Saved But Only As Through Fire

by Mike Ratliff

And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as spiritual but as of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not food, for you were not yet able. But, you are still not able, for you are still fleshly. For while there is jealousy and strife in you, are you not of the flesh and according to the ways of man? When one says “I indeed am of Paul,” and another, “but I am of Apollos,” are you not being mere men? (a personal translation of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

I received a private request from a friend to compare 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 with the life and ministries of men like Charles Finney and Rick Warren. The concern was if these two men were examples of those who built upon the foundation of Christ with wood, hay, and stubble, and would, in the end, see all their works be consumed in the fire of judgment, suffering eternal loss, but themselves being saved, “but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). As I studied this passage I did what I always do, I put it into context. The immediate context of vv10-15 would be 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 in which Paul addressed the issues and the cause of divisions in the Corinthian church. However, we must remember, that this must also be put into the larger context of Paul’s entire message of this Epistle. A good break down of 1 Corinthians would place chapter 3 right in the middle of a section that runs from 1:10 through 4:21 in which Paul specifically addressed Disunity in the Church. In fact, chapter 3 would be contained in the subsection of that breakdown that would probably best be titled something like “The Need for Unity.” Therefore, with that in mind, we will focus in this post on 1 Corinthians 3:1-15 alone which focuses specifically on divisions in the Church. Within this, we will also address my friend’s question very well about vv10-15 and any questionable “Christian leader.”  Continue reading