through the Spirit.
Paul warns that
our ongoing ways of building the Temple of God (referring to all God’s people
on earth in general and the local church in particular) will be judged. When we
read about “the Temple of God” in 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17 it is critical to
remember that in this passage the Temple is not each individual person, as this
analogy is also often used in the New Testament, but here it refers to the
church community. Paul is using the plural: “You yourselves are God’s temple
and God’s Spirit dwells in your midst.” (16) and (17)
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s
temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
This is a stern
warning about how we go about the business of building the church together. The
church can be “destroyed” through the failed efforts of its would-be leaders. And
if we destroyed the church with worldly wisdom – we must repent and change our
ways as our penitence.
So, what does
faithful building looks like?
with wisdom which is Christ alone.
Paul refers to
himself as a “skilled master builder” (1 Corinthians 3:10). The Greek word that
translates as “skilled” is Sophos, “wisdom”.
As a “wise”
master builder, Paul builds with what he has been given: Christ himself.
Christ, and more specifically Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, is the
foundation of the church. This is the message that Paul proclaimed: the only
starting point for building God’s temple is Christ, who is God’s wisdom! (1
Corinthians 2:1-5; 4:8-21).
Verses 18-23 are
the point at which Paul’s warning holds up the mirror, asking us to reflect on
what, exactly, we think the wisdom of God consists of.
There is godly
wisdom and there is worldly wisdom. When worldly wisdom baptizes itself in the
name of Jesus, and masquerades as the wisdom of God it becomes foolishness to
God and not useful to build the temple of God.
life-giving ministries will be in Christ. All church-building ministries will
thus look like the self-giving love that Jesus put on display in the
cross. To the world, this will always
But for those
who are the called, this is the wisdom of God.
3: 19 For the
wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.
The “wise” of
this age are not so smart after all. God allows the wise to carry out their
schemes, but he employs their cunning schemes (their wisdom) to bring about
their own downfall. Their cunning, which resulted in the crucifixion of Christ, also resulted
in the guilt and condemnation of these leaders, unless of course they repented
and acknowledged Jesus as their Messiah.
21 So then let no one boast in men. For all
things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life
or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ
belongs to God.
Paul now calls
for a second act of repentance, we are
instructed to forsake “boasting in humans.”
The situation in
Corinth is not new. Throughout history,
people have found their “identity” or “significance” in groups. They take pride in belonging to a certain
group, a certain leader or a certain tradition.
to draw a personal following, must teach “truth” unique to them, which is not
being taught by others. The only way to be in this inner circle of “truth,” is
to “belong” to the group, especially to its leader. This is foolishness.
Why can we then build
up the congregation as a true Temple of God in which the Spirit dwells? Not through our own interpretations, our
social standing, or our status.
It always is
the result of belonging to Christ. We belong to Christ, Paul reminds us, and Christ belongs to God (verse
Since all things
belong to God, we possess them in Christ.
Christ is the
foundation on which we build!
resurrection and ascension are the only useful means by which people are
prepared to become building blocks in the Temple of God!