Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We Can Only Lose our Reward

A Candid Look at OSAS "Support"

Another claim people make is that we can only lose our rewards, but not salvation itself. We are pointed to I Corinthians Chapter 3 as proof of this assertion, but is that what the text is really saying?

The Chapter begins with Paul chastising the church for being carnal and forming allegiances according to the various ministries of men. They were trying to judge amongst themselves which ministry was greater. Paul's answer? None of them were greater. He tries to impress upon the people that their focus is misplaced; it is not the minister to whom they should be aligned, but to the Lord.

To make this point, Paul uses two analogies. His first analogy is that of a garden.

"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase." I Corinthians 3:6-7

Paul & Apollos, as ministers unto God, have planted seeds and watered the garden, but God alone is responsible for the increase. In this analogy, Paul & Apollos are those who tend the garden, and the resulting increase (the garden) are the converts, the people.

"Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." I Corinthians 3:8

Pay close attention to the "reward" being discussed here. It is not a reward associated with salvation, but with having done the works of the ministry. Each minister will be rewarded according to his own labor in the ministry.

Next, we see Paul transition from one analogy to the another.

"For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." I Corinthians 3:9

As we discussed previously, the believers (converts) are the garden in the first illustration (called husbandry). However in the next analogy, Paul also says that we believers are God's "building".

"According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." I Corinthians 3:10

In a garden, the planting and watering represented the work of the ministers to tend to the believers. Now in this analogy, the laying of the foundation and building upon it reflects the work of the ministers in building up the believers.

The individual believers are the building materials and the believers collectively represent the "building." This same sentiment is expressed in II Timothy:

"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour." II Timothy 2:19-20

Paul cautions the "ministers" to be careful how they build upon the foundation, to ensure that they continue to promote sound doctrine. The soundness of the believer will be a direct result of the foundation and building that is laid.

"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 Corinthians 3:11-13

"Every man's work" will be tried by fire. This is not one's salvation being tried because salvation is not of "works". Paul is referencing the converts these ministers win to Christ. The "work" is their ministry of winning souls. Paul says the same thing later in this Book: "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord?" I Corinthians 9:1

Every believer will experience a fiery trial of their faith (I Peter 4:12). Our ability to stand in such times will be largely impacted by the doctrine we hold (II John 1:9). This is why Paul advises the ministers in verse 10 to be careful how they build upon the foundation of Christ, for they will be held accountable for their ministry.

To say that this Chapter illustrates that a person could have a faith that is dead (faith without works is dead) is a complete distortion of the text. Not once in this Chapter has Paul dealt with an individual's relationship to God. The entire section is about the work of the ministers and the value of the work they provide in building up the Body Of Christ.

In examining this topic, it may also be beneficial to examine the loss of the reward of the Crown of Life discussed in Scripture and the impact that has on one's salvation.

This article is part of a 6-part series evaluating a doctrine referred to as Once Saved Always Saved, Eternal Unconditional Security, or Preservation of the Saints.

  1. God Doesn't Mince Words
  2. "IF"
  3. Salvation is a Result of Covenant
  4. Sealed Until the Day of Redemption
  5. A Candid Look at OSAS "Support"
  6. The ONLY Reason Salvation Can Be "Lost"

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