14 February 2015

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

"Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?" (v. 16)

Psalm: Psalm 107:33-43


Temples would have been rife in Corinth given its cosmopolitan nature, and the number of different faiths and beliefs practised in the city. They would have been very familiar to the members of the Corinthian church.

But it is just as likely that when Paul is talking about a temple he is referring to the great temple in Jerusalem (which was destroyed in AD 76). This would have been the temple where Jesus was dedicated (Luke 2:22-40), where Jesus debated with the teachers as a 12-year old (Luke 2:41-51), and from where Jesus threw out the money changers (Luke 19:45-47). The temple was a focus for the Jewish people and a focus for their faith. It was there in the Holy of Holies that God was believed to be present.

Paul stresses that this last point when he speaks about the presence of God's Spirit when he says that "you are God's temple". It is difficult to establish from the English whether he is referring to individuals Christians in Corinth or the church as a whole. It could be either.

The Methodist Church describes discipleship as "whole life, life long and world transforming", so acknowledging that we are God's temple adds a new dimension to discipleship. How we treat ourselves, how we treat others is a reflection on how we treat and value God. And as if that isn't enough, Paul adds the warning "If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person.

If taken corporately (ie referring to the church being a temple), then Paul is returning to the familiar theme of the opening chapters of this letter - unity. It is God's temple and God's Spirit dwells in you - it is not Paul's temple or Apollos' or Cephas' and certainly the spirit of Paul or Apollos or Cephas does not dwell in them.

As a theme throughout the passage there is the affirmation from Paul: "You are God's temple and  ... God's Spirit dwells in you ... God's temple is holy, and you are that temple" (vv. 16, 17) and finally "you belong to Christ" (v. 23)

To Ponder

  • What does it mean to you to be "God's Temple"? How does that influence the way you live?
  • In what way is your church is God's Temple?
  • How does the fact "you belong to Christ" sustain you in your faith and discipleship?

Bible notes author

Ken Kingston

Ken Kingston preaches in the High Wycombe Circuit. He has worked for the Connexional Team since 1992 in a variety of roles and has been involved in 'Called by Name' and 'Time to Talk of God' amongst others.