According 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. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each 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. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. – 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV
For Paul, the issue was first, always and only Christ. Ever since his conversion on the road to Damascus, he had made it his life’s mission to carry the message of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone to the world. Here he refers to Jesus Christ as the foundation, the solid rock on which men and women are to build the rest of their lives. It is belief in the gospel message of salvation through Jesus that provides the bedrock upon which a truly worthy life can be built. It is likely that Paul had in mind the parable that Jesus had told:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. – Matthew 7:24-27 ESV
Our faith in Jesus has a starting point and an ending point. It begins when we place our faith in Him, but it does not stop there. We are to build our lives with Jesus as the foundation. Paul boldly claimed to have helped lay the proper foundation by preaching Christ and Him crucified. He had given the believers in Corinth the truth regarding salvation through Christ and Him alone, and they had received it. Now it was time for them to do something with their faith. They were to build on it. Their faith was to produce fruit – tangible, visible, measurable fruit. Whatever they built would be discernible to all those around them. The value of the construction materials they used would be apparent to all. Speaking metaphorically, Paul says that some would use gold, silver, and precious stones – objects of worth and beauty. But others would choose to use wood, hay, and straw – materials with little value or staying power. The second group illustrates those who cut corners and refuse to invest adequately, either out of laziness or a lack of concern. Their faith means so little to them that they refuse to invest the time and resources it deserves. James describes these two groups well.
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” – James 2:17-18 NLT
Our fundamental, foundational faith in Christ is to be built upon through a life of good deeds. And those acts are to be visible to all those around us. James refers to them as good deeds. They are to impact others. They can be seen and experienced by others. And one day, they will be judged by God. Paul reminds us, “each 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” (1 Corinthians 3:13 ESV). In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, “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” (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV). The Greek word Paul uses is βῆμα (bēma). It refers to “the official seat of a judge” (“G968 – bēma – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). The “day” to which Paul refers is that day when all believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ – the Bema Seat. On that day, we will have our works judged, all those things we have done since coming to faith in Christ. This is not a judgment to determine righteousness. We will stand before Him fully forgiven and completely righteous because of His death for us on the cross. But each person’s works will be judged as to their value and worth and they will “receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
What we do with our faith in Christ is essential. What we build upon our faith in Christ is to have lasting value. If we take our faith in Christ and build a life that is marked by selfishness, greed, materialism, hate, bigotry, pride, and hypocrisy, others will see it and one day Christ will expose and judge us for it. Those worthless works will be burned up. They will be proven to be of no eternal value because they were done in the flesh, not the power of the Spirit of God. But if we build a life that is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-conrol, others will be able to see it and Christ will one day reward us for it. Those deeds are the fruit of the Spirit. They will last. They will survive the fire of God’s judgment because they are like gold, silver and precious stones – priceless and eternal.
What we build upon our faith in Christ is extremely important. It reveals a lot about us. It shows the condition of our heart and the priorities of our life. Our salvation provides us with a solid and secure foundation. We have the assurance of our eternal security. We no longer have to worry about future condemnation or fear death. But that should motivate us to live lives that are worthy of our calling. We should desire that our behavior reflects our status as God’s children and our possession of God’s Spirit. Our faith must become tangible and discernible, testifying to the change that has taken place within us.