Does 1 Corinthians 3:14,15 Teach Once Saved, Always Saved?
Some people have misused 1 Corinthians 3:15 to allege the "once-saved, always saved" doctrine of Calvinism. 1 Corinthians 3:14,15 states: "If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
In 1 Corinthians 1-4, Paul had been dealing with the issue of divisions in the church at Corinth. The congregation had been divided into various factions such as the group of Apollos, the group of Cephas, the group of Paul, and the group of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:12). Paul was appalled by this division because brethren should be striving to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-6).
Paul helped start the congregation at Corinth (Acts 18:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:10). He was building it on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10,11). He himself was only a minister (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
In the remote context of 1 Corinthians Paul states that his work was to make disciples of the Lord. Paul is not talking about a person's personal deeds, but the converts he is able to bring to the Lord. Paul uses the same word "work" in 1 Corinthians 9:1.
Some converts are going to be built with flimsy materials such as hay and straw because they will mature in Christ and sadly retreat back into the world and fall away. Some converts are built with more durable materials such as silver and gold. The "loss" to which Paul is referring is the toil of winning souls to Jesus. Those who have studied the Bible with people know how much dedication, time, and effort is involved in helping that person to render faith and obedience to the gospel. It is a tragedy when that person after a period of time turns away from the faith.
"If anyone's work (converts) which he has built on endures, he will receive a reward (enjoying eternal life with those whom he has converted). If anyone's work (converts) is burned (impenitent converts who ultimately spend eternity in hell and the soul-winner's loss of effort, John 17:12; 2 Peter 2:20-22, he will suffer loss (the soul-winner's loss of effort, Galatians 4:11); but he (the soul winner) himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
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