The Believer’s Reward from Jesus Christ
1 Cor.3:5-14

Biblical Sermon Outline

By Pastor Ron Jones, D.D. © Titus Institute, 2009

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.


Today I would like to open up the Scriptures and share with you what it says about our future reward ceremony whch is for believers. It is called the bema seat judgment of Christ where our works for Christ will be examined to see which ones we have done for the Lord so that we might be rewarded for those works.

Before we look at this bema seat judgment of Christ, we need to understand that this judgment has nothing to do with our sins which have been forgiven in Christ.

1. No true believer in Jesus Christ will be judged for sin because Christ has born the penalty of our sins.
John 5:24
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Romans 8:1
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2. No true believer in Jesus Christ will be judged for their works in order to be saved. Works are a result of salvation, not the means to salvation.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God has saved us and promised to us an incredible future with him forever. Nothing that we could ever do in this life could ever possibly earn the blessings that we will experience with the Lord in heaven.

3. All Christians will receive the ultimate reward of heaven for their righteous deeds and sacrifices in living a life of faith and obedience to God.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

This reward of heaven is for believers of all ages both in OT times and NT times and throughout time until everything is culminated in the new heavens and the new earth.

An Extra Reward for Those Who Have labored for His Kingdom in the Church of Jesus Christ

However, there is a special reward that is to be given to the believers who are part of the church of Jesus Christ who have been given the Great Commission to fulfill once they have been saved.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

This Great Commission has been given to us, the church of Jesus Christ, to fulfill. We have something to do for Him not to be saved, but out of gratefulness for the salvation he has given to us.

He has chosen to use us for his eternal purposes and give us the privilege of fulfilling the Great Commission.

Why? Because he wants to make sure that those who have committed themselves to fulill the great commission are praised for what they have done for Him.

We want to look at four points about the bema seat judgment of Jesus Christ this morning.

1. Christians will be rewarded for the work of ministry they have done for Christ as His servants
1 Cor.3:5-14
2. Christians will be rewarded based on Christ’s evaluation of the character of their works for Him.
1 Cor.3:12-13
3. Christians will be rewarded with praise by Jesus Christ before all Christians.
1 Cor.4:5
4. Some Christians will receive little reward before Jesus Christ and all Christians.
1 Cor.3:15

1. Christians will be rewarded for the work of ministry they have done for Christ in fulfilling the Great Commission.
1 Cor.3:5-14

In this passage, Paul is dealing with the Corinthians who lived in a city that was one of the centers of Roman culture. Disunity had arisen in the Corinthian Church because groups or factions had arisen within the church. Christians had identified themselves with certain Bible teachers who had influenced their lives. Three of them were Paul, Peter, and Apollos. These Christians were debating with each other concerning who was the best teacher. This was, of course, wrong.

This was based on Greek philosophy, worldly wisdom, where human beings are looked at as originators of truth and therefore teachers can gain prominence in themselves and gather disciples around them to defend their prominence and their ideas. This had caused the believers in Corinth to mix this and other principles of worldy wisdom of Greek philosophy with the truths and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul deals with this problem by describing the true nature of the teaching ministry that Paul and Apollos were rendering to God as servants of Christ.

1 Cor.3:5-7
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

Paul says that we are all simply servants. Each of us have been assigned tasks by the Lord to accomplish.

Paul explains how servanthood works in the church by using two analogies, first of a farmer who plants in a field and then a builder who builds on a foundation. God is the one who makes people grow.

Paul says, God is the master who makes things grow! We are just servants.

Christ has called us to be his servants and fulfill his work on this world.

We are all equally servants. It doesn’t matter what title anyone has. Titles only refer to what kind of work or leadership position a Christian has in the kingdom. It does not refer to the quality of the Christian or the quality of the work.

God has called his servants to help his people grow the way farmers help their plants grow. Farmers plant seed and then water the plants for their growth.

Paul had a different part to play than Apollos, Paul planted the church in Corinth by originally sharing the gospel and Apollos came later and helped the church to grow through his preaching and teaching the Word.

Both are crucial in the plan of God and both have a role in the great Commission. Yet neither of them can actually cause the plants or the church to grow spiritually. Only God can do that.

Evangelists and Pastor-teachers have a specific ministry in the body of Christ Christ’s wants accomplished. All other Christians have a general ministry to fulfill for Christ based on their spiritual gifts and what they desire to do for the Lord.

Christians will be rewarded as Christ’s servants for fulfilling the ministry God has called them to fulfill as God’s fellow-workers.

What will we be specifically rewarded for and how do we know that?

We will be rewarded for winning people to Christ and building up the body of Christ and thus fulfilling the Great Commission.

1 Cor.3:8
“The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”

Each of God’s servants – all Christians – will be rewarded for the labor each has done.

1 Cor.3:9-11
“For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Paul now moves to a builder-building analogy to explain what it means to do the Lord’s work.

The foundation that was laid down by Paul was Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Gospel. The context here is the fulfilling of the Great Commission in the body of Christ, building up believers in Christ. This is the context of the Christians’ reward.

Fulfilling the Great Commission

“go and make disciples” share the gospel and bring them into the kingdom, lay a foundation on Christ

“make disciples and baptize and teach them” build them up as Christians – help them grow, build on the foundation of Christ

Gives how we are to fulfill the Great Commission - “ministering to the body of Christ”

Evangelists are to go and make disciples and Pastors-teachers are to “make disciples and baptize and teach them” and Christians are to minister to each other. All these three groups do the Lord’s work which will be rewarded.

2. Christians will be rewarded based on Christ’s evaluation of the character of their works for Him.
1 Cor.3:11-13
“But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his 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 man's work.”

At the bema seat, Jesus will evaluate the planting and watering. He will judge the quality of each man’s labor in fulfilling Great Commission which is the ministry of Christ.

He tells this to the Corinthians because they were trying to build up the body of Christ by dividing into factions under Paul, Peter or Apollos. They thought this was part of fulfilling the Great Commission. Paul says to them that these works will be judged.

He contrast two kinds of labor: precious and worthless, that which can stand the judgment and that which cannot

The contrast is between those who laid the foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified and are building upon it with words and actions consistent with the gospel and the Word of God (Christ) and those who are attempting to build the church with words and actions incompatible with the gospel of Christ, specifically worldly wisdom.

Paul lists three materials that are valuable and cannot be consumed by fire and three that are perishable and can be consumed by fire.

The “gold, silver, and costly stones” represent what is compatible with the foundation, the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified which will not perish. They are consistent with the Scriptures.

The “wood, hay, or straw” represent what is incompatible with the foundation, the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this case, worldly wisdom, which will perish in all of its forms.

Finally, it is probably not irrelevant that “gold. silver, and costly stones” recur regularly in the OT to describe the building materials of the Temple. Therefore, Paul does not have some “fabulous building” in view, but the OT description of Solomon’s temple, thus anticipating the imagery of vv. 16-17.

The judgment is by fire.

1 Cor.3:13
“it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test each man’s work.”

Fire is part of the analogy – it burns up buildings and the wood, hay, and straw in them.

Fire not only “reveals,” it also “tests,” and in the testing the true revelation takes place (vv. 14-15).

Paul talks about these deeds in 2 Cor.5:6-10. This passage is talking about the same judgment as 1 Cor.3.

2 Cor.5:6-10
“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

This verse is where the term “bema seat judgment of Christ” comes from.

v. 10
“judgment seat of Christ”

The concept of the Bema Seat comes from the ancient Olympics, where a judge would sit on the Bema Seat at the finish line. The judge's purpose was to determine what position the runners came in-first, second, and so on-and then to give out the appropriate rewards. That is the imagery behind what is known as the Bema Seat.

Again, Paul is talking about ministry for Christ just like in 1 Cor.3, but this time he is defending his ministry against others in Corinthian Church who had attacked his ministry.

In v.10 “whether good or bad” refers to works of ministry in terms of their spiritual value.

The word “bad” is best translated “worthless” or “of no account.” It does not mean morally “bad” or “evil.”

It refers to anything that is done in the name of Christ (context) that is worthless (worldly). “Bad works” are works that are “wood, hay, straw.” They are not compatible with the foundation of the church, Jesus Christ.

1 Cor.3
So this verse passage shows us that the bema seat judgment is about jesus evaluating our works in fulfilling the Great Commission for him.

Let’s go back to 1 Cor.3:12.

v.12 What would be gold, silver, and costly stones? Any ministry that we do that is consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ

3. Christians will be rewarded with praise by Jesus Christ before all Christians

It will be praise before all Christians.

1 Cor.4:5
“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”

This is a special reward for ministry for Christ.

Christians will be rewarded with heaven for all their righteous deeds, for not lying, for being a godly husband and father or wife and mother and the like. They will receive white robes as a symbol of their righteous deeds as believers (Rev.19:8)

The reward will be praise from the Lord and those they have ministered to and the loss will be no praise.

It will be a time of rejoicing with all those we have ministered to in the name of Christ.

It will be a time of rejoicing over how God has used us in the lives of others in their presence before Christ.
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.”

What about “crowns”?
The crown was among the Romans and Greeks a symbol of victory and reward. The crown or wreath worn by the victors in the Olympic games was made of leaves of the wild olive.

Every instance in the New Testament where “crown” occurs in this context it talks about a reward that all believers will receive. Thereofore it must be talking about the “reward” of heaven. It symbolizes our victory that we have finished the race and made it to heaven.

That is why all 24 elders had crowns which they laid at the feet of God and Christ.

4. Some Christians will receive little reward before Jesus Christ and all Christians.
1 Cor.3:15
“If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

Some Christians will not receive a reward because they didn’t do anything for the fulfilling of the Great Commission. These Christian may have come every Sunday, but they just sat there. There is no reward for just sitting.


So the purpose of the bema seat judgment iss for Jesus Christ to gather together all his church believers and give special praise for those who have labored for him in fulfilling the Great Commission he gave to them.