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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


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Friday, February 26, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 13)



Home Bible Study ©
Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
www.2Tim215.Net                                             

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4


1 Corinthians                                                                    (Lesson 13)


When Paul spoke of using gold, silver, and precious stones, as Christ’s servants and each Believer (1 Corinthians 4:1, 6:19-29) builds on the one true Foundation, he was recalling the costly and imperishable building materials Solomon utilized in constructing the LORD God's holy sanctuary (1 Chronicles 22:14-16, 29:2).

I mentioned last week that precious stones aren’t jewels, but fine granite and marble.  Paul means to say mixing human wisdom with the wisdom of God in the work of building His church is like alternating layers of straw and fine marble in the building process.  Straw has its purposes; a “barn” setting is one, but it is a perishable building material and unfit for the Foundation which Paul had laid.  I liken this to the wisdom of men, more than a few fleshly attractions, and secular hobbies that have found their place in people’s lives, but have no place in the building of God’s Church.

The fire itself will test the quality of each man’s (individual’s) work or workmanship.  When Jesus Christ examines our workmanship at the Bema Seat Judgment, the intentions and motives encouraging each activity will be made known to Him.  If our efforts are the equivalent of wood, hay, and straw the fire will destroy them leaving nothing behind.
(2 Corinthians 5:10; Colossians 3:23)

I pray people will sit-up and take notice of this Truth.  For many think they are serving God, when actually they are doing it in an unworthy manner or with unworthy “materials.”  As a result, they will discover at the Bema Seat Judgment that they have, in reality, done nothing for the Lord.  They will be saved, but they will suffer loss; they will receive no crown to give to Jesus Christ for His glory as in Revelation 4:10-11.

This week our Apostle Paul “builds” on his analogy of God’s Church being likened to a building.  He moves from the grand structure in general to a particular building which is not only splendid in its appearance but “holy,” i.e. set apart, with this statement:
Do you not know that you are a temple of God…

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Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 3:16.

1 Corinthians 3

16: Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  (Romans 8:9)

Do you not know – This phrase is the equivalent of our, “You’re kidding me!” It was also a common literary device back then to pose a rhetorical question.  Paul uses this expression ten times in his first letter to the Corinthians.  He consistently uses it before he begins to explain something that his listeners should already know but “don’t.”  His usage of it here refers to something Paul has personally explained to these Corinthians earlier (Acts 18).  So what he is about to say “again” ought to have been a matter of common knowledge, but here’s the thing, they had either forgotten the subject matter or had rejected it outright. 

Paul’s question, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you has this logic behind it.  The Corinthians imagined themselves to be extremely “spiritual” and “wise” beyond their years, yet Paul had to ask them this question, (I’m paraphrasing here), “Can it be that you who boast in spirituality and wisdom do not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 

This rhetorical question from Paul was a stinging rebuke to the Corinthian’s pride, the proverbial “word- slap upside of the head,” if you will, to get their attention.  This truth lay at the heart of his question:  the Corinthians had failed to recognize who they were in Christ Jesus.  They should have known this elementary teaching, but they did not. 

In verse 16 Paul isn’t talking about the individual Believer being a temple of God, instead he’s talking about the local church in Corinth being God’s temple.  I say this because the context of Paul’s writings concerns the local church.  Looking back, the previous verses we studied concerned the Judgment Seat of Christ, a.k.a the Bema Seat (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).  Paul explained how God holds each Believer responsible for the quality of their workmanship and the materials they use to build His church.  Those who build on the true Foundation with imperishable materials will receive a reward, but those who build carelessly with perishable materials will suffer loss.  Their work will be burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  The loss referred to here is not the loss of their salvation for verse 3:15 promises that the person themselves will be saved, yet so as through the fire.

Not only does the context support the view that Paul is speaking of the local church, the grammar does as well.  In the Greek language the word you in verse 16 is plural.  In our English language the word “you” is ambiguous; a person cannot always tell whether it’s singular or plural.  If you live in the southern United States that ambiguity has been removed.  When they mean more than one person they say, “ya’ll.”  If Paul were a southerner the verse would read like this, “Do ya’ll not know that ya’ll are a temple (singular) of God and the Spirit of God dwells in ya’ll?”  Clearly, this verse concerns the local church and not the individual Believer.  Paul does speak of the individual Believer being a temple of God at 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. 

Paul said the Corinthian church (your local church is included in this analogy) is a temple of God.  There are two primary words for temple in the Greek New Testament.  The word that signifies the entire temple, including the courtyard, which even the Gentiles could enter, was Hieron.  But the other Greek word, Naos (pronounced:  nah-os’) as used in 3:16-17 denotes just the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, which could not be entered by Gentiles or sinful Israelites, or anyone else for that matter.  The only person permitted to enter the Holy of Holies was the Jewish High Priest, and he only did this once a year on the Day of Atonement. 

What makes the church a temple?  The Spirit of God dwells in you!  Likening this to the ancient Jewish Temple that contained the Holy of Holies, where deity dwelt, when you become a Believer you also become the sanctuary where God dwells.

Let’s look at verse 17.
 
1 Corinthians 3

17: If any man (or woman) destroys (corrupts) the temple of God, God will destroy him (or her), for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

One of the things I learn from this verse right off the bat is - God values His church.  How much does He value it?  Scripture gives us these words from Jesus to guide our thinking on the subject:  “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). 

In this passage Jesus refers to His impending death.  Though He would be crucified and buried, He would rise from the dead on the 3rd day and commence to build His church.  Jesus is emphasizing the fact that the powers of death could not hold Him (Acts 2:24).  Not only would the church be established, in spite of Hades or hell, the church, a living organism, would thrive in spite of the evil forces in the world.

The church matters a great deal to God, so it matters to God how we care for His temple.  Paul’s statement in v17 is a genuine possibility, which is why he said it.  He understands people are busy destroying God’s temple in Corinth. 

This begs the question, “Who is destroying the temple?”  Paul doesn’t name anyone in particular, but if we consider everything we’ve studied up until now I have no problem teaching that the people he’s speaking of were Believers.  Narrowing this down further, there’s no doubt in my mind they were the “leaders” of the factions within the church. But then you also have to include the church members who aligned themselves with these leaders.  They accepted the hypocritical and worldly teachings of these men and were promoting them, while casting aside the teachings of the Apostle Paul.

The word destroy in the Greek language is Phtheiro (pronounced:  fthi’-ro) and has several uses in the N.T.  It can mean to spoil or corrupt morally or physically.  It can also mean to destroy spiritually and eternally.  The immediate context determines its meaning.  Here it is referring to saved but spiritually immature Believers who are causing a factious spirit to develop in the church at Corinth, i.e. to lead away a Christian church from that state of knowledge and holiness in which it ought to abide.

What does Paul mean by the words?  God will destroy him (or her) - Paul’s saying the punishment fits the crime.  Destroy My church and you will answer to Me!”  It doesn’t mean that God is going to “wipe out” a church that’s messing up.  A church is merely a spiritual hospital for sinners.  There’s no evidence in Scripture of a church being wiped off the map by God because of:  adultery, back-biting, disunity, gossiping, and immorality.  Paul never uses this word in reference to eradication, eternal punishment, or extermination.  It does, however, refer to “judgment” upon the individual Believer. 

The list below is meant to suggest some of the ways God punishes individuals who choose to defile His church:

Excommunication:  in the Old Testament, one of the penalties for defiling God’s dwelling, whether that was the traveling Tabernacle or the Jewish Temple, was separation from the nation (Numbers 19:20).  We learn a couple things from this:
 
#1:  When God speaks He expects His creation to listen and obey.

#2:  God takes the holiness of His dwelling seriously.  The Israelite who failed to recognize this important Truth suffered the consequences of excommunication or worse.  If a Believer in the Church Age fails to take God at His Word, considering the holiness of His dwelling, they too will be “excluded” from the body of Believers:  It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.  You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from you midst (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). 

Sickness:  In the Old Testament we have the account of Uzziah, who gave in to pride after achieving various military successes and then went right into the temple (Naos), the Holy of Holies, and was punished by God with leprosy.  In the New Testament, the Corinthian Believers were guilty of abusing the Lord’s Supper in various ways, so the Lord disciplined them with weakness, sickness, and eventually death:  For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep (have died).  (1 Corinthians 11:23-30)

Eternal Loss:  There’s no O.T. application for this but from 1 Corinthians 3:15 we learn:  If any man’s (or woman’s) work is burned up, he (or she) will suffer loss.  We know the builder will not lose his or her salvation, but they will lose reward.  Thus, in addition to physical ruin, sickness, and death, God’s destruction may also include the complete obliteration of the Corinthian destroyer’s life work at the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. 

I pray you can see this is serious business.  I saw a bumper sticker not too long ago that read, “If you value your life as much as I value this truck, DON’T TOUCH IT!  That comment mirrors God’s mindset in regard to His church, “You harm My temple, and you’ll have to deal with Me!” 

It would behoove every Believer in the Body of Christ to reconsider and to reflect on why they are always sick or in poor health.  It just may be that the consequences of their actions or inactions within God’s church have caught up with them.  One should never underestimate the value God places on relationships and I’m not just speaking of God’s temple; I’m referring to the family unit as well because we’re dealing with the same thing – God’s Church.  Paul gives us the reason why next. 

For the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are – just as the LORD God indicated His presence in the Jewish Temple by filling it with the cloud of His glory (1 Kings 8:10-11), in like manner He indwells His people today by filling them with the Holy Spirit.  True Believers are not ordinary people.  They are loved before time began (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11).  They are holy, set apart to God in a special way and through a special relationship – through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Let’s move on to verses 18-21.

Paul goes right to the logical answer to all this in verse 18.  What does God’s expect from us since this is the danger under which we all live? 

1 Corinthians 3

18: Let no man (or woman) deceive himself (or herself).  If any man (or woman) among you thinks that he (or she) is wise in this age, he (or she) must become foolish, so that he (or she) may become wise.  (1 Cor 8:2)

Read verse 18 carefully.  It doesn’t say, “Let no man deceive you…”  It says, “Let no man (or woman) deceive himself (or herself).  Here’s the thing, we all think we’re doing things for God, serving Him by serving others, when down deep, hidden to everyone around us, there’s an ambition, a desire for recognition, for fame, and for glory.  Paul is saying, “Stop kidding yourself because you’re not fooling God. 

Consider these words from Jesus, when you’re performing acts of charity:  “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”  (Matthew 6:2-3)

If you’re working so that others around you will notice you and your work then don’t think for a moment that you will be rewarded twice.  God knows your heart.  If your service to the Lord is not coming from that sense of dependence on the wisdom and the power of the Spirit of God, then in reality you’re serving yourself and it will all come to nothing at the Judgment Seat of Christ. 

If any man (or woman) among you thinks that he (or she) is wise in this age, - here Paul is referring to the Corinthians who were an arrogant and conceited faction.  They took great pride in their wisdom; a fact that becomes increasing clear later on at 1 Corinthians 4:6-10.  To stay this course, thinking and their behaving as they were, they are proving themselves to be unwise in God’s eyes. 

Paul calls upon these Corinthians to repent, “to fess up,” he (or she) must become foolish.  Paul instructs them to forsake worldly wisdom and embrace foolishness.  Jesus Christ used a similar argument at Matthew 16:24-26:  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Paul is not telling these Corinthians that every foolish person is wise.  Neither is he calling upon them to forsake every kind of wisdom just a certain kind of wisdom, i.e. the wisdom of this age.  True wisdom is of God is the implication here.  The wisdom of the world will not make you wise in God’s eyes.  In other words, the wisdom Paul speaks of is God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages.  This knowledge is found only in God’s Gospel and taught to Believers by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). 

Let’s go to verses 19-20.

1 Corinthians 3
19: For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.  For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”;

20: and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.” 

Paul quotes from two Old Testament passages to demonstrate that worldly wisdom is folly and that God’s “folly” (in the eyes of the world) is true wisdom.  The first quote (v19) is taken from the book of Job (Job 5:13).  These are the words of Job’s friend Eliphaz.  Paul has taken a quote from a man who is later rebuked by the LORD God for being wrong (Job 42:7).  But why did Paul choose this passage from Job?  Eliphaz, like his two friends, wasn’t wrong in what they had said about God; he was wrong in “his thinking;” in how he applied this truth to Job.  Eliphaz accused Job of being crafty, explaining that Job’s sufferings were divine judgment as a result of sin.  This was hardly the case (Job 1:1, 8). 

The second quote (v20) comes from the book of Psalms (Psalm 94:11).  It’s interesting that this passage actually reads:  The LORD knows the thoughts of man, That they are a mere breath.  Paul changes this passage at two points:  he exchanged the word wise for the word man.  In the context of the Psalm, it’s clear that unbelieving man thinks himself wise, when in fact he is really foolish (see verses 2, 4, and 8).  So, the thoughts of unsaved man are of one who thinks himself wise.  The second variation occurs where Paul inserts the word useless, where the Bible translators use the expression mere breath.  By this Paul means to say the thoughts of arrogant (wise) men are futile, useless, because they are temporary rather than eternal.  No matter how “deep” man’s thoughts are they are restricted to this present evil age, while God’s thoughts and plans are eternal.   

Paul has shown these Corinthians why pursing worldly wisdom is foolish.  It’s temporal.  Man’s thought processes are useless so far as eternity is concerned; they are also destructive.  They will not only lead us astray, they will “trip” us up, corrupting us.  Forsaking worldly wisdom and pursuing the wisdom of God, which comes through His Word and the Spirit of God is the one path all Believers should be on (Psalm 119:105) 

(To be continued)

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Friday, February 19, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 12)



Home Bible Study ©
Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
www.2Tim215.Net                                             

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4


1 Corinthians                                                                    (Lesson 12)


1 Corinthians 3

9: For we (Believers) are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Last week I closed mentioning that Believers are not independent agents or contractors doing and saying whatever they want within God’s church.  We are God’s building.  We are subcontractors, working for God and with one another, and the church which is likened to a field and a building is actually God’s field and God’s building. 

The church belongs to God.  It is not the property of its members and the Body of Christ is not free to act in any manner in which it chooses.  If God is going to sanction growth in His church, it is imperative that every Believer plant and water according to His design, because on our own we have nothing worthwhile to contribute to this activity.  We need God’s help.  Jesus Christ taught this same principle when He described Himself as “the true vine” saying, apart from Me you can do nothing.  (John 15:1-8).

This is the point Paul is making as he carries the analogy of the church as a building over into 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.  

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Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 and I’ll meet you there.

1 Corinthians 3

10: According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder (following God’s design) I laid a foundation, and another (person comes along after me and) is building on it.  But each man (and woman) must be careful how he (or she) builds on it.  (Romans 12:3)

11: For no man (or person) can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, in describing Paul’s ministry among the Corinthians, he begins with a declaration of grace.  Considering his history as a destroyer of God church, Paul knew that his status as a worker in God’s field or on God’s building was based on God’s undeserved favor and not on his own merit.  

Like a wise master builder (following God’s design) I laid a foundation, when Paul planted the church in Corinth, Greece (Acts 18), he laid the only Foundation that can be laid – the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Yet he understood that others would come along after him and build on this Foundation:  and another is building on it.  So, Paul says let each person pay attention to how they build on it:  But each man (and woman) must be careful how (or she) he builds on it.  Paul’s point being, the Foundation has already been laid, so a person can’t build on any other Foundation, but an individual can build unworthily on the one Foundation.

A construction engineer is aware that the shape of a building, to a great extent, is determined by its foundation and that the foundation provides the parameters for how the rest of the structure is to be built.  As members of God’s church, or more to the point, the Body of Christ, each Believer must always bear in mind the nature of Jesus Christ; that is to say His personality and His true doctrines as we go about our day influencing others for the Lord Jesus Christ.  When we do so, we’re building on the one Foundation either directly or indirectly. 

Everything we build on the Foundation Paul laid must be in keeping with the shape of the one Foundation.  Paul is specifically speaking of Jesus Christ’s life and the finished work of the cross.  Paul says this begins by taking on the same attitude as Jesus Christ:  Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8; Romans 12:1-3). 

The church in Corinth was struggling spiritually.  They began to put their faith in several “human” leaders instead of the One who had laid down His life for all so that all who believe may have life in Him (John 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:15).  So, Paul reminds these Corinthians of the church’s one Foundation which is Jesus Christ, the Lord.  He then instructs them by warning them in verse 12 that they must be careful how they build on it.

1 Corinthians 3

12: Now if any man (or woman) builds on the foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13: each man’s (or the individual’s) work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work (or workmanship).

During the Middle Ages many Gothic churches were built.  Gothic churches were beautiful and elaborate structures.  They required a vast amount of energy, time and money to build.  What I find most fascinating about these churches is the manner in which they were constructed.  A mine was established, often as distant as 50 miles from the construction site.  When the rocks were mined volunteers from all over the countryside would form a human chain from the mine to the building site.  The rocks would then be passed hand-to-hand all the way to the construction site.  If anyone in this human chain dropped the stone or failed to do his or her part the church could not be built because the build required the efforts of everyone involved. 

Fast forward to today and we find the church is still dependent upon Believers to faithfully work together in building God’s Church.  If we fail to properly build His church according to His design, it will never be all that God desires it to be.  More importantly, as the Bible clearly states, what we do with our lives here and now in regard to this effort will have serious ramifications on our heavenly experience; for our future rewards are derived from helping God build His Church here on earth.
 
To that end, Paul mentions 6 building commodities, in two groups at verse 12, in descending order of value.  In light of his discussion over the last two chapters and his obvious concern for the Corinthian’s spiritual maturity, I’ve narrowed his list down to two items:  cheap and costly, or if you prefer imperishable and perishable.

Gold, silver, and precious stones are imperishable materials fit for construction on the Foundation which had been laid by Paul because they will endure the test of fire. When Paul speaks of gold, and silver, however, he’s not talking about earthly minerals.  This is merely figurative language meant to represent the wisdom of God (the Word of God) which is imperishable (Isaiah 40:8).  To be more specific, Paul is speaking of God’s hidden and secret wisdom:  but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory (1 Corinthians 2:7).   

Besides the precious doctrines of truth found in God’s Word these three commodities also represent feelings, habits, opinions, practices, and views which these true doctrines stimulate either in an individual Believer or in a particular church group (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  In effect we’re talking about an individual’s or a church’s spiritual growth or how much distance they’ve put between themselves and old Adam. 

As for these precious stones, Paul isn’t talking about diamonds, emeralds, and rubies.  He’s referring to those huge foundation stones that were carved out of fine granite or marble and used in building the magnificent structure.  They were costly stones because they required a great deal of man-power in quarrying them, shaping them, and fitting them into place. 

But wood, hay, and straw are inferior building materials, unfit for construction on the foundation which Paul had laid because they are neither imperishable nor “fireproof.”  These building materials represent the perishable things of human wisdom that perceives the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the cross as foolish.  They also represent false or perverted doctrines within God’s church such as the prosperity gospel and the Word of Faith movement.  If a person genuinely comes to faith in Jesus Christ but then begins placing their faith in the words of men instead of the true doctrines found in God’s Word, they are placing “things” on their spiritual foundation which will eventually be burned up; these deceptive and false teachings have no place on the Foundation Paul has laid.

Wood, hay, and straw also represent an individual’s intentions and motives lying beneath the works they perform.  If you’re not serving God wholeheartedly, intending to step back out of the limelight so that the honor, glory, and praise goes to Him alone.  Then perhaps you should check your “motives.”  In other words, if you’re interested in making a name for yourself, receiving a “pat on the back” for you’re efforts, or if you’re working but complaining about it to everyone within earshot, then your works are all about you.  God may not be in the picture at all, and if this is the case, verse 13 is a wake-up call! 

Let’s go to verse 13.    

1 Corinthians 3

13: each man’s (or Believer’s) work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work (or workmanship).

The Greek word for evident is Phaneros (pronounced:  fan-er-os’) and means – manifested; to be plainly recognized or known.  What every man and woman has built on the one Foundation will become evident or manifested (placed under the spotlight for inspection):  for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire.  Our Apostle Paul makes it clear here, as he does at Romans 14:10-12, that every Believer will have his or her service for the Lord examined by the fire of divine scrutiny one day.

Please turn with me to Revelation 19:11-12 and we’ll see what this divine fire Paul’s talking about is:   And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war (note the capitalization of the words Faithful and True this is referencing deity; it’s the Lord Jesus Christ!  Let’s read verse 12 now) His eyes are a flame of (what) fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on them which no one knows except Himself. 

Flames of fire aren’t shooting from the Lord’s eyes.  This is symbolism and the book of Revelation is filled with it.  Permit me to help you understand it’s meaning with an illustration:  have you ever stood toe-to-toe, eye-to-eye, with someone who looked to be staring right through you while you were having a serious conversation with them?  I had a commanding officer in my division who fit this description.  He was a force to be reckoned with.  I thought he could read my mind at times… I would forget to breathe when I was in front of him.  Well, that’s nothing compared to what the Lord Jesus Christ is capable of doing when he gets you and me in front of Him at the Bema Seat Judgment and examines our works or “workmanship” done in and for the building of His church.   

Elsewhere in the New Testament our Apostle Paul describes the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as, “in blazing fire,” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-7), an appearance that denotes judgment as well. 

Now I think we’re ready for verses 14-15.

1 Corinthians 3

14: If any man’s (or woman’s) work which he (or she) has built (using the first 3 commodities Paul mentioned) on it (the one Foundation) remains, he (or she) will receive a reward.

Jesus Christ will examine everyone’s intentions and motives.  If a person has built using gold, silver, and precious stones, then they will receive their reward:  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds (works) in the body (church), according to what he (or she) has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Paul wants the Corinthians (and us) to understand that the day is coming, (sometime after the rapture of Body of Christ) when each person’s workmanship (even those things done in secret) will be judged by Jesus Christ Himself, and this includes their knowledge of God’s Word and what they did with that.  Paul has this to say on the subject:  In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy (or faithful).  (1 Corinthians 4:2) 

A trustworthy person is one who fulfills a given responsibility and who rightfully carries out an obligation or duty.  Every Believer should have a heart that desires to please their Savior and be faithful to Him in all things.  In order to “find” my God-given responsibilities and duties, I must go to the pages of God’s Word, the Bible, to learn of them. 

The concept of the Bema Seat comes from the ancient Olympics, where a judge would sit on the Bema Seat at the finish line to determine what position the runners came in – first, second, third, and so on; and then to give out the appropriate rewards.  This is the imagery behind the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ as described in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. 

The Scriptures do not say when this judging will take place and the timing of the event doesn’t really matter.  So, let’s not get tangled up discussing “the when,” when the only thing that matters is being prepared for your final exam!

When you consider your life up to now are you the least bit concerned about what Jesus Christ will say and do at the Bema Seat Judgment?  Are you the least bit anxious about all the opportunities you’ve wasted; for the time you frittered away on foolish and frivolous activities; for the people you could have helped; for all the moments you lacked the courage to speak to someone about Jesus Christ and God’s free gift of grace, etc.  If so, this somber warning in verse 15 from our Apostle Paul is intended for you.

1 Corinthians 3

15: If any man’s (or woman’s) work is burned up (because they used perishable building materials which Paul likened to wood, hay and straw), he (or she) will suffer loss; but he himself (or the Believer) will (still) be saved, yet so as through the fire.

Paul wants these Corinthians to know that every one of them bears the responsibility for his or her contributions in building upon the one Foundation and will receive rewards based on the quality of their workmanship.  If they build carelessly, they’ll suffer loss.  There will be no finger pointing and the “Blame-Game” will not be in play at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Each person will take ownership of their activity or inactivity whether good or bad.

Just so you know there won’t be any unbelievers present at the Bema Seat Judgment.  This has absolutely nothing to do with condemnation of God’s fellow workers.  The sin issue was settled once and for all at the cross (Romans 8:1).  Instead, this has everything to do with, “What have you done with your salvation?”  Rewards and not salvation is the subject matter here.  Salvation, per Scripture, is a free gift of God (Ephesians 2:8); rewards are earned by the Believer by good works (fruit-bearing):  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for (what) good works, which God prepared beforehand (before the foundations of the earth) so that we (Believers) would walk in them (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 3:5-17).

So, You’re Saved; What Now?

All that is done for sake of personal gain, popularity, influence, or to impress the world and its inhabitants will add up to zero before Jesus Christ at the Bema Seat.  This Truth should make every Believer stop and consider the questions Jesus Christ will be asking them on that day; questions such as:

“How faithful were you to My Word?” 
“Did you share My gospel with others?” 
“Did you honor Me in your business, in your school, and during your idle hours?”
“Were you accountable to your spouse, your family, your friends, your co-workers?”
 “Did you love your spouse as I loved the church?” 
“Did you teach your children My Truths?” 
“Were you more interested in becoming like Me or the world around you?”
 “Did you accurately handle the word of truth?” 

It’s been said experience is a hard teacher because it gives the test first and the lessons come after.  However, our Apostle Paul has given us numerous written guides to help us prepare for our final exam.  Every day that the Lord Jesus Christ’s return is delayed is one more day in which we have time to prepare for it.  Let’s not waste time…

Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these is: ‘it might have been.”
John Greenleaf Whittier

I heard a sermon preached on verses 14-15 one Sunday morning that I’ll never forget; it had that kind of impact.  He used an illustration of a huge file room up in heaven, rows upon rows of file cabinets filled with the files of every Believer who has ever lived.  These files contained every thought, word, deed, and missed opportunity of every individual in the Body of Christ. 

The Lord took this man to the “file room,” selected his file, and then walked him to a nearby warehouse.  Upon entering the building the man observed brightly wrapped packages stacked from floor to ceiling as far as the eye could see.  Jesus led the man over to a corner of the warehouse where hundreds of beautiful packages were piled to the ceiling and said, “All these rewards the Father meant for Me to give to you.  However, because you were not faithful with a few things I entrusted to you, they must remain here forever, unopened.  (Matthew 25:14-30).   The saddest part of his illustration, when he hammered it home, was that this entire warehouse and many others like it in heaven were dedicated solely for the purpose of storing Believer’s lost rewards. 

One of the applications (life lessons) we learned from our study of Romans is "We are not saved to sit – we’re saved to serve!"  So, what are you doing with the abilities, gifts, talents, and the Word of God that God has given to you, while the Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven, waiting to return, and His return is imminent?  Are you sitting on them or are you putting them to work?  And if you’re serving the Lord, what’s motivating you?

Permit me to direct you to a Bible verse through which you should filter every thought, word, and deed in your life – for the rest of your life, in light of your future appointment with the Lord Jesus Christ before the Bema Seat:  Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  (Colossians 3:23-24).

(To be continued)

[Published weekly on Friday]

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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