The rewards of faithful service
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
From the text, Paul developed more fully the architectural analogy. The point of his illustration was to emphasize that we serve Christ alone. Then he warned those who will be building their lives not in the foundation established by God. The admonition was to be very careful how we build. No servant of God should try to lay any foundation other than Jesus Christ. It is true that God allows us to enjoy the fruit of our service here on earth. But most of the rewards He will give to His faithful servants will be enjoyed in heaven. We can build upon the foundation of Christ’s gospel in two different ways. On the one hand, we can use gold, silver, and costly stones. These materials will withstand the fire of God’s scrutiny that will test the quality of each man’s work. On the other hand, we can build with wood, hay or straw. Such materials will not withstand the fire of divine judgment. Paul said that the Day (the day of final judgment) would bring to light the nature of each of His servant’s work so that this would be shown for what it was. So, all Christian followers should pay careful attention to what they bring before God as expressions of their service to Him. Although the true nature of their work may remain hidden for a while, it will be revealed one day for all to see. We are encouraged from these passages to reaffirm the gospel we believe so we would gain greater rewards on the day of judgment. So when it comes to servanthood, God reserves special honor for that day when "each man's work will become evident" (3:13) and "he will receive a reward" (3:14). All rewards are based on quality, not quantity. God’s eyes are not focused on the volume or the noise our service produce but the motive in our hearts. In this way, every believer has an equal opportunity to receive a reward. Most of the rewards servants will receive will be given after death, not before. If one’s work survives the fire of God’s judgment, he will receive his reward. God promises great rewards to those who serve him faithfully (see Matthew 10:41–42; Revelation 11:18). But if our work is burned up by divine judgment, the true believer himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames of a burning house. The reward and the glory may be postponed for now, but it will come.
Noel De Guzman