Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16).

The apostle began this chapter rebuking the Corinthians for the divisions that had erupted in the church. Paul saw the root of the divisions to be false doctrine that had infiltrated the church by way of teachers who spread error among the congregation. The brunt of Paul’s rebuke, therefore, is aimed at ministers in particular. They are the ones who will be punished if they build their ministry on the straw and hay of false doctrine instead of the gold and silver of the Gospel. They are the ones who will barely escape the judgment because of the error they spread. And it is to them that Paul speaks, though not exclusively, in verses 16 and 17: “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.”

“They are not raising up a house for themselves to be constructed of what materials and on whatever plan may suit their taste,” Charles Hodge wrote. “They are building the temple of God. This truth the Corinthians seem to have forgotten, for they regarded their teachers as men allowed to preach their own speculations and valued them according to their proficiency in ‘the wisdom of words.’ ”

The indwelling of the Spirit constitutes each believer, every separate church, and the church collectively as the temple of God. First Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, every individual Christian is himself a temple of God because that is where the Lord dwells. Likewise, the church as a whole is the temple of God, and those responsible for building up the church will be held accountable for the way they cared for God’s dwelling place.

Paul gives a sober warning in this passage: “If any man injure the temple of God, him will God injure.” “Under the old dispensation the penalty for defiling the sanctuary was either death, Lev. 15:31, or excision from the people, Num. 19:20,” Hodge wrote. “God is not less jealous of His spiritual temple, than He was of the typical temple, built of wood and stone by the hands of men. Ministers injure the souls of men and injure the church when they preach false doctrine, and therefore they defile the temple of God, and will certainly be punished.”

What are some practical ways that an individual can keep his own temple of God free from defilement? What are some ways that ministers and church members can protect the church from defilement? Do you take seriously the warnings of Scripture concerning the sacredness of God’s temple?