Just Wood, Hay, and Stubble


1 Corinthians 3:9-15


God’s servants are laborers together in the cause of Christ. All faithful Gospel preachers preach the same doctrine and “see eye to eye” (Isaiah 52:7-8). They are not in competition with one another; and they do not envy one another. Each is placed where he is, gifted for the work God has for him to do in that place, and counts it his great honor to be made God’s servant (Ephesians 3:8), devoting his life to the service of God’s Church, the furtherance of the Gospel, and the glory of Christ.


            As wise master builders, all Gospel preachers lay the Foundation that the Triune Jehovah laid in eternity, our crucified Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Foundation God laid in eternity we lay in the preaching of the Gospel, “the Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20.


            Upon this Foundation we build God’s Church, employing the gold, silver, and precious stones of pure Gospel doctrine: the gold of our Savior’s person, the silver of His precious blood, and the precious stones of His saving accomplishments. It is the preaching of the Gospel, and that alone, that is used of God for the building of His Church and Kingdom. By the preaching of the Gospel, chosen, redeemed sinners are regenerated and called to Christ (1 Peter 1:23-25; James 1:18; Romans 10:17). And by the instrumentality of Gospel preaching, and that alone, saved sinners are taught of God, strengthened, edified, reproved, comforted, and made to grow in grace and faith in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).


            Sooner or later God will make manifest every preacher’s work, of what sort it is. Verse 13 does not refer to the Day of Judgment, as many imagine. The day referred to here is any day of trial. In the day of trial it will become obvious whether we have built with the gold, silver, and precious stones of the Gospel, or with the wood, hay, and stubble of our own devising.


            In this passage of Holy Scripture God the Holy Spirit describes the work of faithful men. Both he who employs only the gold, silver, and precious stones of the Gospel and the man who, along with the preaching of the Gospel, employs the devises of men (wood, hay, and stubble) are saved men. Both faithfully preach the Gospel. Let that be clearly understood. The preacher who employs wood, hay, and stubble “himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (v. 15). The very fiery trial that destroys what he has labored to build will be to him a refining fire of grace.


            God’s servants are always under pressure to make things happen. The pressure is imposed upon them by their own hands. We greatly desire to see sinners saved. We want to see God working in our midst. Sadly, when we do not see God working as we desire, far too often, we are tempted to do something different, something by which we may be more likely to see the results we desire to see. Sometimes the pressure comes from well meaning men and women in the Church, brothers and sisters in Christ.


How often we have seen it with our own eyes. “Sinners are not being converted as rapidly and numerously as we desire. Baptisms are few. The membership is not increasing. Attendance is declining. We must do something,” we think, or we are told. So we start “special programs” for children, or seniors, or teen-agers. We start having “Bible discussion groups,” “old-fashioned prayer meetings” to twist God’s arm. The list could go on at length, but all these things are described by God the Holy Spirit as “wood, hay, stubble.” Whatever we add to the preaching of the Gospel, no matter how appealing, is just “wood, hay, stubble.” No matter how successful it may appear to be, it is just “wood, hay, stubble.”


If you have a special ministry for any targeted audience, you will mold your message to that audience, always compromising the Gospel in some measure. The fact is children, young people, and senior citizens all need the same thing — Gospel preaching! Numbers can be increased. Pews can be filled. Church rolls can be swelled by many devises. But all are “wood, hay, stubble.”


The wood, hay, and stubble have nothing to do with heresy or false doctrine of any kind. If that were the case, the preacher would be described as one to be forever damned (Galatians 1:6-9). The wood, hay, and stubble are the devises men add to Gospel preaching, devises by which unregenerate people are made religious. The “wood, hay, stubble” are called “the hires” of idolatry and “the hire of an harlot” in Micah 1:7. — “All the hires thereof shall be burned with fire!” This hire of a harlot, these hires of idolatry, refer to costly garments and ornaments, with which the heathen adorn and beautify their idols. That is precisely what the wood, hay, and stubble of religion is: — the costly trappings of religion and religious activity, with which men would ignorantly adorn the Gospel in their vain attempts to make it acceptable to unregenerate people, in their vain attempts to take away the offence of the cross.


            Let us not be so foolish! May God give us grace, my brethren, “laborers together with God,” to employ nothing but the gold, silver, and precious stones of the Gospel to build His Church and Kingdom. If we build on the Foundation God has laid, employing the means God has ordained, we will both save ourselves and those who hear us (1 Timothy 4:16), and we will have our reward forever (1 Corinthians 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Everything but the preaching of Jesus Christ crucified is just wood, hay, and stubble!









Don Fortner



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