“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 test every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13.)
I once heard a man speaking in the context of service for the Lord in theatrical terms. I fully understand the point he was “driving home” when he made the statement “same play, different actors”. He was basically saying that service for the Lord, ministry opportunities and jobs don’t change; that they are all the same “play” or script. However, he declared that only the people change. Therefore, he concluded, the people will choose how they play their “part” generation after generation.
To observe the ministry and service in the Lords work as a “play” or “acting position” is a huge mistake. Let’s look at the verse above, dissected and defined: “Every man’s work shall be made manifest”. In this context, “every” refers to those who are saved and are indwelt by the Spirit of God. The Greek word from where “manifest” is translated is used 19 times in the Bible: seven times as manifest; three times as being made known; three times as openly; and two times as outwardly. Our motives will be shown on “that day”, which refers to the time of the judgment seat of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Our service for God will be examined by God and made manifest. That is, the character of our service will be revealed by God. This may be quite embarrassing to some who have been shoddy in their service and think they are getting away with it. If your service has just been a “stage” performance for the praise of men, this will come out when God examines your service.
“The fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is.” The fire here represents the severity of the examination. In the context of this verse, Paul speaks of service in terms of gold, silver, and precious stones and also in terms of wood, hay, and stubble.
If your service is done in the flesh and is more show than substance, it will burn up in the examination like wood, hay, and stubble.
But if your service is sincere and genuine, it will withstand the fire just as gold, silver, and precious stones do. Our goal in ministry should be that we would “be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10.) That word ‘sincere’ is a word that means ‘without cracks,’ and it was used to describe pots that hadn’t been damaged or cracked and repaired. Sometimes if a pot was cracked, they would fill it in with wax, but when the sun would come out, the wax would melt, and the crack would show. We should strive in our lives to not have cracks that we cover up with acts of service in our own power. The coming judgment will reveal them, and they will be burned up as wood, hay, and stubble.
“What sort it is” – The word “sort” puts emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Sort is more important than size. The sort is shifted like sand in a sieve, and we will be fully aware if the service was in His power or our own. It will be revealed if it was for His glory or our own.
Hollywood and acting is not likened to what a believer does in the service of our Lord. We do not do the work. We do not do the acting; He does the work through us. We are not here for showmanship. We are here for Lordship! Surrendering all to Him and letting the grace of God give you His desires, and His powers to do His will should be the life of every Christian. His will is not a play; it is perfected and for a greater purpose that we may understand by and by.
“For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9.) The word “spectacle” carries with it the idea of being in a theater, and Paul reminds us that we are on display before the world, fallen and unfallen angels, and before saved and unsaved men. We are created to be conformed to His image, made in His likeness, through His power. Someday, you will give an account for today, and tomorrow, and the next. May we be found faithful in Him.