Gold Tried in the Fire
We are grateful for more excellent material from Archie Naismith, M.A. a former Missionary and High School principal in India. His series of three articles on the biblical significance of gold is instructive and profitable.
“I WILL MAKE A MAN MORE PRECIOUS THAN FINE GOLD,” said the Lord (Isa. 13:12). A man’s life consists mainly of three things: the way he takes, the wealth he has, and the work he does. Job said, “He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me I shall come forth as gold. That hope was realized in the life of the afflicted man of the East when, with the removal of all his dross, he emerged from the furnace as bright gold. A man’s wealth does not consist of material and temporal possessions. True wealth is God’s gold that must be bought from Him who says, “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire.” In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul uses two figures of believers: they are looked upon as God’s building, the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), or, as Peter says, as “living stones, built up a spiritual house:” and they are also represented as builders who must be careful how they build on the one foundation, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:9-10).
Gold is first mentioned in the New Testament in Matthew 2:11. It is the first of three offerings to the young child, Jesus, by the Magi from the East who came to worship God manifest in the flesh, the King of the Jews. There was no place prepared for the incarnate Son of God when He came into the world: there was no guest-room for Him in the inn, He was born in a cattle-shed and had for His cradle a manger.
“My Saviour was so very poor —a manger was His cradling-place:
So very rich my Master was —kings came from far to gain His grace.”
The mention of gold in the New Testament in the second last chapter (Rev. 21 18:21) is in the description of the city of gold that God has prepared for them that love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9; Heb. 11:16), in fulfilment of our Lord’s promise in John 14:2-3. For Him the world had prepared no place, for He came unto His own possessions and His own people did not receive Him. What a contrast there is between the hay-lined manger on which the Lord from Heaven lay and the gold-paved street on which sinners of earth, redeemed by precious blood, will walk!
John’s vision of the city of gold was accompanied by the announcement from Heaven, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men and He will dwell with them.” It is significant that all the places God chooses for His habitation on earth are covered with gold. The framework of the tabernacle in the wilderness, its boards and bars, were all “overlaid with gold.” So also was the temple built by King Solomon: even its floor was covered with gold. God’s tabernacle with men in the future will be that city of “pure gold, like unto clear glass,” whose street will be paved with gold. Now God has on earth a spiritual house into which His Spirit is fitting living stones (1 Peter 2:5) which are built together for God’s habitation through His Spirit (Eph. 2:21-22). The redeemed from among men compose that holy temple in which the Spirit of God dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Its sure and firm foundation, laid by the apostles and prophets, is Jesus Christ who is the chief corner-stone. Paul claims that in the laying of the foundation, he has had his part as a wise master builder, and each saint has his or her part in building the superstructure on that one foundation.
God’s gold has a threefold application to those who are in Christ, whom God has made more precious than the finest gold. It is His gold standard for their life, the bright gold refined in the fire of chastisement or the furnace of affliction. It is the bought gold that we are to purchase for the enrichment of our spiritual lives. It is also one of the precious materials that denote the quality of the believer’s service for Christ in the holy temple which our Lord calls His Church. “If any man build on this foundation gold, … the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is (1 Corinthians 3:12_13). At the Judgment Seat of Christ to which the Apostle refers as the day when our service will be brought into the light of divine scrutiny, three aspects of each believer’s building will be examined — the materials used, the motives actuating his service and the manner in which he has built.
The materials used in the building are of two kinds, those that are fireproof and imperishable — gold, silver and costly stones — and the combustible materials such as wood, hay and stubble that fire destroys. When discoursing on the growth of the Church, Paul uses in his letters the words edifying and edification, which simply mean building up. Divine truth is the great prerequisite for this, and the truth is to be spoken in love. Gold, silver and costly stones are figurative of various aspects of the truth that God has revealed in His Word. The Lord Jesus in His intercession for His own in John 17, prayed, “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth.” Gold has the priority, for it typifies the glory and righteousness of God and the preciousness of Christ. Are we who minister to the saints building gold into God’s holy habitation? The fire is indicative of the severity of the test at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “Our God is a consuming fire.” All the dross that adhered to the doctrine that we held and propounded will there be purged out and only the pure gold will remain. But there, too, much that passed for gold in human estimation will be seen to be worthless, and possibly some of the service that did not figure high in man’s appraisal, or our own, will be found to have been pure gold.
“Words of merit, as we thought them, He will show us were but sin:
Little acts we had forgotten He will own were done for Him.”
The motives actuating service for Christ will also be subjected to the test of fire. Then the Lord will bring to light the hidden motives which none can see just now, and unveil the inner counsels of the heart. Then the praise of men received now will count for nothing, for all who deserve commendation will then receive it from God (1 Corinthians 4:5).
The manner in which the work of building has been done will also be tested by fire, for each of us is exhorted to take heed how he builds on that one foundation. The manner in which each has performed his or her part will also come into the reckoning as it is subjected to the fire. Rewards will be graciously awarded to all whose service has brought glory to God, whose life’s work has stood the test. “Jerry-builders,” whose work has been of the nature of wood, hay and stubble, will “suffer loss” and forfeit the Lord’s commendation; yet they themselves will be saved, but it will be “a bare escape through fire.”
The highest award for service will be God’s gold. Gold, having stood the test and survived the fire, will have been melted in the fire in order to be moulded. When John, banished to Patmos for the testimony of Jesus, was in the Spirit and saw the throne set up in Heaven, he observed that some of Heaven’s worshippers, the twenty-four elders, “had on their heads crowns of gold.” Built gold, tested and melted in the fire at the Bema, will surely be moulded into crowns of gold to be cast before the throne. What higher reward could a sinner saved by grace receive in that city of gold than to see his golden nugget of faithful service on earth, purged there of all its dross, moulded into an incorruptible crown of life, or of glory, or of righteousness, or of rejoicing, that he or she, when proclaiming the worth of the Lamb that was slain, the Lord of life and glory, might cast in lowly adoration before His throne!