Wednesday, 7 May 2014
If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 1 Corinthians 3:17
Paul has been speaking consistently in this chapter concerning right instruction, especially about the building up of the church upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. In writing to the Corinthians, he made the analogy of building upon the foundation with various materials, some would last at the judgment and some would not. After this, he noted in speaking to them collectively that “you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
Because you (the individuals believers) are the temple of God, he now makes a sobering statement concerning that position. “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.” He has not introduced a new group of people; he is speaking to believers within the church – saved people. This context needs to be maintained in order to understand what is being referred to.
As he has been speaking of the building of the church, the intent is that those who build in an inappropriate manner, therefore, defile the temple. (Some versions say “destroy”, “violate”, “waste”, or “ruin”). In taking such a course of action, retribution from God can be expected. In a literal rendering from the Pulpit Commentary, “God shall ruin the ruiner of his temple.”
Too often this verse is used by interpreters concerning an action, such as suicide or some other personal harm. If we so act, then God will destroy us. This is illogical and doesn’t fit with the context, nor with the fact that if someone has committed suicide, they have already destroyed their personal temple. This is not the intent of this verse. Rather, if someone is engaged in habits contrary to the truth of the gospel such as sexual immorality, divisions (the very thing which Paul has been addressing), backbitings, etc, they can expect a penal judgment for their actions.
Likewise, if an instructor of doctrine, a pastor, elder, teacher, etc, is engaged in either consistently false teachings or in inappropriate behavior which will defile the temple of God, then God will also bring ruin upon them. A sad example of this is the long list of preachers and evangelists who have been caught up in adulterous affairs. When their actions come to light, they are brought to ruin, losing all credibility and usually they are banned from further preaching or teaching.
This verse then is not speaking of a loss of salvation. It is also not speaking of suicide. Instead, it is speaking of actions which bring discredit and defilement upon what God is doing. In such actions, God can be expected to bring the offenders to ruin for what they have done. This is certain because he finishes this verse with, “For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” If these people are God’s temple, then they are believers, not unbelievers.
As always, care in evaluating context must be given in order to avoid making a pretext. We are God’s temple; set apart as holy. Therefore, let us endeavor to live up to that position and bring glory and honor to God.
Life application: Proper conduct is a requirement for holy living. If someone is engaged in improper behavior and nothing happens to them in regard to their downfall or chastisement, then they are probably not saved at all. As Hebrews 12:7, 8 says, “Ifyou endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.”
Lord God, I fail You daily and it truly brings my heart sorrow. But I know that in Christ I am forgiven… this brings me relief. I pray that I never dull to sin’s consequences, nor the guilt I feel for sin, but I also am grateful that the penalty for my sin was dealt with in a Substitute. I am free to move on, but constrained to continue to work towards holiness. Thank You for Jesus who alone has brought me to such a state. Thank You. Amen.