|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:16,17 From other parts of the epistle, it appears that the false teachers among the Corinthians taught unholy doctrines. Such teaching tended to corrupt, to pollute, and destroy the building, which should be kept pure and holy for God. Those who spread loose principles, which render the church of God unholy, bring destruction upon themselves. 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.
Verse 17. - If any man defile the temple of God. The verb is the same as in the next clause, and should be rendered, If any man destroy the temple of God; but the word is perhaps too strong, and the word "mar" or "injure" might better convey the meaning (Olshausen). The two verbs are brought into vivid juxtaposition in the original: "God shall ruin the ruiner of his temple." St. Paul was, perhaps, thinking of the penalty of death attached to any one who desecrated the temple of Jerusalem. Inscriptions on the chel, or "middle wall of partition," threatened death to any Gentile who set foot within the sacred enclosure." Which temple ye are; literally, the which are ye; i.e. ye are holy. St. Paul is here referring to the Church of Corinth, and to the false teachers who desecrated it by bringing in "factions of destruction" (2 Peter 2:1). Ideally the Church was glorious, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
If any man defile the temple of God,.... By the wisdom of the world, through philosophy, and vain deceit; by bringing in false doctrines, errors, and heresies, and hereby corrupt their minds from the simplicity that is in Christ; and make rents, factions, and divisions among them:
him shall God destroy; body and soul in hell; for as their wicked principles and heretical notions are pernicious to others, they are damnable to themselves, and will bring upon them that judgment which lingereth not, and that damnation which slumbereth not. The false prophet, as well as the beast, and the devil, shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. God is not only an avenger of all immoralities committed against his righteous law, but of all false doctrine and false worship, and of everything that is contrary to the Gospel, and to the order and ordinances of it. The reason of this is,
for the temple of God is holy; alluding to the holiness of Solomon's temple,
"into which a man might not go with his staff, nor with his shoes on, nor with his purse, nor with dust upon his feet, nor might he make it a thoroughfare, and much less spit in it (o).''
And yet, how was it polluted in our Lord's time by the Jews, who made it a den of thieves, instead of an house of prayer?
which temple ye are. This is added for further confirmation, and to assert their holiness in doctrine, worship, and conversation, and to deter the false teachers from making use of any means to corrupt them in either.
(o) Misn. Beracot, c. 9. sect. 5.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
17. If any … defile … destroy—rather as the Greek verb is the same in both cases, "destroy … destroy." God repays in kind by a righteous retaliation. The destroyer shall himself be destroyed. As temporal death was the penalty of marring the material temple (Le 16:2; Da 5:2, 3, 30), so eternal death is the penalty of marring the spiritual temple—the Church. The destroyers here (1Co 3:16, 17), are distinct from the unwise or unskilful builders (1Co 3:12, 15); the latter held fast the "foundation" (1Co 3:11), and, therefore, though they lose their work of superstructure and the special reward, yet they are themselves saved; the destroyers, on the contrary, assailed with false teaching the foundation, and so subvert the temple itself, and shall therefore be destroyed. (See on 1Co 3:10), [Estius and Neander]. I think Paul passes here from the teachers to all the members of the Church, who, by profession, are "priests unto God" (Ex 19:6; 1Pe 2:9; Re 1:6). As the Aaronic priests were doomed to die if they violated the old temple (Ex 28:43), so any Christian who violates the sanctity of the spiritual temple, shall perish eternally (Heb 12:14; 10:26, 31).
holy—inviolable (Hab 2:20).
which temple ye are—rather, "the which (that is, holy) are ye" [Alford], and, therefore, want of holiness on the part of any of you (or, as Estius, "to tamper with the foundation in teaching you") is a violation of the temple, which cannot be let to pass with impunity. Grotius supports English Version.
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