1 Corinthians 3.16
The city of Corinth was rife with temples, the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, stood atop the Acrocorinth, which means the Acropolis of Corinth, but you probably knew that. Acropolis is simply a fancy word for high ground. And so Aphrodite’s temple held an honoured place high above the city.
And before you get all mushy and romantic about the idea of there being a goddess of love, historians tell us that the temple was supported by the proceeds of “Priestesses” who were in reality prostitutes and not necessarily by choice, the majority of them were slaves.
And that wasn’t something that only happened 2000 years ago. The Wesleyan Church was founded in the fight against human trafficking 175 years ago and that fight is still going on. If you would like information about the Anti Human Trafficking movement in this area you can talk to Amanda Windsor or Pastor Deborah.
And while Aphrodite may have been the primary deity of Corinth she certainly wasn’t the only one and while her temple may have held the highest place it certainly wasn’t the only temple in the city.
Scholars tell us that there was also a temple for Poseidon, god of the sea as well as temples for Apollo, Hermes, Venus-Fortuna, Isis, and just to make sure no one felt left out there was a temple dedicated to "All The Gods" (Pantheon).
The city of Corinth was rife with temples.
Here we are winding down our 3:16 series, we began back in June with John 3:16 and since then we have been in 1 Timothy, Joshua, Daniel, Colossians, Revelation, Philippians, Ephesians, Acts and James. This morning we are looking at 1 Corinthians 3:16 where we read 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
1 Corinthians is part of Paul’s letters to the early church, in this case it is to the church in the city of Corinth, which was a city in Greece, which was rife with temples.
And so as Paul looks for an illustration to use to describe the church he settles on the word “Temple”. After all there were temples everywhere and everyone, even the most disinterested knew what temples were for. They were where various gods dwelt or were worshipped, even if you were in doubt of the existence of that particular god you couldn’t ignore their temple.
The temple that was missing of course was the Christian temple. At this point in church history there were no church buildings, the early believers met in the synagogue sometimes, and in the public square and in homes.
And perhaps that was a matter that was being discussed, “How come we don’t have a temple to worship in?”
And in the New Testament letters the early believers are told that God dwelt in three places. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.
So the first thing that the early Christians are told is We Are the Temple of God And in this case Paul is referring to the individual Christians. This is often taught when the church is preaching about the evils of cigarettes and whiskey and wild, wild women.
You have to be careful with what you are putting into and doing with your body, because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
That’s good preaching, if you bring it up when you talk about other areas of physical health, like weight and exercise you go from preaching to meddling.
And Paul was serious about this, verses 19 and 20 don’t stand by themselves, because in order to really put it in context you need to include verse 18 as well. Because you all know that a verse out of context is a pretext. So let’s try that.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body. How’s that for meddling in 2016. That’s not Denn or Cornerstone that is the Bible, the word of God.
Within the biblical framework, sexual activity outside of marriage is considered sexual sin. And Paul, writing the words of God, condemns it. We’ll come back to this later.
But when someone has committed their lives to God and are following Jesus, they are a temple of God.
And let’s keep going in the temple theme. In Paul’s second letter to this church we read, 2 Corinthians 6:16 . . . For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
So here Paul is reminding the believers that not only are we the temple but We Are the Temple of God. In this case he’s not talking about the individual believer he’s talking about the local church.
When God’s people come together, He is in their midst. In the book of Matthew Jesus was telling his apostles how they needed to settle disagreements between believers, obviously believers disagreed on things even two thousand years ago, who would have thought? And Jesus finishes with these words.
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” And while this isn’t specifically with the context of the local church, the principle is there, wherever God’s people gather, He is present, in his temple the church.
And you often hear people say, the church isn’t the building. And they are right. What we worship in here, isn’t the church, it is the church building. The building where the church meets. God’s presence is in those who gather here.
And that’s why it really frustrating when you hear people who profess to be believers say they don’t need the church, that they can worship God by themselves.
God created the church and ordained the church as his instrument of change. And God’s word tells us that is where believers would find God and meet with Him.
The bible actually calls the church the “Bride of Christ”, and when some says “I love Jesus but I don’t have much use for the church” I wonder how that makes Jesus feel?
That would be like you telling someone “I really like you, but I don’t have much use for your bride.” Really? If someone told me that, we wouldn’t be hanging around together any more.
So whenever believers come together they are the temple of God.
Back to this week’s 3:16. 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If we add to that 1 Peter 2:5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.
We discover, that not only are we the temple of God as individual believers and not only are we the temple of God as a local church but here we are told We Are the Temple of God You see you will find God’s presence in The Church, not just Cornerstone but the entire church.
There are groups that think they are it, and boy are they going to be surprised when they get to heaven and meet their neighbours. I have always felt and taught that the Church is much broader than simply our local church or even our particular denomination.
We are all part of the family, granted some seem like those weird cousins we’re not sure what to do with, but they’re still kin.
So, we, as Christians, are personally the temple of God, we, as a local church are the temple of God. And we, the church universal are the temple of God. Cool. But how does that play into the next verse? 1 Corinthians 3:17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
That is a pretty dire warning. God will destroy anyone who destroys his temple. That’s not just; God will scold anyone who destroys his temple.
Or God will chastise anyone who destroys his temple. Paul is very clear “God will destroy anyone who destroys his temple.”
Kind of like the sign that says “Danger, Do not touch. Not only will this kill you it will hurt the whole time you are dying.” No question about what it means.
But there is a question here? Which temple is Paul talking about?
It can’t be the individual Christian. Paul will later go on to write in Philippians 1:20-24 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Paul seems convinced that he couldn’t be destroyed. And way back in the gospels Peter was told by Christ. Matthew 16:18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. If the powers of hell can’ conquer the church it doesn’t sound like it can be destroyed by earthly powers, although they’ve tried.
So it would appear that two of the three can’t be destroyed. So it leaves the local church as the one that is susceptible to that damage. And we all know of local churches that no longer exist, their bones are scattered across the ecclesiastical waste lands. And some of those were natural deaths. But some were homicides.
But how could it happen, how could a local church be destroyed? The two letters that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church detailed some of dangers that the Corinthian church faced, and I would suspect that Cornerstone and other churches today face the same dangers.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.
Throughout his writings Paul was warning the church of The Danger of False Teachings there were a number of heresies that were prevalent in the early church.
And we aren’t talking about the stuff that churches argue about now, the version of the bible you use, whether hymns or modern songs are more holy, whether your theology is reformed or Armenian. About whether the church ought to be seeker sensitive, purpose driven or missional.
These were heresies that denied the fact that Christ was God, or that faith and grace were enough to get you into heaven. There were the Gnostics who claimed to have special knowledge that the rest of the church didn’t have. And their big thing was that Jesus wasn’t actually divine, and that his resurrection was spiritual, not physical.
Every once in a while someone trots out some of the Gnostics writings in an attempt to discredit the church. Novels like the Da Vinci Code are based on some of the old Gnostic writings. Just remember, they are filed under “F” in the library for “Fiction.”
And you still have the folks who suddenly have a new revelation, new knowledge or a different twist on theology that hadn’t been figure out or revealed for the first two thousand years of church history.
And then there was Asceticism, that taught that all temporal things were evil, food, drink, sex or comfort of any kind.
And that in order to be holy you denied yourself any pleasure and sometimes inflicted pain and suffering on yourself.
They denied the theology of God’s grace and taught that you had to earn your way into heaven by denying yourself.
Where the Gnostic argued that Jesus was really just a good man, the Ascetics would deny the incarnation of Christ, after all if all material things were evil how could Christ have been 100% man along with being 100% God?
The opposite side of that was Antinomianism, and it taught that there was no connection at all between the body and the soul. These teachers taught that you could do whatever you wanted with your body and it wouldn’t affect your eternity. In other words you could live like hell and still go to heaven. There were no moral consequence for sinful behavior.
It really was an eat drink and be merry type group, there was no sin to be avoided because those activities didn’t have any connections to our soul’s destiny.
It was probably to this group that Paul addressed in Romans 6:1-2 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
And we still see these heresies being taught and believed today in various forms. And Paul was convinced that this type of teaching could destroy the local church. Especially one as young as the Corinthian church.
Anyone who starts a church knows that it attracts all kinds of people who believe all kinds of things and who think that the baby church will be a great place to share those teachings. Which is one of the reasons from the beginning one of the core values of Cornerstone stated: Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to the Wesleyan Church as a denomination and to its doctrine and polity. And when people would take me out for coffee to tell me that God had shown them what we should believe and how we should act, I could trot out Core Value # 4.
But it wasn’t just false teachings that Paul was concerned about in the church, 1 Corinthians 1:10-11 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters.
The next thing that Paul warned them about was The Danger of Disunity In this case it wasn’t false teachers who were the problem, it was good godly men who inadvertently became the catalyst for disunity.
There were some in the church who aligned themselves with Paul, and some with Peter and some with a preacher by the name of Apollos. We don’t know if it was their personalities that attracted people or their preaching styles. But instead of people being committed to Christ and the local church they were committed to personalities.
And so Paul instructs the church to get their eyes back on Jesus, back on the Gospel and back on the reason they existed.
It’s obvious that Paul saw disunity as a destructive force in the church.
Do you remember one of the false teachings that I mentioned earlier, Antinomianism?
The teaching that all things were permissible for the believer because there was this disconnect between the physical and the spiritual? It had obviously gained a hold in the church because Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul really needs to learn to be more forthright and stop beating around the bush. Again I didn’t think this up, it’s not a Cornerstone thing or a Wesleyan thing, it is a God thing.
The next thing that Paul identifies is The Danger of Accepting Sinful Behaviour And it wasn’t just that list, if you read through the two letters to the Corinthians you discover Paul addressing a number of issues that were regarded as wrong.
It wasn’t that the church was a horrible church, it was that church was filled with people and it was a young church that was filled with baby Christians who were struggling to find their way.
But Paul didn’t excuse their behaviour because of that, he addressed it, because he knew it was important for them as Christians to know how to behave. Regardless of what you might be told there is a certain behaviour that the bible expects from those who call themselves Christians.
And Paul states, fairly clearly, that there would be no place in God’s kingdom for those who continued in their sinful behaviour.
And he addressed it for the church, because he knew that unless the church dealt with that behaviour within that it was destined to die. Oh it might continue as a institution but not as the body and bride of Christ.
And when people trotted out the “do not judge me” line Paul addressed it in 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.
Ouch, that’s gotta hurt. The problem is that today it seems to have gotten reversed and the church spends all it’s time judging the behaviour of the world and ignoring the behaviour of Christians.
But ultimately the reason why we need to beware of false teachings and disunity and sinful behaviour in the church all goes back to this week’s 3:16
1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
The church is God’s plan for reaching and changing the world. And I truly believe the words of Bill Hybels who said “The local church is the hope of the world.”
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