On 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV) – 16 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.

It’s an election year here in the United States of America, and it may be the most divided our country has ever been. We are not simply divided down the two party lines of the past nor even the geographic lines during the Civil War era; the divisions that exists today are multi-faceted and complicated. Sanders vs. Clinton, Trump vs. Rubio vs. Cruz vs. Kaisach vs. Bush vs. etc. etc. etc… And there are just as many people who are against a single candidate or multiple candidates as they are for any one candidate.

There was once a wise, and well-respected candidate who once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand…” Of course, that candidate was also making a biblical reference while doing so, but I digress…

When I look at the Church, I think we face a similar problem. We are a people woefully divided over theology, methodology, ecclesiology, and even the labels we will use to describe ourselves. We are, at times, worse than Red Sox fans who blast the Yankee fans or the Auburn fans who with extreme vitriol bemoan the ignorance of the Alabama fan. We are, at times, worse than the Democrats who deride their Republican counterparts for being anti-progress, or the Republicans who rail against the Democratic opponent for a lack of patriotism and guts.

The Church divides along boundaries that run centuries deep and then again along lines that run decades deep and then again along lines of ethnic and regional significance. It’s not simply about denominations or associations… it’s worse because we cloister ourselves in our holy huddles and cast dispersions on those who we should treat as brothers and sisters.

In the Corinthian church, the divisions ran deep too. They had divisions surrounding who brought them to faith, the immorality of some the members, and the disparity of wealth between some – among other things. The divisions led to lawsuits and slanderous activity of all kinds, and while Paul never condones sinful behavior, he consistently reminds the church in Corinth that they are one. In the above passage he takes it to another level by calling them the Temple of God.

In all religions, a temple is a holy place… a place set aside for worship and community… a place of communion and unity. The Church – not just individual congregations – are called to that task. It’s not easy. We have to look past the superficial differences between us. We have to decide what are open-handed and close-fisted ideologies over which communion is not possible. But the more we come together the brighter witness we can be in the world.

Reflections of Lent-8


Add yours →

  1. This is so true Zac. As Americans we are divided into hundreds of groups and I wonder how we will agree on a President. As Christians we are also divided but Jesus wants us to just love him and each other. But not all will do it.

  2. Ver. 16 just read it CAREFULLY. Ver. 17 is where men have obscured the true meaning by replacing the word DEFILES with destroy. Defilement is willful practice of unlawful deeds intents etc. that “dirty our garments” as Christians. A severe warning follows in that God is not mocked and will destroy those that defile what He has purchased. WE are the LIVING STONES of the temple and we are to press forward in the kingdom and bring forth fruit according to our calling. Clutch your K.J. real tightly, it has a track record of truth that other versions are lacking and lend themselves to speculations and error.

    • Hey James, thanks for reading and commenting! This is an interesting passage, and one in which the Greek words and internal context are very important. The word translated “defile” and “destroy” in the KJV and simply “destroy” in other English translations like the ESV are actually the same word in the Greek – “φθείρω (phtheirō)” – so the KJV translators made a decision about delineating between the semantic range of the word… Choosing the word “defiles” over “destroys” (both of which fall into the semantic range of the word φθείρω) leaves the impression that the holiness referred to by Paul is one of individual morality. More modern translators defer to the context of the passage when choosing the best English option… which is about the holiness of unity rather than the restricting holiness to individual morality… It’s not that individual morality is unimportant, but rather the passage is addressing the problem that church in Corinth was demonstrating immorality because of their divisive nature. In other passages of Paul’s letter to Corinth he certainly addresses the importance of individual morality to the life-blood of the church, but not here.

      I don’t believe most English translations are trying to intentionally obscure meaning, but all translators are making choices because the Greek and Hebrew languages have a great deal of nuance based on a plethora of factors in a given passage. No English translation is perfect or beyond revision, and that’s why I think we are blessed to live in a time when we have access to a variety of translations and tools to ask the questions necessary to get at a deeper understanding of what God is communicating through his Word.

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