I Corinthians 3:9-23

Dr. Steve Viars July 30, 1991 1 Corinthians 3:9-23

- we're studying the book of I Corinthians and tonight I'd
  like us to look at the second half of chapter 3
- we said at the beginning of this study that chapter 1:10
  through chapter four form a unit where Paul is talking
  about some major themes or ideas that fit together

- what "major themes" has he addressed so far?

    1) unity in the church (I am of Paul, I am of Apollos...)
    2) wisdom - the Corinthians didn't understand the
           difference between the wisdom of God and the
           wisdom of man
              - and how their belief in God and his Word
                would not be accepted by those who didn't
                know Christ as Savior
                   - they needed to stop trying to make it
                     acceptable by altering it or watering it
    3) carnality - how the Corinthians needed to grow up in
               their faith, and become more spiritual and
               less fleshly

- what we're seeing is this - Paul is making an overall
     argument about the unity of the church
       - but he does so by adding additional truths to the
         subject that are very important in and of themselves
       - so we've been trying to study those subjects
         individually because they're very important - but
         we're also trying to fit those subjects back into
         the overall argument of unity in the church

- we're going to find that same thing to be true tonight

- READ I Cor. 3:9-23

- Paul changes the analogy in this passage
- INPUT - in what verse does he actually make the shift?
          (9 - you are God's field, God's building)

- (by the way - this is an aside - but don't you love the
    variety of Scripture? - God has been so good to us in
    giving us so many different word pictures, and different
    ways of thinking about the Christian life)

- so we're talking tonight about "Being A Building That
    Pleases God"

- Paul says -

I. Start With The Right Foundation

    - INPUT - why is it important to have the right kind of
              foundation in a building?

    - INPUT - the foundation for the Christian is who? (the
              Lord Jesus Christ)

    - we need to add to that the Word of God because we're
      talking about the Lord Jesus as He's revealed to us in
      His Word
        - Jesus told the Jews in John 5:39 that the Old
          Testament "bears witness of" Him
        - the gospels tell the history of his earthly
        - book of Acts tells the history of Jesus building
          His church
        - epistles are commentaries on Jesus' message and
        - book of Revelation tell of His reigning and
          imminent return

- Paul says - If you're going to be the kind of person who
      is like a building that pleases God - you've got to
      have the right foundation

    - "For other foundation can no man lay, than that which
       is laid, which is Jesus Christ"
- The Lord Jesus Christ as He's revealed in his Word must be
    every person's foundation, and it must be every church's

- let me just say that if you've been attending here but
  you've never had a definite time in your life where you've
     - recognized your sin
     - placed your faith in trust in Jesus Christ as Lord or
     - you don't have the right foundation

- Any of the other truths you here around here won't work
  without it
- you'll be frustrated trying to be a better husband or wife
- you won't be able to pull off raising your kids for God
- you won't be able to get a handle on obeying biblical
    principles of finance

- because you don't have the right foundation

- the highway of time is littered with corpses of people who
     - tried to build a life on the wrong foundation
     - tried to build a family on the wrong foundation
     - tried to build a church on the wrong foundation
     - tried to build a denomination on the wrong foundation

- that will never work

- The Church's one foundation, is Jesus Christ her Lord
  She is His new creation, by water and the word
  From heaven he came and sought her, To be His holy bride
  With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died

- Paul moves on and says:

II. Build The Right Kind Of Building

    - while what we've just been saying is very important,
      especially for the person who has not yet trusted Jesus
      Christ as personal Savior, that is not the thrust of
      this passage

   - Paul is talking about the importance of building on this
     foundation because of the impending judgment that every
     believer in Christ will face, called the judgment seat
     of Christ

- now let's talk about what some other passages of Scripture
  say about this subject to be sure we're on track before
  seeing what these verses say

- the Bible talks about a number of judgments that different
  kinds of people will have to face at different times

- the two most prominent ones are the Great White throne
  Judgment and The Bema Seat Judgment (also known as the
  judgment Seat of Christ)

- INPUT - who is judged at the Great White Throne Judgment?
- INPUT - when does that judgment take place (at the end of
          the millenium)
- INPUT - where in the Bible could a person read more about
          that?  (Rev. 20)

- INPUT - who is judged at the Bema Seat Judgment?
- INPUT - when does that judgement take place? (sometime
          during the Tribulation)
- INPUT - Why is this judgment called the Bema Seat
          Judgment and what image does that call up?
          (in the Olympic games, the awards were distributed
          to the victorious athletes from the Bema seat)
- INPUT - what other passages of Scripture talk about this
             - Romans 14:10 - "But why dost thou judge thy
                brother, or why dost thou set at nought thy
                brother?  For we shall all stand before the
                judgment seat of Christ."

             - II Cor. 5:10 - "For we must all appear before
                the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone
                may receive the things done in his body,
                according to that he hath done, whether it be
                good or bad."

- other passages would be Matt. 25:21 and 23 and Rev. 22:12
     where Jesus said - "And behold, I come quickly, and my
     reward is with me, to give every man according as his
     work shall be."

- so we're talking about the Judgment seat of Christ, that
  takes place sometime during the tribulation, and if you are
  a Christian (a believer in Christ) you will be there

- now let's look at what Paul said to the Corinthians about
  building so that we might give the best possible account at
  the judgment seat

- when Paul says, "Build the right building"...

    A. the issue is not salvation

        Paul makes this point very clear
        1. clear from the text

            - INPUT - how do we know from this passage that a
                person's salvation is not in question at the
                judgment seat of Christ?

                v. 15 if any man's work shall be burned, he
                      shall suffer loss; but he himself shall
                      be saved

                v. 12 - if any man "build on this foundation"

            - point is - while Paul wants believers who can
                give the best possible account at this
                judgment, the person could never do so
                poorly that they lost their salvation

   - that’s clear in this text, and its clear in others

        2. clear in others

            - Can you think of some other passages that teach
              eternal security, that a believer's salvation
              will not and cannot fall under condemnation?

            - Rom. 8:1 - There is now, therefore, no
                condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus
            - Rom. 8:31-39 - nothing can "separate us from
                the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our
            - I Cor. 15:3 - "...Christ (is the one who) died
                for our sins"
            - cf. Gal. 1:4, I Peter 2:24, Col. 2:13,
                I John 2:12
            - John 10:28-30

        - so the passage makes it very clear that while this
          judgment is very important, its not a person's
          salvation that is being judged

    - now, I'd like to just pause there and say – that’s not
      the way it'd be if I were the Lord
    - none of this eternal security business

    - If I had designed it, salvation would be completely of
    - a person would never know until right at the very end
      if they really were going to make it to heaven
    - and if you asked me, "why'd you design it that way?"
       - I would have said – that’s the only way you can
         motivate people - absolute fear of their eternal
    - but praise the Lord I didn't get to make that decision,
      and either did you
    - because instead, the God of heaven made that decision
        - yes, we'll be judged
        - but it in the context of a loving God who has
          provided salvation freely by his grace
        - He desires our works to be not out of fear of the
        - but out of hearts of love, in response to what he's
          already done
- in a very real scene - the Judgment Seat of Christ, while
   not determining our eternal destiny, will determine how
   much we appreciated the fact that our eternal destiny was

- so the issue here is not salvation, nor is the issue:

    B. (The issue is not) works that can be observed

        - this is a critical point in understanding what Paul
          is saying about this judgment
        - we're not talking about the Lord counting up all
          the times we went to church, and then adding the
          number of times we served in the nursery, added to
          that how many times we we taught SS, factoring in
          the solos we sang and the times we witnessed

        - this is not near that simple (or maybe we should
          say - near that behavioristic)
        - INPUT - how do we know that we're talking about God
           judging something other than works that can
           currently be observed?

           v. 13 - "every man's work shall be made manifest"
                     - (become evident(NASB) - shown for what
                        it really is (NIV))

                  - "it shall be revealed by fire"

            - see, why the fire?
            - why is Paul saying its something that will only
               be revealed on that day?

        - the answer is - "there's many things about serving
           the Lord and living for him that are not readily
           apparent to the naked eye"

        - see, its not, "you sang 68 solos – that’s 2 crowns"
                      - "you sang 34 – that’s 1!"

- see, we're talking about works that cannot easily be
- its true that there many things about serving for God and
  living for Him that are not readily apparent to the naked

- so what are the issues at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

    C. Instead, the issues are:

        1. motive

            - why did that person do what they did
            - see, there's something we can't know of another
               person now
            - I can't say why a person did what they did

            - I can't know why you came to church tonight,
              and you can't tell why I came
            - in fact, Paul is going to say in the next
              chapter, I have trouble judging myself
- but listen - at the judgment seat of Christ - our motives
    will be revealed

- and immediately, all at once, why we've done what we've
  done for God will be made manifest

- and you'll have a Sunday school teacher over here, whose
   work is tried, and because it was done for the right
   reason -- will come out like gold - and will receive a
   great reward

- then you'll have a Sunday school teacher over here, who
    taught the same number of years, the same number of
    lessons -- but did it for selfish reasons, or with a
    bitter/legalistic spirit--that work will be tried, and it
    will go up in a puff of smoke
      - there will be no reward

- see, we're talking about issues that are not easily
   observed, like motive...also like:

        2. quality

   - now you might say - quality can be easily observed

   - not necessarily
   - its true some folks perform their service for the Lord
     is such a shoddy way that the lack of quality is
     apparent to all
   - some folks have the view - that if its done for the
     Lord, its OK to do it half way

   - I heard some fellows talking about building a building
     up at one of the camps our fellowship use to own
   - they got a bunch of guys together to dig the foundation
     by hand to save money

   - they started saying they needed to dig it 40 inches
   - but the higher the temperature got, the shallower the
      required footing depth got
   - now, not a one of those guys would have allowed that on
      their own homes, but this was just something for the
   - you can go look at that building today, and put your
     fist in the crack in the wall, because it was done in a
     shoddy way

   - so its true that some folks will not be rewarded for
     work done for the Lord because it was obviously done in
     a shoddy way
   - the lack of quality was apparent to all

   - but--remember - at this judgment, we're talking about
     things being revealed that were not apparent before

   - that can be true of quality as well
     - here's why - God does not apply universal standards to
          the quality of an individuals work

     - see, we have trouble understanding that because we're
        used to universal standards

- if Caterpillar wants to compete in the international market
- their engines have to meet industry standards
   - those standards are applied across the board to
     Caterpillar, Allis Chambers, ________
   - the same standards of quality are applied across the

- but that’s not the way it is when it comes to measuring the
  quality of service for God
- here's why - because only God has the ability to measure a
    person's ability, and opportunity--and then compare that
    to the quality of the output

- let me try to illustrate that
    - let's say we gave you a sheet of paper tonight and said
         "grade the sermon" (we're not going to do that, by
             the way)
    - let's say you had all kinds of categories to use as
      part of the evaluation
    - let's say we get all done - and you come out with a
        grade (B- ,or whatever)

    - now, we say - come back tomorrow - and we're going to
      ask you to do the same thing with another fellow
    - he gets up - gives exactly the same message, exactly
       the same voice inflections, exactly the same
       illustrations - everything exactly the same

    - what grade would you give him? (you would have to give
       exactly the same grade)
        - Why - because as far as you were able to determine
                  - the quality was the same

   - but I say to you that the issue of quality is much more
     complicated in the mind of God because he has access to
     information that you and I will never know about fellow
     servants of God
       - things like ability, potential, opportunity

- its very possible - that the Lord would judge those same
   two sermons in an entirely different way
     - why?
     - fellow 1, hypothetically, used all his abilities, all
         his potential, made the best of all his
            - and still produced a sermon that only received
              a B- by those around
            - but in the Lord's eye's it received highest
              marks (gold, silver, precious stones)

    - while fellow 2 - who gave the same sermon, and received
       the same grade from his peers
         - was graded far lower by the Lord
            - because he didn't use his abilities, potential
            - he didn't make the best of His God given
            - therefore, in the mind of God, the quality was
              not near what it should have been and therefore
              is judged as wood, hay, and stubble
- but apart from the person himself - that information would
    have never been known until the judgment seat of Christ
     - where everything is made manifest
    - a third thing that will be made manifest is:

        3. service

- now you might say - now, wait a minute
- the first issue I don't have any trouble with (motives
    can't be known)
- the second - I can see your point - God has more data in
   evaluating quality than we do

- but how could that apply to service?  Service is readily
    apparent to all
- how is that you say that some folks service won't be made
   manifest till the judgment seat of Christ

- the answer is this - the vast majority of work for God
     takes place behind the scenes
- by far!
- by far, the vast majority of work for God and living for
       God takes place behind the scenes

- that kind of work will not be evident to any of us until
     the judgment seat of Christ

- but on that day - I believe there will be some real
    - where secret, behind the scenes service for God will be
         made manifest
    - service like this
       - like the person who has prayed faithfully for the
           people of God and the work of God for years
             - that kind of service (though it had always
               been private, behind the scenes, will be made
               manifest) - and will be rewarded

       - and the person who's ministered to folks who are ill
           - behind the scenes - no big splash - but
            faithfully for years - that will be made manifest

       - and the person who was a consistent testimony at
       - or the person who sought to raise his family quietly
          for God

- not all the serving for God and living for God that is done
   is readily apparent
- but at the judgment seat of Christ, it will be made

- see, I think we need to think of this way

- right now, if we had to line folks up based on the way we
   believed they would be rewarded, top to bottom - today
   we'd do it one way

- but at the judgment Seat of Christ - when all is revealed
     - I believe in many cases that lineup will be radically

- for some here tonight, that should be a source of great
- for others - that should be a source of great concern
- Paul says - the foundation is secure
    - but if you want to be a building that pleases God - be
      so very careful to build the right kind of building on
      that foundation
       - not only one that is apparently "reward worthy" now
       - but one that will be worthy of reward when the
           secret things are revealed at the judgment seat
           of Christ

- now, let's talk about:

    D. How to be prepared:

        1. check your faith

            - the judgment seat of Christ is first and
              foremost an issue of faith
            - the way the Corinthians were behaving
              demonstrated a lack of belief in a coming
              Judgment Seat of Christ

            - they were all concerned about the evaluation of
               - if men approved of their beliefs and deemed
                 them to be wise for holding those beliefs

            - they were concerned about the wrong test!

            - a couple of good questions for all of us to ask
              tonight are:
               "How often do I think about the judgment seat
                of Christ?"
               "What if it were today?"

            - Am I prepared and getting better prepared for
              this critical day?

- of course, you understand that the purpose of being
  prepared is to be able to turn and cast those crowns back
  at the savior's feet in praise and adoration to him
    - but what a terrible thing for a believer to be "saved,
      yet as by fire"
        - where his work and service for God are deemed to be
          wood, hay, and stubble - and therefore - no reward

        2. check our service

            - What will the judgment seat of Christ reveal
              about my private life? my private, behind the
              scenes service for Him?

        3. check our quality

            - not only - am I reaching the status quo - but
              am I striving for excellence in God's eyes
                - using my opportunities, abilities,
                - so that even when all of that is revealed -
                  the Lord could say, well done, my good and
                  faithful servant

        4. check our motives

            - hey, listen, its a sobering thought to think
              about some things that will go up in smoke

            - I'm quite sure some sermons will go that route
            - some prayers will go that way
            - a few solos and special numbers

            - some family devotions
            - a witnessing opportunity

            - it's not just a matter of passing the test
            - we're talking about being more and more
              prepared at the judgment seat of Christ

Paul applies this principle to several areas in the next

III. Apply These Principles To The Way You Think About The
     Christian Life

    - you can see how all this ties in with the themes we've
      studied in previous weeks

    A. Be sure you're applying right standards to yourself

        v. 18 - by the standards "of this age

        - they were concerned about the present exterior test
           of men than the coming interior test of God

    B. Be sure you're applying right standards to others

        - NIV - v. 21 - "No more boasting about men!"

        - there's no reason to run around with these banners
          about "I'm of Paul", "I'm of Apollos"

        - there's a lot of reasons why that’s wrong - but one
          reason is that there's a lot about the service of
          those men that you don't know yet

        - you might be lining yourself up behind a bum steer

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video