V1616Do you not know that you are a temple of God and [that] the Spirit of God dwells in you?. Paul proceeds with his explanation about building God’s house, the temple. As it is indicated here, the temple is not a visible brick building, as was the case in Jerusalem. You may hear the mention of a church building as ‘the house of God’, but in the New Testament (that means, from the beginning of the church) we do not hear about an earthly building as a house of God anymore. The house of God now consists of all true believers in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.
V1717If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.. As it is said, building the house in this chapter is something that is done by people. In the previous verses you saw two groups of builders. Now you come across a third group of builders on God’s house. Those are people who want to defile God’s temple. That is very evident. It is about people who want to defile the work of God on purpose. In the previous verses the possibility was left open that a person was building with wrong materials. That can happen, but in that case it is not deliberately. Such a person himself will remain saved, even as through fire. He loses everything, but he escapes, as it were. But of people that deliberately defile the temple of God, is said that God will destroy them.
How should you imagine that the temple of God is being defiled? Does God permit that to happen? First you should remember that the believers together form the temple of God. The Corinthians also had to be reminded of that: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God?” They were the temple of God, in whom the Spirit of God dwelled. If you are fully aware of that, you will come to the conclusion that the only Person Who has a right to speak in the temple of God, is the Holy Spirit.
Just imagine that in the temple of God, so in the church, people come forward who teach things that contradict the Word of God. In this way the church of God becomes a place where the Holy Spirit and the Word of God are being put aside and where people come forward with their own ideas about God and His Word. The cunning thing of their way in presenting these things is that they present themselves as people who have knowledge of these things. They are often well-educated and wonderful speakers who do not want to trouble the conscience.
You can recognize them clearly in their way of talking about the Lord Jesus. Sometimes they speak very crudely about Him, as Somebody Who stands very close to you and Who is just like you, with the same desires and lusts. There you have that cunning talk: He indeed stands very close to you. The Bible says that He “has been tempted in all things as [we are]”. But what is important, is that this phrase is followed by “[yet] without sin”. Just read that yourself in Hebrews 4 (Heb 4:1515For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as [we are, yet] without sin.).
Sometimes they also talk very respectfully and loftily about Him, as Somebody Who stands far above you. In this case He is presented as a kind of angel, through whom you can get to know a lot about God. Here also it is so cunning. For indeed through Him you can get to know a lot about God. But the truth about Him goes much further. You can get to know everything about God through Him alone, for He is God Himself. Therefore He is above the angels. You can read that in Hebrews 1 (Heb 1:1-141God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.3And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,4having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.5For to which of the angels did He ever say, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”? And again, “I will be a Father to Him And He shall be a Son to Me”?6And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”7And of the angels He says, “Who makes His angels winds, And His ministers a flame of fire.”8But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.9“You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness above Your companions.”10And, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands;11They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like a garment,12And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.”13But to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies A footstool for Your feet”?14Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?).
By talking about the Lord Jesus in this cunning way, the temple of God is being defiled. The house of God is here called “a temple”, in order to emphasize the honor that is due to God in His house. God is being honored when the Lord Jesus is being honored and He is being dishonored when the Lord Jesus is being dishonored. The temple of God is also called “holy”. It is a building in which nothing from the world and its wisdom may be found.
V1818Let 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.. In the church “no man” should “deceive himself” by thinking that he has the monopoly of wisdom. The wisdom that is ruling the world must not enter the church. This kind of wisdom is deadly for the church of God. It makes you forget that true wisdom is only to be found with God and with Christ. Once more Paul is saying that the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. He must necessarily repeat it, for he had already said that in chapter 1.
We are evidently quickly impressed by the wisdom of the world. One more time: do not forget that this wisdom is foolishness with God. In order to become really wise you need to become foolish first. To become foolish does not mean: to act like an idiot. To become foolish means that you do not want to trust anymore on the capacities of the wise people of the world or on your own understanding.
V19-2119For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “[He is] the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”;20and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.”21So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you,. You want to focus on the wisdom of God, which you have discovered in Christ. That is foolishness to the world, but God calls you wise. Furthermore you read that God “catches the wise in their craftiness”. All those people who are sidelining God or reasoning Him away, will be unmasked by Him. He will show them who they are by revealing to them how they walked and what the results of their work are. Everything they had ever considered has not had any effect. On the contrary, the chaos has become bigger. Everything that men have invented appears to be empty. This emptiness of human wisdom must be a sufficient reason not to boast in men.
V22-2322whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you,23and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.. But there is another reason why it is foolish to boast in men. Boasting in men enormously limits the riches that the believer possesses. If Paul was the great man, then it was to the detriment of Apollos. The supporter of Paul had discovered something in Paul that Apollos lacked. Therefore he felt attracted to Paul and was of the opinion that he didn’t need Apollos. In this way they compared the servants and after that they made a choice. That still happens today. If you take part in that, you live beneath your privileges, for you need every servant and not only the one who is your favorite.
And not only the servants are given to you, but also all other things. The whole area you live in, the “world”, is yours. That is because you are Christ’s. That is also with “life” and “death”. Life is yours because Christ is your life. Death is yours because Christ has conquered death. The “things present” and the “things to come” are all yours because you “belong to Christ”. Christ oversees the present and the future. Nothing will get out of His hand and become uncontrollable for Him, neither in your life nor in the whole world stage. He shall rule everything in such a way that God is glorified in everything.
“Christ belongs to God” means that God will finish everything that he had intended to do, through Christ. The final result will be seen when Christ will give all things to God the Father and God will be all in all (1Cor 15:2828When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.). You belong to that Christ. Isn’t that a great fortune?
Now read 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 again.
Reflection: If all things are yours, are you then supposed to do with it whatever you want? How do you use what is yours?