Loss of Rewards
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 9. In this series, we have pointed out to you that there are something like twenty-five verses of Scripture which would seem to indicate that a person could lose his salvation after once he had obtained it by the grace of God. We have endeavored to examine some of those passages of Scripture in the last several weeks, making the suggestion to you about them and about every other truth in the Word of God that it is important for us to know what the individual verse of Scripture teaches—not whether it proves this or it proves that—but what it actually says. And if it says a certain thing, then we accept that, even though it may contradict something we have believed all our life—even though it may contradict what everyone else of our acquaintance teaches. We accept what the Word of God says.

We showed that when those verses of Scripture were examined in their context, not one of them teaches that you can lose your salvation after once you have obtained it. You understand that you can prove anything from the Bible, if you are of a mind to, by taking verses out of their context and letting them prove the particular thing that you may be trying to prove.

Since we have examined those verses of Scripture, a question quite naturally arises in all of our minds. What can happen to the Christian? If the Christian cannot lose his salvation, what can happen to him? I think we all recognize that we know Christians who certainly are not living like Christians. We know Christians who apparently deny everything that is related to Christianity. If we are really honest and want to be really hard on ourselves, we might not even need to say we know Christians who live that way. We might just settle our thinking right on ourselves, and we might say, “We know we as individuals may not live, or do not live, as Christians ought to live!” So the question quite naturally arises: What is going to happen to Christians if they can't lose their salvation? What can happen to them?

I want to suggest that there are four things that can happen to a Christian. Even though he cannot lose his salvation, these four things can happen to him. We may touch on all of them in this lesson. We may not get past the first one, but we'll just see how far along we do get as we think of this particular thing.

Related To Rewards For The Christian

I have asked you to open your Bibles to I Corinthians, chapter 9, that we might look together at the first thing that may happen to a Christian. We'll begin to read in verse 18:

I Corinthians 9:

18What is my reward then? [Circle in your minds that word “reward.”] Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
19For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
20And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
22To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

There are three words in this paragraph that I would like to emphasize00 because I think around them can be built the subject matter of the verses which I have read. In verse 18, there is the word reward , and in verse 25, there is the word crown . In verse 27, there is the word castaway .

The first word that is brought to our attention—the word reward —indicates to us what the subject matter of this particular passage of Scripture is. The subject of this particular paragraph is reward. The subject is related to the reward of the Christian. And so everything in this paragraph must be interpreted in the light of what we're talking about. We're talking about rewards.

Paul's Decision Not to Marry

If you were to read the whole chapter, you would find that Paul is answering a criticism that was often leveled at him because his ministry was a little bit unorthodox as far as ordinary practices were concerned. For example, Paul wasn't a married man, and that has bothered a lot of people. They kept saying, “You just have to be suspicious of a man who doesn't marry.” And so Paul, in this portion of the Word, says, “There is something that you need to get straight. I have a perfect right to marry; no reason I can't. I have a perfect right to.” He said, “My friend Peter has a wife. I have a right to marry, but I have [notice carefully what I am saying] foregone that privilege.” People say, “Paul was just an old sourpuss. He didn't like women. He's always bearing down on them and saying mean things about them.” That wasn't true.

He said, “I would love to be married, and I have a right to be married, but I don't feel that I have a right to ask any woman to share the hardship that I have to bear in preaching the gospel in the places that I do and in the way that I do. So I have foregone that privilege.”

Then, of course, he passed a little opinion and said, “I think some of the rest of you ought to have done it because the kind of life you're living is making it awfully hard on your wife and your family. I have foregone that privilege, but it's not because there's anything wrong with it.”

Paul Preached Without Pay

Another thing that they criticized about Paul was that he worked. He wouldn't take any offerings from anyone. They said, “You've got to mistrust a man who won't let people give him any money. There's a reason. He knows down deep inside he's not an honest man. That is why he won't take money. He knows he's an old crook. That's why he won't take money.”

Paul said, “That isn't it at all. I was born with the ability to make tents. The Lord enabled me to make tents. I'm a good tentmaker, and I can make enough money making tents to pay my expenses. So that's what I do because I don't want anyone to say, ‘Why that old skinflint. The only reason in the world he's preaching is because he's making money out of it.' If I pay my own expenses, they can never say that about me. That's the reward I have. I get a great joy out of being able to preach the gospel without charge.” That's what he said.

Preferred An Eternal Reward

You'll notice that he didn't say that every preacher ought to make tents. He didn't say that. He said, “This is my personal relationship to the Lord. It's my reward.” And talking about reward, he went on from the immediate reward related to preaching to the eternal reward that he was someday to receive. He said, “You know, I get a certain amount of satisfaction from preaching the gospel without charge here, but I'm looking forward to the day when I stand in the presence of Christ and really receive the reward that's going to last forever.”

Then he began to teach a little lesson about rewards. He said, “You know, after all, Christian experience and Christian service is a race. Down there at the arena when everyone gets in the race, they all run with the idea of getting a prize, but they don't all get it.”

Someone says, “That's right. Some of them lose their salvation.” No, you don't get in this race unless you're saved. The entrance fee was paid by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you're not in the race unless you are a born-again believer. “But,” he said, “everyone in that ordinary race down there in the arena runs with the idea of getting the prize, but they do not all get it. One of the reasons they don't all get it is that they don't abide by the rules of the game. Some of them try awfully hard to abide by the rules of the game. They put themselves through rigorous training, and they put themselves through all kinds of self-discipline. But they do it [and here's our second word] to obtain a corruptible crown.”

Crowns As Rewards For Service

Of course, he was thinking about the area in which he was working. There, when a person won a race, he received a crown that was made out of leaves. The judge at the bema, the seat where the rewards were announced, placed that crown on his head. Well, in a matter of hours, the leaves were all dried up, and the crown wasn't worth anything at all. It was corruptible. It perished.

He said, “They go through all that to obtain a corruptible crown; but we who are engaged in this race are doing it to obtain an incorruptible crown—a crown that can't fade, a crown that can't dry up, a crown that will be eternal.

So, you see, he's relating rewards with crowns. He said, “I'm looking for a reward, and that reward is going to take the form of a crown.” The Word of God teaches that there are five different crowns which are available to the child of God as rewards for faithful Christian service.

If you look at chapter 9, he begins to talk about how much that crown means to him. In verse 26, he says:

I Corinthians 9:

26I therefore so run,…

“I want to run so that I can get that crown.” The first thing he says about the race is, “I don't run uncertainly. I keep my eyes on the goal.” In the book of Hebrews, chapter 12, he uses the same figure of speech. He tells you what the goal is. The goal is the Lord Jesus Christ standing at the end of the race. He said, “I don't look to the right, and I don't look to the left. I keep my eyes on the goal. I don't run uncertainly because I want to get that crown at the end of the race.”

Then in verse 26, he changes the figure of speech, which you know he likes to do if you are very familiar with his writings, and he says:

I Corinthians 9:

26…so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

“I don't do any shadow-boxing.” That's what he's saying. “I don't have time for that. I've got to make every blow count. And if I don't make every blow count, I might not win that crown at the end of the race.”

Did you notice what he's talking about here? He's talking about rewards. He's talking about crowns. He said, “I want to win the crown at the end of the race.”

In verse 27 he says, “But I keep under my body, and bring it unto subjection. I go through whatever physical training is necessary.” You are all familiar with the athletic programs in this country, and you know that athletes have to go through periods of training to keep their bodies in subjection. They don't eat what they want to eat, and they don't sleep when they want to sleep. They sleep according to schedule. They sleep according to plan, because they've got a crown to win. And so Paul said:

I Corinthians 9:

27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: [Now listen carefully, because here comes our third word.] lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Service Approved By Christ

This word castaway is an interesting word. This is the negative form of a word that is translated some dozen places in the New Testament “approved.” The positive word is dokimos , and that means “approved.” The negative form of the word has the prefix “a” in front of it—adokimos , which means “disapprove.” And so what Paul is saying here in verse 27 is, “I keep the rules very religiously. I don't do anything I want to do. I deny myself a lot of things that I'd like to do.” “Why, Paul? Do you deny yourself those things because you think you might go to Hell?” “No, that's not even the subject under discussion. That's not even what's interesting me. I deny myself these things because I don't want to spend my whole life preaching to other people, and then stand at the judgment seat of Christ and be disapproved and have the Lord Jesus Christ at the judgment seat say, 'Paul, you ran a pretty good race. You did well, but you didn't abide by all the rules of the game, and so I can't give you the reward you'd like to have'.” So you see, a Christian, though he cannot lose his salvation, can lose his reward, and that can be a tragic thing.

Building On The Foundation

Turn with me to I Corinthians, chapter 3, and you will find the apostle talking about the same thing here, though he changes the figure of speech. In I Corinthians, chapter 9, he is using the illustration of an athlete's getting the crown at the end of the race, or not getting it, as the case may be. In I Corinthians, chapter 3, he's talking about an architect, a builder. There are many illustrations of the same truth in the Word of God.

I Corinthians 3:

9For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
10According 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.
11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Let's stop right there. The foundation has already been laid. Paul said he's laid it. He said, “I've told you about Jesus Christ. You have Him. You're born again. You have the foundation in your possession. Now what are you going to do with Jesus Christ?”

Sometimes we ask that question of the unsaved. What are you going to do with Jesus? But we need to ask it to believers. The Lord Jesus Christ is living in your heart if you're a born-again believer, and with the Lord Jesus Christ, there has been presented to you everything that pertains unto life and godliness. God with His Son, the Bible says, has freely given to you all things. He's given you a key to the storehouse. What are you going to do with it?

He uses the builder to emphasize the question. Here's the foundation. God is going to want to build a house on it. What kind of house are you going to build? Well, if you will look at verse 12, he said:

I Corinthians 3:

12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

What does that mean? It means that God will give you the choice of building the kind of house you want to build on that foundation. You can build a house that is made out of gold and silver and precious stones, if you want to; or you can build a house made of wood, hay, and stubble, if you want to.

There are many interesting things we could say about gold, silver, and precious stones, and about wood, hay, and stubble, as far as the typical significance is meant, but there is nothing in the Scripture as to what they actually mean. The important thing is that gold and silver and precious stones are permanent. Wood, hay, and stubble are not. That's what it amounts to.

Building Judged By Christ

You go ahead and build. You may build out of wood, hay, and stubble, and build quickly. It may look good, and with a little paint and fixing up, the individual may not be able to determine the difference between the wood, hay, and stubble and the gold, silver, and precious stones. I am inclined to think that you and I as individuals, as far as looking at other people's works are concerned, are not able to tell. The reason that I think that is suggested in verse 13, which says:

I Corinthians 3:

13Every man's work shall be made manifest: for [notice what he says] the day shall declare it…]

The kind of building that you and I do will not be known until we stand at the judgment seat of Christ. I don't mean that you won't know what material you're using, but I mean that other people may not know. I'm building a house, speaking in the terms of the Scripture here. You look at that house, and you say, “My, Joe's building a lovely house. The Lord's really going to be pleased with that, isn't He?” You're building a house, and I say, “I do not think the Lord is going to be pleased with the house you're building. I just don't believe He could be.” Is that right? Well, I don't know, and you don't know. The day is going to declare it.

Man Unable To Judge

The Bible emphasizes repeatedly that you and I have no right to be judging before the day. For example, the Apostle Paul says, “Judge nothing before the time for the day will declare it.” And he even went a step further and said, “I don't even judge anything in relation to what I do myself.”

Paul, when he preached, didn't come down out of the pulpit and say, “Boy, that was a good sermon, wasn't it?” And he didn't come down discouraged and say, “Boy, that wasn't any good. I just flopped today.” He didn't say that. He said, “I just do what I can do and wait until the day. The day will declare it.”

In the gospel according to Matthew, the Lord Jesus Christ changes the figure of speech and uses a grain field. He talks about wheat, and He talks about tares. He sowed the wheat, and while the servants were asleep, an enemy came in and sowed the tares. Tares and wheat look very much alike. So the servant said to the Lord Jesus Christ, “Well, let's go out there and pull up all those tares.” Jesus said, “No, don't do that. You don't know enough to do that. The tares look so much like the wheat that if you tear them up, you're bound to tear up some of that wheat.” And you know, it's happening all the time. You and I take the responsibility on ourselves, and we don't know enough. We want to get rid of some of the tares, and the first thing we know, we get rid of some of God's wheat. We damage the wheat field, and we hurt innumerable people, and we displease the Lord.

All of these illustrations I have given you to emphasize that we should not judge anything before the time. The day will declare it.

All right, back to our building. We are building now. We may be building out of wood, hay, and stubble. We may be building out of gold and silver and precious stones. I might say this. You can build faster out of wood, hay, and stubble than you can out of gold, silver, and precious stones, but I'm always a little bit leary about anything that is built too fast. It might turn out to be wood, hay, and stubble, but the day will declare it.

Work Tried By Fire

Notice in verse 13:

I Corinthians 3:

13Every 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.

The Bible teaches that there is going to be a day when Christians are going to have to be judged in relation to their works, not in relation to their salvation. Their works are going to be put to the test of fire.

Naturally, if you have been building out of gold, silver, and precious stones, those elements are going to stand the test of fire. But if you've been building out of wood, hay, and stubble, they are going to be consumed in the fire. In verse 14, he says:

I Corinthians 3:

14If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive [salvation and be permitted to spend eternity with God]..

Is that what it says? It doesn't say that, does it? It says, “He shall receive a reward.” If your efforts for the Lord Jesus Christ stands the test, you'll receive the reward. You'll receive a crown. Now in verse 15:

I Corinthians 3:

15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer [the loss of his soul and spend eternity in hell].

Is that what your Bible says? No, that's not what it says. It says, “If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss.” The loss of what? Well, what are we talking about? The loss of reward. He shall suffer the loss of his reward, “but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” It means with the smell of smoke on him, he'll be saved, and that's all. He'll be saved without very much to show for all that he has done while he's on the earth—without very much to show for a lifetime of Christian service.

If you're listening, you may say, “Why do you say 'very much?' It doesn't look like you have anything to show for it.”

All Christians To Receive A Reward

It's wonderful to compare Scripture with Scripture. You ought not ever to stop until you get the whole story. When I first discovered I Corinthians, chapter 3, I was terribly discouraged, because I thought, “My, the first thing you know, I won't have anything at all to show as a reward when I stand at the judgment seat of Christ. Maybe everything that I do will turn out to be wood, hay, and stubble. Maybe nothing will stand the test of fire.” Then I discovered chapter 4 of I Corinthians, and I've been so very, very grateful for this. Notice I Corinthians, chapter 4:

I Corinthians 4:

1Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
4For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
5Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: [listen carefully] and then shall every man have praise of God.

How I thank God for verse 5. When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, He's going to find something in every one of us to reward us for. True, we might not receive as much reward as we would have if we had done everything we should have done. You may receive a much greater reward than I'm going to receive, but there's one thing that encourages my heart, and that is that I'm going to receive some kind of reward.

It's very easy for us to be critical, and every time I'm inclined to think that someone's not doing quite what they ought to do, the Holy Spirit brings to mind this 5th verse.

I Corinthians 4:

5Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts:…

That verse doesn't mean that the Lord is going to pull out some old, dirty sin that you've had stashed in the back of your heart and wave it in front of everyone and say, “Look how mean he is.” Do you know what it means? It means that at the judgment seat of Christ, the Lord is going to say, “You know, you wondered why John Doe did that. You didn't understand him, and you criticized him for it. I'll show you now why he did it,” and He brings out the hidden counsels of the heart. He brings out those secret things that you and I don't know about. So before you get too critical of someone else, just remember that there might be a reason for what they are doing.

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