11 ” For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 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 : 11-15
A fiery test is coming that will reveal the quality of the work of everyone who helps to build the church of Christ on earth. Paul’s metaphor pictures the church, the community of believers, as a structure that may be raised with either high-quality or poor building materials. He seems to equate these building materials with teaching that is true and helpful about the way of God versus that which is distorted and misleading.
WOOD – HAY – STRAW
- Comes in Big quantities
- Found on the ground
- Destroyed by fire.
GOLD – SILVER – PRECIOUS STONES ( DIAMOND )
- Found in small quantities
- Discovered under the ground
- Purified by Fire
Even structures built from cheap, weak materials may appear good and strong to casual view. Fire will reveal what the building is really made of. That fire will come with the judgement of Christ on the day of the Lord. This is a judgement of the work of Christians, not the Christians themselves (Romans 8:1). Non-believers must face a very different judgement (Revelation 20:11–15). Scholars disagree whether, in this case, Paul is describing the works of all believers or only of Christian leaders (James 3:1). In either case, all Christians will experience some judgement of their works (2 Corinthians 5:10).
We know this is not a judgement of whether a person is saved or not (Titus 3:5). It’s not God’s judgement on sin. Those who trust in Christ have been forgiven for their sin. Jesus already received God’s judgement for it. Paul made it clear at the very start of this letter that the Christians in Corinth, though many were still living “of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:3), would stand guiltless before God in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:8).
First Corinthians 3:10–23 expands on Paul’s earlier point that it is God, not human beings, who are worthy. Each person must build their ”works” on a foundation of Christ. Those works will be subject to judgement, to see what has eternal value.
Lasting works are based in valuable, durable, precious things like wisdom and truth. Cheap and fragile materials won’t stand the fire of God’s judgement.