The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Is Paul Addressing Universalism in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15?

Clearly, Paul addresses members of the Corinthian Church in much of 1 Corinthians 3, using the word you 11 times in verses 1-9 and 8 times in verses 16-23. But starting in verse 10 and continuing through verse 15, he switches abruptly from referring specifically to Corinthian Church members through the term you to seemingly referring generally to everyone through the terms he, himself, another, each man, no man, and any man. No clear reference to only Corinthian Church members occurs in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 through the word you or in any other obvious way.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

That oddity suggests Paul meant to generalize from his specific message to the Christian members of the Corinthian Church to everyone, no matter what their religion or lack thereof.

If that was indeed his intention, then it would seem Paul is here saying that all will be saved, yet so as through fire for some, i.e., those metaphorically represented in 1 Corinthians 3 as God’s building constructed with faulty material.

Why else would Paul have so abruptly changed, twice, the apparent, addressed group from you in verses 1-9, to other than you in verses 10-15, then back again to you in verses 16-23?

You could read into this a possibility of CU but since the context is a letter to believers and that the foundation is Christ and then the quality of the work laid onto that foundation of Christ I don’t think Paul is referring to unbelievers who would not have Christ as their foundation notwithstanding the change to a more generic description as you mentioned.

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First, the fact that it is a letter to believing Corinthians does not limit its application just to those believers. Similarly, Romans has very important implications to all people, not just to its immediate audience. Your assumption is not unreasonable, however.

Second, going with my interpretation, one would conclude that Paul says Jesus is the foundation to everyone (since the person is metaphorically the building, as stated in 1 Corinthians 3). So whether one is a believer or not or is a Christian or not or realizes it or not, Jesus is the foundation for that person. Though, again, your assumption is not unreasonable.

But the main reason I am raising this possibility is simply the language. The use of you over just about all of the verses except verses 10 to 15 seems really peculiar if Paul intended to direct this letter just to believing Corinthians.

IF you want to find a position it is often not too hard to read one’s conclusions back into the text… BUT does that do justice to the text or its context; or is a pretext being massaged back into the text to try and prove a point? — regardless of the credibility, or not, of said a priori position? The text in view WAS written to believers ABOUT believers — that such conclusions might apply to those beyond is no reason to alter the presented meaning.

In addressing an audience it would be no oddity at all for me to change within the same context from the specific you to the likes of a more generalised any man, e.g., “you all are witnesses here today in this gathering to the joining in holy matrimony of Bob and Sue… if any man know of any reason why such cannot occur let him now speak or forever hold his tongue” etc, etc. This is not an invitation to the world beyond the context of said words.

Thanks for the solid reply.

But, I think it is, at least symbolically, an invitation to the world beyond, even if the world beyond usually does not hear those specific words spoken at that time.

The strength of the tradition of using those words comes from the reality that even if the world beyond heard those words, there would be no objection to the marriage.

So, if the world beyond could hear those words, that would only strengthen the union being celebrated. Those words then are assumed to be taken seriously by all, not just those in attendance.

I disagree. If the conclusions might apply to those beyond, that is precisely a reason to alter the presented meaning by extending it to those beyond.

Well yeah, BUT… such an invitation is actually NOT a generalised carte blanch invitation to all-and-sundry beyond, but to those there present, i.e., those to whom such was actually being addressed.

It might be applied, say in your case to make a point, BUT… I just think it easier to point to more obvious texts that point to the inclusiveness of God’s grace… lest it leaves the impression one is desperate to prove a point and yet at the expense of sacrificing the text, IMO.

But I think it is such an invitation. Only then would the words have the power that they do have in this solemn ceremony.

I agree that there are more obvious texts, and it is easier to point to them.

But I think this one is still worth one’s attention, especially considering the “saved, yet so as through fire” part and the concept of the person as God’s building.