1 Corinthians 3:10-15
"He Shall Suffer Loss..."

by Kenneth E. Thomas

December 28, 2000

     "In dealing with this context, the terms "planting, watering and building" are descriptive of the teacher's work. The materials (gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw) represent the character of the converts. Paul went on to say that "fire" will "test the quality of each man's work" (1 Cor. 3:13). Similar language is found in 1 Peter 1:7. Peter wrote, "that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested with fire..." Both men are addressing the affects of persecution, even using the same element (gold) to represent those who are strong in faith. However, while Peter addresses the affects of persecution on one's personal salvation, Paul addresses the affects of persecution on the teacher's salvation.

     2 Timothy 2:20 must also be considered. "But in a great house (the church is 'God's house' - 1 Timothy 3:15, th) there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor." "Vessels of "gold, silver, wood and clay" are used to represent various kinds of character - some are honorable; some are dishonorable.

     As in 1 Peter chapter 1, the testing in 1 Corinthians 3 refers to persecutions. The "man's work" refers to these tested converts. Converts, whose character is represented by "gold, silver and stone," will endure the persecutions and so be refined by them. As James said, "The testing of your faith produces patience" (Jas. 1:2). Converts whose character is represented by the perishable materials will be consumed by the persecution.

     Though some of these converts may fail the test and fall away, yet their teacher may not. He may "suffer" some loss due to his emotional commitment to these converts, however, these apostasies do not affect the teacher's own salvation (v-15)."

      (The above is from the mind of Tim Haile in answer to my request. I agree with Tim's commentary on the context under consideration. The rest of this lesson are my comments on the matter. KET).

     "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises, because of the word, immediately he stumbles" (Matt. 13:20-21).

     It has occurred to me over the years that too often we attempt to get folks to be baptized prematurely without first making sure they understand the commitment required of a disciple of Christ. I know we can't teach an alien everything he will need to know as a kingdom citizen, but we have the precedent set by Jesus Himself when he called and sent out His apostles warning them of what to expect (Matthew 10:16-31).

     We also have the story in (Luke 14:25-35) which teaches that men should know what to expect when they choose Jesus as their Lord and Master. Nothing, not even fleshly ties, are to come between us and our faithful service to Christ.

     Disciples were taught to expect "much tribulation" if they would enter into the (eternal) kingdom of God. "And when they (Paul and Barnabas) had preached the gospel to that city (Derbe) and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antoich, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:21-22). In Paul's first letter to Timothy he wrote, "Yea, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (1 Timothy 3:12).

     James shows how tribulation and hardships, that one may have to suffer due to his commitment to Christ, can indeed have an advantageous effect on those who stand up under such trials. He wrote, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience" (James 1:2-3). In writing to the brethren at Rome Paul said, "...we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character and character, hope" (Romans 5:3-4). Of course the above is true unless one is "overcome" rather than being one who overcomes the onslaughts of Satan. Every spiritual battle we win makes us stronger to face the next.

     Paul, speaking by divine inspiration, knew that there is always the possibility that some folks may be lead to "be baptized" who's real reason for so doing isn't a total commitment to Christ, but perhaps some other consideration. For example, by the way some folks act it is my considered opinion that some are converted to the wrong thing. Let us consider a few possibilities:

Some Are "Converted:"

     1. To a member of the Lord's church: With some folks, their attendance, and sometimes their membership, is determined by their love for and friendship with some member of a particular local church of Christ. They have joined that local church, not because they are committed to Jesus as the Lord of their lives, but so they can be associated with their friend. This person did whatever they were told were the requirements to be a member. They didn't understand that one is not baptized into a local congregation, but in to the one body of Christ, His church. This is the same as being "born of the water and of the Spirit" into His kingdom (John 3:3-5). They could care less about the "mode of baptism," the "design of baptism," the "kind of music,"etc. They will do what that group does, for that's where their friend attends and their allegiance is to their friend.

     2. To a particular preacher: Proof that some are "converted to the preacher" rather than to Jesus Christ can be seen in cases where there is ample proof that the preacher to whom they have an inordinate attachment messes up morally, doctrinally, or judgmentally and causes embarrassment and confusion. Those converted to the preacher will defend him to the bitter end, often even to the division of the local congregation. Paul said, "be ye followers of me as I am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). In other words, follow me only so far as I follow Christ. He also wrote we should learn, "...not to think of men above that which is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6).

     When my very favorite preacher ceases to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Or, when his personal lifestyle is anything but an example for others to follow. It is not only incumbent on that congregation to ask him to leave, it is also time for me to cease supporting and defending him lest I become "partaker in other men's sins" (1 Timothy 5:22; 2 John 11).

     3. To some particular doctrine: For example, some get tired of hearing "money, money, money, tithe, tithe, tithe!" There are some "Christians" who will tell their friends that they will not be expected to "tithe" if they become members of the church of Christ, for we don't tithe. They consequently leave the impression that one doesn't have to give as much if they "join the church of Christ," as they are now being urged to give as a member of a denomination. Well, it is true that no exact amount is set for the Christian to give. We are to give "as we have prospered" or proportionately to our incomes. We are also told that we should give "liberally, willingly, cheerfully, and sometimes sacrificially" (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians chapters 8 & 9). As I see this matter, it is pretty difficult to believe that the Lord is pleased with a Christian who lives under a better law with better promises giving less than those under an inferior law with lesser promises (Hebrews 7:19-8:13)! Please take the time to read these passages.

     5. To their family: Proof of this charge is those who remain in a particular congregation where their family holds membership even when that congregation departs the faith. Some years ago brethren who stayed with congregations that advocated the support of benevolent societies from the church treasury in discussion on these matters said, "If they ever begin to support the Bible colleges from the church treasury, we will not stay with them." Lo and behold, many of those same churches are now advocating and practicing such but these folks are still there with their family. These same folks would also say, "if they ever introduce the mechanical instrument of music into the worship, we will leave here." It is doubtful that they would since they have already shown more love for their family ties than for the Lord and for divine authority.

     {Note: I will just throw the following in without making a lot of comments about it, but some are "converted to a church building." They have put so much time, energy, and money into a meeting place that if error began to be taught there, they would still stay with the building.}

     6. The true convert is converted to Christ: This person will do like the apostles of Christ did when commanded not to teach in the name of Jesus anymore. They said, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29b). Are you and I totally committed to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God? If so, we will feel as Paul, who said he had "suffered the loss of all things and considered them as refuse..." (See Philippians 3:7-11). Let us go back a couple of chapters and see his admonition to all followers of Christ:

     "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I many hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me" (Philippians 1:27-30).

Kenneth E. Thomas

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