Revealed By Fire
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (I Cor. 3:11-13).
Every true believer, we would think, looks forward to that first happy moment when, being absent from the body, he or she will be present with the Lord. After all, this is what we have been living for since the day we first trusted Christ.
At the same time, we may experience a little apprehension, knowing that in glory we must stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Cor. 5:10). Not that we need be concerned about our eternal destiny. We are in Christ, and in Christ we are secure. We are confident that He loves us, because while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, and we were “accepted in the Beloved” once we trusted Him for our eternal salvation. No, it’s not a question of whether we are saved or lost; God’s Word assures us we are saved forevermore. Our sins have all been judged at the Cross of Calvary; we have been redeemed and forgiven through His blood. Rather it’s a question of what will be our station for the duration of our salvation.
Scripture makes it plain that God has a system of rewards in place for His children in Christ when we reach our heavenly home.
“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Cor. 3:14-15).
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (I Cor. 9:25).
“It is required of stewards that a man be found faithful,” and many of us already know that we haven’t always been very faithful. Certainly a lot less faithful in His service than we could have been, and should have been. With the world clamoring for our attention on every side, and our inherent moral weakness, willful pride and self-serving ambition, we often lose the focus of our mission as “ambassadors for Christ.”
So, looking forward to that day when we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, to “give an account” of ourselves to God, we may feel a bit sheepish. There will be some anxiety, because we know that while we may have successfully hidden some of our faults and failings from the world, it was impossible to hide them from God,
“Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (I Cor. 4:5).
Sometimes it was just plain dereliction of duty, “as many, which corrupt the Word of God” (II Cor. 2:17). For Scripture tells us that carefully building on “the foundation that was laid” starts with rightly dividing the Word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). God’s Word also counsels us to
“be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:14-15).
“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (I Tim. 1:19).
We will know there were times we did the right things, but for the wrong reasons.
“For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:18).
“And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ” (I Cor. 8:11-12).
Sometimes we had the appearance, but not the substance.
“…and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (I Cor. 13:2-3).
And sometimes, well, we just refused to grow in our Christian experience.
“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Cor. 3:3).
Faithful or unfaithful, each of us will be giving an account of himself to God. Not for our sins, which have been forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7). But for how we built on the foundation that was laid; for our works in His service, “which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
Since each believer is a member of His Body, Christ has perfect knowledge of how each member functions, whether in thought, word, or deed. When we stand before His Judgment Seat,
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (I Cor 3:13).
When that day comes for you and for me, we will be privileged to stand in our Lord’s presence and look Him in the eye. Hopefully we won’t have to be ashamed to look Him in the eye. The Apostle John, describing the appearance of Christ in the Book of Revelation, states that “His eyes were as a flame of fire” (Rev. 1:14; 2:18; 19:12). It may be that the fire with which Christ will test the believer’s works will be the “fire” in His eyes, for:
“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13).
It may be we will hear Him say what was said to the saints at Thyatira:
“I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee…” (Rev. 2:19-20).
The question then will be how much of our works, and charity, and service, and faith, will survive that fiery gaze, or whatever else may be the source of the blaze, to determine whether we “receive a reward,” or “suffer loss.”
Christian friend, have you given thought to that coming day when, being absent from the body, you will stand before the Lord, to
“receive the things done in [your] body, according to that [you] hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10).
Let us hope that you and I can stand before Him with the confidence of the Apostle Paul who, having fought a good fight, having finished his course, having kept the faith, could write to Timothy:
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (II Tim. 4:8).