Please comment on your view of 1 Corinthians 3:14,15, where Paul distinguishes a reward from salvation. What is the reward in this text?
Also, in a later note, Running said,
According to 1 Corinthians 3:14-15, God’s workers receive a reward according to the quality of their work on the Day of Judgment, provided their work stands the test. If a worker’s work is burned up due to inferior quality, he himself is still saved, although he suffers loss. The work is building the church. 1 Corinthians 3:17 moves beyond the issue of inferior quality work to destroying the church, and the loss to the worker there is eternal life. To me the passage makes a distinction between the salvation of the worker and his reward.
Let's consider the passage.
1 Corinthians 3:11-17
11 θεμέλιον γὰρ ἄλλον οὐδεὶς δύναται θεῖναι παρὰ τὸν κείμενον ὅς ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός 12 εἰ δέ τις ἐποικοδομεῖ ἐπὶ τὸν θεμέλιον χρυσόν ἄργυρον λίθους τιμίους ξύλα χόρτον καλάμην 13 ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον φανερὸν γενήσεται ἡ γὰρ ἡμέρα δηλώσει ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ ἀποκαλύπτεται καὶ ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον ὁποῖόν ἐστιν τὸ πῦρ αὐτὸ δοκιμάσει 14 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον μενεῖ ὃ ἐποικοδόμησεν μισθὸν λήμψεται 15 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται ζημιωθήσεται αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός
16 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ναὸς θεοῦ ἐστε καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν 17 εἴ τις τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φθείρει φθερεῖ τοῦτον ὁ θεός ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς
I agree with Running that the passage is about how ministers of the gospel build the church of Jesus Christ. The passage is not about how each individual Christian lives one's life as is popularly preached and taught.
Paul's architectural imagery gives the gold, silver, precious gems, wood, hay, and straw symbolic significance as representative of the individuals the ministers incorporate into the edifice called the church. The distinctive nature and arrangement of these reinforces this observation. Observe the arrangment of the six items. The order descends in value but ascends in combustibility. The Day of Judgment will disclose the quality of each minister's work.
Paul makes two statements concerning the consequence of judgment. First, "If anyone's work which he has built on the foundation endures, he will receive a reward." Second, Paul says, "If anyone's work is consumed, he will suffer loss, and he himself will be saved but in the same manner, as through fire."
I find that no English translation adequately translates verse 15. All ignore οὕτως δὲ. Thus, translations treat Paul's statement as a promise of salvation despite shoddy workmanship. I am not so convinced that this is the proper understanding of the passage. It seems to me that Paul's words more likely speak of how the minister himself will be saved, if he is going to be saved. If he is going to be saved, he will be saved in the same manner as his work, namely through fire.
In other words, Paul is not promising salvation despite shoddy workmanship. Rather, Paul is speaking of the manner by which the worker will be saved; he will be saved by passing through the same fire to test his own quality whether he will be consumed like his work is consumed.
Paul's expressions in 1 Corinthians 3:15 are akin to his comments concerning women in 1 Timothy 2:15, where he writes, σωθήσεται δὲ διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας ἐὰν μείνωσιν ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ καὶ ἁγιασμῷ μετὰ σωφροσύνης. "But she will be saved through the bearing of children, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control." Paul is not issuing a promise that woman will be saved no matter what she does. He is not even issuing a promise that woman will be saved if she happily accepts her God-appointed role for bearing children. Bearing children is her God-appointed pathway, but persevering in faith and love and holiness with self-control is indispensable if she would be saved in the Last Day.
Therefore, I am not so convinced that Paul has distinguished "reward" (3:14) from "being saved" (3:15). I think that a case can be made that the "reward" of which Paul speaks in 3:14 is to be "saved" (3:15).
I am not inclined to concur that 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 "moves beyond the issue of inferior quality work to destroying the church," as Running has stated. It seems to me that it does not introduce a new idea; rather, it seems to me that it expands on and explains what Paul has already stated in 3:11-15. Verse 15 speaks of a minister whose work (i.e., the people he incorporates into the church) is utterly consumed, ruined, destroy, which is the very point to which Paul returns in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Thus, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 emphatically reinforces the point Paul makes in 3:11-15 by explaining the symbolism of the architectural imagery. He explains by asking the question in 3:16, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwellsamong you?" Then he explains the gravity of the test on the Day by expressing it as a supposition: "If anyone ruins God's temple, God will ruin him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple."