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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 3:16-17


The Temple of God
1st Corinthians 3:16-17

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

In this passage in 1st Corinthians, Paul is still dealing with the subject of division in the local church. He has warned the Corinthians that when they divide among themselves over personalities, they are acting like children, indeed, like unsaved, ungodly carnal people! He has reminded them that no matter which minister had preached at Corinth, there is only one foundation, and that foundation is Christ!
All these other people were simply building on the foundation. Paul continues this illustration of the church being a building, which is under construction, and now he reveals the nature of this building. It is a temple! He uses this illustration to issue another strong warning to these divisive Christians. He equates schism in the local church with what he calls, ‘Defiling the temple of God.’ His argument is simple. There is one temple, and in that temple God dwells.
To divide the local church is to divide the temple, and that is wrong, for God only dwells in one temple, not in several! 1 Cor. 3:16-17 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Paul’s introduction of this subject at this point will give us an opportunity to explore just a little of the theology surrounding “The Church – God’s Temple!”

The Temple in Paul’s Writings.
The Temple was the building in the Old Testament where God promised that He would meet with his people. 1 Kings 6:11-13 And the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying, Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father: And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel. Exodus 25:22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

The NT uses two words which are translated in English as ‘temple.’ The normal word is ‘ιερον, which refers to the complete temple building, the entire structure. The word that Paul uses here is a different word, ναοσ. It means the inner court, the holiest place of all, the very part of the old temple where the presence of the Lord dwelt. Remember, that this place was accessible only one a year, on the Day of Atonement. Even then, only the High Priest could enter, and that after appropriate sacrifice had been offered for his sins and for the sins of the people. Otherwise, to enter the presence of the living God would be certain death, for God is HOLY and nothing sinful or defiled can enter the presence of such a HOLY God. Their sin would condemn them and they would perish!
But remember what happened when Jesus died on the cross? He took the punishment for our sins. He died that we might have His righteousness imputed onto us. We are now justified by faith, and we have peace with God. The practical expression of this reconciliation with God occurred in the temple at Jerusalem, when, as Jesus died for our sins, the veil of the temple was rent in two! Matthew 27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; Because of Jesus, we can now enter right into the sanctuary, right into the presence of God! No more veil, God bids me enter, by a new and living way! There are two distinct propositions arising from this fact:

1. The Church is the Temple of God! Now, Paul says, the local church, the body of people meeting together to worship the Lord, is His temple! He is in their midst, and they are in his presence! This is very important indeed! The AV is very accurate here when it reads “ye” are the temple. The word ‘ye’ is plural (cf ‘you’ NKJV), although the word ‘temple’ is singular! There is but one temple, but we are ALL members of it! The Amplified Version reads: “Do you not discern that you, the whole church at Corinth are God’s Temple, His sanctuary, and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you, to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually!” What does this mean for us? It means that when we meet together in this fashion, He is here, and we are in his immediate presence! That should have a mighty influence over how we regard our gatherings as a local church!

It will make us desire His fellowship! If we love the Lord, we will want to be where He is! Church going is never a chore when we get this doctrine of Christ dwelling in His church clear in our minds! Psalm 122:1-2 I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.
Knowing that we are in the presence of the Lord when we meet together will influence our behaviour in church! We will realise that we are in the intimate presence of such a holy and awesome being, and our attitude will change! We will respect Him, we will offer worship to him, we will humble ourselves before Him! GOD’S TEMPLE IS A HOLY TEMPLE! It must never become anything less than that! That is why worship in the temple must be what pleases God, not just what appeals to man!
Furthermore, it will motivate us to pray! The temple is a place of prayer! People travel for miles on pilgrimage just to pray! People travel to Lourdes, to Knock, to Toronto, to Pensicola; all of these places have become known as places where prayer may be made. But there is no need whatsoever to go to any such place to meet with God in prayer, for He is already with us! Jesus said, in Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
That will surely make us watch our lives! The temple was a holy place. As Christians, dwelling in God’s temple, our lives must reflect practical holiness! And it will make us very wary lest we should harm God’s Church! God’s church is God’s temple! What awful judgement would befall one who went out of his way to harm the church! This is the point that Paul; was making. Some people were harming the church by grumbling, by misbehaving, by causing needless division. Listen to what Paul says about such, 1 Cor. 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
We need to learn again to fear God, and to have reverence and respect for His temple (his church), lest we defile the temple of the Lord and thus come under his terrible judgement! Think about how Christ reacted when he found that men had defiled the earthly temple! Matthew 21:12-13 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

A word of caution is needed here. We must remember that we are talking about the local church, a body of believers. Paul is not thinking here of a building!
A man once complained about a coffee bar outreach which was being started in a local church! His complaint was that the building in which God is worshipped is a sacred building, and should be used for no other purpose. ‘My house shall be called an house of prayer,’ was the basis of his argument. He was confusing the building with the church! We can use our building for all sorts of things that would be appropriate for the work of God, so long as they are decent, and in order, and do not detract from the testimony of the church. But we must never do harm to the CHURCH, God’s temple!

2. The Christian is the Temple of the Holy Spirit! 1 Cor. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? This is the next aspect of this truth that we should notice. Not only is the church the Temple of God, but the Christian is the Temple of the Holy Spirit! God’s Holy Spirit dwells within the Christian believer. Paul’s’ argument then is, because your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, you just can’t treat your body any old way! 1 Cor. 6:20. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. The context here is one of sexual immorality among believers, a subject we shall deal with in a few weeks, when we look at the chapter. But look, Paul is making the point that because we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit; we just can’t live any way we like, as Christians. We are not our own! These Corinthians thought that their bodies were their own and that they could do just what they wanted with them! How wrong they were! Is God glorified in your body? In mine?

The Temple in Hebrews. Hebrews 9:23-28
Christ is described in Hebrews as ‘our Great High Priest.’ This is a reminder of the earthly Temple, which was an earthly sanctuary made by the hands of men. But that earthly sanctuary was not the true sanctuary, it was only a copy and a shadow of the true sanctuary which is in heaven! That is where our Great High Priest is right now!

A. The Temple a place of sacrifice! So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. The High Priest of the old Israel could only enter the Holy Place after sacrifice. But a more perfect sacrifice has been offered, and so abundant was His sacrifice, that he only needed to offer that sacrifice once, then he sat down on the right hand of God, His atoning work completed!
B. The Temple a place of prayer! , now to appear in the presence of God for us: Just as the old temple was a place where man communed with God, so the Heavenly Sanctuary is a place of prayer also! What is Jesus doing right now? He is INTERCEDING for us! Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
So, you can see that the church on earth is a reflection of, indeed more than that, a very part of that great sanctuary in heaven! What Christ is doing in heaven is what the church on earth is also doing! 1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
We too are to make spiritual sacrifices! We are to sacrifice ourselves!

Without a struggle, there is no strength.
Without a battle, there is no victory.
Without repentance, there is no forgiveness.
Without a Cross, there is no crown.
Without death, there is no Resurrection.
Without Jesus, there is no Salvation.
Without Salvation, there is no Heaven.
Without Heaven, your life has been meaningless.

We too are to be intercessors! We are to pray for others, knowing that our prayer arise as incense unto the Lord, and that He takes our prayers and offers them up before our heavenly Father!

The Temple in Revelation!
Rev. 21:22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
Right at the end of the book of Revelation is our final reference to a temple, or, surprisingly, to the LACK of a Temple! This is amazing, for John is a Jew, and that he would envisage Jerusalem without a temple is very significant and important indeed! John is being given a glimpse into the place where God dwells, into heaven itself, and he remarks that there is no temple there! But then this is the New Jerusalem, and there is no need for a temple, a building to meet with God, for God is here, and we are in his presence! It is perfectly consistent!
The temple of Heaven is the Lord Himself! Oh to be in Heaven and to see the Temple of God completed in all its splendour!
A prominent citizen in town was dying. As he lay in his lovely home, the best doctors surrounding him, he whispered, with a note of despair, “I’m leaving home, I’m leaving home.” In a poorer area of the town there lay a solitary figure in surroundings bare. Her modest home contained only the most threadbare of life’s essentials. In her eye was a gleam. Before she died she was heard to say, “I’m going home, I’m going home.”

So, how shall we sum all this up? Well, the individual Christian is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each believer in Christ. The Church is the Temple of God, where God meets with His people! But the church has two great facets. There is the church militant, the earthly body of Christ, and the church triumphant, the heavenly body of Christ, but they are both parts of the one church. In heaven, right now, with the triumphant church, Jesus is interceding within the sanctuary for us! One day, we shall all be gathered home, to be in the New Jerusalem forever, all in the presence of God, and He shall be our temple! Meanwhile, let us live our lives as those who are indwelt by God, and who dwell in His Holy Temple!

On the day of judgement, a Christian who has built deceitfully, and added his own ideas to the building that God has planned will then give account of his deeds before the Lord! How terrible will that day be for one who has dealt deceitfully with Christ’s master plan for His church! 1 Cor. 3:14-17 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire

Now this is a message for those who would seek to build up the Church of Christ. (Not just elders and deacons!) The foundation is Christ! That foundation has already been laid. Now we are part of that building, the church! It is our responsibility to continue the building work! To build the church! To be careful that our building work is on the right foundation, and based on the plans which are laid out in God’s word. To be sure that we are building up, and not breaking down! How many of us are engaged at present in building up the church? 1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

From → Sermon Notes

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