A Question I Was Asked:

Can You Please Explain These Two Verses: 1 Corinthians 3:13 and 1 Corinthians 4:13?

Can you please explain these two verses: 1 Corinthians 3:13 and 1 Corinthians 4:13?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay let us look at these verses:

1. 1 Corinthians 3:13:

'work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.' (1 Corinthians 3:13).

Obviously, this one verse does not tell us enough to set about answering the question, so we need to take in a wider context:

11. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13. their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. 14. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved - even though only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

This is simply saying that Jesus Christ must be the entire foundation for everything which we Christians must do and believe. God will not be fooled by false 'works,' or works which we do simply to impress others. Will our Christian works survive the refiner's fire? It is fire - the ultimate astringent - which must test and assess a Christian's life and works. If our works are deemed to be sheer vanity, or pointless in other ways, they will be burned up; in this we suffer a certain loss, yet it remains the case that we are saved despite this (verse 15). Why? Because these verses are dealing with true Christians - not deceptive 'tares' - and God does not walk away from His called and chosen people. If, perhaps, we might have accomplished just a little more, that might be disappointing, but God cannot renege, or go back, on His promises, and His promises to us are extensive:

1. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3. because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7. For we live by faith, not by sight. 8. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:1-10).

2. 1 Corinthians 4:13:

'when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world - right up to this moment.' (1 Corinthians 4:13).

Again, we need to look at the wider context to find out exactly what Paul meant here:

9. For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13. when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world - right up to this moment. (1 Corinthians 4:9-13; NIV throughout).

Paul the Apostle is saying that persecution, distress, difficulties, trials are often the 'lot' of Christians in this world, and it seems to have been especially hard for the Apostles (verse 9). We are looked upon as fools and as ignorant people. Rarely indeed are we wealthy, famous or considered noteworthy in any way. Frequently we miss out on that promotion at work which should reasonably have been expected, we often struggle to make ends meet, we are often obliged to do harder manual work despite abilities which go well beyond that (verse 12), yet despite such things we respond kindly, even though often almost looked upon as scum, or garbage (verse 13).

Generally speaking, God is not presently calling the wealthy, noble, famous, or 'wise' of this world, He is calling the foolish and lowly, yes, ofen the 'rejects.'

18. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 20. Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21. For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23. but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24. but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, 29. so that no one may boast before him. 30. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31. Therefore, as it is written: "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Robin A. Brace. March 26th, 2017.