Message # 12 | 1 Corinthians 3:9c-17 | February 28, 2016

Purpose Statement: Be motivated to good works by rewards given at a future judgment.

Fallen Condition Focus: There are a couple challenges we can have with this purpose statement (1) Our focus is too often temporal, and we are more focused on temporal rewards or comfort to allow our present actions to be motivated by future reward . . . or . . . (2) We struggle with the idea of being motivated by personal reward and feel that a believer should be solely motivated by God’s glory and not any personal benefit for their work.

I would imagine that we all realize the first struggle is wrong and that we should strive to be eternally focused . . . so then . . . how about 2? While our study today will address this in some degree, let me first address it by asking the question, were you motivated to come to Christ for salvation because you desired to glorify God or did you accept Christ because it would result in your personal salvation? I think we would all admit that God drew us to salvation by using our own desire for self-preservation. We weren’t thinking primarily (if at all) about God’s glory but instead the benefits we would receive.

In the same way, while we as maturing believers ought to be primarily motivated by a desire for God’s glory, God has so chosen to as well motivate us by future reward.

Before we look further into this reward, let’s first better understand the time of judgment in which these rewards will be distributed.

Message Outline

We Will Be Judged

2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Romans 2:16 (ESV) on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Romans 14:10 (ESV) Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;

Acts 10:42 (ESV) And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.

This judgment is one of commendation. [1]

1 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV) Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Revelation 11:18 (ESV) 18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

This time of judgment, for the believer, is not one of punishment or destruction or even refinement. We will look a little more at this shortly, but due to the forgiveness we have in Christ, we will never undergo a judgment resulting in our punishment or destruction. As well, God often used trials to refine us, but that is as well no longer his purpose in this judgment.

The passages indicate that this judgment is for the purpose of commendation from God or reward from God.

This judgment will not include condemnation but will include shame.

No Condemnation: Romans 8:1 (ESV) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Micah 7:19 (ESV) He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Psalm 103:12 (ESV) as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Hebrews 8:12 (ESV) For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

And Yet, Shame: 1 John 2:28 (ESV) 28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

This passage in 1 John is speaking to believers, so we must acknowledge the potential reality that when Christ returns we will sense shame . . . for what? To answer that question, let’s first explain the concept of shame . . . Shame is an awareness of a failure before the eyes of someone.[2] We can feel shame from others as they communicate disappointment or criticism[3], directly or indirectly. We sense shame when we think we may have disappointed someone or did not meet up to their expectations.

Why then may we feel shame at Christ’s return and in the context of the judgment seat of Christ? It appears that the shame we will feel as believers at the judgment seat will be either due to (1) our works being burnt up as wood, hay, and straw with little gold, silver, and precious stones or (2) Having little or no works to present Christ at all. Simply put, we’ll be ashamed that we didn’t use the gifts and opportunities God gave us to their fullest capacity.

Blomberg: 1 John 2:28 anticipates that some Christians may experience more shame than others when Christ returns, but no Scripture ever suggests that shame remains a component of heavenly life beyond the immediate context of the parousia. . . . what the believer loses, then, is the satisfaction of seeing much of his life’s work count in an eternal perspective befitting kingdom priorities.[4]

We Will Be Rewarded

1 Corinthians 3:14–15 (ESV) 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

There are many different rewards.

(1) Converts are a crown of rejoicing

Philippians 4:1 (ESV) Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

1 Thessalonians 2:19–20 (ESV) 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

What joy there is in being used by God to draw someone to himself. This joy will last for eternity as you realize that God’s sovereign grace so determined to use you in the salvation of another and for eternity you experience joy in their presence.

(2) Crown of righteousness

2 Timothy 4:7–8 (ESV) 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

I possess no inherent righteousness. None of my works would amount to righteousness. Therefore, this crown of righteousness is not granted to me because of my work but because of my acceptance (love) of Christ. It is Christ’s righteousness that I’m gifted resulting in eternal salvation.

(3) Crown of Glory

1 Peter 5:4 (ESV) And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

This crown of glory likely references one of two realities . . . (1) the marvelous blessing of more fully seeing the glory of God. In similar fashion to Stephen when he looked up into heaven . . .

Acts 7:55 (ESV) But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Or (2) the glory (or risen exalted position) we experience in heaven.

Romans 8:18 (ESV) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

(4) An Imperishable crown

1 Corinthians 9:25 (ESV) Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Due to the fall, we only experience the decaying of the things around us. Everything here is going to wither away and perish. This is why Jesus encourages us to not “store up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” The wreath that would have been won in some athletic tournament would someday shrivel and be gone . . . so then Paul exhorts us . . . work in such a way as to earn a crown that will not perish.

(5) Crown of Life

Revelation 2:10 (ESV) 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

James 1:12 (ESV) 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

While every believer will receive the crown of life, this crown points directly at believers who have suffered, who have bravely endured persecution for the name and cause of Christ – even to death.

James also tells us that it is promised to those who love him . . .

John 14:15 tells us that those who love God keep his commandments.

John 14:15 (ESV)  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Those who keep his commandments will be persecuted.

John 15:18–20 (ESV) 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

Those who are persecuted and remain faithful due to their love for God will receive the crown of life.

There are degrees of rewards.[5]

Luke 19:17–19 (ESV) 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

Luke 6:22–23 (ESV) 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

2 John 8 (ESV) Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Starke: If there are degrees of reward, they would likely revolve around increased capacities and responsibilities. . . . Could the parable of the ten minas (Luke 19:11-27) imply that some believers will rule over more cites in the new heavens and earth? If so, this would mean that under our “great reward” (enjoying God himself) there are various roles and responsibilities. I am not certain this will be the case, but I see nothing inherently problematic in holding to this as a possibility. In summary, all true believers will receive the great reward of seeing God face to face, and this should motivate all of our actions. The NT nowhere clearly and explicitly teaches varying degrees of reward, though this may indeed be true. If so, some may have greater capacities as well as greater responsibilities, but all of us will experience “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” at God’s right hand (Ps. 16:11). [6]

The degrees of rewards will not result in eternal dissatisfaction or shame.

Revelation 21:4 (ESV) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Some have argued . . . There are no tears in heaven. There is no coveting, envy, or jealousy in heaven. Everyone will be content with what they have and the position they hold . . . therefore any lasting reward seems somewhat irrelevant.

Edwards: It will be no damp to the happiness of those who have lower degrees of happiness and glory, that there are others advanced in glory above them: for all shall be perfectly happy, every one shall be perfectly satisfied. Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels far larger than others; and there shall be no such thing as envy in heaven, but perfect love shall reign through the whole society.[7]

We should be motived by these rewards.

Colossians 3:23–24 (ESV) 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.


Purpose Statement: Be motivated to good works by rewards given at a future judgment.



[1] Matthew 6:20–21 (ESV) 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 19:21 (ESV) 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Luke 14:13–14 (ESV) 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” 1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV) 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Ephesians 6:7–8 (ESV) 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Colossians 3:23–24 (ESV) 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

[2] Powlison, Lowe, and Ray, What Is the Difference between Guilt and Shame?.

[3] Powlison, Lowe, and Ray, What Is the Difference between Guilt and Shame?.

[4] Craig L. Blomberg, “Degrees of Reward in the Kingdom of Heaven?,” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 35, no 2 (June 1992): 165

[5] Luke 12:42–48 (ESV) 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Galatians 6:9 (ESV) And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

[6] John Starke, The Gospel Coalition.

[7] Edwards, Jonathan (2011-11-27). The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Volume I & II (Kindle Locations 107203-107237). Kindle Edition.

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