(16) Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (17) If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
King James Version Change Bible versions
King James Version Change Bible versions
Suppose you lived during the time that the Temple in Jerusalem was in operation. As a faithful Levite, you were given stewardship to maintain the Temple and its grounds. How would you take care of that responsibility, knowing it was God's earthly dwelling place? Would you approach it in an irreverent, slap-dash, careless, lackadaisical, "I am too busy with other things" manner? Or would you be highly respectful and orderly and do whatever your hand found to do with all your might?
Spiritually, God has already given us this responsibility. In fact, it is a double-edged responsibility, both personal and corporate. In I Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul uses "temple" as a synonym for "church," referring to the whole body of believers. This is clearly an extension of his earlier use of the building metaphor. By it, he illustrates that each person, as part of the building, has some affect on the quality of the whole building by how he conducts his life. This metaphor ties all of us together as a team with the specific responsibility of doing all we can to build up and strengthen the church. Undoubtedly, the ministry bears the greater burden, but every member is involved.
Paul begins in verse 6 by giving himself and Apollos as examples. The King James Version makes the first part of verse 8 unclear: "Now he who plants [Paul] and he who waters [Apollos] are one." The Revised Standard Version clarifies this: "He who plants and he who waters are equal." They are not one as if they are identical or bound together like a set of Siamese twins. He means that they are equally important to the result.
Paul frequently emphasizes the team aspect. He writes in verse 9, "We are God's fellow workers." In verses 10-15, 17, he refers to "each one" and "anyone" frequently. No one has any room to think that it does not matter what he or she does or fails to do to make the body spiritually healthy. A great, dominant theme of Paul's teaching is the individual's personal responsibility for his life and that—somehow, somewhere, sometime—each will have to give account to God for what he has done.
How can Paul say the various parts of the body bear equal responsibility? This thought hearkens back to the Parable of the Talents. The master does not expect his three servants to produce the same quantity, but he expects each to be equally faithful in what he entrusted to their stewardship.
In verse 17, Paul uses "destroy" twice (see margin). It is a strong warning to those committing the sins named in other parts of the epistle—advocating false doctrine, strife, jealousy, sexual immorality, and other permissive compromises—that God would hold them responsible despite how matters appeared at the time. He would destroy them because the church is holy because it belongs to God, and He has separated it from the world. Through their false doctrines or sinful conduct, whether they were aware or not, they were seeking or being used to destroy the spiritual health of the church. Each member bears responsibility for keeping himself holy and therefore spiritually healthy.
To understand this, perhaps we need nothing more than a deeper awareness that, despite the way things may presently look on the surface, our worldview—how we look at life and all its jumble of events—is quite narrow compared to God's. Once we see things from His perspective, we can see we bear a major responsibility to the body of Christ because God has included us in His great purpose.
Yet another level to this concept of responsibility to the body is, of course, taking care of our physical bodies. Because we belong to God, we are holy and are integral parts of the body of Christ, this responsibility weighs upon us with greater intensity than those who are not. In John 14:23, Jesus introduces the basis for this concept to illustrate the closeness of our relationship with God: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father willlove him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." Under the Old Covenant, God is mysterious and distant and dwelling in the Temple. Under the New Covenant, we become the Temple, and God becomes knowable and personal.
In I Corinthians 6:15-20, Paul clearly confirms these concepts:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "The two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in you body and in your spirit, which are God's.
It is difficult to imagine how much more clearly he could express our responsibility to maintain good health! It is actually a fourfold responsibility:
1. To God because He bought us at a price;
2. To Jesus Christ because we are part of His body;
3. To ourselves to come out of sin; and
4. To our loved ones to serve them.
Meeting all of these glorifies God. Paul's concern is that debauching the body by involving it in sin threatens the continuation of the relationships. We normally think of sin as breaking a law. This is not a wrong understanding, but the Bible's usage is much broader. Biblically, sin is falling short of the glory of God, or turning aside from the path of what is right. It is also missing the mark. Sin is the Bible's term to indicate a failure to do things right, and right is the way God would do it. Of course, some failures to do what is right are far more serious than others are.
— John W. Ritenbaugh