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Saved So As By Fire (mp3) Future Sins Forgiven, Loss of Rewards
One of the primary arguments the eternal security teachers use to support the widespread belief that a saved person can be wicked, ungodly, vile, unfruitful, negligent and the like, without losing salvation is 1 Cor. 3:11-15. That is their saved so as by fire argument. This is what that passage says:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Cor. 3:11-15)
In that passage, the gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw represent the Christian's works and the possible building materials he used during his earthly Christian life. The quality of each man’s work will be revealed at the Judgment by the fire which will test it. If his building materials survive the testing fires, he will receive a reward. If they are burned up, he will suffer the loss. He himself will be saved but only as one escaping through the flames. What that passage does NOT say is:
● 1. What the quality of each man’s work is.
● 2. A single word about sin being the reason why the rewards are lost. (Did you notice that? That fact means the once saved always saved people have read into that passage something that is not there, but which they want to teach in support of their doctrine.)
Again, eternal security teachers have read into 1 Cor. 3:11-15 things that are not there. For example, Charles Stanley said this regarding the one who has his building materials destroyed in the fire:
He represents believers who have no time for the things of Christ, who live their lives for themselves (p. 120) .... in God’s estimation, nothing he has lived for has counted (p. 121) .... This passage is so powerful because we are presented with a Christian who at no point in his entire life bore any eternal fruit. And yet his salvation is never jeopardized (p. 121).
At a different time Charles Stanley refers to the same passage and gets more specific:
One of the messages in this series has to do with those sins we commit as believers. What is God going to do? What are we going to lose in the Judgment, and there is gonna be loss in the Judgment, let there be no question about that. You can’t sin and live like the devil down here and get by with it, even as a believer. The Bible says you will lose your reward, but you’ll be saved so as by fire. You won’t lose your salvation, but there is a whole lot to lose, brother, by sinful living.
In other words, Stanley thinks that passage says one can go to the ultimate extreme and live like the devil and not lose his salvation. Imagine that! That means the most vile and wicked acts ever committed by a person previously saved will only cause loss of rewards, which is consistent with his false doctrine. The truth is: Anyone who lives like that and doesn’t repent (and get forgiven) will be thrown into the fires of hell in the end. He surely will not enter God’s kingdom, as the devil wants us to believe. Dave Hunt refers to the same passage in 1 Cor. 3 and dangerously interprets it as well. He wrote this:
The person who hasn’t even one good work (all of his works are burned up) is still “saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor.3:15).
(Please see The Believer's Conditional Security for documentation.) Their teachings are understood by their listeners to mean you can even live in sin and you will only lose rewards. This is what one proponent wrote to us:
If you choose to live in sin you will be saved, yet so as through fire. Read 1 Cor. 3 That’s why it’s important to understand the doctrine of the reward of the believer.
How is it possible these eternal security teachers can teach the way they do, which is a clear and definite contradiction to other Scriptures on this same subject? James 2 repeatedly states a saving faith will have good works with it. If the good works are lacking, such is not a saving faith. Charles Stanley, Dave Hunt, Chuck Missler, Norman Geisler and many others have read into 1 Cor. 3:15 something that is not there, but which they want to believe in to help support their license for immorality. Let’s look at the proper way to interpret the 1 Cor. 3:11-15 passage. Just one chapter later, in 1 Cor. 4:5, Paul writes about the Judgment:
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.
He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
God is interested in the motive behind the things we do, as well as the acts. This issue of motives is also clearly shown at another time which is the only teaching in the New Testament about how potential rewards will be lost. That passage is Mt. 6:1-20. In Jesus’ teaching there, it is acts of righteousness done with the wrong motive that will yield no reward! That is how we need to understand the doctrine of the reward of the believers and how rewards are lost.
Jesus gave specific examples of acts of righteousness, such as praying, fasting and giving to the poor. All of these are to be done in secret and not so that the doer will be honored by men here. If done in the right way, his acts of righteous will yield a reward.
NOTE: It is not wicked sinful acts which cause loss of rewards! Instead, it is righteous acts done to be honored by men here and now. (The danger of wicked acts is that they will cause spiritual death (Rom. 8:13; James 5:19,20; Lk. 15:24,32; etc.) That simple truth annihilates the eternal security interpretation of 1 Cor. 3:11-15 and at the same time destroys one of their strongest proof texts. Remember Mt. 6:1-20 regarding how rewards are lost.
Furthermore remember this: Nowhere does the Bible teach one can live like the devil and be saved. Nowhere does the Bible teach one can be saved and not have even one good work. Those are concepts which originated with the devil and are designed to destroy souls. That is also the perfect way to concisely describe the teaching of eternal security—a doctrine designed by the devil to recapture souls. So don’t be deceived by the eternal security argument of being saved so as by fire. And by the way, it is too bad the eternal security teachers stop after reading 1 Cor. 3:15. If they would focus in upon the next two verses, they would read about the lethal effects of defiling one’s physical temple:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Cor. 3:16,17, NKJV)
The mythical god presented by the eternal security teachers could never destroy any Christian, who defiles his holy temple through the sins listed in 1 Cor. 6:9,10. GOD BLESS YOU.
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