1 Corinthians 3:14-15/James 2:14 Useful Faith, Rewardable Works

If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:14-15

There’s an age-old debate (as if it was up for discussion) that works must accompany faith in order for it to be legitimate faith for salvation. These folks say, “yes, we’re saved by faith alone”, and then proceed to qualify faith, “however faith that is alone does not save”.  This conclusion is wrong of course and you can read my comments on James 2:14 here to see why that would be poor hermeneutics and not at all what the context is referring to. Those two phrases contradict each other. Many to this day continue to be confused with this way of thinking. If read in context though, one can clearly see that James speaks of a Christian’s faith being useless (to others and to his own sanctification) if it is not accompanied by works.

Interestingly, like faith without works is useless, Paul talks about the believer’s works without faith being useless (1 Cor 3:15). Paul explains it using the picture of one who builds (1 Cor 3:12-15).  The results of the faithless builder is that the materials are burned up after being submitted to testing (1 Cor 3:15). The one who works (builds) by faith, upon the foundation of Christ (1 Cor 3:14), empowered by the Holy Spirit, will end up with lasting results and those works will be rewarded in heaven at the BEMA seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). Both James (James 2) and Paul (1 Cor 3) are teaching believers how they are to live as useful and gaining eternal rewards in heaven.

In Conclusion

By a proper understanding of James’s teaching on faith and Paul’s teaching on works, we can see that useful, rewardable Christians are those who walk by faith unto grace produced works. In other words, they are the believers who actively rely on God’s grace, and by grace, motivated on to being useful in good works and ultimately rewarded for Spirit empowered labour and to the glory of Christ.

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