“We Are The Temple of God” A House Divided: Week 9 (1 Corinthians 3:16-23)
The Old Testament Temple was a place you went to. The New Testament Temple is who you are. Today, believers must be more intentional than ever to bring unity to the church rather than division.
1. We Are the Temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17)
2. Stop Being Deceived by Human Wisdom and Become a Fool for God (1 Cor. 3:18-20)
3. Stop Boasting in Men (1 Cor. 3:21-23)
Now, what’s interesting this week is he takes that building illustration to a whole nother level. We’re not just any building. We’re not just some ordinary, everyday building. Paul says in this passage that we are the temple of God. The manifest presence of the king of the universe is among us because he lives within us. Now, when Paul transitions from that idea of a building to a temple, it gets real serious. As we represent God and his presence is among us, this passage serves as an encouragement that quickly goes into a word of warning. See, this is God’s house. This is God’s temple. This is God’s body. This is the bride of Christ, and it should hold a weightiness to it, that idea. Let’s read it together. Stand with me, 1 Corinthians chapter three verse 16.
As Paul is transitioning from building, he says here, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Both individually, church, and collectively. Verse 17, “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written,” he’s quoting Job here, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness. Again, the Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are,” another powerful word, “useless. So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world of life or death or things present or things to come. All things belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” This is God’s word. Please be seated.
We, the church, are the temple of God, and we should not fall into the worldly wisdom of man apart from God nor should we seek the pride that comes from this life alone. As Paul here is starting off, he says a very clear statement that we are the temple of God. I want to tell you that’s both very encouraging and should also be very frightening to you this morning. Last week, we were a building. That’s one level. We’re a building with a firm foundation. We’re a building that uses not what he calls the shoddy building materials that don’t last of human wisdom, but we use the building materials that he’s given us. If we use good building materials, there was a warning last week, do you remember? He says if you’re using the good materials, God will tell for at judgment those materials will still be there as you stand before Christ and you will receive a reward. Whatever that reward is, it’s going to be good because it’s from him.
But as he transitioning to this text, he says if you’re using these second-rate, these cheap human materials that will not last, you will not receive a reward, but there will be judgment waiting for you. It’s almost like this gets Paul worked up, thinking about the building that is the church, and how great God is and how great of a responsibility we are. He starts thinking to himself, “As the building of God, you’re going to use shoddy building materials?” Then he transitions immediately to this, “Do you not know that you’re temple of God and that the Holy Spirit resides in you?” I think what he’s saying is, “Come on. Don’t you realize the importance of what we’re doing here? We’re not playing games. This is serious.” Why? Because God lives as us individually and collectively. His manifest presence should be seen in here in attitudes and actions and out there. This is a big deal. God is in you.
Now, Paul, he’s going to work this out throughout 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians chapter six, he’s going to focus on you as individuals being the temple of God and how important that is. It’s very encouraging. Here, he’s taking it collectively, that together, individually, like bricks in a building, we make up the temple of God. In this particular passage of scripture, it’s a warning. Before we get to the warning, let’s reflect a minute about how encouraging it should be to us, first and foremost, that God himself dwells in us, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, if you’re a believer, is in you. There’s some good things that come with that. Let’s reflect on that for a moment. Then, we’re going to get to the tough stuff.
I was thinking about this weekend, I was thinking, number one, you know what it means for me? It means that I’m never alone. The creator of everything that has ever been and that ever will be, he lives in you. That means he’s always there. You could be taken captive today. You could be made to live in a prison on some deserted or desert island that nobody’s ever heard of, be made to starve to death in a cave or some pit, and though you may think you’re alone, the reality is you are not alone. God is always there with you. If that doesn’t encourage you, you don’t understand what you have. The holiday season is rapidly approaching and Thanksgiving and Christmas are often great times of jubilation and celebration because we have what? Family and friends that gather around us.
We love to eat together, laugh together, watch football together, but just as it is exciting for some families, it’s also very hard for others because it reminds you who is not there. Maybe it’s a family member that’s passed on. Maybe you don’t have family that’s going to be around you. Maybe your family is in such discord you won’t be gathering together over Thanksgiving or Christmas. Here’s a feeling that often comes with the holiday season in America. It’s a feeling of depression that rises out of loneliness. If that’s you here this morning, let me encourage you. Though it’s burdensome to not be around family and though we mourn with you and we want you to feel the family of Christ together over the season, as bad as you think it will be, you are not alone. God is with you. He will never leave you, and he will never forsake you. Let that sink in, especially as you come into this season.
Number two, you will always have a guide. He’s always with you. Because he’s with you, the Holy Spirit wants to guide you. That’s one of the purposes in your life. Have you ever had one of those weeks where you feel like everything is just out of control? You feel like you’re just kind of turning in circles? Then, you kind of look up for a second like, “I have no idea where I’m going. I’m lost and lonely in this world.” Well, if that’s you, lean on the Holy Spirit to be your guide. Through his word and through prayer, no matter how lost you feel, you always have someone to follow. No matter how crazy your finances are, no matter how lost and hopeless your career seems, you just keep waking up every day, turning your eyes towards Jesus, get in his word, stay connected to him in prayer, and I promise you this: He will guide you.
Not only do you have someone who’s always with you and you have a guide, but also with the Holy Spirit, you also have a comforter. All the world through the power of Satan is gifted at making you feel useless and worthless. Maybe you came here this week and you’re like, “I’ve been knocked down,” or maybe, “I have fallen down, and I just don’t want to get up.” Maybe the world tells you that you are useless. You start to buy it. Maybe the world has shown you in some way that you believe the lie that you’re worthless. Let God comfort you through his Spirit. Look at your life through the lenses of Christ. Let him tell you who you really are in him and not who the world tells you you should be. Church, we are the temple of God as individuals, and this should be encouraging.
Because it’s so important to understand that we’re the temple of God, it also comes with a word of warning because, collectively, we represent him to the world. The church in Corinth had kind of missed that point. They got caught up believing what the world believed. They got caught up in human wisdom. They were in danger of messing up this representation that the church was to the city of Corinth. Paul knew that if he continued to let the division and the nonsense happen in Corinth, they would misrepresent God and, instead of leading people to Christ, they would hinder and lead people away from Christ. What does Paul say? Look at this warning that he gives. It’s very stiff. “If a man destroys the temple of God,” that we are, “God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, and that is what you,” we, “are.”
When’s the last time you heard that, that God will destroy you? I’m not saying when’s the last time you read it in scripture, because it’s there, he says it. I mean, when’s the last time you heard someone say that behind a pulpit? That’s a scary thought. It’s hard to say, “God will destroy you.” What does that mean? Why is it so important that he would use such strong language like this? Well, if you go back to the Old Testament and you look at the temple and how careful they had to be to build both the traveling tabernacle and the permanent temple to be exactly what God wanted it to be. You couldn’t just casually stumble into the holy of holies because that’s where the Ark of the Covenant was. That’s where God’s presence was.
If you did it the wrong way, what would happen? You read the Old Testament, right? You’d die. When the Ark of the Covenant was traveling and you got too close, and you stumbled, and maybe even on accident you fell over and you touched it, what would happen? You would die. It’s a serious thing to be the place that represents the manifest presence of God. I think sometimes we treat it so casually. Paul’s correcting that in this. You are the temple of God. Now, what does it mean to destroy? This word, destroy, is up for a lot of debate. It can literally mean to like obliterate, to physically harm, but I don’t think Paul’s saying that someone has the capacity to obliterate or to physically destroy the church. Now, they’ve been trying to do that for 2000 years, whoever they are. Have they been successful? No. God keeps growing, and he keeps using and multiplying his church. What he’s saying here
Using and multiplying his church. What he’s saying here is this word destroy can also mean to corrupt, like to morally corrupt, to damage. So, just like he’s not saying that someone can actually destroy the church, he’s not saying that God is going to obliterate you, meaning if you’re a believer and you do some kind of harm to the church he’s gonna obliterate you and send you to hell. Remember, he’s talking to believers, you cannot lose your salvation. He’s not saying that you’re gonna lose your salvation, that God’s gonna obliterate you but if we use that word harm or morally corrupt, he is saying that if you harm the church, if you go out of your way to corrupt the church, God will harm you. I think we need to own that, that the Temple of God is important to him. When Jesus was on this Earth, he referred to his body as what? The temple. He went into heaven, he left us this spirit and now we are the temple. We’re also the body of Christ.
So, if you think about that idea in this text, that when you harm the church, now listen real careful, I think this is important, we miss the warning sometimes because we don’t offend people, if you harm the church, if you corrupt the church, that God will in some way harm you. That’s how important his Temple of God thing is to him, that when you harm the church, you’re not just harming the people that are around you that are joined together in membership, you’re actually assaulting the very body of the king. If you look throughout history, with human kings, you don’t wanna get into the habit of assaulting the king. And the king of the universe, on a whole ‘nother level. An attack on the king’s temple, ladies and gentlemen, is the same thing as an attack on the king himself. I think it’s just a stiff warning here. Not only does he call us here the Temple of God, you know what else the church is called, not only the body of Christ, one of my favorite terms for the church is the Bride of Christ.
That’s where it hit home for me this week because if you come to my house and you disrespect my wife and you make efforts to harm her, we’re gonna have problems. I’m being dead serious. We’re gonna have real problems. I tell my children the same thing. She was my wife long before she was your mother. You will not disrespect her. I consider myself a pretty calm guy. I try to be a nice guy. When I think this, I’m thinking like real serious. Here’s the reality. You harm her I will harm you. Does that make sense? So, where do we get off thinking that we can disrespect and harm the Bride of Christ and get away with it? I hear people say, “I love God but I hate the church.” I want to tell them, “You’re talking about the Bride of Christ. That’s an oxymoron. You don’t get Todd Gray without Tammy Gray. You don’t get God without his bride and he will stand up for her and he will protect her.” As messed as we are, we are still his. This modern affection for dogging on, disrespecting and making fun of the church, it really gets under my skin.
We need to be careful in what we say, how we talk about it and as church members how we treat the church. So, how is the Corinthian Church harming the church? Because you’re thinking this seems real serious, now I better listen because I never want to do that. I’ll tell you how, through division. This is a one for one thing, I’m not trying to reach here. This is exactly what is going on in Corinthian Church. Paul says, “How you’re harming the Bride of Christ in your congregation is through division.” Personality worship, personal preferences that are not on a Gospel priority. This is how church splits happen. There’s some kind of preference that happens for some group of people in the church that they disagree about on and it’s usually not over a primary issue that’s a Gospel issue, it’s usually over a personal preference issue. Do you know that division can take to a place that you never thought you would be and that you never wanna go?
All of a sudden, you’re personal preference becomes so entangled with your personal pride, you’re standing up for things that are nonsensical and then you’re fighting over it and then you slip into what Paul’s talking about here, into a place where you’re intentionally harming the Temple of God and the Bride of Christ for your own personal preferences and we wonder why God says, “I will destroy you.” That’s serious. I don’t wanna do it. I know you don’t wanna do it either so we need to be careful about division because it can lead to this. I once heard about a church member in a church that didn’t like where the pastor was going and what he was doing. So they said, “You know what? I’m just gonna stop giving to the church. I’m gonna financially starve the church and then I’m gonna get all my friends to do the same thing and one day the pastor’s gonna have to take such a pay cut, he’s gonna have to leave and then we’ll be all good again.”
Think about that for a second. That idea, that thought, inside of God’s church. Who are they really hurting? They may be hurting the pastor in some way but they’re not hurting the pastor, they’re hurting the Temple of God, the body of the Bride of Christ. And God says that kind of behavior, “I will come after you.” So, in reality, they’re hurting themselves. I think we need to be very careful and the division and the selfishness and the personality stuff that we do in the church. I just read this text and I’m like, “You know, God’s pretty serious about it.” Not only did Paul want the church, us today, to feel the weightiness of being the Bride of Christ, of being the Temple of God. I think he also wants us to know some areas that we are actually potentially harming the church. Now, for you, it may be a little different so let’s talk about the Corinthian ways that Paul saw in their church that they were actually harming the Temple of God and then we’ll see if that will apply to any of us today.
Look at verses 18 through 23. Paul gives here three imperative commands that, I’m gonna break them down into two points, that he sees going on in that church that are harming the Temple of God. Number one is that he wants them to stop being deceived by human wisdom and then the second command and become a fool for God. That’s in verses 18 through 20 and then verses 21 through 23 he wants them to stop boasting in men. So, let’s talk about being deceived by human wisdom and being a fool for God even if that human wisdom that you’re being deceived by is your own. There’s two commands here, stop doing one thing and start doing another. You have to stop doing the harmful thing before you can start doing the helpful thing. You gotta stop doing the wrong thing so you can start doing the right thing. I was thinking about it this week, it’s like a drug addict who has financial difficulties. You can’t just go into that person’s life and start helping them fix their financial difficulties ’cause they’re just gonna keep spending money on the addiction.
You must first do what? You must address the harmful thing. We have to get you off of these harmful drugs but once you do that then you can start saving and investing your money. Does that make sense? That’s what Paul’s doing here. He wants them to stop the harmful behavior of following human wisdom and human logic apart from God’s will and God’s glory so that they can start being, jokingly here, metaphorically here, a fool for God so they can actually become wise. Getting caught up in the wisdom of man can and eventually will lead you astray if it’s not connected to God for his glory. Why? Because men are tricky, men are manipulative and men are crafty. As some of you ladies are like, “I wanna say amen.” I don’t mean like men, like male and female, I mean like humanity, okay? Humanity is crafty. Humanity is manipulative and humanity, we in ourselves, are tricky. But God is the one who can reveal their manipulation and their craftiness so you don’t get caught up in it. That’s what he’s saying in verse 19.
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God for it is written.” And here he’s quoting Job 5:13. “He is the one who catches the wise in their manipulation who catches the wise in their craftiness.” Now, I want you to know that the Book of Job is probably the oldest book that we have in the canon of Scripture. Why does that matter? Because I want you to know that the craftiness and the manipulation of humanity is not a new thing. It’s been going on for a long, long time and God is the one that can show you the craftiness of man so you don’t get caught up in it but then he quotes another Old Testament verse in Psalm 94 verse 11 and verse 20 he says, “The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that they are,” catch this, “useless.” Not only can God reveal to you the manipulation of other men, he can show you how their logic and their wisdom apart from him is not only useless but I would say even harmful when you let it come into the congregation.
Now, can we learn from the world? Absolutely. We can take the best practices, we can take the best practices of businesses and we can learn from them when we submit them to God in his word for his glory. But when we try to bring them into the church apart from him and we try to run the Temple of God, the Bride of Christ, the church, like a worldly business, we’re gonna fail. You may find some worldly achievements but you will not find real success because what is real success, church? It’s not human numbers, it’s not human popularity. In fact, it can’t be measured by the world. True success as a Christian, write this down, is obedience to God. When you think about the New Testament churches that we study today like Ephesus, who was a good church, Thessalonica, they were a blessed church, did you know that they were tiny? I’m talking tiny, like right here tiny in comparison to even our sized congregation, much less what some of these mega congregations that we see in our world today, these churches, they didn’t have property. They didn’t have community support. They didn’t have political influence.
In fact, the opposite is true. Yet their legacy, think about it, their legacy in these tiny churches lives on 2000 years later. Why? Because they had one thing, they had the favor of God. Now, I don’t know the names of the churches and the legacies that’s gonna be left for the future. I just know there’s gonna be a lot of churches that you may know their name today and nobody’ll know their name in the future because their legacy is not for God, it’s for men. What matters is obedience to God and he wants the churches to see that an obedience to God does not include blind following of the wisdom of man. Paul is making the point that worldly wisdom is foolishness to God apart from him. So to walk this into your heart a little bit because this is an idea we talked-
So to walk this into your heart a little bit because this is an idea we talk about a lot, I want to ask you a question. What are some of the foolish wisdom things of this world, or maybe as true, the world sees it as true wisdom that God would see as foolish?
What are the worldly wisdom things that we hear about right now that the world is promoting, and even trying to drive into our congregations, that God looks at, in your heart of hearts, you know when he looks at it he says, “That is absolute foolishness.”
If you can’t think of any, I’ll help you for a few minutes. What about the sanctity of human life? That’s a touchy subject, but I’m going to get a little touchy this morning, that’s okay. Abortion says that human choice matters most. I hear that, and I’m like, does it really? Because what about human choice that’s in the womb? What do they want? Or maybe it’s an age thing. Maybe the older humans get more of a say than the younger humans. Well that’s not true, because the oldest among us, the very oldest of this world, we hardly listen to them at all. The only people that we listen less to are the voices that we can’t hear in the womb.
What does God say about the sanctity of human life? He says all life matters to me, and in fact, you need to be a voice for the voiceless and you need to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. He calls what the world thinks about this idea foolishness and makes no sense to him, so why are we falling into it and believing it? What about when the world says, you know what, you just be who you want to be? I hear that so much, and I got to be honest with you, right now as I say that out loud, it feels freeing to say I’m going to be who I want to be. Sounds good. Feels good. I feel all energetic when I say it.
The world says you be the gender you want to be. What does God say church, you know. He says that’s foolishness. It’s foolishness to God to talk like that, He says listen, I created you male or female, be who I created you to be, and how about this, be who I want you to be. Now when I say stuff like this, and it’s recorded on the internet, I know there’s some flack that comes back at me because of this, and they say that sounds very hateful, and a hardened attitude, and it’s not very loving.
I want to say absolutely it is loving. It doesn’t seem like you care about people’s happiness. I really do care about your happiness, I just know that the happiness you will ever be is when you are who God wants you to be. See, when you’re seeking happiness through personal pleasure or personal preference, you’ll never find it. But if you just seek God and his glory for his will, he’ll give it to you for free.
Marriage. The world says, you know what, marriage doesn’t matter. Just shack up if you want to. For all of you who don’t know what shacking up means, it’s an old term for living together before you’re married. Let me help you, and this is real personal by the way, because I interact with a lot of people and I want to tell you it’s some very high percent of couples today live together, sleep together, sexually active together before they ever consider the covenant of marriage. I’m talking like maybe 70, 80, 90%. It’s almost everywhere with everybody.
Christian or non Christian, it’s the same. Or if they say marriage doesn’t matter, just shack up, then they’re saying just marry who you want to marry. If you’re going to marry, you don’t have to, but if you’re going to just do it the way you want to do it. What does God say church? He says foolishness. I created the plan, the covenant of marriage, follow it the way that I set it up and the happiness that you want, I’ll give it to you.
See God knows better than us. The ways of the world apart from God and their own human logic are foolishness to God, but the opposite is true, isn’t it? When you find yourself talking to someone who doesn’t believe the Bible, doesn’t love the Lord, doesn’t think the same way that we do about the scriptures. When you start saying some things that we say in church, like you crazy.
Sometimes God sees the world as foolish, but sometimes sees us as foolish, and that’s okay. Be a fool for God. Think about it, when you’re in the church and you say things like, you know, you got to be second or last if you want to be first. The world goes, are you crazy? Have you ever played a sport? If you come in second you don’t come in first.
Right, or when we say you must sacrifice your money and your savings instead of saving it for yourself, you’re like, you crazy? You’ll never find financial freedom like that, and God says, try me. Jesus says if you want to truly live you must die. The world hears those kind of things, and they’re like, that is foolish. Let me encourage you church, be a fool then for God.
Be a fool for God and at least you’ll be a saved fool by believing in Jesus Christ. Paul said stuff like this before, Colossians 1:18 says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the very power of God. So if it takes being called a fool by the world for you to believe that God left Heaven and became a man in Jesus Christ, that he lived a perfect life and died a death to atone for and pay the price for the penalty of sin that you deserved, that he was buried and that three days later he rose from the dead, I’ll say so be it.
If that means you’re going to be a fool to the world, so be it. Be a fool for the cross, and Paul says that’s the beginning of true wisdom. When we stop seeking the acceptance of the world and following human wisdom and human personalities because human wisdom apart from the knowledge of Christ is useless and harmful. Paul goes on in versus 21 through 23, not only is one of the dangers in the Corinthian church, he says, following the wisdom of the world, so therefore be a fool so you can be wise, he also says you have this affection for humans, so stop boasting in men is what he’s telling them here.
The people in Corinth, they were what I call fan boys or fan girls, they just loved human philosophy. They loved human wisdom. They loved worldliness. They had their favorite preachers. They had their favorite teachers. They had their favorite philosophers and they wanted to make everybody in competition with one another. Paul says, what are you doing? They even tried to do that with Paul. I follow Paul, and someone, no I follow Apollos. Well that guy ain’t got nothing. I follow Peter.
Paul says stop the nonsense, we’re all on the same team trying to take you to the same place. Stop boasting in your pride about men. See the people in Corinth were missing God for the sake of wanting to follow Godly men apart from him. Isn’t that crazy? These men were Godly, Paul, Apollos and Peter. But they were missing God because they wanted to follow the Godly men, and Paul said listen, I’m nothing. Me or Apollos or Peter or anybody, we’re just servants. Stop following us and follow Him.
It’s like the difference between being a football fan and only like a team fan. Well some of you say, well I’m a football fan, but what you really mean is I just like watching the Cowboys, because you don’t watch high school football, you don’t watch college football, you don’t watch other professional football. You only watch the Cowboys, and when they stop playing you stop watching. I want to help you today. You’re not a football fan, you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan. A football fan enjoys high school football, college football, they enjoy the game and yes on occasion they might even watch other football games outside of the Cowboys.
It’s the same way, you know, sometimes we say I’m a Christian and I go to this church, but I only follow this one personality. That’s what they’re doing to Corinth. Not only were they only following one personality, but then they wanted to pit one personality against the other and make them competitors. Here’s what you do when you do that. You miss what God is trying to teach you from that Godly man.
So what does Paul say? He responds here in verse 22, so whether Paul or Apollos or Ephesus or the world of life or death or things present or things to come, all things belong to you. He’s putting everybody on the same level, stop following these men. They’re not created for you to worship them, in fact they were brought to you to serve you. But in case they got arrogant, Paul says yes they belong to you, but don’t forget you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God. Now we’re full circle.
Everything is for God Almighty. All of us were created to bring him glory through our lives. We exist for that purpose. The church is his temple, his bride, meant to propagate the gospel to the ends of the earth, so yes more people can come to know Jesus as their savior, but also so that God can receive the glory that he fully deserves. We as individuals are just bricks in this temple of God that he’s building here and in us.
Just like the Old Testament temple that would take a rock and bring it out of the ground, and they would take a chisel and a hammer and they would hun that rock, shape that rock until it became the brick that it needed to be to go into the temple to support the presence of God’s glory to be interacted with by the world.
You and I are bricks. Don’t be surprised if you’re bringing harm to the church through selfishness or divisiveness or maybe moral corruption, if God pulls out the hammer and he pulls out the chisel and he starts taking off those sharp edges. I’m not saying it’s going to be fun or necessarily pleasant, but it’s for your good because it’s accomplishing his purpose.
Now right about this point in the sermon when we’re reflecting on the whole message, we see God’s love over here and then we hear this Paul saying God will destroy you over here, and we’re like, they’re mutually exclusive. They can’t go together. I’m telling you right now, sure they can. It’s because God loves you that he will shape you. If you’re harming the church he’ll pull out the chisel and pull out the hammer and he will harm you until he shapes you into who he wants you to be, so you can be that brick that’s a part of these other bricks that make up the temple for his glory.
Don’t be surprised if God pulls out the chisel when you’re following human wisdom. Don’t be surprised if God pulls out the hammer and the chisel when you’re seeing after the pride of life or causing harm to the church, in fact, I say expect it. That’s what Paul says. Expect it and see it as God’s love, and here’s a crazy thought, even ask for it.
If God through this message has revealed some of these areas in you that you know are potentially harming the bride of Christ, that you’re participating in, or human wisdom or pride, say God would you pull out the chisel? Though it may be painful, you pull out the hammer and would you craft me into who you want me to be? Because that should be the desire of a true follower of the way.
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