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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 3:15

 

 

If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Adam Clarke Commentary

If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss - If he have preached the necessity of incorporating the law with the Gospel, or proclaimed as a doctrine of God any thing which did not proceed from heaven, he shall suffer loss - all his time and labor will be found to be uselessly employed and spent. Some refer the loss to the work, not to the man; and understand the passage thus: If any man's work be burned, It shall suffer loss - much shall be taken away from it; nothing shall he left but the measure of truth and uprightness which it may have contained.

But he himself shall be saved - If he have sincerely and conscientiously believed what he preached, and yet preached what was wrong, not through malice or opposition to the Gospel, but through mere ignorance, he shall be saved; God in his mercy will pass by his errors; and he shall not suffer punishment because he was mistaken. Yet, as in most erroneous teachings there is generally a portion of wilful and obstinate ignorance, the salvation of such erroneous teachers is very rare; and is expressed here, yet so as by fire, i.e. with great difficulty; a mere escape; a hair's breadth deliverance; he shall be like a brand plucked out of the fire.

The apostle obviously refers to the case of a man, who, having builded a house, and begun to dwell in it, the house happens to be set on fire, and he has warning of it just in time to escape with his life, losing at the same time his house, his goods, his labor, and almost his own life. So he who, while he holds the doctrine of Christ crucified as the only foundation on which a soul can rest its hopes of salvation, builds at the same time, on that foundation, Antinomianism, or any other erroneous or destructive doctrine, he shall lose all his labor, and his own soul scarcely escape everlasting perdition; nor even this unless sheer ignorance and inveterate prejudice, connected with much sincerity, be found in his case.

The popish writers have applied what is here spoken to the fire of purgatory; and they might with equal propriety have applied it to the discovery of the longitude, the perpetual motion, or the philosopher's stone; because it speaks just as much of the former as it does of any of the latter. The fire mentioned here is to try the man's work, not to purify his soul; but the dream of purgatory refers to the purging in another state what left this impure; not the work of the man, but the man himself; but here the fire is said to try the work: ergo, purgatory is not meant even if such a place as purgatory could be proved to exist; which remains yet to be demonstrated.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

If any man‘s work shall be burned - If it shall not be found to hear the test of the investigation of that Day - as a cottage of wood, hay, and stubble would not bear the application of fire. If his doctrines have not been true; if he has had mistaken views of piety; if he has nourished feelings which he thought were those of religion; and inculcated practices which, however well meant, are not such as the gospel produces; if he has fallen into error of opinion, feeling, practice, however conscientious, yet he shall suffer loss.

He shall suffer loss - :

(1) He shall not be elevated to as high a rank and to as high happiness as he otherwise would. That which he supposed would be regarded as acceptable by the Judge, and rewarded accordingly, shall be stripped away, and shown to be unfounded and false; and in consequence, he shall not obtain those elevated rewards which he anticipated. This, compared with what he expected, may be regarded as a loss.

(2) he shall be injuriously affected by this forever. It shall be a detriment to him to all eternity. The effects shall be felt in all his residence in heaven - not producing misery but attending him with the consciousness that he might have been raised to superior bliss in the eternal abode - The phrase here literally means, “he shall be mulcted.” The word is a legal term, and means that he shall be fined, that is, he shall suffer detriment.

But he himself shall be saved - The apostle all along has supposed that the true foundation was laid 1 Corinthians 3:11, and if that is laid, and the edifice is reared upon that, the person who does it shall be safe. There may be much error, and many false views of religion, and much imperfection, still the man that is building on the true foundation shall be safe. His errors and imperfections shall be removed, and he may occupy a lower place in heaven, but he shall be safe.

Yet so as by fire - ὡς διὰ πυρός hōs dia purosThis passage has greatly perplexed commentators; but probably without any good reason. The apostle does not say that Christians will be doomed to the fires of purgatory; nor that they will pass through fire; nor that they will be exposed to pains and punishment at all; but he “simply carries out the figure” which he commenced, and says that they will be saved, as if the action of fire had been felt on the edifice on which he is speaking. That is, as fire would consume the wood, hay, and stubble, so on the great Day everything that is erroneous and imperfect in Christiana shall be removed, and that which is true and genuine shall be preserved as if it had passed through fire. Their whole character and opinions shall be investigated; and that which is good shall be approved; and that which is false and erroneous be removed.

The idea is not that of a man whose house is burnt over his head and who escapes through the flames, nor that of a man who is subjected to the pains and fires of purgatory; but that of a man who had been spending his time and strength to little purpose; who had built, indeed, on the true foundation, but who had reared so much on it which was unsound, and erroneous, and false, that he himself would be saved with great difficulty, and with the loss of much of that reward which he had expected, as if the fire had passed over him and his works. The simple idea, therefore, is, that that which is genuine and valuable in his doctrines and works, shall be rewarded, and the man shall be saved; that which is not sound and genuine, shall be removed, and he shall suffer loss. Some of the fathers, indeed, admitted that this passage taught that all people would be subjected to the action of fire in the great conflagration with which the world shall close; that the wicked shall be consumed; and that the righteous are to suffer, some more and some less, according to their character. On passages like this, the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory is based. But we may observe:

(1) That this passage does not necessarily or naturally give any such idea. The interpretation stated above is the natural interpretation, and one which the passage will not only bear, but which it demands.

(2) If this passage would give any countenance to the absurd and unscriptural idea that the souls of the righteous at the Day of Judgment are to be re-united to their bodies, in order to be subjected to the action of intense heat, to be brought from the abodes of bliss and compelled to undergo the burning fires of the last conflagration, still it would give no countenance to the still more absurd and unscriptural opinion that those fires have been and are still burning; that all souls are to be subjected to them; and that they can be removed only by masses offered for the dead, and by the prayers of the living. The idea of danger and peril is, indeed, in this text; but the idea of personal salvation is retained and conveyed.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

If any man's work shall be burnt,.... If any minister's doctrine he has preached shall be destroyed and disappear, shall be disapproved of, and rejected by the churches, not being able, to bear the light and heat of the fire of God's word:

he shall suffer loss; of all his labour and pains he has been at, in collecting together such trifling, useless, and inconsistent things; and of all that glory and popular applause he might expect from men, on account of them, and which was the snare that drew him into such a way of preaching:

but he himself shall be saved; with an everlasting salvation; not by his ministerial labours, much less by his wood, hay, and stubble, which will be all burnt up; but through his being, notwithstanding all the imperfections of his ministry, upon the foundation Christ:

yet so as by fire; with much difficulty, and will be scarcely saved; see 1 Peter 4:17 with great danger, loss, and shame; as a man that is burnt out of house and home, he escapes himself with his own life, but loses all about him: so the Syriac version reads it, איך דמן נורא, "as out of the fire": see Zechariah 3:2. Or the sense is, that he shall be tried by the fire of the word, and convinced by the light of it of the errors, irregularities, and inconsistencies of his ministry; either in his time of life and health, or on a death bed; and shall have all his wood, hay, and stubble burnt up, for nothing of this kind shall he carry with him in his judgment to heaven; only the gold, silver, and precious stones; and will find that the latter doctrines, and not the former, will only support him in the views of death and eternity.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but 8 he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

(8) He does not take away the hope of salvation from the unskilful and foolish builders, who hold fast the foundation, of which sort were those rhetoricians, rather than the pastors of Corinth. However, he adds an exception, that they must nonetheless suffer this trial of their work, and also abide the loss of their vain labours.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

be burnt — if any teacher‘s work consist of such materials as the fire will destroy [Alford].

suffer loss — that is, forfeit the special “reward”; not that he shall lose salvation (which is altogether a free gift, not a “reward” or wages), for he remains still on the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:12; 2 John 1:6).

saved; yet so as by fire — rather, “so as through fire” (Zechariah 3:2; Amos 4:11; Judges 1:23). “Saved, yet not without fire” (Romans 2:27) [Bengel]. As a builder whose building, not the foundation, is consumed by fire, escapes, but with the loss of his work [Alford]; as the shipwrecked merchant, though he has lost his merchandise, is saved, though having to pass through the waves [Bengel]; Malachi 3:1, Malachi 3:2; Malachi 4:1, give the key to explain the imagery. The “Lord suddenly coming to His temple” in flaming “fire,” all the parts of the building which will not stand that fire will be consumed; the builders will escape with personal salvation, but with the loss of their work, through the midst of the conflagration [Alford]. Again, a distinction is recognized between minor and fundamental doctrines (if we regard the superstructure as representing the doctrines superadded to the elementary essentials); a man may err as to the former, and yet be saved, but not so as to the latter (compare Philemon 3:15).


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Shall be burned (κατακαησεταιkatakaēsetai). First-class condition again, assumed as true. Second future (late form) passive indicative of κατακαιωkatakaiō to burn down, old verb. Note perfective use of preposition καταkata shall be burned down. We usually say “burned up,” and that is true also, burned up in smoke.

He shall suffer loss (ζημιωτησεταιzēmiōthēsetai). First future passive indicative of ζημιωzēmiō old verb from ζημιαzēmia (damage, loss), to suffer loss. In Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25 the loss is stated to be the man‘s soul (πσυχηνpsuchēn) or eternal life. But here there is no such total loss as that. The man‘s work (εργονergon) is burned up (sermons, lectures, books, teaching, all dry as dust).

But he himself shall be saved (αυτος δε σωτησεταιautos de sōthēsetai). Eternal salvation, but not by purgatory. His work is burned up completely and hopelessly, but he himself escapes destruction because he is really a saved man a real believer in Christ.

Yet so as through fire (ουτως δε ως δια πυροςhoutōs de hōs dia puros). Clearly Paul means with his work burned down (1 Corinthians 3:15). It is the tragedy of a fruitless life, of a minister who built so poorly on the true foundation that his work went up in smoke. His sermons were empty froth or windy words without edifying or building power. They left no mark in the lives of the hearers. It is the picture of a wasted life. The one who enters heaven by grace, as we all do who are saved, yet who brings no sheaves with him. There is no garnered grain the result of his labours in the harvest field. There are no souls in heaven as the result of his toil for Christ, no enrichment of character, no growth in grace.


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/1-corinthians-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Shall suffer loss ( ζημιωθήσεται )

He shall be mulcted, not punished. See on Matthew 16:26; see on Luke 9:25.

He himself shall be saved

Compare Dante of Constantine:

“The next who follows, with the laws and me,

Under the good intent that bore bad fruit

Became a Greek by ceding to the pastor;

Now knoweth he how all the ill deduced

From his good action is not harmful to him,

Although the world thereby may be destroyed.”

Paradiso,” xx. 55-60.

By fire ( διὰ πυρός )

Better, Rev., through fire. He will escape as through the fire that consumes his work, as one does through the flames which destroy his house.


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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/1-corinthians-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

He shall suffer loss — The loss of that peculiar degree of glory.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-corinthians-3.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Yet so as by fire; with difficulty,--as one escapes from a burning building.


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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/1-corinthians-3.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

15.If any man’s work shall be burned. It is as though he had said: Let no man flatter himself on the ground that, in the opinion of men, he is reckoned among the most eminent master-builders, for as soon as the day breaks in, his whole work must go utterly to nothing, if it is not approved of by the Lord. This, then, is the rule to which every one’s ministry requires to be conformed. Some explain this of doctrine, so that ζημιουσθαι (181) means simply to perish, and then what immediately follows they view as referring to the foundation, because in the Greek θεμελιος (foundation) is in the masculine gender. They do not, however, sufficiently attend to the entire context. For Paul in this passage subjects to trial, not his own doctrine, but that of others. (182) Hence it were out of place to make mention at present of the foundation. He has stated a little before, that every man’s work will be tried by fire. He comes afterwards to state an alternative, which ought not to be extended beyond that general observation. Now it is certain that Paul spoke there simply of the structure which had been erected upon the foundation. He has already in the first clause promised a reward to good master-builders, (183) whose labor shall have been approved of. Hence the contrast in the second clause suits admirably well — that those who have mixed stubble, or wood, or straw, will be disappointed of the commendation which they had expected.

He himself will be saved, etc. It is certain that Paul speaks of those who, while always retaining the foundations, mix hay with gold, stubble with silver, and wood with precious stones — that is, those who build upon Christ, but in consequence of the weakness of the flesh, admit something that is man’s, or through ignorance turn aside to some extent from the strict purity of God’s word. Such were many of the saints, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, and the like. Add to these, if you choose, from those of later times, Gregory and Bernard, and others of that stamp, who, while they had it as their object to build upon Christ, did nevertheless often deviate from the right system of building. Such persons, Paul says, could be saved, but on this condition — if the Lord wiped away their ignorance, and purged them from all dross.

This is the meaning of the clause so as by fire. He means, therefore, to intimate, that he does not take away from them the hope of salvation, provided they willingly submit to the loss of their labor, and are purged by the mercy of God, as gold is refined in the furnace. Farther, although God sometimes purges his own people by afflictions, yet here by the name of fire, I understand the touchstone of the Spirit, by which the Lord corrects and removes the ignorance of his people, by which they were for a time held captive. I am aware, indeed, that, many refer this to the cross, (184) but I am confident that my interpretation will please all that are of sound judgment.

It remains, that we give an answer in passing to the Papists, who endeavor from this passage to prop up Purgatory. “The sinners (185) whom God forgives, pass through the fire, that they may be saved.” Hence they in this way suffer punishment in the presence of God, so as to afford satisfaction to his justice I pass over their endless fictions in reference to the measure of punishment, and the means of redemption from them, but I ask, who they are that pass through the fire? Paul assuredly speaks of ministers alone. “There is the same reason,” they say, “as to all.” It is not for us (186) but for God to judge as to this matter. But even granting them this, how childishly they stumble at the term fire. For to what purpose is this fire, (187) but for burning up the hay and straw, and on the other hand, for proving the gold and silver. Do they mean to say that doctrines are discerned by the fire of their purgatory? Who has ever learned from that, what difference there is between truth and falsehood? Farther, when will that day come that will shine forth so as to discover every one’s work? Did it begin at the beginning of the world, and will it continue without interruption to the end? If the terms stubble, hay, gold, and silver are figurative, as they must necessarily allow, what correspondence will there be between the different clauses, if there is nothing figurative in the term fire? Away, then, with such silly trifles, which carry their absurdity in their forehead, for the Apostle’s true meaning is, I think, sufficiently manifest.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-corinthians-3.html. 1840-57.

Vv. 15. To understand the picture which the apostle draws of the opposite result, we must undoubtedly suppose the workmen occupying the portion of the building which has been committed to them, and to which they are putting the last touch. In proportion as the fire, set to the building, consumes the combustible materials of which the bad workman has made use, the latter of course finds himself in danger of perishing along with his work; if he is saved, it can only be by escaping through the flames, and thanks to the solidity of the foundation.

The second future κατακαήσεται, shall be burned, is an ancient form (Homer, Hesiod) which had been replaced by the first future καυθήσομαι, and which reappears in the later Greek writers. By the perishable work of this labourer, Paul understands the Christian life without seriousness, humility, self-denial, personal communion with Christ, which has been produced among the members of the Church by the ministry of a preacher solely concerned to move sensibility, to charm the mind and please his audience.

The loss, ζημία, with which he is threatened, consists above all in the proved uselessness of his labour and in its destruction, which will take place under his own eyes. With what pain will he contemplate the merely external fruits of his brilliant or profound preaching passing away in smoke! Then he will see himself refused the reward of the faithful servant, the honourable position in Christ"s kingdom, to which he imagined himself entitled: the payment of his cheque will be refused him.

But the apostle adds that this worker shall be saved. Chrysostom and the old Greek commentators understood the word save here in the sense of keep: "kept in Gehenna to suffer for ever." But the pronoun αὐτός establishes an evident contrast between the reward lost and the person saved; then the verb σώζειν, to save, is always taken in a favourable sense; Paul would have required to say in the sense indicated τηρηθήσεται, shall be kept; finally, the διὰ πυρός, through fire, is not identical with ἐν πυρί, in fire. The apostle certainly means, that though this workman has put bad materials into the building, yet because he built on the foundation he will not be given over to condemnation. But if he reaches salvation, it will only be through the furnace, like one who is obliged, in order to save his life, to pass through the flames. This furnace comprehends all the terrors of this judgment: the shame of this revelation, the horror caused by the look of the offended Judge, the grief of seeing the work on which he congratulated himself reduced to nothingness, and the souls whom he thought he had built up incapable of undergoing the last trial, and lost partly through his fault...! "I have searched myself and I have found myself," said a dying pastor; "this is all the punishment God reserves for me." Were not these the first kindlings of the fire of which the apostle here speaks?

Some Catholic commentators have thought to find in the words, as through fire, a proof in favour of the doctrine of purgatory, and the Council of Florence, in 1439 , based the dogma on this passage (Edwards). This is to forget,—1. that the fire is allegorical like the building; 2. that it is only teachers who are in question; 3. that the trial indicated is a means of valuation, not of purification; 4. that this fire is lighted at Christ"s coming, and consequently does not yet burn in the interval between the death of Christians and that advent; 5. that the salvation of the worker, of which Paul speaks, takes place not by, but in spite of the fire.

There is something more serious than to build badly, and that is to do violence to what is already built. Such is the relation between the following passage, 1 Corinthians 3:16-20, and the preceding. Hofmann well states this transition: "Paul passes from those who took upon them, without serious reflection, to continue his work at Corinth, to those who did not fear to destroy the fruit of his labour." Only it need not be said: of his labour; for he has not given himself out as one of the ἐποικοδομοῦντες, of those who have raised the building on the foundation laid. We must therefore speak of the work done, and successfully done, after Paul"s ministry. To whom are we to ascribe such labour if not to Apollos, who had watered what the apostle had planted? As, then, it was impossible to apply to this teacher the figure of the bad workman in the previous picture, it is still more impossible to apply to him the figure of the destroyers in the following representation. And since the labour of demolition, about to be spoken of, is attributed to that same human wisdom spoken of in chap. 1 , we find the opinion confirmed which we had expressed in explaining the chapter, viz. that it had no reference whatever to the ministry of Apollos.


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Bibliography
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsc/1-corinthians-3.html.

Scofield's Reference Notes

saved

(See Scofield "Romans 1:16")


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Bibliography
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/1-corinthians-3.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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

Ver. 15. He shall suffer loss] Of his work (his laborious loss of time) and of some part of his wages.

Yet so as by fire] Not of purgatory (a Popish fiction), but of the Holy Ghost. Or (as one interprets it) like unto them who save themselves naked out of the fire without carrying away any of their goods; so his person shall be saved, but he shall not have the reward of a well-qualified minister.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1865-1868.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

15.] if any man’s work shall be burnt up (i.e. consist of such materials as the fire will destroy: Stanley adds, “It is possible that this whole image, as addressed to the Corinthians, may have been suggested, or at least illustrated, by the conflagration of Corinth under Mummius: the stately temples (one of them remaining to this day) left standing amidst the universal crash and destruction of the meaner buildings”), he shall [suffer loss (literally,) be mulcted. ζημιωθ., scil. τὸν μισθόν, see ref. Matt., and Herod. vii. 39, τοῦ δὲ ἑνός, τοῦ περιέχεαι μάλιστα, τὴν ψυχὴν ζημιώσεαι, and Plato, Legg., vi. p. 774, εἰς μὲν οὖν χρήματα ὁ μὴ θέλων γαμεῖν τοσαῦτα ζημιούσθω): but he himself shall be saved (having held, and built on, the true foundation Jesus Christ, he shall not be excluded from that salvation which is the free gift of God to all who believe on Christ, but shall get no especial reward as a faithful and effectual teacher. Cf. 2 John 1:8, βλέπετε ἑαυτούς, ἵνα μὴ ἀπολέσητε ἃ εἰργασάμεθα, ἀλλὰ μισθὸνπλήρη ἀπολάβητε. Meyer remarks, that our Lord hints at such persons under the name of ἔσχατοι, Matthew 20:16; Mark 10:31), but so, as through fire:—i.e. as a builder whose building was consumed would escape with personal safety, but with the loss of his work.

Chrys., Theophyl., Œc(8), strangely understand it, that he shall be burnt for ever in the fire of Hell, unconsumed: οὐχὶ καὶ αὐτὸς οὕτως ἀπολεῖται ὡς τὰ ἔργα, εἰς τὸ μηδὲν χωρῶν· ἀλλὰ μενεῖ ἐν τῷ πυρί, Chrys. σώζεται, τουτέστι, σῶος τηρεῖται. δίκας αἰωνίους ὑπέχων, Theophyl. But (1) the fire of Hell is quite alien from the context (see above),—and (2) the meaning given to σώζεσθαι is unexampled,—and least of all could be intended where the coming of the Lord is spoken of: cf. inter alia, ch. 1 Corinthians 5:5, παραδοῦναι κ. τ. λ.… ἵνα τὸ πνεῦμα σωθῇ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τ. κυρίου.

Grot., Elsn., al., explain ὡς διὰ πυρός as a proverb, ‘tanquam ex incendio,’ for ‘with difficulty.’ But this is needless here, as the figure itself is that of an ‘incendium:’ and ὡς is nottanquam,’ but belongs to οὕτως, see reff.

The whole imagery of the passage will be best understood by carefully keeping in mind the key, which is to be found in the θεοῦ οἰκοδομή, and the ναὸς θεοῦ, as connected with the prophecy of Malachi 3, 4. There, ἐξαίφνης ἥξει εἰς τὸν ναὸν ἑαυτοῦ κύριοςαὐτὸς εἰσπορεύεται ὡς πῦρ χωνευτηρίουκαθιεῖται χωνεύων καὶ καθαρίζων ὡς τὸ ἀργύριον καὶ ὡς τὸ χρυσίον.… διότι ἰδοὺ ἡμέρα (add κυρίου A) ἔρχεται καιομένη ὡς κλίβανος, κ. φλέξει αὐτούς, καὶ ἔσονταικαλάμη, κ. ἀνάψει αὐτοὺς ἡ ἡμέρα ἡ ἐρχομένη. The Lord thus coming to His temple in flaming fire, all the parts of the building which will not stand that fire will be consumed: the builders of them will escape with personal salvation, but with the loss of their work, through the midst of the conflagration.


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/1-corinthians-3.html. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:15. ζημιωθήσεται, he shall suffer loss) He shall fail in obtaining the reward, not in obtaining salvation.— αὐτὸς) he himself.— σωθήσεται, shall be saved) because he does not forsake this foundation, 1 Corinthians 3:12.— ὡς, as) a particle of explanation and limitation; as one who should be obliged to go through fire.— διὰ, through) So διὰ, through [= with], Romans 2:27 : not without fire, comp. 1 Corinthians 3:13. As the shipwrecked merchant, though he has lost his merchandise and his gain, is saved through the waves.(28)


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/1-corinthians-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

But if his work do not abide, if it shall appear upon the more clear and bright shining out of the truth of the gospel, that though he hath held the foundation right, yet he hath built upon it wood, hay, and stubble, mixed fables, and idle stories, and corrupt doctrine with the doctrine of the gospel,

he shall suffer loss by it, either by the afflicting hand of God, or by a loss of his reputation, or some other way. But yet God will not cast off a soul for every such error, if he keeps to the main foundation, Jesus Christ; he shall be saved, though it be as by fire, that is, with difficulty; which certainly is a more natural sense of this text, than those give, who interpret as by fire, of the fire of the gospel, or the fire of purgatory, of which the papists understand it. For:

1. It is, and always hath been, a proverbial form of speech to express a thing obtained by difficulty; we say: It is got out of the fire, &c.

2. For the fire of purgatory, it is a fiction, and mere imaginary thing, and of no further significancy than to make the pope’s chimney smoke.

3. That pretended fire only purgeth venial sins; this fire trieth every man’s work, the gold as well as the stubble.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

If any man’s work shall be burned; if it be condemned as wrong, though he himself believed and is pardoned, he shall suffer loss; he shall lose his labor, and much of the good which might have resulted from a different and better course of conduct.

He himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire; as he who escapes naked from his house on fire, is saved from being consumed, but suffers loss.


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Bibliography
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Family Bible New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/1-corinthians-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

15. κατακαήσεται. Shall be burned up.

οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρος. The absolute equality of all in the world to come is no part of St Paul’s system. ‘One star differeth from another star in glory’ (ch. 1 Corinthians 15:41). But the history of the Apostle himself is a sufficient evidence that God will not punish with the loss of His presence the man who has acted up to the highest dictates of a conscience not yet fully enlightened. The work perishes, but he who believed himself to be actively serving God when in fact he was doing harm shall not be driven into the outer darkness. ‘Sincerity does not verify doctrine, but it saves the man; his person is accepted, though his work perish.’ Robertson. Yet he will be saved ‘so as by fire.’ Surely the ‘smell of fire’ may be said to pass on him who sees all those works which he so honestly believed to be for God vanishing as worthless stubble in the searching trial which will ‘purge away all the dross’ of our human doings, and leave only what is of real value in God’s sight.


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Bibliography
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-corinthians-3.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

15. Suffer loss—Like a householder who loses his home. It is true, the parable starts with the man as a builder; but the image becomes more expressive by allowing a change; namely, from a builder to an occupant.

As by fire—Like a refugee from his own “house-a-fire;” his home lost, his life scarce saved. This text plainly teaches the doctrine neither of purgatory nor of restorationism. It describes not the purging away by fire the sin or guilt within a man either before the judgment day, as in purgatory, nor after, as in a temporary hell; but the destruction of all false systems by the light of Christ’s final judgment, and the loss of their reward by the inventor of those systems.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-corinthians-3.html. 1874-1909.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

15. If the work of any one shall be burnt up, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, but truly as through fire.” Here you see the case is clear and lucid: this man whose foundation is all right, for the Holy Ghost laid it, has been truly regenerated, and has as good a foundation as his neighbor who builds on his foundation a fire-proof superstructure. But, unfortunately, this man builds on his foundation a house out of wood, hay and stubble, which he is bound to lose when fiery trials come. Now, it says he shall lose his house — “it shall be utterly consumed,” which is the meaning of the Greek, much stronger than E.V. “But he himself shall be saved through the fire;” i. e., he shall go to Heaven, but go through the fire, which will burn his house and everything he possesses, so that he will barely escape by the skin of his teeth, leaping out of a second-story window and running away for his life. So we find both of these vividly contrasted characters get to Heaven, the one rich in gold, silver and precious stones, and the other utterly impoverished, but merely squeezing in through the pearly gates, entering Heaven in spiritual infancy, where he must begin de novo to build his heavenly superstructure, which shall continue, tower and brighten through all eternity. Now, who is this man? He is no apostate, for in that case he would have lost his foundation, i. e., his regeneration. Rest assured, he is the man who, having been truly converted, blessedly born from above, has failed to go on to perfection. He has not been idle: he has built a great mansion, but, unfortunately, made it out of wood, hay and stubble; i. e., instead of going for holiness to the Lord, bottom-rock sanctification, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, Christ crowned within, the fullness of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, he said, like a noted religious editor recently: “The conversion God gave me in an old log school-house out in the country, when a boy, is good enough for me; I am satisfied with it.” This man is none of your deadheads, as you see he builds a great house. I know he becomes very active in the church, builds fine edifices, is a successful financier, looking after all the (human) institutions of the church. They make him a doctor of divinity, and send him to the general conference. Truly he is no ordinary man. He is beloved and honored by thousands, a popular and acceptable pastor, his Christian and ministerial character is irreproachable. He is Heaven-bound. Justification is a title-deed to Heaven, and holiness before we get there as a necessary qualification. So this good man comes to life’s end. He has not fought holiness, and backslidden in that way, but simply neglected it, holding fast his justification and thinking that it is enough. Here he has a title-deed to Heaven; but he can not go without entire sanctification. Therefore, like all genuine Christians who reach life’s end, and like all infants, he must receive it as the old theologians all tell us, in articulo mortis, i. e., in the article of death. The fires of the Holy Ghost coming on him, to sanctify him for Heaven, burn up his life-work, which was simply ecclesiastical, socialistic and philanthropic, in its very nature only appertaining to this world, and utterly heterogeneous to the heavenly state. Consequently he loses his life-work, because it will not do for Heaven, but himself, through the fires of the Holy Ghost in a death-bed sanctification, makes his way into Heaven, entering glory in spiritual infancy much as if he had died when a boy, soon after he was converted. Hence you see he has lost the opportunities of this life in the grand curriculum of heavenly holiness and perennial glory which shall constitute the employment and fruition of the saints through all eternity. Quite different was the case of his comrade who got converted at the same altar, but went for radical holiness and entire sanctification with all his might, the theme of his ministry and the battle-cry of his life being “Holiness to the Lord.” Consequently he built upon his foundation a holy experience, and spent his life in the straight line of holiness, making the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of believers his constant theme and lifework. Therefore he actually entered the heavenly state when he got sanctified wholly, and spent his whole life building a heavenly superstructure made out of heavenly materials, fire-proof, water- proof and time-proof. Consequently, when he rises from the battlefield to the mount of victory, the work of his whole life goes with him; is fully recognized in Heaven, valid and satisfactory, and becomes the glorious substratum of the heavenly superstructure which all the saints in glory build on through all eternity, ever towering and brightening, the admiration of angels and archangels, and the song of cherubim and seraphim, while the cycles of eternity speed their flight.

“Ye are God’s Temple.


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Bibliography
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/1-corinthians-3.html.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:15. If any man’s work shall be burned—as consisting of the inflammable “wood, hay, stubble,”

he shall suffer loss—loss of his time, his pains, his hopes, his credit; his whole ministry, even though right at bottom, yet all of it which is of this character, disappearing.

but he himself shall be saved—a statement of vast importance, as showing that the apostle is not speaking here of false teachers, but of the true servants of Christ.

yet so as by fire—as of one who escapes from the fire by a rush, or is plucked out of it, his naked person alone saved.

Note.—That the Church of Rome should deem such a passage any justification of their dogma of a purgatorial fire in the intermediate state is strange. For everything said of “the fire” here would seem to preclude any such interpretation.

(1) This fire is to “try every man’s work;” but no Romanist believes that of the purgatorial fire.

(2) The purgatorial fire precedes the judgment, being designed to prepare the imperfectly sanctified to abide it, whereas this fire is the judgment itself

(3) Those here spoken of are saved in the judgment, “so ashy fire,”—not by means of the fire, but simply with difficulty; whereas the Romish doctrine is that a purifying process by means of fire will have to be gone through to fit those in it for heaven—a totally different idea.


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Bibliography
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-corinthians-3.html. 1879-90.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

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[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

In the Council of Florence, which began at Ferrara an. [in the year] 1438. The Greeks at the very first declared they admitted a third place, where souls were punished for a time, which they called a place of darkness and sorrow. See Labb. tom. xiii. Con. p. 20. Græci fatentur pænam temporaneam, quod peccatis obnoxiorum animæ in locum abeunt tenebricosum, in locum mæroris, in quo, ad tempus, versantur in mœrore & pænis, Greek: eis topon skoteinon, kai topon lupes, kai lupountai merikos. --- Again, Hæc est inter eos differentia: Græci pœnam, mærorem, & pœnæ locum asserunt, Itali pænam, purgationemque per ignem. See again p. 491. Sess. 25. where the Greeks say of such souls, that they are in a middle state, medias autem esse in loco tormentorum, sed sive ignis sit, sive caligo, sive turbo, sive quid aliud, non contendimus. See also the definition of the Council, p. 515, where it is only defined, eorum animas pœnis purgatoriis post mortem purgari, & ut a pœnis hujusmodi releventur, prodesse vivorum suffragia, which was the doctrine both of the Greek and Latin Church. See on this place of St. Paul, Bellarmine, lib. i. de Purgatorio, cahp. 5; Salmeron disp. 7. in lib. ad Corint.; Estius; a Lapide; etc.

====================


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

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 through fire.

"he shall suffer loss"-2210. zemioo {dzay-mee-o"-o}; from 2209; to injure, i.e. (reflexively or passively) to experience detriment: -be cast away, receive damage, lose, suffer loss.

"but he himself shall be saved"-indicating that the "loss" doesn"t refer to his own salvation. Which also tells us that it wasn"t necessarily the "content" of his teaching which resulted in his converts failing to stand the test.

Paul was personally afraid about the condition of some of his converts. (Galatians 4:11) And in those instances, Paul was afraid that all his hard work had been in vain. (1 Thessalonians 3:5) (2 Corinthians 11:29)

"yet so as through fire"-The preacher or teacher himself will be tested also. The "fire" of trial or the final day will reveal whether he was personally responsible for the weakened condition of his converts, and hence their final destruction.

Points to Note:

1. Some have tried to get the doctrine of "once saved, always saved into this verse". Many commentators view this verse as teaching that a teacher may have done a very miserable job in teaching others, even teaching them error, and yet God will save such a teacher "just barely", "snatching them out of the fire". Yet such a view would contradict other portions of the book. (1 Corinthians 10:1-13)

2. Actually, such an interpretation would only establish "once saved, always saved" for preachers or teachers. For the converts of this teacher, do end up lost (). Now that presents an interesting situation. God will save all religious teachers, even if they taught error, and yet will condemn their disciples that went into error?

A GENERAL WARNING ABOUT DIVISION:

"I think Paul now turns from the teachers (whom he speaks of in the third person in 10-15) to the church in general. He reminds them who they are. They aren"t some little "fly by night" school of philosophy, here today and gone tomorrow. The ruins of temples and sacred shrines which were scattered through that part of the world were numerous enough. But no one really lost anything when these temples and shrines were destroyed. But they are the temple of the Lord. It is of eternal consequence what happens to the temple of God....." [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 53]


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Bibliography
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/1-corinthians-3.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

burned = burned up. Greek. katakaio. Compare Matthew 3:12. Luke 3:17. 2 Peter 3:10.

suffer loss. Greek. zemioo. Elsewhere, Matthew 16:26. Mark 8:36. Luke 9:25. 2 Corinthians 7:9. Philippians 1:3, Philippians 1:8. He will Jose his reward. Compare 2 John 1:8.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-corinthians-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

If ... be burnt - If any man's work consist of such materials as the fire will destroy.

Suffer loss - i:e., forfeit the special "reward;" not that he shall lose salvation (which is a free gift, not a "reward," or wages), for he remains on the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:12; 2 John 1:8).

Saved; yet so as by fire - rather, 'so as if through fire' (Zechariah 3:2; Amos 4:11; Jude 1:23). The 'as if' shows the phrase to be figurative: having a narrow escape (Psalms 66:12; Isaiah 43:2). The 'Lord suddenly coming to His temple' in flaming "fire" all parts of the building which will not stand that fire will be consumed; the builders will escape with personal salvation, but with the loss of their work. Again, we may regard the superstructure as representing less essential matters added to the essentials: a man may err as to the former, and have the mortification of seeing much of his labour lost, and yet be saved; but not so as to the latter (cf. Philippians 3:15).


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-corinthians-3.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

Is burnt up. If the disciples he has taught are unfaithful when persecuted, he will lose his reward (see 1 Corinthians 3:14). But he himself will be saved. This seems to imply the false teacher was sincere in his efforts, even though he was not properly preparing the disciples which he taught. Escaped through the fire. As a man who runs out of a burning house, losing everything but his own life.


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Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/1-corinthians-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(15) So as.—These words remind us that the whole passage, and especially the reference to fire, is to be regarded as metaphorical, and not to be understood in a literal and physical sense. Forgetting this, Roman divines have evolved from these words the doctrine of purgatory.


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
work
12,13; Revelation 3:18
he shall
Acts 27:21,44; 2 John 1:8
yet
Amos 4:11; Zechariah 3:2; 1 Peter 4:18; Jude 1:23

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-corinthians-3.html.

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