Monday, February 1, 2021

Dissection Of 1 Corinthians 3:15 As A Catholic Prooftext

  • Discussion:
          -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 Roman Catholic claims of the text being a reference to a person receiving purification in purgatory after death. Following are a few excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "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 read into the passage. The context has nothing to do with a person making amends for his or her sins. It is not about 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."

          Just as men use fire for the purpose of refining precious metals such as gold and silver, God uses trials as a means to build up our faith and our character (Job 23:10; Romans 5:3-5). That is what distinguishes trust in God from mere intellectual assent that even demons have. The imagery of fire has nothing whatsoever to do with 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, He no longer "remembers" them (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12-13). He does not count sin against those whom He has reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:19). Jesus Christ has already made perfect atonement for our sins (Hebrews 10:18; 1 John 2:1-2). Consider the following Roman Catholic quotes on Purgatory being an unbiblical concept:

         "In the final analysis, the Catholic doctrine on purgatory is based on tradition, not Sacred Scripture." (Vol. XI, pg. 1034, Copyright 1967, Catholic University of America)

         “There is, for all practical purposes, no biblical basis for the doctrine of purgatory.” (Richard McBrien, Catholicism: New Edition, p. 1166)

         The Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote on the text of 1 Corinthians 3:15:

         “The text of v. 15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this.”

         The Concordia Self-Study Bible New International Version has this footnote on the text of 1 Corinthians 3:15:

         "loss. Of reward (v. 14). as one escaping through the flames. Perhaps a Greek proverbial phrase, meaning "by a narrow escape," with one's work burned up by the fire of God's pure justice and judgement."

         The context of 1 Corinthians 3:15 is about stewardship, not how one gets right with God. The fire reveals the quality of each person's works on the Day of Judgement. The phrase "he shall suffer loss" in verse fifteen refers to the loss of heavenly rewards. The Good News Translation renders 1 Corinthians 3:15 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)

3 comments:

  1. Hi Jesse!
    This would be a great article to be listed under 'Christian Universalism,' especially for those, who promote the idea that Hell is purgative/purifying/refining and NOT a place of punishment.

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  2. An excellent article Jesse, very good points.

    You mentioned that the NAB translation of the Bible has a footnote on 1Co 3:15 which reads: "The text of 1 Cor 3:15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this." I would add that this Bible translation and the accompanying footnote can both be found on the official Vatican website. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/__PZ8.HTM#$4AC

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