“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Temple language is dispersed throughout the Bible as a reference to the dwelling the place of God in the world. The temple is to be understood as the place where God is manifestly present and presiding. In the Old Testament, one can follow the progression of God’s dwelling place from Eden to the Tabernacle, to the Temple. In each of these paradigm’s God’s presences is associate with a geographical locale. Paul, however, introduces a new paradigm for New Testament believers, and the implication are tremendous and exquisite!
Addressing the church at large, Paul instructs the people in their identity as believers by calling them the temple of God. While at times, Paul uses this verbiage to refer to individual members of Christ’s body; here he references the entire church at Corinth as being God’s temple. Collaboratively, the people God serve as the temple of God. How can this be? The people are the temple because the Spirit of God dwells in them. The Spirit, who is of the Divine Nature, has made his dwelling place in His people! In other words, the people of God have become God’s shrine! Just as the Old Testament Temple functioned as the place where the presence of God dwelt, so this responsibility and function is claimed for the Church in the New Testament!
The Spirit of God is no longer localized to a sacred building, but instead found in the gathering of God’s elect people throughout the world. With this being established in vs. 16, Paul transitions in vs. 17 to deal with the seriousness by which God approaches the work that He has done to make His people His personal dwelling place. It is no light sin to fail to react correctly to God’s having made His people the Temple. Division in the church must be seen as completely intolerable because division, at its heart, is an attempt to “destroy” God’s dwelling place. To engage in divisive behavior is to seek the destruction of the divine society, which is in effect an invitation for God to respond appropriately with vengeance and wrath. This is a grave sin, which results in grave penalty.
Considering the people of God as the Temple ought to have dramatic impact on the way that we value and function as faith-family members. If the Spirit of God dwells with His people corporately, which Paul certainly believes He does, and He zealously gives Himself to see His people progress, then we must prioritize and participate with the people of God because by doing so we are prioritizing and participating with God Himself. May we function as good siblings in God’s family. May we highly value unity amongst our members. May we give ourselves to one another’s joy in God for the purpose of Christ being magnified amongst us!
Questions to Ask
- What would change about your behavior towards the Church if you considered the Church to be the Temple?
- What ways can you participate in the people of God?
- What ways can you prioritize the people of God?