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1 Corinthians 3:13

ESV each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
NIV their 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 person's work.
NASB each one’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one’s work.
CSB each one's work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one's work.
NLT But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.
KJV Every 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.

What does 1 Corinthians 3:13 mean?

This verse completes a somewhat complicated if/then statement. Paul has been using the metaphor of constructing a building to represent the growth of the Christians in Corinth and the church there. He pictures himself as a master builder who laid the foundation of Jesus Christ. He did this when he first preached the gospel of faith in Christ to them.

Now other builders, other Christian teachers, are building on that foundation. Paul has warned them to build well. In the previous verse, he wrote that these builders may use either high-quality or cheap building materials. This seems to represent the quality of their teaching and leadership. Teaching about the way of Christ that is true and helpful is like building with the "good stuff." Like gemstones and precious metals, that teaching is harder to acquire and harder to build with, but far more durable. Teaching that is distorted, watered down, misleading is like using low-quality materials: easy to do, with little cost, but to no long-term benefit.

Paul now shows that the quality of the materials matters because a fire is coming that will reveal all. This fire will come on "the Day." Paul is looking forward to what he called the "day of our Lord Jesus Christ" in 1 Corinthians 1:8. This is the day of Christ's judgment that will come during the end times.

Paul pictures this specific judgment of God—intended for Christians, not unbelievers—as a fire that will test the quality of the work done by the Christian teachers and leaders. It will not be a judgment of the people themselves. Paul has written clearly that, by God's grace and because of their faith in Christ, the Corinthian Christians will stand blameless or guiltless in that day (Romans 8:1). This is the "Bema Seat" judgment, applied only to those with faith in Christ, and only for the sake of determining eternal rewards (Romans 14:10–12).

Rather, this verse speaks of judgment of the works done by those who serve the church. Scholars differ on whether Paul intends this to mean just the works of the teachers and leaders or the works of all Christians who are meant to use our spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 1:5–7) to serve each other in the church (2 Corinthians 5:10). In either case, the fire of Christ's judgment will show whether that work—not the person doing it—was worthwhile or worthless. The cheap, casual materials Paul mentioned before would be destroyed in a fire, while metals and gems would survive.
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