Are We Being Purified Through Suffering?

Q. Maybe you’re familiar with this goldsmith “idea”. The Lord is our Goldsmith and troubles, sufferings in a believer’s life meant to be His melting pot so we can be purified and formed to His likeness ( as the goldsmith recognizes himself in the pure silver). It’s a very popular validation in christian circles for sufferings and hardships in a believer’s life. What do you think about it? Is this just a man made “christian urban legend” or biblical?

A. As you know, a goldsmith purifies gold by fire.  As the gold melts in the heat, the impurities float to the top and are skimmed off.  What’s left is pure gold. This “refiner’s fire” analogy is used in the Old Testament as a model of the great tribulation, as in Zechariah 13:8-9, to explain Israel’s purification.  But the intent is to separate believers from unbelievers, to purify the nation, not purify individuals who already believe.

The Church was made pure at the cross.  If any one is in Christ He’s a new creation, as righteous as God himself. (2 Cor 5:17,21).  No such process is ever described as applying to us.  Jesus said we would have difficulties in this world (John 16:33) but didn’t associate them with purification.  The writer of Hebrews said that God disciplines those He loves, but  His discipline is for teaching, not purification. In His eyes we are without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but are holy and blameless (Ephes. 5:27).

The primary cause for the hardship and suffering we experience is that this world is an evil place where bad things happen. I believe we can also experience sickness and pain because of our unhealthy and sinful behavior.  I also believe God works all these things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

To say that our suffering is God’s will to purify us is to say that His work on the cross was insufficient, because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Hebrews 10:14).

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