1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Now if any man build on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;…
1. You all hope in some way to be saved at last. The mercy of God is so all but exhaustless; He has such a marvellous variety Of saving contrivances; and the thought of being shut out for ever in hell is so horrible, no wonder that you hope to be eventually saved. But hopes amid carelessness, worldliness, or sin are no good sign, for they are hindrances to salvation, and to that fear with which the apostle tells us to work it out. But be it as we wish, viz., that these hopes will not imperil, but secure, our salvation — that will be gain indeed; but be it as we wish, that this hope will not, by the mercy of God, wreck the salvation of any one, it will also be infinite, eternal loss; for it will be a loss of that measure of the capacity of the infinite love of God, which the soul might have gained, but would not.
2. Here we are in the province, not of God's mercy only, but of His justice. It is by His mercy in Christ that we are saved at all; but when we have been saved, the reward is according to our works. What, then, I wish you to dwell upon is not the risk of hell, which a careless or worldly ambitious life involves, but the certain sufferings of the day of judgment to some who shall be saved, and the irremediable loss which they have brought upon themselves.
3. And this pain and loss will not come to us through sins which separate men from Christ. Day by day, and year by year, men will have gone on, laying tier after tier of their spiritual building, which, on account of their real belief and trust in Christ, they thought enduring. They built on and on; whether they had, from time to time, misgivings is not said. But if they had they stifled them. For they builded on unto the end. And they must all the while have been earnest in their way; perhaps they were praised, and the praise blinded them the more. Some of them may "have left names behind them." Oh, if the departed still know of what passes on this our earth, what a hideous mockery must that posthumous fame be when the temple has collapsed in ashes. A life-long labour perished! It is piteous, even when the temporal end, for which a man has toiled all his life, crashes at last. But remediless! And for eternity! Plainly, there must have been self-deceit about it. For not without a man's own will and his own fault would God have allowed such an one to remain so deceived to the end.
4. What, then, are things which shall not be burned — gold, silver, costly stones, which represent something costly and something very pure? They are of different values, but all agree in this, that they are pure. All done for Christ, from the cup of cold water to the martyr's chariot of fire, have their several values; but all spring from the one pure motive, love of Him. What else can we even imagine that God will reward? Why should we look hereafter for a second reward from God for doing what our own natural dispositions prompted us to do, and which brought their own reward? True, all things, even eating and drinking, if done to the glory of God, have their eternal recompense, because in each one of these ordinary things we may please God and gain greater grace and larger capaciousness for His infinite love. But what so common as to have mixed motives for our actions, or, rather, what so rare as to have any one motive for any one action, unless, indeed, it be a lower one?
5. But the day of judgment must clear up all this, and then, as shall be the issue, so "shall every man have praise of God." And since nothing can receive praise from God which is not more or less purely done for God, then the day of judgment will, I fear, to very many of the saved, who now stand well with themselves, be a terrible discovery, how very little, in their whole lives, they have really done for love of God. And this is what the apostle means by those things which shall be burned up. Things they are of different degrees of lightness, by which different minds imposed upon themselves, as though they were of value when they were of none. But the most plausible will not leave a rack behind, more than the most openly worthless.
6. Nothing but a continued active habit of directing our actions to God, such as results from offering them to God, with continuous prayer for grace, will rescue some fragments of our acts from the unclean contact of our besetting faults.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;