A common but mistaken teaching in the Church is that the works of a Christian will be rewarded. They say that the good behavior will be rewarded but the bad parts of our life will be burnt up in the fire of judgment. Such a teaching originates from this passage:
1 Corinthians 3 “6 I planted. Apollos watered. But God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are the same, but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s farming, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble, 13 each man’s work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man’s work is. 14 If any man’s work remains which he built on it, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire. 16 Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, which you are.“
When we read this passage in context, we will see that the “rewards” is not about a believer being judged for his good or bad works. This passage is all about the fruit of ministry.
Paul laid the foundation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ – as the chief Apostle to the Gentile world. But after Paul, others have been preaching on top of that foundation for the last 2000 years. Paul is talking about the believers being the body of Christ, the Temple of God – a spiritual building that has the foundation of Christ preached by the Apostles. We see that here:
Ephesians 2 “19 So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God, 20 being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; 21 in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”
This spiritual building is the body of Christ consisting of all the believers for 2000 years.
The “gold, silver, precious stones” are the believers who are saved.
1 Peter 2 ” 5 You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Revelation 21 “2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband…..19 The foundations of the city’s wall were adorned with all kinds of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; and the twelfth, amethyst.”
The gold, silver, precious stones are the believers who are the Bride of Christ – His own body.
The believer is the reward of the ministry as Paul says here:
1 Thessalonians 2 “19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Isn’t it even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? 20 For you are our glory and our joy.”
Paul talked about laboring in His ministry to receive this “reward” – the souls of people.
1 Corinthians 9 “18 What then is my reward? That when I preach the Good News, I may present the Good News of Christ without charge, so as not to abuse my authority in the Good News. 22 …...I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.“
But what are the wood, hay, stubble that are burnt in the fire?
It’s talking about the people who came to the Church but never truly believed in Christ. They were burnt like the dried up branches in the fire – they were unbelievers.
Hebrews 6 “7 For the land which has drunk the rain that comes often on it and produces a crop suitable for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and thistles, it is rejected and near being cursed, whose end is to be burned.”
The unbelievers are the “wood, hay, stubble” – the branches that did not believe in Christ – they did not bear fruit (did not receive the Holy Spirit) because they did not abide/believe in Christ.
John 15 ““I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. 2 Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already pruned clean because of the word which I have spoken to you…..6 If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
Paul said that some people’s ministry may have been useless in saving some people, but he (the preacher) himself was saved.
Paul warns people who were trying to destroy the Church by false teachings of law, legalism, man’s traditions and philosophies. He said that God would destroy such people because they did not preach the true gospel and were not saved themselves. Those preachers were unbelievers and deceivers (false teachers).
Therefore the believer has nothing to fear. God will not judge the believer because Jesus became sin on the cross so that the believer has become the Righteousness of God!
2 Corinthians 5 “21 For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The believer has passed from death to life – with no more judgment for works.
John 5 “24 “Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. “
The reward for the believer is Christ Himself.
What more do we want? Do we want bigger mansions and wider streets of gold in heaven because we went to Church every Sunday, gave a donation and prayed 1 hour more than the other believer?
If we get some kind of reward in heaven for our works, then we are boasting in our performance!
If we say that we are saved by grace through faith without works, but expect rewards for our works then it contradicts the gospel. It makes the gospel as grace for salvation but works for rewards – that is a false teaching – leading to mixture.
The only thing we get in heaven is a glorified body for every believer without any partiality – without any extra rewards!
The truth is that we already have EVERYTHING in Christ, that we received when we believed. It’s a finished work. We are not going to get any rewards in heaven because we already have everything – we are already complete in Christ.
- Ephesians 1 “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, “
- Genesis 15:1 “After these things LORD GOD’s word came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.””
- 1 Corinthians 1 ” 29 that no flesh should boast before God. 30 Because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: 31 that, as it is written, “He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.””
- Colossians 2 “9 For in him all the fullness of the Deity dwells bodily, 10 and in him you are made full,”
Christ is our REWARD – He is our Righteousness. He is our Sanctification. He is our every blessing.
So if we already have everything in Christ, then He is our reward and our works will not be judged.