One of the questions that was presented to me this weekend from www.gotquestions.org was about the interpretation of 1Corinthians 3:12-15. After researching it a great deal, this was my response. I thought it would also make a good devotion too, Let me know if you like it.
There will be two main judgments that God will pass on every human being: The Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:12-15) and The Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). These are two very different judgments, as the first one listed will be for nonbelievers and the second one listed will be for Christians. We who have accepted Christ will not go through a judgment based on sin, but instead, based on reward. Jesus already paid the price for our sin at Calvary. That debt was “paid in full” and will never be placed back onto our “accounts” again. As Christians, we don’t have to worry about working to make it to heaven because Christ already did all the work necessary for us to go. There is nothing we can do to add to His amazing and complete work (Galatians 3:1-5). Instead, we should use all our time and energy trying to further God’s Kingdom and trying to earn heavenly rewards (Matthew 6:19-34). This is the kind of judgment Paul is talking about in the verses you asked about. He describes God as using a fire-test of discernment (also see 1 Peter 1:17-18 and Revelations 3:18). Paul contrasts gold, silver, and precious stones with wood, hay, and straw. Those quality materials represent Christians who have given dedicated spiritual service to the church while the inferior materials imply shallow activity with no eternal value.
Put another way, once we have accepted Christ, we are promised eternal life (John 10:28). Depending on how well we used the talents God gave us here on earth though will dictate our levels of reward in heaven. I may see Billy Graham in heaven driving a Cadillac, but I’m sure in comparison to my Christian work, I will be on a skateboard. Skateboard or Cadillac, we will both be there. Again, it is very important to remember that this is not a judgment of sin. Those who have not accepted Christ will be judged for sin in the Great White Throne Judgment. I am so thankful God led me to Christ, and I will not have to be judged for sin. I pray that through His Power, I can use the talents he gave me to His satisfaction. Notice that verse 15 says that if we have been saved by Christ, even if our works don’t stand up to his test, we will still make it to heaven, “yet so as through fire”
In conclusion, Christians will never, ever be judged for their sins. Instead, our works will be judged for degrees of reward. Nonbelievers will be judged for sin, and the only thing they will receive from God is eternal punishment. One of my favorite bible verses is Romans 6:23. It puts the two topics in perspective: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” I pray that you have accepted Christ. If you have, then “endure” with the talents He has given you, and tell as many people as you can about 1Corinthians 3:12-15.