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Friday, October 19, 2018

Dissection Of 1 Corinthians 3:15 As A Catholic Prooftext

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic speaker Karlo Broussard wrote an article for Catholic Answers titled "Purgatory's Purifying Fire", which contains responses to various Protestant arguments against the citation of 1 Corinthians 3:15 as a proof-text for that dogma. This article aims to refute Catholic claims of the text being a reference to a person receiving purification in purgatory after death. To begin this short critique, I quote the author:

          "The idea of purification connotes the separation of good from bad...The good building materials (gold, precious stones, and silver) are separated from the bad building materials (wood, hay, and straw)."

          While it is true that good and bad works are being contrasted in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, the problem with this argument is that the concept of Purgatory is merely read into the passage. The context has nothing to do with a person suffering for his or her sins. It is not about our justification. It is not about believers undergoing punishment after death for possibly remaining sins. Quite to the contrary, the text is about the reception of heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 3:8; 14). God will evaluate the quality of each believer's work so as to bestow praise appropriately (1 Corinthians 4:5). See this article for further details:

          https://rationalchristiandiscernment.blogspot.com/2018/02/rebutting-rebuttal-by-catholic-answers.html

          "Furthermore, the imagery of fire conjures up the motif of purification. Peter uses it in 1 Peter 1:7 with reference to testing gold, and says that our sufferings test the genuineness of our faith."

          We agree that God uses trials as a means to build up our faith and character (Romans 5:3-5). However, this argument for 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 being a reference to purgatory fails because it confuses justification with sanctification. The imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ is applied to believers on a regular basis (Hebrews 1:3; 2 Peter 1:9; 1 John 3:2-3), thus eliminating any need for purgatory.

          "A third piece of evidence for the purification motif is the idea of judgment. Recall that the prophet Malachi describes God’s judgment as a “refiner’s fire,” and notes that God will “sit as a refiner” purifying the sons of Levi and refining them like gold and silver (Mal. 3:2-3)."

          Here is an excerpt from Dr. Thomas Constable's notes on Malachi 3:2-3:

          "When the Lord came suddenly to His temple, no one would be able to stand before Him. Elsewhere the prophets foretold that this time would be a day of judgment on the whole world marked by disaster and death (4:1; Isa. 2:12; Joel 3:11-16; Amos 5:18-21; Zech. 1:14-17). Here Malachi said no one would be able to endure His coming because He would purify the priesthood, the people who stood closest to Him. As a fire He would burn up the impurities of the priests, and as a laundryman’s soap He would wash them clean (cf. Deut. 4:29; Isa. 1:25; Jer. 6:29-30; Ezek. 22:17-22; Zech. 3:5). The Levitical priests would then be able to offer sacrifices to Yahweh in a righteous condition rather than as they were in Malachi’s day (cf. 1:6—2:9; Isa. 56:7; 66:20-23; Jer. 33:18; Ezek. 40:38-43; 43:13-27; 45:9-25; Zech. 14:16-21). The multiple figures of cleansing and the repetition of terms for cleansing stress the thoroughness of the change that the Lord’s Messenger would produce."

           The Lord Jesus Christ through His gospel shall purge our souls and conform us to His likeness. The Holy Spirit regenerates and cleanses His faithful remnant. The Savior "refines" us by faith. He protects us from the incurred eternal wrath that we deserve. When God forgives our trespasses, it is as though He no longer remembers them (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12-13). He does not count sin against those whom He is reconciling (2 Corinthians 5:19). Jesus Christ has already made perfect atonement for our sins (Hebrews 10:18; 1 John 2:1-2).

           The context of 1 Corinthians 3:15 is about stewardship, not salvation. The fire reveals the quality of each person's works on the Day of Judgement. Nowhere in context do we see poorer quality works being removed. There is no mention of a secondary judgement in this context. The phrase "he shall suffer loss" in verse fifteen simply means loss of heavenly rewards. The Good News Translation renders the text as follows:

           "But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire." (1 Corinthians 3:15)

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