The Judgment of the Believer (1 Corinthians 3:1-17)
There are at least 2 kinds of judgments.
The Book of Life Judgment. (Rev 20) The book of life judgment is Revelation 20:13-15 judgment. Jesus will sort humanity. You are either in the kingdom or you are out. Simple. You can come into His Kingdom through forgiveness for and repentance from sins. By being born-again. Or you will be excluded from His kingdom by remaining unrepentant, lost, stuck dead in your sin. If that’s you, you need a break through. You still need to hear the call of God on your life. Listen to me, friends, this is no time to play. Jesus is alive, He’s coming back, Hell is real, and eternity is a long time.
But the Judgment of the Believer (Rev 22) is of a different kind. It is a time when believers will be evaluated and rewarded according to the work that they have done for the Lord (20:12; 22:12). And that’s the reward (or judgment) that we’re focusing on today.
I don’t think I need to convince my brothers and sisters that they should want as many rewards in heaven as they could possibly get! (Tony Evans) I used to get into the fair as a child for free. And it was nice to get in, but the fair was expensive, and you couldn’t really enjoy the fair unless you had more tickets to play the games, get cotton candy, and all the rest. There’s more the future kingdom than simply an entrance pass. And you can optimize your reward for your future, if you’ll be faithful in your present.
So What Kind of Work Will the Lord Reward?
Let’s look to 1 Corinthians 3:1-17.
- The Lord will Reward Work Built on Jesus Christ (10-11). Paul means work that has at its center — the glory, honor, and truth of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
You better take care, when you’re in a gathering of believers for worship and nobody mentions Jesus, exalts, celebrates, life-death-or resurrection of our Lord. That’s not a foundation for the Lord’s people, you are in a self-help meeting and “faith” is just a facade for people to give you some life coaching. I’ve been observing their interim of a sister church over the internet. And he’s a good story-teller, funny, entertaining, nuggets of wisdom. But I’ve listened to 5 sermons now, and there’s not been one word or whisper of Jesus. It’s honestly moved me to heartbreak. Found myself just kind of leaning forward into the computer screen saying, “Just say Jesus, in a sentence! Say repentance. Say gospel! Say sinner! Say something that will be food to these starving sheep!” Does FBC want to build the eternal, unwavering kingdom of God? Give people and build on Jesus.
We are Jesus people, amen? We aren’t a Society for the Raising of Moral Teenagers. You can build that without the foundation of Jesus Christ. We aren’t the Assembly for Exciting Music and Entertaining Speeches. You don’t need a Jesus foundation for that. We aren’t the Group for Giving Money to Those in Need. That’s a good thing. Don’t need a Jesus foundation for that. We are the Heralds of a Coming Age, the Live Representation of a Coming King, living, singing, preaching, bearing witness to the glorious Lord of Lords at the Right Hand of the Father. We are Jesus people. We sing about the sin-washing blood of Jesus, the death defeating crucifixion of Jesus, and the Hell-breaking resurrection of Jesus Christ. We pray in the name, that is above every name. And we beg heaven for a Word from His Scripture. You build on that foundation, and you’ll receive an unfading crown of glory.
Isn’t that wonderful? You don’t have to be creative. Build your Sunday School on Jesus Christ. Build your home on Jesus Christ. Dads build your children on Jesus. Work at Boise to honor Jesus Christ, and you will enter into the joys of your master. But be warned, for the Lord has a harsh word for churches in Rev 2 that neglect the Jesus-foundation. “I will remove your lampstand.” For we will discover that we are not the Lord’s church. Our foundation is sand, not the Savior. And we ought to expect no reward.
- The Lord rewards Work that Builds Up the Body of Christ (16-17)
Now, Paul has in mind here the local body, the local assembly. Are you using your efforts to build up the body of Christ, or run her down. To address its needs, or ignore them? Encouragements. Rebukes. Evangelistic conversations. Prayer groups. Sunday School outreaches. Building maintenance. Greeters. Whatever the action may be, are you edifying…building up the body?
You may be saying: “Well, I have to work. It’s not fair if someone else has the opportunity to build up the body more than I do. Will the Lord hold me accountable for work that I just wasn’t able to do?” Yeah, I don’t think Paul means every second of every day be doing something with the body of Christ. Remember it was the Widow’s mite that Jesus said was worth more than whatever all the Pharisees put in the collection plate that day. Jesus is asking us to do what we do with what we can and when we can. Notice vs. 10: “According to the grace given to me.” We don’t all have the same gift. But we’d all better be using the gift of grace that comes from God.
Now, this is why it’s imperative that you are present with the Lord’s people when they do get together. Heb 10:24-25…do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, that you may stir up one another to love and good deeds…and all the more…as you see the day drawing near. Presence provokes the building up of God’s people.
When I walk through the doors, hear the music rehearsing. Pass by the copy room and hear a joke or two – usually the same ones, about my bow ties, when I see teachers running off sheets of their prayer lists, children’s workers greeting parents, people listening praying for one another. Hugging each other, encouraging each other: “Ain’t got a cent to pay the rent, but we’re gonna make it.” And when I think that in a few moments we’ll all be together declaring praises, standing to read sacred Scripture, it may not look like much to some people. But I believe it makes the angels wonder. And heaven is filled with the fragrance of holy worship, with which our Lord is very pleased. But you can’t be a part of that if you aren’t here.
I was visiting with an older gentleman this week. He can hardly walk, and he’s had some tragedies in his life. Quite a few funerals. He made it a point to go to his family members’ funerals. Why? I asked him. They knew you loved me. And he raised his cane and stomped it on the ground and said: “Those are my people. And I want them to know that I’m standing with them.”
Now, these are your people. But you can’t stir em up, if you’re sleeping in.
Some people say: “I just don’t get much out of services.” You don’t like the preaching, you don’t like the singing, you don’t like the Sunday School — well, imagine how much greater God will reward you in heaven, because you put up with something that you didn’t like on earth just to make sure that you’re brothers and sisters stayed encouraged. Lord’s getting your crown polished right now. Every minute I preach, and you suffer for the sake of your brothers in Christ, extra karat in your crown. You want some more, we’ll see you next Sunday.
Others say, “Don’t need to be with a church to be a Christian.” Well, that’s true in the same sense that you don’t have to have lungs to breath, but it sure is easier. Like the servant saying, “Well, I don’t have to do anything with this 1 mina to be a servant” (Luke 19). That’s true. He was still a servant. But wasn’t he embarrassed and ashamed that he sat on his hands while the Master was away? And it’s sure going to be embarrassing when you stand before the Lord and it is revealed that instead of building up the body of Christ you chose to sit on the gifts God gave you because “you didn’t need church.”
One of my favorite parts of this is verse 10. “According to the grace that was given to me.” What Paul means there is that he did what he did because the Lord gave him the “gift / ability” to do it.
What Paul saying here is a lot like T-ball. When our little ones play T-ball, at some point parents and coaches have to show them how to swing. And what they do sometimes, is hold their hands over the hands of the batter. And swing through the ball, providing the power and coordination to do the hitting that the child was supposed to be doing. Now, at the end of the season or game, it’s the child that gets an award. And no parent or coach is standing off to the side sneering: “That’s my trophy! The kid didn’t do anything.” NO! The mom/dad is thrilled, and they’re hugging the child, saying, “Good job! I’m so proud. Let’s frame it in the hallway.”
That’s what this is like. We are incapable, on our own, of producing anything that should deserve heavenly reward. But “according to the gift given to us,” we render acceptable service to our King, and turn our 5/10 talents into more. He places his hands over ours, and accomplishes his purposes through us. What He does through us will be what He rewards us for. And I think it’s in part for that reason that in the great throne room scene in Rev 4, the 24 elders are casting down their crowns at the feet of Christ. Not proud of what they’ve accomplished, of who they are. They are revelling in the knowledged that even the rewards of their work, are the result of Christ’s power: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Some of you are here today and you’re saying: Look, I don’t have a lot. I’m a nobody from nowhere with nothing. What can I do for my king?” You know what? You bring your little mites. You let him take your hands. And on the other side of glory, that mite will have earned you a crown; your little hands, built his Kingdom. It was a poor, itineratnt wilderness preacher who was the greatest man that ever lived in Jesus eyes; it was a studdering, middle-aged, orphaned mountain shepherd who God anointed as the hero of the Old Testament; and it will be the servant, the child, the one called least in this age, that will be called the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Nobody’s from nowhere get crucified in this age. To become somebody’s from somewhere in the age of glory. Hold on, little one. And bring your little loaves and fishes to the master. Watch him work in and through your willingness and gift. And You will have your reward in full.