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The Scriptorium

Temple of God

Dwelling of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 3.16, 17

1 Corinthians 3 (4)

Pray Psalm 71.1-3.
In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame.
Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape;
Incline Your ear to me, and save me.
Be my strong refuge,
To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

Sing Psalm 71.1-3.
(Solid Rock: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less)
In You, O LORD, I refuge claim; O let me never be ashamed.
In righteousness deliver me; incline Your ear and hear my plea.
Refrain v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; command Your Word to rescue me;
my Rock and Fortress ever be!

Read 1 Corinthians 3.1-17; meditate on verses 16, 17.


1. How did Paul identify the Corinthians?

2. How did he warn them?

Paul sets forth another reason for not allowing ourselves to be divided as followers of Christ. We are a temple of the Lord, each one of us who believes, because the Spirit of God has come to dwell in us (v. 16). Later, Paul will add yet more strength to this image by saying that all believers together are the Lord’s temple. He dwells in us singularly and corporately. We are, individually and together, the place where the eternal God has been pleased to take up residence in space and time.

If we believe this, we will not allow our oneness to be easily fragmented or forgotten. To do so would be to “defile” the temple of God. The word is actually “destroy”, the same as appears in the second part of verse 17 (φθείρει. phtheirei). That’s scary language. You are the temple of God. But you can “destroy” the Lord’s dwelling place by losing sight of it as your proper dwelling and project. We are the temple of the Lord, and we are becoming the temple of the Lord as we build upon the Foundation and Cornerstone of Jesus. Fail to build on who we are, and we “destroy” what we should be becoming.

And in doing so, we set ourselves up to be “destroyed” by God. God knows how to bring discipline against His people when we become misguided or neglectful or outright rebellious against His plan for us (Heb. 12.3-11). The unravelling that was occurring among the Corinthian churches—social, spiritual, liturgical, ethical, and moral—was the result of God’s “destroying” them. They were laying bricks like the people of Babel on temples of their own choosing. God was tearing those sinful temples down so that Paul could lead the Corinthians to rebuild His temples as they ought.

Better to keep focused on who we are and who we are becoming in the Lord.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Row, Row, Row Your Boat is a round that can be sung ad infinitum, but with great harmonies.

But this rather rousing ditty that Paul penned for us is repeated in the church, over and over, generation after generation, ad nauseum, and it altogether lacks harmony. The positives are outstanding, but the negatives are terrifying:

You are the temple of God.
The Spirit of God dwells in you.
If you destroy that temple,
God will destroy you.
The temple of God is holy.
You are the temple of God.

“‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven,
and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’
says the LORD of hosts,
‘That will leave neither root nor branch.
But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
with healing in His wings…’” (Mal. 4.1, 2).

If we were tasked with building our own home, we would certainly choose gold, silver, and precious stones as our work materials, rather than things like wood, hay, and stubble (1Cor. 3.12 KJV) which are more flammable. God calls us to build His Church and the temple of our lives with substantial things—faith and trust in Him, and obedience and reliance on His Word—so that His Church will be beautiful, the joy of the whole earth (Ps. 48.2).

We are the temple of God.
The Spirit of God lives in us.
We will not destroy it with sin.
We will not be destroyed by God.
The temple of God is holy.
Yes, we are the Temple of God!

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life in Him’s supreme!

For reflection
1. What does it mean to you to know that you are a temple of the living God?

2. What is your approach to daily building the temple of the Lord?

3. How can you make sure that you’re not destroying the temple of the Lord by what you do?

Christ by his Spirit dwells in all true believers. Christians are holy by profession, and should be pure and clean, both in heart and conversation. He is deceived who deems himself the temple of the Holy Ghost, yet is unconcerned about personal holiness, or the peace and purity of the church. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3.16, 17

Pray Psalm 71.14-18.
How will it be evident in you today that you are a temple of the Lord? Pray about the day ahead, calling on the Lord to make His indwelling Presence known in all your words and deeds.

Sing Psalm 71.14-18.
(Solid Rock: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less)
But as for me my voice I raise to sing in hope and constant praise!
With saving grace my voice will swell Your never-ending grace to tell.

Refrain v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; command Your Word to rescue me;
my Rock and Fortress ever be!

O LORD, I praise Your righteousness Who me from youth have taught and blessed.
Forsake me not when I am old, ‘til I Your mercies all have told!

T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth needed revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today needs revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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