1 Corinthians 3:8, Works vs Faith, according to Paul

Each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. –1 Cor 3:8

//Many have the sort of mistaken idea that Paul taught we would be saved entirely by grace … or, as some put it, by faith … rather than by our works. That we could never earn our way into God’s favor. Indeed, it does seem that way, when you read verses like Romans 4:1-5. I discussed these verses yesterday, pointing out how Paul argued furiously that even Abraham was not righteous enough to earn God’s grace.

So are works worthless in Paul’s mind? Are we saved by faith instead of works? Here are some more verses Paul wrote to the Corinthians that might make you think twice:

Each man’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 man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. –1 Cor 3:13-14

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. –2 Cor 5:10

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. –2 Cor 9:6

Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. –2 Cor 11:15

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. –Gal 6:7-8

How do we reconcile this difference in Paul’s mind? Are we saved by faith or by works? I do not have the answer, but I recently read something that makes a lot of sense. In Paul & Judaism Revisited, by Preston M. Sprinkle, the suggestion is made that Paul recognizes two instances that require salvation: the initial inbreaking of the Kingdom and the final judgment. In relevant terms for today, we might say we are accepted by faith, but rewarded for our works once we begin walking with God.

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