Drinking Deeply

Friday, August 18, 2006 at 9:59 PM

Crowns (7) - The strongest argument yet

Ok, so this is going to be my third to last post (Lord willing), and it's going to bring up the strongest argument I could find.

The question I'm answering is still, "Are there additional rewards in heaven for those who are more obedient than other people who are also in heaven?"

Thus far, we've looked at a number of passages dealing with "crowns" as well as with some passages that deal with "treasures in heaven" and finally some parables. I've found them all to be rather inconclusive.

The strongest passage in support is 1 Corinthians 3:1-15 -
1But I, brothers,[a] could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human?

5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.

10According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- 13each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Briefly on the context, Paul is addressing different divisions in the church, specifically one that seems to have people in the church saying, "I follow Paul, I follow Apollos" (either explicitly or implicitly). Paul refers to the Corinthians as "God's building" and then launches into this passage. Look specifically at v.10-15

v.10) Paul is a skilled builder, laid the foundation and now someone else is working on it.
v.11) Only Christ is the true foundation
v.12) It is possible to build upon that foundation with stronger or weaker elements
v.13) What happens to that church will be revealed by testing in fire.
v.14) If the work survives, the person building will receive a reward.
v.15) If the work does not, he will suffer loss, though the person himself will be saved.

This meets all the qualifications. It distinguishes between two classes of people - Those who use strong materials and those who use weaker material, and it affirms that both classes of people will be saved and that the one using stronger material will have his reward.

The only question I have about this text is, "does that reward come in this life or the life to come?" and I do think it is possible for this reward to come in this life, as Paul speaks elsewhere of boasting in the church of Philippi. Could that be the reward he is speaking of? The encouragement of seeing a church grow up and mature in faith? I'm not sure.

While I am still unconvinced by the passage itself (and I'll explain why in the last post), it does present a very strong possibility. Any comments?


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Blogger Eric said...

I've always taken this to refer to rewards of character in this life. I agree with your prior explication of the concept of treasures in heaven, so like you I find the concept of additional rewards in heaven to be tenuous at best.

I agree with you in thinking that this passage is referring to something temporal. It seems to me that the structure Paul speaks of is temporal - it's something being built right now, as a result of Paul's and Apollos' earthly ministries. It also seems to me that the structure referred to is something that can be lost, and is therefore not referring to one's place in heaven (as Paul says in Romans 11, the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable). Whatever the structure is, it seems clear that it pertains to Godliness. I hypothesize that Paul is talking about the temporal blessings of salvation - being conformed to Christ's image, contentment in our circumstances, stuff like that. Perhaps a good modern Christianese buzzword for this would be spiritual maturity. As I read this passage, Paul is saying that a person may have his place in heaven (i.e., his status post-Judgment Day) assured, but it may do him more or less good in this life when trials come. This is not to say that the the sanctifying work of God can be stopped by humans, or that God ever stops sanctifying the elect, but I do think there is Scriptural warrant for saying that sanctification is not a constant-velocity process (e.g., this passage; 1 Cor. 3; Heb. 5).

That's my take, anyway.  


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