Bible 1 Yr – Day 154 – God’s Co-Workers

Chapter 3 of First Corinthians is one of the best Chapters to illustrate how two things that are seemingly inconsistent can both be true at the same time.

Paul is gently chastising the Corinthians basically calling them “spiritual babies”. He makes the point to them that if they were deepening their faith they wouldn’t be arguing amongst themselves. Then notice what Paul says …

6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

So Paul planted and Apollos watered but the seed only grows because of God. So one could say, it is God alone who saves.

But wait!

At the same time Paul says, “each shall receive his wages according to his labor” and “we are God’s fellow workers”. This is an important key to understanding God’s plan for salvation. Absolutely, only God saves but he CHOOSES to accomplish the salvation of souls through the instrument of others and the works they do for him. Thus Paul can truly say we are God’s fellow workers. Remember the example of a mother baking a cake who lets her small child help. Letting the child help doesn’t any way diminish the work or the mother, who did not need the child to help. On the other hand, the child genuinely adds something to the work being done and in fact learns to become more like the mother in the process. This is the way of works in salvation and we truly are God’s fellow co-workers.

The second half of the chapter is the verse most commonly used to establish purgatory.

10* According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. 11* For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– 13* each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15* If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

So, this work we do for the Lord will be tested by fire on “the Day”, which is the day of Judgement. For the work that survives the fire, the good works, you will receive a reward. For the works that are burned up, the person will “suffer loss” but will still be saved. So on the day of our judgement there is some state, or place, or process in which the work of our life will be tested. In is not heaven because a person still “suffers loss”. It is not hell because despite suffering the person will still “be saved”. Thus is a 3rd state where those things that are unpure are burned or purged away.

They key thing to understand about what Paul is saying that he is not saying that these works earn one’s entrance into heaven. What he’s saying is that as a fellow worker with God we must be careful in the work we do on his behalf, but God’s mercy is great and if we fail in some respect, the failings will be purged away by fire, leaving behind only what is good and pure.

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10 Responses to Bible 1 Yr – Day 154 – God’s Co-Workers

  1. Jon musso says:

    I think their is some really good theology hear! I agree with allot, so let me start with the strong point of your claim. I think you article wellhow God saves, and sanctification has a role, we are called to a life of works and think this passage confirm that! I would also agree with how you articulate the judgement seat, and how all our works will be judged, I agree that scripture confirms that. So I agree with much of what you said, their are points I think you are not clarifying, or hold to a different perspective. Sanctification has more to do about heaven and earth uniting in the eternal state it’s more of an eschatological reality. I hold to a post millennium position which sees works as the God bringing the elected believer to a life of work/ virtue, but not in a work righteousness, but in a uniting in a eschatological reality which is I believed confirmed in genesis 1 and 2 exodus 19, Romans 5, 1 Peter 2 and the second half of revelations. This is morale righteousness/ law for the earthly manifestation in the new heaven new earth for those who have been justified by faith alone. Reform theology focus to much on just the deity of Christ and does not do a good job articulating what James is clearly teaching and those other passages I referenced, early in my post, but catholic are guilty of focusing to much on the earthly manifestation and does not recognize the heavenly manifestation enough. God is fully man and fully God! Dave I’m not saying you personally don’t recognize God heavenly kingdom, but this has been a problem on both side of this controversy between Protestant and Catholics, and I think both sides don’t go far enough. I think with out seeing works/ virtues in this prospective you can fall into era either way.

    I really appreciate your post and I hope I clarified my perspective clearly.

    God bless

    Great job


  2. Chris Daley says:

    I got this definition of purgatory from

    Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.

    So, purgatory is a place where those who depart this life in God’s grace have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.

    So, Christ’s blood wasn’t enough to pay my sin debt? I have to do something more to pay the “satisfaction”? What more can I do or give or pay than what Christ already did?

    I keep coming back to the thief that was on the cross with Jesus. Christ told him “Today” you will be with me in paradise. And Jesus told him that right after the thief confessed that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus didn’t tell him, you have to more to do, or you have to do good works. This thief was alive for no more than 8 hours after his confession, so how much good work could he possibly do in that time to make up for him being on that cross? Christ didn’t tell him he was going to have to wait to get in or that others needed to pray for him after he died.
    Christ said “today”.

    • Hey Chris, great to hear from you.

      First, New Advent, while a good source is not the official teaching of the Church.

      Second, of course Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to redeem all of creation from all sin. However, you haven’t stopped sinning have you? And you haven’t stopped suffering have you? Christ’s salvific act is not applied to creation is one fell swoop. At the final judgement it will be but to us, who live in time, it hasn’t yet been.

      Sin had effects, those effects are eternal and temporal. The eternal effect is our relationship with God. Christ has repaired that so we are saved. The temporal effect is the effect of sin on the earth. It hurts people and we have to do penance for it. That is in part the reason why we suffer even though Christ’s sacrifice was fully effective. The classic example is you throw a ball and break my window. I forgive you but we still have to clean up the broken glass.

      Here is a main statement on Purgatory for the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

      1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

      As for the thief on the cross notice 2 things. First, the last sentence of the passage from the Catechism states that a true conversion can complete purification on earth. No one has to go to purgatory. If you die is a state of grace and union with God you go straight to heaven. But most people don’t achieve perfection during their earthly life. Most have attachment to sin when they die. Purgatory removes that attachment and is final penance for the lingering effects fo our sin.

      Second, the thief on the cross absolutely did good work. First, you have to understand what good works are. They are not just feeding the hungry or caring for the sick. Good works are any works that are in line with the will of God. And good works include testifying on behalf of God to the truth. The good thief certainly did that. And even to speak those words would have taken tremendous effort. Suffering also purifies us from our attachment to sin and is penance for its effects. The good thief certainly did penanace.

  3. Chris Daley says:

    Thanks Dave. I really enjoy your posts. They challenge me to think about scripture in new ways.

    How is the “good” thief’s suffering on his cross penance? He was put up there for some wrong doing, some punishment for an earthly transgression. Peter said in 1Peter2:20,

    1 Peter 2:20King James Version (KJV)
    20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

    So, there is no glory in suffering for doing wrong, only when you do right and suffer for it. The thief is suffering for the wrongs he committed in his life, not for doing something good and being put up there.

    • Suffering for what you did wrong is justice which in itself is good. God is absolute justice tempered by divine mercy. In addition, there is question of whether the punishment fit the crime. Perhaps the thief stole bread to feed his family, we aren’t told, but the likilhood is that death by torture was probably excessive punishment.

  4. Chris Daley says:

    It just seems like the cart was put before the horse, if the thief suffering on the cross was his penance. He was on the cross, suffering, before he had his conversion, so how is that suffering then counted towards his penance?

    • There are 2 aspects to this. First, God can react instantly to your conversion. At his conversion if the thief is forgiven of all his sins then from that instant onward his suffering could no longer be counted as justice but as the suffering of a innocent for the glory of God.

      Second, God is not limited by time. A few days ago I posted something on my FB page about how when scientist observe certain particles their observations actually travel back in time and cause the particle to behave a certain way at a previous point. Suffering that happens to him (or any of us) at anytime can count for where ever and when ever we need it. It doesn’t even necessarily have to count for us, our suffering can count for others. God doesn’t see it linearly like we do. He sees the whole picture simultaneously.

  5. Chris Daley says:

    I keep have continuing thoughts. lets say before I go to confession, I say 5 hail mary’s, then after confession, the priest says my penance is to say 5 hail marys. I can’t tell him I already said them before confession. That’s kind of like the thief. He was suffering before his confession, he confessed and is told that his penance is the suffering he is going through.
    That doesn’t make any sense to me.

    • No, you can’t say 5 Hail Mary’s before hand b/c you live in time. On other hand, if you got 5 Hail Mary’s as penance as has to leave right away to go pick up you kid at school and then as soon as you pulled out of the parking lot got hit by a bus and killed God could apply your 5 Hail Mary’s out of order. We are limited. God is not. We follow the rules he set up for us as best we can and we trust his mercy.

  6. Chris Daley says:

    We are limited. God is not. Amen to that.

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