1 Corinthians 3:15 -but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire

De Maria's picture

For Catholics the answer is Purgatory.

What is the answer for Protestants?

1 Corinthians 3:15
If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

kenauyeung's picture

1 Cor 3:15 A Catholic's point of view

The first letter of Corinthians gives us an insight into the life of an early Christian community. It dealt with many issues.

Factionalism was the first problem that Paul dealt with in this letter, from chapter 1:10 to 4:21. Not unlike today’s many Christian denominations, as certain members were identifying themselves exclusively with individual Christian leader (Paul, Apollo, and Cephas (Simon Peter)) and interpreting Christian teaching as a superior wisdom for the initiated few. Paul pointed out that the only one that counted should be Jesus the crucified. The wisdom of God is superior to all.

Is 1 Corinthians 3:15 about doctrine, work, or a person?

Let us look at this passage more carefully:

[9] For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
[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.

It seems to me that verse 9-10 saying that Paul laid the foundation, Apollo was the builder, and the Corinthian community was the buildings. Then Paul turned around to say that Jesus was the one who laid the foundation and the building were each other’s work. The buildings are the builders also. The quality of the buildings and the builders would be the quality of their own work, and they would be tested in the “Day of the Lord”. As a matter of fact, all builders were someone else’s building, including Paul (see 15:9-10, Act 9:17).

Catholics belief that the fire of purgation applies to everyone may it be on earth or after death. We also believe that “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph 2:8) and our faith “… more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pt 1:7) The church is presented to God in a glorious state without blemish. (Eph 5:27). In heaven, “nothing unclean shall enter it.” (Rev 21:27)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.

It is MY belief that Jesus went through such purgation too, Heb 5:
[7] In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.
[8] Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;
[9] and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

The difference was “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) To avoid pain and suffering is natural. To be a Christian, is to “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1) We could have imagined how much Paul suffered for Christ, and reckon that he was perfectly purified and was in union with Christ at his martyrdom. For the less heroic Christian like me, purgatory is an acceptable alternative. However, I would try to improve on the quality and quantity of building I am going to build. After all, Jesus was made perfect through what he suffered, yet can we avoid suffering as he asked us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”? (Mt 5:48)

To me, this is doctrinal passage on the afterlife, namely “purgatory”, and motivates us to be the best we can be as a Christian. Realizing we are the building (person) and also the builder (work) we must guard against inertia, and be an imitator of Christ.

Being a Catholic, I cannot accept the building is the Church. In Mt 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” No one builds the Church except Jesus. We believe that the Church is the body of Christ. Though individual members are all sinners, we have Christ as the head of the body (Eph 5:23), therefore the Church is HOLY for Jesus the Christ is holy. It is paradoxical to many. How can the individuals are sinner and yet the collective is holy? [“We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” (Nicene Creed 325 A.D.)] Would it be there is a mechanism to purify the individuals? What this mechanism may be?

Tomorrow will be Good Friday, let us ponder on the suffering of Christ. Jesus, how much pain that you suffered was caused by my sins? Can I share some of it if I can?

Kenneth AuYeung

May God bless you and keep you!
May His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
May He look upon you kindly and give you peace! (Num 6:25-26)

Kenneth AuYeung

May God bless you and keep you!
May His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
May He look upon you kindly and give you peace! (Num 6:25-26)