Imagine my shock on the elliptical machine, sweat running down my cheeks, meditating on 1 Corinthians 3, when it hit me - Paul is not talking about exercise!
In the passage, the apostle speaks of rewards in heaven, and then suddenly he starts talking about our bodies being the Temple of God. I wondered, how did he get there? It doesn't seem to connect. I went back and reread the verses, before and after, and noticed a word I had never seen there: Together. And, boom, it hit me!
And how ironic that I was exercising - taking care of the "temple," so to speak - when I realized that eating right, not smoking and exercising had NOTHING to do with what Paul was talking about when he said:
"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Now to be clear, in 1 Corinthians 6, he does refer to our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit, in regards to sexual immortality. This is why sexual sins are especially perverse, because the presence of Jesus is inside our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
This is different than his meaning in chapter three. In chapter six, he says "temples" - plural, meaning that the presence of God dwells in every "individual" believer. But in chapter three, he says, that we together are the Temple (singular) of God. He is speaking of the entire body of Messiah.
Why is this Important!?
Paul is very concerned about the Corinthians, who are rife with divisions (1 Corinthians 1:12). He then rebukes them in chapter three for this (3:3-4).
We think "worldly" means listening to secular music, but worldly in the New Testament sense, means living life in the fleshly carnality of anger, strife, division, pride, jealously, etc. The Spirit-empowered believer is called to live on a higher level. Now, in verse 16 and 17, we see that Paul was far more concerned about their unity than he was about their diet.
The word for you in Greek is plural in these verses, hence the NIV adds the word "together" at the end of v. 17 to emphasize that we, the body of Messiah, together, are the Temple of God, not as individuals. This actually highlights something that is unique, and dangerous, about the English language: we have no 2nd person, plural pronoun! "You" can be speaking of an individual or a group. (Albeit in some dialects there is "y'all.") Sadly, there are hundreds - maybe thousands - of places in both Old Covenant and New when the Scripture is speaking to us as a people, as a congregation, as a collective "you", but only in the English language can it sound like He is speaking to just one, individual "you", So when he says that God will destroy the person who destroys God's temple, he is not talking about individuals smoking cigarettes or over-eating (things I do not recommend) - he is talking about those who cause division!
The New Testament speaks regarding the sin of schism or division in the strongest language, "If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person." In the midst of division, people fall away from the faith. Division and splits break God's heart because they rip apart the body of Jesus.
Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to separate: gross sin, false teaching or a leader who is abusing the flock. But most splits are rooted in pride and hurt feelings.
Unity does not mean Uniformity
In Paul's letter, he refers to some being loyal to Apollos, others to himself and some to Cephas (Peter). We could take this too far and say loyalty to a group or subdivision of the body of believers is wrong. That is not what Paul is saying here. There was nothing wrong with the fact that Apollos had a group of disciples that were loyal to him as their leader.
The issue is not the groupings, but the pride that enters in. Once you start thinking that your team is the best, you have entered a dangerous place. Paul was thrilled that Apollos was bearing fruit - he was not thrilled that some of these disciples were overly loyal to a man and standing in judgment of other leaders or movements. My connection with Tikkun International doesn't cause me to judge other movements. Rather, I celebrate each one's unique gifting and calling. We can have unity without uniformity, and we can celebrate the work of God in each other.
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There have been comments to this article ...
9:20am 29May18, Ron and Darla Ellyson: This is profound & encouraging to our hearts -- thank you, Ron.
12:27pm 29May18, Denise Russell: Thank you for the insight into what brother Paul meant.
1:09pm 30May18, Dorothy Smith: Thank you for making that so clear! I had never seen the difference before but now I will never forget it and what it alludes to.
2:16pm 31May18, Dr I Crowmell: I perfectly agree with you; well done and thank you. This goes in the face of TRUE MEMBERSHIP of our G-d's church. We are all members in His one body church and should help each other. The problem with churches today is that if you are not a written down member, you are totally excluded from anything within that church UNTIL YOU CONFORM!!! SORRY, BUT THAT is not biblical or scriptural.
6:17pm 31May18, Wayne Fleming: Praise God!!!
4:28pm 15Jun18, Scott Stanger: This is a simple yet profound insight. Psalm 133 shows us that God is provoked to command a blessing where there is unity. John 17 shows Jesus praying for our unity because we are made perfect there and make our most convincing witness to the world. And Ephesians 4 shows us a vitally important role of the Ascension Gifts is to train us into unity unto fullness.
4:53am 16Jun18, Pamela Rhoten: Thank you for the insight!
6:21pm 16Jun18, Martha Mc.: Glory to G-d for your insight into this scripture. I too will not forget your teaching of 1 Cor. 3. And I appreciate you referencing we Texans in your article.
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