16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Paul used an analogy of constructing a building to help the Corinthians understand the life of a Christian. Like a building, the life of a Christian needs a solid foundation. The life of a Christian is build upon the chief cornerstone, Christ Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Once the foundation is established, building material must be chosen that match the design and purpose of the building as detailed in the building blueprints. In the same manner, the Christian life should be constructed of works that serve the purpose of spreading the gospel message and discipling other believers using Jesus’ life on earth as a blueprint/model. This process requires that we constantly evaluate our own actions and goals to ensure that they align with pointing others to an eternity with God.

Now, in verses 16 and 17, Paul asks the sobering question… “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” This statement causes us to pause and consider the question. The word translated as “temple” here is the Greek word “naos”. The word “naos” is used of the temple at Jerusalem. But not the entire temple. Only of the sacred sanctuary itself, consisting of the Holy place and Holy of Holies.

The temple that is referred to here is the inner sanctuary of the temple at Jerusalem. This is the place where God lived. This is the place where only the high priest was allowed to go into.

There are two passages that we find in 1 Kings that discuss God living in the Temple…

(1 Kings 6:12-13) “Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.”

(1 Kings 8:10-11) “And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.”

The Holy of Holies was partitioned from the rest of the temple by a veil that was 30 cubits high (approximately 45 feet). Historical records indicate that the veil was four inches thick. From this time forward, only the high priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies one time per year to offer sacrifices for the sins of Israel; and only after a thorough cleansing process.

The veil served as a barrier between God and His people. Not because God did not desire a relationship with His people, but because the sin of His people would not permit them to stand in His presence. Our sins are what separate us from God.

Upon Jesus death, we are told 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:50-53)

Through Jesus’ sacrifice (a sacrificial lamb offered to God for our sins) on the cross, the barrier for us to approach God was removed. The veil, 45 feet tall and 4 inches thick, was torn from top to bottom in demonstration of God’s power, God’s love for us, and God’s desire for a relationship with us.

With a thorough understanding of the Holy of Holies and of God’s presence dwelling there, when Paul asks the question “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”, the Corinthians would understand what Paul was communicating to them.

For the Christian, the Holy Spirit lives within us. We have direct access to God, not through a priest, but through the work of Jesus on the cross. Through the Holy Spirit, God directs our lives. We serve God through the direction of the Holy Spirit. Paul later tells us in Galatians 2:20… “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Paul gives a strong warning to anyone who would misguide those that belong to God. The word “defile” is translated from the Greek word “phtheiro” (ftha’-ro) which means to lead away a Christian church from that state of knowledge and holiness in which it ought to abide.

The enemy wants to lead us away from God. He continues to tempt us into lives of sin. The Devil often sends individuals to teach things that go against the gospel of Christ. The devil and demons are referred to as deceiving spirits… “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) In Revelation, we are told of what God has in store for the enemy… “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet [are]. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)

Notice that Paul is presenting this warning immediately following the question about recognizing that we are the temples of God. Having just discussed building and discipling Christians, I believe that Paul wants us to consider that we will be held accountable for our actions and the influence that they have on others. We will be rewarded for our works that build up others in the image of Jesus. We will also be required to give account for the works that draw others away from a relationship with Jesus. We are called to represent Jesus in this fallen world. It is not an optional requirement for Christians as we will be required to account for the time that we have been allotted.

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.” (1 Corinthians 3: 13-13)

May your words and actions serve to draw others closer to God through a relationship with Jesus.

God Bless,