1 Cor: 3:15 (Purgatory)

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Will

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Hello I am in a discussion with a family member (was a cradle catholic now evangelical/fundamendalist). Discussing Purgatory like the title says. I have brought up 1Cor:3:15 among other things. But how would I approach this reply.

Basically, fire is being used symbolically in this passage to represent God’s testing of each man’s work, as is indicated by the context of verses 12 through 15a. Context determines the meaning of words. Therefore, the belief that the word ‘fire’ in verse 15b represents a purification process is unfounded, because it is assigning new meaning to the word which goes beyond the context of the passage. It is reading into the passage what is not there based on one’s personal beliefs. A good question to ask is: If someone were to read this passage who had no prior knowledge of the concept of purgatory, would they understand verse 15 as referring to a process where people are purified of their sins? The answer is, “No.” A truly unbiased person would interpret the word ‘fire’ in verse 15 the same way as it is interpreted in verse 13; that is, the testing of the quality of a person’s work on the Day of Judgment to determine his receipt or loss of rewards, not as a purification process that occurs apart from the Day of Judgment to make a person right for heaven. This interpretation deviates from the context of the passage in at least three ways: 1) The fire is for testing a person’s work, not for purifying his soul. 2) This event takes place on the Day of Judgment, which is in the future. Purgatory, on the other hand, begins at the moment of a person’s death and it lasts for an indeterminate amount of time. And 3) the testing by fire is for determining the receipt or loss of rewards, not for making a person right for heaven. The latter in each of these three cases is reading meaning into the passage. The goal of Bible study is to read “out of the text” the original meaning of the author, as opposed to reading “into the text” one’s own preunderstandings. Not reading one’s own preunderstandings into a text is probably one of the most difficult aspects to studying the Bible, which no one is immune to. Having been raised Catholic I can easily see how one can come to the conclusion that verse 15 supports the idea of purgatory. However, the plain meaning of the text is that the builder’s works will be tested by fire to determine his reward, or loss of reward, in heaven. The worker will be saved regardless of the quality of his work. He will escape or pass through, in a manner of speaking, the fire that tests his work. There are no purifying qualities to this fire. It is also unnecessary, because the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7-9).

To summarize, Catholicism makes a distinction between the fire in verse 13 and the fire in verse 15. However, the text does not allow this distinction to be made. From the first time fire is mentioned in this passage and continuing through the first half of verse 15, it is used to represent the testing of each man’s work. There is nothing in this passage to suggest that the fire suddenly takes on new meaning in the last half of verse 15.

Any help would be apreciated.
)P.S. I don’t have much computer time in my day so I will just say thanks for the help now.)
👍
 
The concept of Purgatory is mentioned in other places besides 1 Corinthians. I Peter 3:19 is probably the most obvious. There is no fundamentalist/evangelical that I know who every argued that after the Crucification Christ rescued people from hell. If not hell then the people refered to in this verse must have been somewhere other than there or in Heaven. While the concept of Purgatory is not proved by this, it does at least show that the Bible acknowledges places in the afterlife other than heaven and hell.

I disagree with your friends argument on I Corinthians 3:15. Mr Keating makes a good point in Catholicism and Fundamentalism that purgatory is a natural conclusion to be reached by an uninformed person reading this passage for the first time. The loss can not relate to consignment to hell because no one suggests you can be saved from there. If not hell, and if you don’t need to be saved from heaven, then a temporary consignment to a place we’ll call purgatory makes perfect sense!
 
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Charles:
I disagree with your friends argument on I Corinthians 3:15. Mr Keating makes a good point in Catholicism and Fundamentalism that purgatory is a natural conclusion to be reached by an uninformed person reading this passage for the first time. The loss can not relate to consignment to hell because no one suggests you can be saved from there. If not hell, and if you don’t need to be saved from heaven, then a temporary consignment to a place we’ll call purgatory makes perfect sense!
Charles I agree with you on this point but you have to remember his point of view that he is saved and can’t lose out on going to heaven. Therefore he sees this passage as only determining the amout of his reward in heaven not having to be cleansed to get there.

Oh and thanks to all for the responses. 🙂
 
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Will:
Charles I agree with you on this point but you have to remember his point of view that he is saved and can’t lose out on going to heaven. Therefore he sees this passage as only determining the amout of his reward in heaven not having to be cleansed to get there.

Oh and thanks to all for the responses. 🙂
His “point of view” is once saved, always saved, it’s wrong. You can’t read the entire NT openly and faithfully and come away thinking “once saved, always saved”. It’s simply not consistant with Scripture.
 
Will,
let me preface my words by saying that I have no credentials in theology but the objection put forth to this passage fascinated me, and I had some ideas. Primarily I think that your family member may have put on some blinders regarding this verse. It strikes me as clearly referring to purgatorial fire for the following reasons.

First off, what kind of works does he think that the passage is discussing? It’s not talking about something impersonal, as though we bring to God so many possessions that can purchase or be bartered for rewards. The discussion on testing of works is begun by saying “you are … God’s building./ According to the commission 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. For no other foundation can any one lay other than that which is laid by Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble – each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire” etc.

Now, it says that WE are God’s building. And then discusses how we cooperate in making this building … building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. What are we building? Why, we’re building God’s building. And if we ARE God’s building, in ourselves, then what we contribute to this construction project is not some works that are divorced from ourselves (like a measurement of how many charities I contributed to in my earthly life) but rather, that work is our very selves. Thus, assuming the author of this epistle knew how to make his metaphor consistent (and I think that this is reasonable to expect) we make ourselves to become like wood, or hay or precious jewels or gold. It seems to me the passage is talking about how holy we make ourselves and that God is going to test our right to be part of his building.

Also, it reinforces this idea (that we, in ourselves are to be equated with our work) saying, “but he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. / Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” This epistle says that WE will be saved through fire, Not just the works that we present as though we brought it with us as some sort of heavenly currency.

I hope that someone more qualified as an apologist can correct me where I may be wrong. Purgatory isn’t a subject that I have studied in any great detail. But this is how the passage reads to me. 🙂
 
Also, I forgot to add to my post above, it’s worth noting that paragraph breaks did not exist in the original letter. So where it says “you are God’s building” we see a paragraph break which generally indicates a change of subject or shift of emphasis. Bringing this to the particular passage makes it appear that this statement is unrelated to the next lines about our works being tested, but this is imposing a grammar device (a paragraph break) that the letter didn’t have. It is very much related to the verses under discussion, as is the conclusion to the metaphor, “do you not know that you are God’s temple?” which is preceded by a paragraph break.
 
regarding time difficulties:

in the part of the passage that reads “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” your family relation concludes that ‘the Day’ must be the day of Judgment at the end of the world (if I read your post correctly). But, from my un-scholarly perspective it doesn’t seem necessary. It just as easily refers to the day of one’s personal judgment right at death. And if it definitely referred to the Final Judgment, we still don’t have a timetable difficulty like you were presented with. I think we have two possibilities.
  1. We’re purgated at the time of our death so that, when the Final Judgment rolls around what survived the purgatorial fires are made manifest to all or
  2. if we must believe the purgation happens at the same time that the Day reveals our work (and the text doesn’t seem to necessitate that reading to me) we should note that there is a strong tradition in the church that after death we live outside the sort of time that we currently experience. We may infact be transported immediately to the Final Judgment alongside all who have gone before (except it won’t be ‘before’ anymore) whence we go through purgatorial fires.
I hope my thoughts are of some use. As I’ve said before, I am not a thelogian by any stretch of the word and look forward to being corrected if I presented anything un-orthodox here.
 
What is the purpose of fire in testing work? To get rid of the impurities and imperfections… a refiners fire perhaps? Even my old protestant church taught that.
 
AdamD, thanks it helps.
It is nice to get the same idea in different words when trying to explane or discuss it with someone.
 
I think people somtimes miss the fact that Paul is not speaking about literal fire here. The passage reads that the believer will be saved “as through fire.” The term “as” implies something similar to fire, but different then fire itself. Paul is using a simile to describe the method by which the believer will be saved or purified, not defining the method itself. Regardless, whether the purification process is by fire or some means similar to fire, the passage is clear that it will not be a particularly pleasant one.
 
Amazing how people just assume things! :tsktsk: Where in Scripture does the concept of purgatory appear? It doesn’t! IF it did, why didn’t Jesus mention it in Luke 16:19-31 (speaking of the Rich man and Lazarus).

Here’s lies another problem: The only thing keeping us OUT of heaven is our sin. Christ died for the PAYMENT of our sin. If the PAYMENT of my sin has been PAID for, then I have full assurance of my salvation…

“I do not set aside the GRACE of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”— Galatians 2:21
 
My boyfriend reads that (1 cor: 3:15) as judgment day, the second coming … not purgatory… and I am also having alot of touble trying to convince him otherwise 😦
 
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liber8ed217:
Amazing how people just assume things! :tsktsk: Where in Scripture does the concept of purgatory appear? It doesn’t! IF it did, why didn’t Jesus mention it in Luke 16:19-31 (speaking of the Rich man and Lazarus).

Here’s lies another problem: The only thing keeping us OUT of heaven is our sin. Christ died for the PAYMENT of our sin. If the PAYMENT of my sin has been PAID for, then I have full assurance of my salvation…

“I do not set aside the GRACE of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”— Galatians 2:21
If you read the links at the top of the post this will tell you where in the bible we get purgatory form…you will have to read it all and read in context with the reason it is being written…when you understand where we get it from then you can trully say that you do not believe in it.
Are you allowed to just sin constantly…NO i dont thinkso…Do we still commit sins…YES…If our sin was TOTALY paid for then we wouldn’t worry about sinning now would we?
Christ died for our sins, so that they can be forgiven…so that we have the choice of Heaven or Hell…It does not mean that just because he died we can go to heaven otherwise everyone would be in heaven…and we could say .‘oh i think al sin today…you know al go and kill that person over there coz al get into heaven anyway coz Christ opened the door’
 
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liber8ed217:
Amazing how people just assume things! :tsktsk: Where in Scripture does the concept of purgatory appear? It doesn’t! IF it did, why didn’t Jesus mention it in Luke 16:19-31 (speaking of the Rich man and Lazarus).

Here’s lies another problem: The only thing keeping us OUT of heaven is our sin. Christ died for the PAYMENT of our sin. If the PAYMENT of my sin has been PAID for, then I have full assurance of my salvation…

“I do not set aside the GRACE of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”— Galatians 2:21
The problem here is that the word “purgatory” does not appear in Scripture. Just as the words “incarnation” and “trinity” do not appear in Scripture. Historically, we have sometimes imagined purgatory perhaps too literally: drawing our own pictures of torment. For example, is there really a difference between “literal” fire and whatever holy fire God will use to purify us so that we may enter the Holy City? Remember, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29) – is it possible that God himself is “purgatory?” I think so.
 
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liber8ed217:
Amazing how people just assume things! :tsktsk: Where in Scripture does the concept of purgatory appear? It doesn’t! IF it did, why didn’t Jesus mention it in Luke 16:19-31 (speaking of the Rich man and Lazarus).
The problem with isolating a topic like purgatory and trying to have a meaningful discussion about its justification is this: Most Protestants hold to Solo Scriptura and Catholics believe that Scripture plus the teaching authority of the Church are the means by which truth has been revealed. The teaching authority of the Church cannot contradict the Scriptures, but does develop revealed truth where Scripture is silent or vague on an issue.

This is why most debates on issues like purgatory, Mary, praying to the saints, etc. stall when the Protestant says, “That’s not in the Bible.” Therefore, the more important issue to discuss and debate is the question of authority and the merits of Solo Scriptura.

This is not to say that these issues are not supported by Scripture, they are; but the Scriptural support for these issues cannot be expressed in a “sound bite” manner.

Furthermore, it is really pointless to debate purgatory. If the Church is incorrect, my believing that it exists won’t affect my salvation. If the Church is correct, denial of the existance of some “purging” or “cleansing” prior to entrance into the Presence of God won’t change the fact. In fact, those of us who go through this “purging” will not likely care about our petty arguments here on earth and will simply be glad to be “cleansed” if that’s what it takes.

Your quoting of Galatians 2:21 suggests that you mistakenly think (as many who do not take the time to research what the Catholic Church actually teaches) that Catholics believe that we must “earn” our way to heaven through “works of the law.” Actually, this Scripture specifically refers to the Jewish Law and not obedience to God (John links love for God with obedience in his Gospel and letters). Furthermore, the Church teaches that believing one’s own righteousness can earn heaven is heresy, but this is another topic entirely.

Blessings
 
Interesting how the Protest-ant always seeks to disprove Catholic Doctrine by quoting Paul, a Catholic Priest. Forgetting, of course, that if alive today, Paul would be wearing a white clerical collar. 😃
 
Hello I am in a discussion with a family member (was a cradle catholic now evangelical/fundamendalist). Discussing Purgatory like the title says. I have brought up 1Cor:3:15 among other things. But how would I approach this reply.
It is perfectly clear that St. Paul is speaking of the purgation process in 1 Cor 3:12 - 1 Cor 3:15. Even more clear is that those who were actually there at the time, i.e. the early Christian writers, show that that is, in fact, what he meant.
 
Just as a side note, you’ve got to remember that the OSAS supporters are a tough crowd. I have family members of my own who believe in this and they’re all but incredulous. To go from their position of no matter what I do i’m going to heaven to the realization of serious and eternal consequenses for our actions here on earth can, to say the least, be quite a shocker. I think most will not go there because the very contemplation brings with it fear. Although, I don’t think most will admit it. Consequently, they just wont go their.
 
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