Rewarded for their Labor? (1 Corinthians 3:8)

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I have been asked this question again and again: What are heavenly rewards? Or, how do rewards fit in with grace? Some say there are no rewards, yet Jesus spoke about storing up treasure and Paul spoke about being rewarded for our labor.

I have a long chapter on Eternal Rewards in my book The Gospel in Twenty Questions. In that chapter I talk about heavenly treasures and how to store them up. The following is an extract:

The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. (1 Cor 3:8)

Rewarded according to his labor? How does that fit in the economy of grace? In the Greek the word for reward means pay or wages. God is going to pay us like a paymaster? How does that work?

Paul says we are rewarded for our labor. What is our reward? It’s peoplespiritual children and eternal friends.

Think about it. What labor is more rewarding than the labor of childbirth? As in the natural, so in the spiritual. What is more fulfilling than co-laboring with the Lord to create new life? Honestly, there is nothing! Nothing compares to the thrill of new birth.

You tell someone the good news, the lights go on, a smile dawns on their face, and you realize that you and the Holy Spirit just did something special. A moment ago this person had no great regard for Jesus; now they’re shining with his very life. They just became a new person, one who will learn to call God, “Abba, Father.” It truly is a miracle.

Father Paul

The Father-heart of God beat within Paul with such intensity that he felt compelled to preach the gospel. He didn’t do it for mansions or money but people.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Cor 9:19)

Paul had a deep desire to raise spiritual offspring. Through the gospel he became a father to the Corinthians and a mother to the Thessalonians (see 1 Cor 4:15, 1 Thess 2:7). He called men like Timothy and Onesimus his sons in the Lord. And when he saw those he had nurtured standing firm in Christ, he exalted, “Now we really live” (1 Thess 3:8)!

Seeing people get zapped by grace is about the greatest thrill on earth. I’ve seen people healed, families restored, and addictions broken. Just yesterday I helped save a marriage simply by dispensing grace. What a buzz!

Paul’s brag-book

Outside of the Lord himself, there is no greater reward than co-laboring with the Holy Spirit to reproduce the life of Christ in others. Paul understood this and bragged about it:

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. (1 Thess 2:19–20)

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that God keeps a photo of you in his wallet. Well, Paul kept photos of the Thessalonians in his. They were his children in the Lord, and he delighted in them just as God delights in you. They were his crown, his joy, and his eternal reward.

When Solomon said that children are a reward from the Lord, he was quoting an old covenant law (see Deut 28:4). If children are a reward under the death-dealing ministry of the law, how much more should we expect offspring under life-giving grace?

There’s no life in the law, but grace is fertile. It is the nature of grace to reproduce good fruit among those who receive it.

Expect it!

19 Comments on Rewarded for their Labor? (1 Corinthians 3:8)

  1. Bravo as always! Thank you Paul!

  2. Beautiful Paul
    Forget mansions, it’s relationship, relationship, relationship.
    This is what God wants.
    Let’s desire them too.
    Be blessed.

  3. the argument that people have with me is that this is about salvation. Ive stopped arguing period.

  4. That’s amazing that you’ve seen what you have Paul.
    I like this post, but I still struggle with addiction in the flesh at times. So, apparently every time someone says they walked an isle or finally got grace they no longer struggled makes me cringe because that’s not the case here.

    Sure, I rejoice in Heb 4 and in Col 3’s beginning, but saying grace is power to instantly cure this and that is something I’ve not seen. I don’t doubt it’s possible, but is such un-encouragement when I hear of what you say here “Seeing people get zapped by grace is about the greatest thrill on earth. I’ve seen people healed, families restored, and addictions broken. Just yesterday I helped save a marriage simply by dispensing grace. What a buzz!”

    I agree seeing people get zapped by grace is an INSANE blessing and total THRILL, but I wonder how much flesh is in the statement you made above? My families not perfectly healed, my addictions are not perfectly healed when viewing by sight, many marriages are still broken even when people are zapped by grace…… What are you saying Paul?

    Seems to me that that quote above is 100% fleshly view in the below, in the horizontal, in the seen, we walk by faith, not sight, by the unseen, not the seen………

    I love you Paul, can you clarify that quote above Brother?

    • Forgive me, but I’m not sure how this relates to the post. Normally I only publish comments that pertain to the posts being discussed. If you wish to ask other questions, there are other avenues.

    • hi RB – @”My families not perfectly healed, …many marriages are still broken even when people are zapped by grace……”
      – we will ALL still DIE (under grace or not). i say DIE, because i am talking in the flesh to the flesh

  5. Please correct me if I’m wrong: nowhere does the new testament talk about REWARDS. It is always singular: REWARD.

  6. Joy Brothers // June 12, 2015 at 2:05 am // Reply

    Hey Paul, loved your twelve quotes on grace, they brought me to tears, realising just how vast God’s grace really is. Thanks for a great post. Keep up the good work!

  7. Your statements regarding the present reward of seeing folks healed or set free very much encouraged me. A spark goes off inside. It’s one more reminder to not grow weary in well doing because by planting seeds of grace you never know what God will do. I can relate to being frustrated by instantaneous healing/deliverance at times because I have dealt with some issues that dragged on for years. We all get tired. Something that helped me much was Unmerited Favor by Joseph Prince and The Power of Right Believing by JP. I needed help to separate my experience from my identity, to stop asking why, stop looking for what I was doing wrong. It takes courage to let God love you but He provides even the courage. Sometimes we can even get discouraged because we don’t know how to let God love us!! -but it all circles back to simple trust in Him despite ourselves. He is really is that good.

  8. I grew up in the faith being told/pressured to bring people to Christ – witness and get people to confess Christ – that’s the goal. The how didn’t matter, just that I produce. In my young Christian mind, it made no sense how a omniscient God would have such a weird strategy to get people saved, but I went along. When those guys inevitably struggled in their walk, I was kind of not surprised and I eventually just kind of stopped telling guys to “come to Jesus”. Plus, it was down-right exhausting.

    When grace zapped me, things changed. I wanted to tell people about this new Jesus who was a no-pressure, come as you are, Jesus. Why? My goal changed. I don’t care if someone I’m talking to confesses Christ right there or not. It’s not my job to convict people or save them. That’s the Holy Spirits work. I just talk about how awesome grace is, I talk about sonship and a Father who doesn’t care that you blew it. I talk about the completeness of the work Christ did on the cross and the no-strings-attached hand he extends. I’ve not had even one person come to Christ in those encounters but boy, it fills me up when I see them kinda lean back with bewilderment and say something like, “well, that’s not what I’ve heard!”

    I’ve rambled but if I’m wrong, Paul, I’m open to correction.

    Again, thanks for the post.

  9. That was awesome!!!! I have warm fuzzies!

  10. hi pastor Paul, thanks for all your encouraging words, it builds me up. Keep up the good work. just wanted you to explain James 1:2-4, and 1 peter 4;12 in the light of grace, does god led us through trials to teach us ,tks.

  11. hello sir, I tried scripture index ,but some verses are marked in book, I don’t have those books, pls is there another way. tks

  12. georgelegomovie // November 6, 2016 at 10:07 pm // Reply

    Hi there,

    Isn’t true that 1 Cor 3:8 and 1 Cor 3:14-15 speaks of Paul and Apollos being ministers and that Paul planted the church and laid the foundation and that Apollos took over from Paul? Their both preaching the gospel to the church and the rewards = people lives being transformed. Verse 14 speaks of people accepting Grace message and verse 15 speaks of people under the law. Both are saved but the person in verse 15 obviously leads a tough life

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