writing to believers in the Corinthian Church, and believers will appear there to receive rewards and to be judged for their works; Christians will not go through the Tribulation and only the lost will stand before Christ on the Day of Judgment. But in the face of all the controversy surrounding the day mentioned here I will offer the following observation. “There is a time coming when a discovery will be made of what men have built on this foundation, which is Jesus Christ: Every man's work will be made manifest, will be laid open to view, to his own view and that of others. Some may, while sincerely believing they are doing the right thing, build on the good foundation with wood, hay, and stubble, and never realize the wrong they are doing; but on the day of the Lord they will see their own conduct in its proper light. Every man's work will be made manifest to himself, and made manifest to others, both those that have been misled by him and those that have escaped his errors. Now we may be mistaken about ourselves and others; but there is a day coming that will cure all our mistakes, and show us ourselves, and show us our actions in the true light, without covering or disguise: For the day will declare it (that is, every man's work), because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will try every man's work; which is the subject of the second part of this verse.”

Because it shall be revealed by fire;
The Greek reads, “It is revealed In fire.” It is the work that is revealed in the fire, not the day. The Bible often mentions the fire of God’s judgment. Fire is one of his attributes. It is true that God is love (1 John 4.8); But in Hebrews 12.29 we are told that he is also a consuming fire: “For our God is a consuming fire.” Fire will destroy everything in its path, and the judgment of God will thoroughly search for and destroy everything that is vile. Nothing that is vile will enter the city of God; only that which is entirely genuine and durable can go there. Works of gold, silver, and precious stones will not be destroyed; they will only be brighter for having gone through the fire.

Paul wrote this in his letter to the Romans: “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11; KJV). Each of us will have to stand before Jesus, whose countenance is like the sun shining full strength, and whose eyes are described in Revelation 1:14: “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire” (Rev 1:14; KJV).

Fire always separates the destructible from the indestructible, and the same thing is true at the judgment seat of Christ. Everything that we think, speak, preach, do, give or live that is not for the sole purpose of glorifying Christ will be burned and consumed.

Once again, there is controversy over when this will occur. The "fire" which is referred to here, is without a doubt the fire which will come with the consummation of all things—the end of the world. That the world will be destroyed by fire, and Judgment will be ushered in by a universal inferno, is fully and frequently revealed: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10; KJV). (Also See Isaiah 66:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Peter 3:7). The burning fires of that Day, Paul says, shall reveal the character of every man's work, similar to how fire sheds light all around, and exposes the true nature of things.

The fire is not purgatory (as Rome teaches), not restricted to those dying in "venial (pardonable) sin"; the supposed intermediate class between those entering heaven at once, and those dying in mortal sin who go to hell. This fire is not until the last day; the supposed fire of purgatory begins at death. The fire of Paul is for trying the works of a person; the fire of purgatory tries the persons. Paul's fire causes “loss” to the sufferers; Rome's purgatory causes great gain, when the person confined there reaches heaven at last, if only it were true. Therefore this passage, quoted by Rome, is altogether against, purgatory. “It was not this doctrine that gave rise to prayers for the dead; but the practice of praying for the dead [which crept in from the affectionate but mistaken concern of survivors] gave rise to the doctrine.”

and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
And the fire shall try every man's work is a statement that everyone understands, since it is a property of fire to test the qualities of objects. Consequently, gold and silver, are not destroyed by fire, but are purified from dross. Wood, hay, and stubble are consumed. The power of fire to try or test the nature of metals, or other objects, is often referred to in the Scriptures: “and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire …” (Mal 3:2; KJV). (Also see Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 24:15; 1 Peter 1:7). It should not be thought that the material fire of the last Day will have any tendency to purify the soul or to remove that which is unsound; but it is true that the scrutiny and testing of the Judgment will remove all that is evil, similar to how fire works to purify gold and silver. They are not burned but purified as they pass unhurt through the intense heat of the furnace; and in a similar way, everything that is genuine passes through the trials of the last great Day, of which trials the burning world will be the precursor . That great Day will show what is genuine and what is not.

Since the apostle is describing what takes place at the Judgment Seat of Christ, we know that the character of the person will not be judged, but his work and stewardship will be tested. It is altogether possible for a teacher or preacher to produce results here on earth which appear to be excellent and of substantial quality, and yet at the Judgment Seat of Christ that work will be found to be worthless. God judges righteousness; we judge appearance. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, faithfulness, not popularity will count. Only quality, not quantity or bigness will count. Faithfulness and quality are the two essentials of stewardship that will bring rewards.

The quality of stewardship is determined by the extent to which the steward magnifies and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, by the scriptural truth of his teaching, and by the influence of a pure, sanctified, holy life. There will be a lot of surprises at the Judgment seat of Christ. Some persons we thought would be on the front rows will be on the back rows, and some who we thought would be in back will be in the seats of honor on the front row. It will be a real “eye opener” when the Lord of Glory passes out the crowns and rewards.

My prayer for you is the same as I pray for myself; that you will be there, and you will receive from the Master all you have earned of crowns and rewards, and together we will lay it all at his feet and join the angels in singing his praises. “OH WHAT A DAY THAT WILL BE, WHEN MY JESUS I SHALL SEE!!”


14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

If any man's work abide
That is, if any minister's doctrine will bear the test of sincere scrutiny, and endure the fire of the word; like gold, silver, and precious stones will endure a literal fire, it will shine all the brighter for being tried by this fire. The fire does not purify the worker, it tests their workmanship.
As you may well know, a little piece of gold isn’t as visible as a hay stack. Possibly God is the only One who knows that it is gold. Now a haystack is another thing—I have traveled across flat Kansas farmland, and it seemed to me I could see haystacks that were twenty miles away. There are a lot of people building haystacks, and everybody hears about what they are doing. The haystacks are going to be tested someday, and then there won’t be one haystack left because the testing is going to be by fire. The same thing will be true for works of wood or stubble. I am of the opinion that we have many wonderful saints of God about us today. I have been able to meet some of these folks—some of them personally and some by reputation—whom God is using in a marvelous way. They taught the true doctrines of Christianity, taught and practiced right behavior and views of piety; on the great day, when the real qualities of all things will be made known, they will not be ashamed. They are building a superstructure with gold, silver, and precious stones on the firm foundation which is Jesus Christ; their work will endure and it will honor God; and the Lord has a reward that He will give them on the last Day.

The fact that people do not fully understand this passage is inherent in the truth that some have built up the theory of purgatory—the idea that when we die, we go to a place where we are purified by fire before we go to heaven—based partly on what is stated here. The whole concept of purgatory is foreign to the word of God, but the advocates of it are still deriving immense revenues through the preaching of it. The Catholic clergy, seeing that this doctrine, when properly managed, might be made an inexhaustible source of wealth to their order, have represented this fire of purgatory as having been ignited at the beginning of the world, and have kept it burning ever since, and they have taken to themselves the power of detaining souls in that fire, and of releasing them from it, only after they have drawn great sums of money from the ignorant and superstitious. This writer is grieved to know that even now there are some, who were once baptized into Christ and served as elders of God's church, whose children are paying to get them prayed out of purgatory! Purgatory is strictly a human invention, and denies the finished work of Jesus for the believer.

which he hath built thereupon;
I am a structural engineer (retired now), and I have some experience in building design. It always begins with an analysis of the soil to establish the size and type of foundation required to support the building. Foundation design involves calculating the shape and thickness of the concrete slab and the size and location of the rebar with consideration for the load that the structure will apply to it and the ability of the soil to bear the load of building and foundation. So you see, the foundation is extremely important. For that reason, the minister must build upon the word of God as it applies to Christ; the one sure foundation.

As for Paul and Apollos, it will appear that they not only laid a solid foundation, but that they built regularly and well upon it—that they used the proper materials, formed them well and placed them in the proper order. The foundation and the superstructure functioned as if they were one piece. The foundational-truths, and those that had an obvious connection with them, were taught together. It may not be so easy to recognize this connection now, or to know what works would abide the trial back then; but on the Great Day there will be a full discovery and we will see everything as it really is.

he shall receive a reward;
The Lord’s minister will receive a reward if he is building with gold, silver or precious stones, either from the churches of Christ here, who will honor, support and respect him for his faithful labors in the ministry; or from Christ on the day of judgment, who will say, well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. He has not only preached the truth, but he has labored in the word and doctrine. And the reward is to be according to the quality of that labor and the nature of his work. See 1 Corinthians 3:8. If all that he has taught and done proves to have been genuine and pure, then his reward will be in proportion. Note, faithfulness in the ministers of Christ will meet with a full and ample reward and eternal compensation. OH LORD, HOW GREAT IS THEIR REWARD! HOW MUCH IT EXCEEDS THEIR JUST DESERTS!




15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

If any man's work shall be burnt
“Any man” can be applied to you and me; but the chief subject of this verse is the work done by the ministers of God. If any minister has preached a doctrine that has been rejected by the churches, because it is not able to bear the light and heat of the fire of God's word, his work will be destroyed. And then, on the Day of Judgment, God Himself will pluck off all disguises, and make things appear as they really are. He will reject his work if, for instance, he has preached that it is necessary to incorporate the law with the Gospel, or stated publicly as a doctrine of God anything which did not proceed from heaven, he will suffer loss and all his time and labor will be found to be used up in useless words and activities. The apostle is focused here on the man’s work, not the man; the man’s work will be burned and all that can remain of it is that part which contains truth and uprightness.

he shall suffer loss;
If he has built upon the right foundation with wood and hay and stubble, he will suffer loss. His weakness and corruption will shrink his glory, even if he may generally have been an honest and an upright Christian. This part of his work will be eternally lost, though he himself may be saved. Note: Those who stand on the foundation of Christianity, even if they build on it with hay, wood, and stubble, may be saved. This may help us to be more loving and considerate of our brothers and sisters in Christ, who hold wrong opinions and teach error. We should not denigrate men for their weakness; because nothing will damn men but wickedness.

Suffer loss means that he will forfeit the special "reward"; not that he will lose salvation (which is altogether a free gift, not a "reward" or wages), since he remains on the foundation. Do you see the contrast: “If any man’s work abide” which he built on the foundation, he shall receive a reward; if any man’s work goes up in smoke, he will suffer a terrible loss, but, he himself will be saved. He does not lose his salvation if he is on the foundation, which is trust in Christ, even though he receives no reward.

Friend, what are you building today? What kind of material are you using? If you are building with gold, it may not be very impressive now. If you are building an old haystack, it will really stand out on the horizon, but it will go up in smoke. I like to put it like this: there are going to be some people in heaven who will be there because their foundation is Christ but who will smell as if they had been bought at a fire sale! Everything they ever did will have gone up in smoke. They will not receive a reward for their works.

Now if you are a carnal Christian, you cannot expect a reward because you have not been rightly related to God through the Word of God. The carnal Christian is the one who does not know the Word of God. You see, one can identify the three categories which Paul mentions in Romans by their relation to the Word of God. The natural man says it is foolishness. The spiritual man discerns the Word, and it gives him spiritual insight. The carnal Christian says, “Let’s have a banquet and not a Bible study.” Or he says, “Let’s listen to music rather than to the teaching of the Word of God.” That is the way you can identify the carnal Christian.

but he himself shall be saved;
The Christian minister will be saved with a salvation that is ever lasting; not by his work as a minister and not by his wood, hay, and stubble, which will be burnt up; and despite all the imperfections of his ministry, but through his being in Christ. This is not limited to ministers only, because this verse says: “If any mans work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” God does not take away the hope of salvation from the unskillful and foolish builders, who cling to the foundation, which is Jesus Christ. The apostle adds one exception; that they will suffer the loss of a reward, which they otherwise could have received. This was the situation that existed in Corinth among some in the congregation who were teachers of the Word.  The implication is that it will be difficult for those that corrupt Christianity with their wood, hay, and stubble, to be saved. God will have no mercy on their works, although he may pluck them like smoldering coals out of the fire. If he has sincerely and conscientiously believed what he preached, and yet preached what was wrong, not through malice or opposition to the Gospel, but through mere ignorance, he shall be saved; God in his mercy will overlook his errors; and he will not suffer punishment because he was mistaken. Nevertheless, as in most erroneous teachings there is generally a portion of willful and obstinate ignorance; the salvation of such erroneous teachers is very rare; and is expressed here as yet so as by fire, meaning “with great difficulty, a narrow escape, just barely made it, almost missed the boat”; but he will be like a hot coal plucked out of the fire. The apostle obviously refers to the case of a man, who, built a house, and began to live in it, but after awhile the house happens to be set on fire, and he receives a warning just in time to escape with his life, but he loses his house and all his possessions. Likewise anyone who basis their salvation on the doctrine of Christ crucified as the only hope of salvation, but at the same time builds upon that foundation, the doctrine of Purgatory, or any other erroneous or destructive doctrine, he shall lose all his labor, and his own soul will barely escape the eternal flames of hell; but not even this is possible unless sheer ignorance, ingrained prejudice, and a good deal of sincerity are connected with his case.  The stress in this entire passage is not upon a man’s relationship to Christ, but upon service to Christ.

yet so as by fire;
He will be saved, but barely saved and it will be difficult—“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? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:17-18; KJV); he will lose his reward and will feel ashamed when he is face to face with his Savior. The situation of this man is like a man that is burnt out of house and home; he escapes at last, but loses everything.  Escape, as used here, has the meaning of "something resembling" an escape from fire by "snatching them out of the fire"—“And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire …” (Jude 1:23; KJV); so he will escape by the narrowest margin, "by the skin of his teeth" (Job 19:20). It is certain that this phrase has absolutely nothing to do with actual fire. It is a figure of speech, prompted possibly by Paul's reference to the Judgment and the fire of that day, but it is not to be assumed to mean the same thing. The Syriac version has "as out of the fire"—“And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zech 3:2; KJV). The gist of the verse is that he will be tried by the fire of the word, and convinced by the light it shines on the errors, indiscretions, and inconsistencies of his ministry; either while he is alive and healthy or on a death bed. And all his wood, hay, and stubble will be burnt up, because he cannot take anything like this to his judgment or into heaven.  The gold, silver, and precious stones of his ministry will survive the fire of Judgment and they will support his life and works when they are placed in the scales of Judgment, he will not be found wanting.

A distinction must be made between minor and fundamental doctrines (if we regard the superstructure as representing the doctrines added to the elementary essentials); a man may make a mistake with regard to the former, and not lose his salvation, but the same cannot be said about the latter.

The fire mentioned here is for the purpose of trying the man's work, not purifying his soul; but the delusion of purgatory refers to the purging of a man while he is in another state; what is left is impure; not the work of the man, but the man himself; but here the fire is said to try the work: for that reason, purgatory is not meant even if such a place as purgatory could be proved to exist; which remains yet to be demonstrated. The doctrine of purgatory is not merely unscriptural and anti-scriptural, since there is not one word in the entire scriptures to support such a monstrous thesis; but it is effectively refuted in a single question: "If any church believes in such a thing, and in their own power, through prayer, to deliver people from it; why do they not pray all people out of it immediately for the sake of love and compassion.


16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God,
The apostle returns to what he declared in 1 Corinthians 3:9: Ye are God's building. In the same way that the whole congregation of Israel were formerly considered the temple and habitation of God, because God dwelt among them, here the whole Church of Corinth is called the temple of God, because all genuine believers have the Spirit of God dwelling in them; and Christ has promised to be always in the midst even of two or three who are gathered together in his name. In essence, he is saying to the Corinthians “I am not telling you anything you do not already know when I call you "God's building"; you ought to remember that you are the noblest kind of building, "the temple of God." This means that the place where God dwells on the earth is within the community of Christians, or within the church. The idea is derived from the manner of speaking among the Jews, where they are said often in the Old Testament to be the temple and the habitation of God. And the allusion is probably to the fact that God dwelt with the Jews in a visible display of His glory—the Shechinah—in the temple. Here Paul makes a comparison between how God dwells among the Jews, where He had a temple for His dwelling place and how He dwells among Christians. They are his temple, the place of his abode. His residence is with them; and he is in their midst. This is a figure of speech the apostle Paul used several times. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19; KJV); “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor 6:16; KJV); “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph 2:20-22; KJV). A temple was an edifice erected to the service of God. The temple at Jerusalem was not only magnificent, but was regarded as most sacred.

All Christians form together one vast temple. The expression is not, "ye are temples," but "ye are the temple" collectively, and "lively stones" individually: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5; KJV). You are the temple of God: Paul will later (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) speak of individual Christians being temples. Here his emphasis is on the church as a whole (though it has application to individuals). When Paul calls the church a temple, don't think he is using a picture. The physical temple was the picture; God's dwelling in us is the reality.

 Temples were also regarded as sacred by the heathen. They were supposed to be inhabited by the divinity to whom they were dedicated. They were regarded as blessed. Those who took refuge there were safe. It was a crime of the highest degree to violate a temple, or to tear a fugitive from the alter, who had sought protection there. So the apostle says about the same thing regarding the Christian community. They were considered His temple—God dwelt among them—and they should regard themselves as holy, and as consecrated to his service. And so it is regarded as a type of sacrilege to violate the temple, and to devote it to other uses.

and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you;
God's indwelling, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, are one and the same; therefore the Holy Spirit is God. No literal "temple" is recognized by the New Testament in conjunction with the Christian Church. The only temple mentioned is the spiritual temple, the whole body of believing worshippers in which the Holy Spirit dwells: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24; KJV). “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19; KJV). The synagogue, not the temple, was the model of the Christian house of worship. The temple was the house of sacrifice, rather than of prayer. Prayers in the temple were silent and individual—“And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense” (Luke 1:10; KJV); “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:10-13; KJV)—not joint and public, and there was no reading of Scripture, like there was in the synagogue. The temple, as the name means (from a Greek root "to dwell"), was the earthly dwelling-place of God. The synagogue (the name means an assembly) was the place where men assembled. Today God has His earthly temple, not one built with wood and stone, but the congregation of believers, the "living stones" on the "spiritual house." Believers are all spiritual priests in it. Jesus Christ, our High Priest has the only literal priesthood: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5; KJV).

God is present in all places, and because He is God, He can be more present at one place than at another. The only sense in which he can be noticeably present in any place is by his influence, or activity. And the idea is one which denotes activity, influence, favor, particular regard; and he can be present with his church only in that sense. The expression and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you; must mean:
1. That the church is the base of his operations, the field or abode on which he acts on earth.
2. That his influences are there, producing the appropriate effects of his activities, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal 5:22-24; KJV).
3. That he provides his people with consolations there; he sustains and guides his people.
4. That they are regarded as dedicated or consecrated to him.
5. That they are especially dear to him—that he loves them, and makes his abode within them.
6. That in particular members, he is the spirit of regeneration, sanctification, faith, and adoption, and he becomes the earnest and pledge of their future glory.
7. That he prepares their ministers and qualifies them for their work, and makes them successful at it.
8.  That he serves the whole church by blessing the word and its ordinances, thereby contributing to their growth, comfort, and organizations.

These influences and activities of the Holy Spirit furnishes a substantial proof of the deity and distinct personality of the Spirit, since they are mentioned as an evidence of the saints being the temple of God, which would not be a proof, if the Spirit who indwells them was not God. Now,  since a temple is sacred to deity, and if he dwells in us as in a temple, he must dwell there as God; and since he is mentioned as distinct from God, whose Spirit he is, and dwelling within is a personal action ascribed to him alone, he must be a distinct divine person.

In the next verse the apostle declares, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, the church, God will destroy them. God's temple—His church—is holy, and it matters to God how we treat His holy temple.


17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

If any man defile the temple of God,
In the original language the same word is used for “defile” and “destroy” and would read like this: “If any man destroyeth the temple of God, Him shall God destroy.”

“… Him shall God destroy” does not mean that God will destroy the spirit and soul of the believer who may dishonor the temple of God through flawed stewardship or unfaithful Christian living. The meaning in the Greek for If any man defile the temple of God has to do with marring and scarring a congregation by unbeneficial, impure teaching which leads to a prejudiced spirit which can cause factions to arise in the congregation, and also leads believers away from holiness and into carnality.

Secondly, the word destroy in Him shall God destroy is used to point out the marring of the offender by God through divine retribution.

Hebrews 12.5-11 reveals that God chastens and scourges every son who He receives, and if we are without chastisement we are not God’s sons—we are illegitimate and have never been born of the Spirit. “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb 12:5-11; KJV).

In 1 Corinthians 11.30-32 Paul tells the Corinthian believers that some of them are sick, and some are weak, and some are dead because they misbehaved at the “Lord’s table:” “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

God chastens the child of God who will not follow Him in daily living; but His chastening is for a purpose, to correct. But if we repent, we will not need to be corrected or chastened. But if we refuse to repent, we are judged by Him and cut off; the body is destroyed but the soul is saved. This refers to any person who willfully opposes the truth; those who go astray; this mistaken man will barely escape; but the obstinate man who opposes what he knows is truth will be destroyed— will take away his part out of the book of life. The former shall be treated leniently; the latter shall have judgment without mercy.

Paul is not telling us in this verse that God will destroy us and damn us in the Lake of Fire if we do something that is unbecoming to a Christian; something which dishonors God or corrupts His church instead of honoring Him. The same truth is pointed out here as in verse 15, concerning a man’s stewardship being burned but his spirit saved.

The conduct of the Corinthians was so appalling that the Spirit of God would be grieved and denied any place in their hearts, consequently destroying God's true temple; and just as any defilement of the ancient tabernacle had been punishable by death, there would be fearful retribution against all who defile the church. In context, this was a terrible warning to the Corinthians, but it applies to all who ever became a part of God's church. As Grosheide declared: "It is clear that the judgment of God is meant; it may refer to suffering loss (1 Corinthians 3:15), but also to eternal life."

him shall God destroy;
God destroys both body and soul in hell; the fate of all whose wicked principles and sacrilegious notions are harmful to others; they bring upon themselves judgment and damnation. The false prophet, as well as the beast, and the devil, shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. God is not only an avenger of all immoralities committed against his righteous law, but of all false doctrine and false worship, and of everything that is contrary to the Gospel and its ordinances.

Him shall God destroy is a much stronger expression than “suffer loss (v. 15).” Paul may also have in mind unsaved people who may or may not be in the congregation, but who, in fact, are false believers. The prospect for such people is a fearful one. Under the old dispensation, death was the penalty for polluting the temple.
• And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him. (Ex 28:43; KJV)
• And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. (Lev 16:2; KJV)
• But they shall not go in to see when the holy things are covered, lest they die. (Num 4:20; KJV)
• And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die. (Num 18:32; KJV)

for the temple of God is holy,
The temple of God is to be respected and regarded as sacred. This was undeniably the common opinion among the Jews with regard to the temple at Jerusalem; and it was the common doctrine of the Gentiles regarding their temples. Sacred places were treasured and regarded as hallowed; and Paul applies this general truth to the Christian church in general: “But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab 2:20; KJV). God is in His holy temple; indwelling individual believers; therefore you are holy and special. You are important because God loves you and Jesus died for you. How wonderful is that!!

One definition for holy is “dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church, or religion: a holy man.” The general idea is that a Christian is separated—in scripture, in its moral and spiritual significance it means ‘separated from sin and therefore consecrated to God, sacred.’”

Those of us who teach and preach the word of God should tremble at the thought that we might unintentionally injure the very structure we are trying to build. It is extremely important that we think, study, pray and rightly interpret the Word of God, so that we, who labor to bring men to Christ, do not drive them away from Him through errors and half-truths.

which temple ye are.
This proves that even though Paul regarded the Corinthian believers as regrettably corrupt in some respects, he still regarded them as a true church—as a part of the holy temple of God. So Christ by his Spirit dwells in all true believers. The temple was devoted and consecrated to God, and set apart from every common use and devoted to a holy use, to the service of God. So all Christians are separated from common uses, and set apart for God and his service. They are sacred to him—this is a very good argument against all fleshly lusts, and all doctrines that tolerate and approve of them. If we are the temples of God, we must do nothing that can alienate ourselves from him, or corrupt and pollute ourselves, and in that way make us unfit for his use; and we must reject any doctrine or promoter of any doctrine that would seduce us to  take part in any such practices. Note, Christians are holy by profession, and should be pure and clean both in heart and conversation. We should heartily despise, and carefully avoid, that which will defile God's temple, and bring to fruition everything that ought to be sacred to him.

Appendix 2.7.1: Christian Rewards

Five crowns are mentioned in the New Testament.
The first crown that I want to describe is the crown of life.
The crown of life is the subject of James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.”
The crown of life is sometimes called “the lover’s crown.”
We find strength to overcome temptation and endure trials through the love of God.
This crown is for those who love Him.
How do you know if you love Him?
Jesus told us how; He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
If you really love Him, you are obeying Him.
Love is so important.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart and also to love others.
Without His love in our hearts, trials can cause us to become bitter and critical and lose the crown of life.
This is also the crown that is received for being “faithful unto death.”
It says in Revelations 2:10, “…Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
All believers have earned life, (The Bible says that when we are saved that we pass from death into life.) but not all believers will be rewarded with the crown of life.
To receive it, we must love the Lord more than our lives because it says in Mark, “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).
We must live for Christ and endure temptations and trials in the power of the love of God, and then we will receive the crown of life.

The second crown is the crown of rejoicing.
The crown of rejoicing is called the soul winners crown.
The greatest work we are privileged to do for the Lord is to bring others to the knowledge of Christ as personal Savior.
But let me ask a question, “Why win souls?
And now, I will give you four answers to that question.
First, it is wise to win the lost.
Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise.”
The world may not put much value in the saving of a soul, but God does.
When you tell someone about Jesus you are wise.
Second, it is a work against sin.
James wrote, “let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
Those who don’t know Christ as Savior are spiritually dead. They can be born again, but they need to hear about Jesus.
Third, it is a cause for joy in heaven.
Luke 15:10 says, “…there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
What a picture this is!
Can you imagine the kind of celebration this is?
As far as I know I have never been the cause of a celebration here on earth, but one day in November 1951 I received Jesus as my Savior and the angels in heaven celebrated.
Praise God!
Forth, every soul-winner will shine as the stars for ever.
Daniel expressed that thought when he wrote, “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
Allow me to ask another question, “Since we know why we must win souls, how do we go about it?”
I can think of three ways in which we can be soul-winners.
First, we can win souls by the life that we lead.
Others see Christ in us as we respond in the right way when we are up against difficult life situations.
Second Corinthians 3:2 declares, “You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all.”
And have you ever heard it said, “You are the only Bible that some people ever read?”
You can talk about Jesus all you want, but others are watching to see if your life backs up what you say.
Second, we can lead others to Christ with our mouths.
We need to witness verbally for Christ, trusting the Holy Spirit to give us power.
That was the mission given by Christ to His disciples, just prior to His ascension; and it is for us also.
He said, “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Third, we can win souls through our giving.
We should give tithes and offerings to support others who are preaching Christ and then the Bible says we will have fruit abound to our account.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians he said “…It is not that I am eager for the gift; rather, I am eager for the profit that accrues to your account” (Phil. 4:15-17).
Paul wanted them to know the blessings that come from supporting God’s ministers.
Because of our giving and support, preachers and missionaries can take the gospel to the lost in this country and “to the ends of the earth.”
There is much rejoicing when the lost person is saved.
Heaven rejoices (Luke 15:10); the new believer rejoices (Acts 8:39); the sower and reaper rejoice together (John 4:36); and the whole family of God rejoices.
I hope that you will receive the soul winner’s crown.

The third crown is the crown of righteousness.
The crown of righteousness is found in 2 Timothy 4:8, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
The crown of righteousness is the crown earned by believers who eagerly anticipate the second coming of Christ.
It is sad, but today there are a lot of Christians who believe in the Second Coming, but they are not looking forward to it.
Life is too good-they have so much of what the world can give that they don’t want it to end.
But Paul was anxious for Christ to return, and in light of that Paul could say, “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7).
In the realm of spiritual warfare, Paul won the battle.
He could also say, “I have finished my course” (v. 7).
In the course of the life that he traveled, there was no detour around hard places.
There was no looking back (Luke 9:61-62).
Instead, Paul kept his eyes on Christ (Phil. 1:6).
Finally, he could say, “I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
He faithfully preached all the Word of God (Acts 20:24-31).
Are you looking forward to seeing Jesus?
You could live to see Him return or you will see Him in Heaven and I hope He personally hands you the crown of righteousness.

The forth crown is the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).
The crown of glory is a special reward for the faithful, obedient, God-called pastor.
Christ, The Chief Shepherd Himself gives it.
It says in 1 Peter 5:4, “And when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” It is eternal; it “fadeth not away.”
Yet every believer may share in the pastor’s “crown of glory.”
According to Matthew 10:41, it’s a crown that we can also receive: “He who receives a prophet (This is another word for pastor.) because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.”
God will reward those who support His chosen servants through prayer and encouragement, and by giving freely of their selves and their possessions.
The pastor earns this crown by doing one of three things:
First, by feeding the church, that is, by preaching the Word of God.
It says in 1 Peter, “Shepherd God’s flock, for whom you are responsible.” (1 Peter 5:2).
Pastors feed their flock with God’s Word, by rightly dividing God’s Word and preaching all of it.
Second, by taking the spiritual oversight of the church.
The verse which we just read says that the pastor is responsible for shepherding his flock of believers.
What does a shepherd do?
He cares and protects his flock.
Third, by being an example to the church.
Pastors are to walk with God by faith.
They are to be spiritual leaders.
Peter wrote, “Do not be like a ruler over people you are responsible for, but be good examples to them” (1 Peter 5:3).
A pastor leads by example.
If you are not able to give to support a preacher or missionary, you can support them by praying for them and encouraging them, and then perhaps you will receive the crown of glory.

The fifth crown is the incorruptible crown (1 Cor 9:24-25).
This is the crown for victorious living-for living the Christian life.
It is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, “You know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. So run to win! All those who compete in the games use self-control so they can win a crown. That crown is an earthly thing that lasts only a short time, but our crown will never be destroyed.”
In the Greek games, the competitors ran for a corruptible crown.
In our modern day Olympics, the competitors run for a gold medal.
In the Christian race, we run for an incorruptible crown.
The key to victory is a disciplined life, whether in the Olympic Games or in the Christian life.
Athletes deny themselves many things that their bodies crave.
Likewise, Christians must subdue their bodies or else be disqualified for the prize.
The New Testament contains guidelines for us to follow to win the crown of victory.
First, we must deny ourselves of anything that would weigh us down and hinder us.
It says in Hebrews, “We have around us many people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back” (Heb. 12:1).
We need to resist the appeal of sin; call upon the help of the Holy Spirit and do our best not to sin.
It’s difficult and we will fail; but when we sin we have His promise that if we will confess our sin that He will forgive us.
Second, we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ.
God’s word tells us in Hebrews 12:2, “Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect.”
He has told us through His Word how we are to live, and He will help us to live holy lives if we just follow His directions.
So we must read our Bibles, and when we do He will speak to us from its pages.
Trust Him and do what He said.
Third, we must find our strength in the Lord.
That’s what Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his great power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can fight against the devil’s evil tricks.” (Eph. 6:10-18).
It’s the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to live the Christian life.
You and I don’t have the power within ourselves to do it.
Even Paul had to say that he needed help.
He said he wanted to do what was right, but as hard as he tried he couldn’t.
He could only do it with God’s help.
Forth, we must place our all on the altar of the Lord.
It says in Romans 12:1-2, “So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. Do not change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.”
We must yield our lives to Christ daily.
We must recognize that we have a sinful nature, and through prayer seek God’s forgiveness and help.
We must realize that without God we are nothing and we can do nothing.
Let’s do everything for His honor and glory.
Fifth, we must, by faith, refuse anything that would impede spiritual progress.
We must have the type of faith that Moses had.
It says in Hebrews, “It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of the king of Egypt’s daughter. He chose to suffer with God’s people instead of enjoying sin for a short time. He thought it was better to suffer for the Christ than to have all the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking for God’s reward. (Heb. 11:24-29).
There is no way to win the incorruptible crown and be a spectator in the Christian life.
We must enter the race and run to win!
In an old legend, an angel was talking with an aged Christian.
Going into a great vault, he brought out a beautiful crown with shinning jewels of rare value.
He said, “This is the crown I designed for you when you were a youth, but you refused to surrender yourself completely to the Lord; now it is gone.”
From the vault he brought another crown.
It was beautiful, but not nearly as beautiful as the first one.
He said, “This is the crown I designed for your middle age, but you gave those years to sluggish discipleship; now it is gone.”
The angel brought a third crown from the vault.
It was just a plain gold crown with no jewels in it.
He said, “Here is the crown of your old age. This is yours for all eternity.”
Every one of us will receive a crown according to our labor.
What will be your reward?
Remember, every child of God will get one.


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