12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
In the previous versus, Paul discussed his role as a builder of the kingdom of God. God is doing a work in each one of us. He is using faithful servants (like Paul and Apollos) to disciple and grow each of us. God is also using us, if we are willing, to disciple and grow those around us.
In the previous few verses, Paul makes it clear that the foundation of Christian life is Jesus Christ. Without Christ we do not have Christians. This statement is not just intended to be a play on words. If it were not for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, we would not have the redemptive hope that is found through the gospel message. However, accepting the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is only the first step in living the Christian life. The teachings and examples that Jesus provided through His ministry, both to the disciples and others that He encountered, serve as an template for the life of those that profess to be Christians.
Having presented the foundation of the Christian (Jesus Christ) in verse 11, Paul continues the “master builder” analogy in verses 12-15. Paul discusses how to continue the work of “building a Christian”. The “materials” used in constructing a building should be carefully considered in light of the type of building, the design of the building and the purpose of the building that is being constructed. The same is true of the effort to disciple and mentor a new believer. The lessons and examples offered to a fledgling Christian (and even to a more seasoned Christian) should always be chosen with the end goal in mind.
When constructing a building, we have a set of prints to use as an end goal. There is a decision made in the beginning as to how the building should be constructed. The same is true of the Christian. Having made the decision to accept salvation through Jesus Christ, we have a blueprint in the person of Jesus Christ for how a Christian life should be lived. Any efforts that we make should serve to build up others with the goal of encouraging them to live the life modeled to us by Jesus. In a similar fashion, our efforts in this endeavor should also reflect the efforts and methods of Jesus in teaching and discipling others.
As a teacher, Jesus was very much others-centered. He considered the needs of others above His own needs by being available and by going out of His way to meet their needs. Jesus demonstrated compassion, gentleness, love, forgiveness, patience, prayer, commitment, self-control, and humbleness throughout His ministry. Jesus was dedicated to patiently discipling those that He encountered with clear explanations and examples of the truths of the gospel and the kingdom of God.
With an eternal perspective, we should consider our works carefully. We should consider what we are striving to build. We should consider whether or not our efforts and our materials are fitting in the life of a Christian built upon the foundation and in the image of Jesus Christ. Do our works have a place in God’s kingdom? Or, will they be consumed by the coming test of fire?
“Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:40-43)
May you build up the individuals and communities around you through the image and example of Jesus Christ.