What does 1 Corinthians 3:14 mean?
ESV: If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
NIV: If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.
NASB: If anyone’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.
CSB: If anyone's work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward.
NLT: If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.
KJV: If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has been using a metaphor in which the community of believers is pictured as a structure built on the foundation of Jesus. Those who continue the building, teachers and leaders in the church, may use quality materials or worthless materials to build into the lives of the people. Good materials may refer to teaching that is true and helpful. Poor materials may refer to teaching that distorts or waters down the way of God (1 Corinthians 3:12–13).

One reason the quality of the work matters so much is that there will be a test. Paul has pointed forward to a day when Christ will judge the value of the work—not the value of the people (Romans 8:1)—of saved Christians. This is not the same as the ultimate judgment given to unbelievers (Revelation 20:11–15). Christ's judgment, Paul has written, is like a fire that will reveal whether the builders have built in a way that endures, or with worthless materials that ignite and are consumed.

Now Paul writes that those who pass this test will do so because they have built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. In other words, their teaching and leadership has continued to focus on Christ and to correctly lead the church in how to continue in the way of Christ.

Scholars disagree about whether Paul is specifically describing judgment of the works only of teachers and leaders (James 3:1), or of all Christians, based on how they used their gifts to build up each other in the church. This verse aside, Scripture indicates every Christian will face a judgment of their works for which they will be rewarded or not (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Those whose works are shown to be lasting, whose works survive the fire of Christ's evaluation, will receive a reward. This reward is not described, though later Paul will mention praise from the Lord as an outcome (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 3:10–15 expands on Paul's earlier point that only God, not any fallible human being, is worthy. Each person must build their ''works'' on a foundation of Christ. Those works will be subject to judgment, to see what has eternal value. Lasting works are based in valuable, durable, precious things like wisdom and truth. Cheap and fragile materials won't stand the fire of God's judgment.
Chapter Summary:
Paul cannot call the Corinthian Christians ''spiritual'' people. Though they are in Christ, they continue to live to the flesh. They are spiritual infants, not ready for solid food. Divisions among them prove they are still serving themselves, picking sides in a senseless debate between Christian teachers. Paul insists that both he and Apollos are mere servants of the Lord and co-workers. They are not in competition. Those who lead the Corinthians must build carefully because their work will be tested on the day of the Lord. Christian leaders who build the church will have their work judged by Christ to see if they have built on the foundation of Christ. All human wisdom will be shown to be futile and worthless.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 3 follows Paul's teaching that only spiritual people can understand the wisdom of God. Paul cannot fully call the Corinthian Christians spiritual people, though, because they continue to live of the flesh, as if they were still infants trapped in an immature condition. Evidence includes the divisions among them. Paul insist that he and Apollos are both servants of the same master. The Corinthians should follow God, not them. Those whose work is worthless will suffer loss, but they will be saved. After this, Paul will expound on the idea that believers ought to set Christ as their example, rather than being defined in terms of their earthly leaders.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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