Saved Through Fire

Friday, May 15, 2015, 7:11 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “For By Grace.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 3:1-15 (NASB).

What Divides Us?

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

What might this look like today? I believe we could relate this to church denominations and/or to particular strongly held doctrinal viewpoints. One might say that he is Baptist, while another might say she is Presbyterian, and another Methodist, and another Charismatic or Episcopalian, and then a Calvinist or Arminian, etc. What often happens via the divisions of denomination or doctrine initiated by human beings is that people often end up following the teachings of humans over the teachings of Christ and of the apostles, i.e. those which are God-breathed. Oftentimes they follow a particular list of scriptures, too, frequently taken out of context, which supports their particular doctrines, and sometimes while ignoring other scriptures which might seem to contradict their particular theology.

As well, there are many TV preachers who have gained popularity among the people, or there are some who are renowned for a particular book or book series they have written, and there are some who are political activists, and thus have gained public recognition and attention in that sense. So, people follow after these men and women, oftentimes without testing anything they say, and with much enthusiasm and loyalty over and above faith in Jesus Christ and dedication to the study of the scriptures. Thus, many people are following after lies, deception, and manipulations of truth, cleverly disguised as truth, because they are following personalities, and because they like what they hear and it is pleasing to their ears and it makes them feel good. And, so they end up honoring one man (or woman) above another and become followers of man instead of followers of God.

Although I don’t believe the people mentioned in this passage were guilty of teaching what was false, there were false teachers at that time, and they are very prevalent in the church today. So, when we become followers of human beings over and above being followers of God and of his Word, i.e. that which is God-breathed, we run the risk of falling prey to these deceivers because we are more loyal to them or to a particular denomination than we are to Christ, to his Word and to his gospel. These deceivers then end up destroying (ruining) God’s temple, his body, his church with these false doctrines and false gospel and with the “wisdom” and standards of this age (culture), which is foolishness in God’s sight. And, this is happening in the church of today, and it is epidemic! So, we should not be deceived by being followers of humans over being followers of God, but we should test everything we hear or read or see against God’s revealed Word in scripture to make sure it is true so that we are not deceived, and so we are not party to the ruining of the church (See: vv. 16-23).

With regard to raising one servant of the Lord above another, and becoming followers of humans rather than followers of God, the point of all of this, I believe, is that believers who are serving the Lord Jesus in ministry are just servants of the Lord, and each one of us has been given a different task (assignment within the body of Christ), but God is the one who makes the spiritual seed which was planted and watered grow. So, we should focus our attention, praise, honor and glory on God, not on humans, and realize that we all answer to God. As followers of Christ, we should not compete with one another, but we should work together for the glory of God in the work of the ministry and for God’s eternal kingdom.

On the Foundation

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’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. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Paul said that no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. This is not saying that humans won’t attempt to lay another foundation or that they won’t succeed in doing so for a time, but that for the church, Jesus Christ is the only foundation. There is none other. If we try to lay a different foundation, then it is not a true foundation for the church, Christ’s body, but a false one, and thus is a false gospel and a false church with a false Christ as the head, because it is not built on Jesus Christ. So, we need to first of all be careful to make sure we are building on the correct foundation.

So, what is meant concerning Jesus Christ as our foundation on which we should build our lives individually and his church collectively? He is the basis (source, origin and center) for our salvation, our Christian lives, and our walks in the Spirit by faith, and for the life of the church. If he had not died on the cross for our sins, and if he had not been resurrected from the grave, triumphing over sin, we could not be saved, so there would be no foundation upon which to build our lives, and there would be no true church. Yet, Jesus Christ, as our foundation, is so much more than just the fact that he paid the price for our sins.

Jesus, as our foundation, is who he is and what he is about, and it is his divine character and will and purpose for us, and it is his teachings and the life he lived while on this earth, and it is his purpose in dying for our sins, for it was not merely to free us from eternal damnation and to promise us heaven when we die that he gave his life up for us. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24; cf. 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 6). This is why he died. He died so that we might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that we may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in him (See: Ac. 26:16-18). He died so we might walk, no longer according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (See: Ro. 8; cf. 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Eph. 4:17-24). And, it is on this foundation that we must build our lives and that collectively the church (his house) must be built, too.

This passage speaks of refining fire through trials and tribulations which test the quality of our works. The context suggests that all who are the subject matter here are those who have clearly built on the correct foundation. This is not about someone who does not have the correct foundation but thinks he can make a profession of faith then live like hell and yet escape the flames of hell because of that profession of faith which is not built on the Rock. Scripture is real clear on the fact that if we profess to know God and to be in fellowship with him, yet we continue in lifestyles of sin, then we are liars. Romans 6 and 8 make it very clear that faith in Jesus Christ means death to sin and living according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, for if we continue to live according to the flesh we will die, but if, by the Spirit, we are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, we will live, because it is those being led by the Spirit of God who are the true children of God.

Some translators and interpreters of 1 Corinthians 3 have erroneously translated v. 15, in speaking of the one whose works are burned up, and who thus suffers loss with regard to rewards, as describing a person just barely escaping the flames of hell, but the context does not bear that out, and neither does the Greek. The correct translation says “will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Some of our works, which were done in the power of the Spirit, will survive this test by fire, and will be for the praise, honor and glory of God, but others of our works will not survive the test because they were done in our human flesh and thus hold no eternal value. We will be saved, though, but not through works, but through the power and working of Jesus Christ in refining, and in purifying (baptizing) us with the Spirit and with fire in new birth, i.e. in the transformation of our lives away from living for sin and self to living for the Lord Jesus and to walking daily in his righteousness and holiness, all in the power and working of the Spirit within us, and no longer according to our flesh.

For By Grace / An Original Work / January 27, 2012
Based off Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace we’ve been saved
Of all our sins,
So that with Christ Jesus
Our lives begin.
Cleansing us from sin,
He made pure within
All who trust in Him
As their Savior, friend,
So that with Christ Jesus
Our lives begin.

We’ve been saved through faith;
This not from ourselves,
Lest that we should boast
In our fleshly works.
Our salvation is
A gift from our God,
Who loves us so much
That He gave His Son
To die on the cross
For all of our sins.

So repent of all
Of your sins today,
And He’ll forgive you;
Wipe your sins away.
Obey all of His
Teachings given you,
So that you can walk
With Him now in truth;
So that you can walk
With Him now in truth.