1 Corinthians 3:16
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
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(16) The temple of God.—From the thought of grand edifices in general the Apostle goes on to the particular case of a building which is not only splendid but “holy”—the temple of God—thus reminding the reader that the rich and valuable metals and stones spoken of previously are to represent spiritual attainments. He introduces the passage with the words “Do ye not know,” implying that their conduct was such as could only be pursued by those who were either ignorant or forgetful of the truth of which he now reminds them.

1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 3:16

The great purpose of Christianity is to make men like Jesus Christ. As He is the image of the invisible God we are to be the images of the unseen Christ. The Scripture is very bold and emphatic in attributing to Christ’s followers likeness to Him, in nature, in character, in relation to the world, in office, and in ultimate destiny. Is He the anointed of God? We are anointed-Christs in Him. Is He the Son of God? We in Him receive the adoption of sons. Is He the Light of the world? We in Him are lights of the world too. Is He a King? A Priest? He hath made us to be kings and priests.

Here we have the Apostle making the same solemn assertion in regard to Christian men, ‘Know ye not that ye are’-as your Master, and because your Master is-’that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?’

Of course the allusion in my text is to the whole aggregate of believers-what we call the Catholic Church, as being collectively the habitation of God. But God cannot dwell in an aggregate of men, unless He dwells in the individuals that compose the aggregate. And God has nothing to do with institutions except through the people who make the institutions. And so, if the Church as a whole is a Temple, it is only because all its members are temples of God.

Therefore, without forgetting the great blessed lesson of the unity of the Church which is taught in these words, I want rather to deal with them in their individual application now; and to try and lay upon your consciences, dear brethren, the solemn obligations and the intense practical power which this Apostle associated with the thought that each Christian man was, in very deed, a temple of God.

It would be very easy to say eloquent things about this text, but that is no part of my purpose.

I. Let me deal, first of all, and only for a moment or two, with the underlying thought that is here-that every Christian is a dwelling-place of God.

Now, do not run away with the idea that that is a metaphor. It was the outward temple that was the metaphor. The reality is that which you and I, if we are God’s children in Jesus Christ, experience. There was no real sense in which that Mighty One whom the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain, dwelt in any house made with hands. But the Temple, and all the outward worship, were but symbolical of the facts of the Christian life, and the realities of our inward experience. These are the truths whereof the other is the shadow. We use words to which it is difficult for us to attach any meaning, when we talk about God as being locally present in any material building; but we do not use words to which it is so difficult to attach a meaning, when we talk about the Infinite Spirit as being present and abiding in a spirit shaped to hold Him, and made on purpose to touch Him and be filled by Him.

All creatures have God dwelling in them in the measure of their capacity. The stone that you kick on the road would not be there if there were not a present God. Nothing would happen if there were not abiding in creatures the force, at any rate, which is God. But just as in this great atmosphere in which we all live and move and have our being, the eye discerns undulations which make light, and the ear catches vibrations which make sound, and the nostrils are recipient of motions which bring fragrance, and all these are in the one atmosphere, and the sense that apprehends one is utterly unconscious of the other, so God’s creatures, each through some little narrow slit, and in the measure of their capacity, get a straggling beam from Him into their being, and therefore they are.

But high above all other ways in which creatures can lie patent to God, and open for the influx of a Divine Indweller, lies the way of faith and love. Whosoever opens his heart in these divinely-taught emotions, and fixes them upon the Christ in whom God dwells, receives into the very roots of his being-as the water that trickles through the soil to the rootlets of the tree-the very Godhead Himself. ‘He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.’

That God shall dwell in my heart is possible only from the fact that He dwelt in all His fulness in Christ, through whom I touch Him. That Temple consecrates all heart-shrines; and all worshippers that keep near to Him, partake with Him of the Father that dwelt in Him.

Only remember that in Christ God dwelt completely, all ‘the fulness of the Godhead bodily’ was there, but in us it is but partially; that in Christ, therefore, the divine indwelling was uniform and invariable, but in us it fluctuates, and sometimes is more intimate and blessed, and sometimes He leaves the habitation when we leave Him; that in Christ, therefore, there was no progress in the divine indwelling, but that in us, if there be any true inhabitation of our souls by God, that abiding will become more and more, until every corner of our being is hallowed and filled with the searching effulgence of the all-pervasive Light. And let us remember that God dwelt in Christ, but that in us it is God in Christ who dwells. So to Him we owe it all, that our poor hearts are made the dwelling-place of God; or, as this Apostle puts it, in other words conveying the same idea, ‘Ye are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth . . . for a habitation of God through the Spirit.’

II. Now then, turning from this underlying idea of the passage, let us look, for a moment, at some of the many applications of which the great thought is susceptible. I remark, then, in the second place, that as temples all Christians are to be manifesters of God.

The meaning of the Temple as of all temples was, that there the indwelling Deity should reveal Himself; and if it be true that we Christian men and women are, in this deep and blessed reality of which I have been speaking, the abiding places and habitations of God, then it follows that we shall stand in the world as the great means by which God is manifested and made known, and that in a two-fold way; to ourselves and to other people.

The real revelation of God to our hearts must be His abiding in our hearts. We do not learn God until we possess God. He must fill our souls before we know His sweetness. The answer that our Lord made to one of His disciples is full of the deepest truth. ‘How is it,’ said one of them in his blundering way, ‘how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us?’ And the answer was, ‘We will come and make Our abode with him.’ You do not know God until, if I might so say, He sits at your fireside and talks with you in your hearts. Just as some wife may have a husband whom the world knows as hero, or sage, or orator, but she knows him as nobody else can; so the outside, and if I may so say, the public character of God is but the surface of the revelation that He makes to us, when in the deepest secrecy of our own hearts He pours Himself into our waiting spirits. O brethren! it is within the curtains of the Holiest of all that the Shekinah flashes; it is within our own hearts, shrined and templed there, that God reveals Himself to us, as He does not unto the world.

And then, further, Christian men, as the temples and habitations of God, are appointed to be the great means of making Him known to the world around. The eye that cannot look at the sun can look at the rosy clouds that lie on either side of it, and herald its rising; their opalescent tints and pearly lights are beautiful to dim vision, to which the sun itself is too bright to be looked upon. Men will believe in a gentle Christ when they see you gentle. They will believe in a righteous love when they see it manifesting itself in you. You are ‘the secretaries of God’s praise,’ as George Herbert has it. He dwells in your hearts that out of your lives He may be revealed. The pictures in a book of travels, or the diagrams in a mathematical work, tell a great deal more in half a dozen lines than can be put into as many pages of dry words. And it is not books of theology nor eloquent sermons, but it is a Church glowing with the glory of God, and manifestly all flushed with His light and majesty, that will have power to draw men to believe in the God whom it reveals. When explorers land upon some untravelled island and meet the gentle inhabitants with armlets of rough gold upon their wrists, they say there must be many a gold-bearing rock of quartz crystal in the interior of the land. And if you present yourselves, Christian men and women, to the world with the likeness of your Master plain upon you, then people will believe in the Christianity that you profess. You have to popularise the Gospel in the fashion in which go-betweens and middlemen between students and the populace popularise science. You have to make it possible for men to believe in the Christ because they see Christ in you. ‘Know ye not that ye are the temples of the living God?’ Let His light shine from you.

III. I remark again that as temples all Christian lives should be places of sacrifice.

What is the use of a temple without worship? And what kind of worship is that in which the centre point is not an altar? That is the sort of temple that a great many professing Christians are. They have forgotten the altar in their spiritual architecture. Have you got one in your heart? It is but a poor, half-furnished sanctuary that has not. Where is yours? The key and the secret of all noble life is to yield up one’s own will, to sacrifice oneself. There never was anything done in this world worth doing, and there never will be till the end of time, of which sacrifice is not the centre and inspiration. And the difference between all other and lesser nobilities of life, and the supreme beauty of a true Christian life is that the sacrifice of the Christian is properly a sacrifice-that is, an offering to God, done for the sake of the great love wherewith He has loved us. As Christ is the one true Temple, and we become so by partaking of Him, so He is the one Sacrifice for sins for ever, and we become sacrifices only through Him. If there be any lesson which comes out of this great truth of Christians as temples, it is not a lesson of pluming ourselves on our dignity, or losing ourselves in the mysticisms which lie near this truth, but it is the hard lesson-If a temple, then an altar; if an altar, then a sacrifice. ‘Ye are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, that ye may offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God’-sacrifice, priest, temple, all in one; and all for the sake and by the might of that dear Lord who has given Himself a bleeding Sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, that we might offer a Eucharistic sacrifice of thanks and praise and self-surrender unto Him, and to His Father God.

IV. And, lastly, this great truth of my text enforces the solemn lesson of the necessary sanctity of the Christian life.

‘The temple of God,’ says the context, ‘the temple of God is holy, which {holy persons} ye are.’ The plain first idea of the temple is a place set apart and consecrated to God.

Hence, of course, follows the idea of purity, but the parent idea of ‘holiness’ is not purity, which is the consequence, but consecration or separation to God, which is the root.

And so in very various applications, on which I have not time to dwell now, this idea of the necessary sanctity of the Temple is put forth in these two letters to the Corinthian Church. Corinth was a city honeycombed with the grossest immoralities; and hence, perhaps, to some extent the great emphasis and earnestness and even severity of the Apostle in dealing with some forms of evil.

But without dwelling on the details, let me just point you to three directions in which this general notion of sanctity is applied. There is that of our context here ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God? If any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, and such ye are.’

He is thinking here mainly, I suppose, about the devastation and destruction of this temple of God, which was caused by schismatical and heretical teaching, and by the habit of forming parties, ‘one of Paul, one of Apollos, one of Cephas, one of Christ,’ which was rending that Corinthian Church into pieces. But we may apply it more widely than that, and say that anything which corrupts and defiles the Christian life and the Christian character assumes a darker tint of evil when we think that it is sacrilege-the profanation of the temple, the pollution of that which ought to be pure as He who dwells in it.

Christian men and women, how that thought darkens the blackness of all sin! How solemnly there peals out the warning, ‘If any man destroy or impair the temple,’ by any form of pollution, ‘him’ with retribution in kind, ‘him shall God destroy.’ Keep the temple clear; keep it clean. Let Him come with His scourge of small cords and His merciful rebuke. You Manchester men know what it is to let the money-changers into the sanctuary. Beware lest, beginning with making your hearts ‘houses of merchandise,’ you should end by making them ‘dens of thieves.’

And then, still further, there is another application of this same principle, in the second of these Epistles. ‘What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?’ ‘Ye are the temple of the living God.’

Christianity is intolerant. There is to be one image in the shrine. One of the old Roman Stoic Emperors had a pantheon in his palace with Jesus Christ upon one pedestal and Plato on the one beside Him. And some of us are trying the same kind of thing. Christ there, and somebody else here. Remember, Christ must be everything or nothing! Stars may be sown by millions, but for the earth there is one sun. And you and I are to shrine one dear Guest, and one only, in the inmost recesses of our hearts.

And there is another application of this metaphor also in our letter. ‘Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?’ Christianity despises ‘the flesh’; Christianity reverences the body; and would teach us all that, being robed in that most wonderful work of God’s hands, which becomes a shrine for God Himself if He dwell in our hearts, all purity, all chastisement and subjugation of animal passion is our duty. Drunkenness, and gluttony, lusts of every kind, impurity of conduct, and impurity of word and look and thought, all these assume a still darker tint when they are thought of as not only crimes against the physical constitution and the moral law of humanity, but insults flung in the face of the God that would inhabit the shrine.

And in regard to sins of this kind, which it is so difficult to speak of in public, and which grow unchecked in secrecy, and are ruining hundreds of young lives, the words of this context are grimly true, ‘If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.’ I speak now mainly in brotherly or fatherly warning to young men-did you ever read this, ‘His bones are full of the iniquities of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust’ ? ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?’

And so, brethren, our text tells us what we may all be. There is no heart without its deity. Alas! alas! for the many listening to me now whose spirits are like some of those Egyptian temples, which had in the inmost shrine a coiled-up serpent, the mummy of a monkey, or some other form as animal and obscene.

Oh! turn to Christ and cry, ‘Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest, Thou and the ark of Thy strength.’ Open your hearts and let Christ come in. And before Him, as of old, the bestial Dagon will be found, dejected and truncated, lying on the sill there; and all the vain, cruel, lustful gods that have held riot and carnival in your hearts will flee away into the darkness, like some foul ghosts at cock-crow. ‘If any man hear My voice and open the door I will come in.’ And the glory of the Lord shall fill the house.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Know ye not, &c. — As if he had said, You should also lake heed what doctrine you deliver, lest by teaching what is false, unimportant, or improper to be taught, you should defile or destroy the temple of God; that ye — True believers, genuine Christians; are the temple of God — Whether considered collectively as a church, (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Timothy 3:15,) or as individuals and members of one, (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:5,) being set apart from profane uses, and dedicated to his service, among whom, and in whom, he manifests his gracious presence by his Spirit. See on Romans 8:9. If any man defile, corrupt — Or destroy rather, (as it seems the word φθειρει should be rendered,) that is, should divide and scatter a Christian church or society, by schisms or unscriptural doctrines, or leaven with error, and lead into sin, a real Christian; him shall God destroy — Punish with eternal condemnation and wrath; so that he shall not be saved at all, not even as through fire: for the temple of God is holy — Consecrated to him, separated from all pollution, and to be considered as peculiarly sacred; and therefore it is an awful thing to do any thing which tends to destroy it. Which temple ye are — Called and intended to be such.

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.Know ye not ... - The apostle here carries forward and completes the figure which he had commenced in regard to Christians. His illustrations had been drawn from architecture; and he here proceeds to say that Christians are that building (see 1 Corinthians 3:9): that they were the sacred temple which God had reared; and that, therefore, they should be pure and holy. This is a practical application of what he had been before saying.

Ye are the temple of God - This is to be understood of the community of Christians, or of the church, as being the place where God dwells on the earth. The idea is derived from the mode of speaking among the Jews, where they are said often in the Old Testament to be the temple and the habitation of God. And the allusion is probably to the fact that God dwelt by a visible symbol - "the Shechinah" - in the temple, and that His abode was there. As He dwelt there among the Jews; as He had there a temple - a dwelling place, so he dwells among Christians. they are His temple, the place of His abode. His residence is with them; and He is in their midst. This figure the apostle Paul several times uses, 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22. A great many passages have been quoted by Eisner and Wetstein, in which a virtuous mind is represented as the temple of God, and in which the obligation to preserve that inviolate and unpolluted is enforced. The figure is a beautiful one, and very impressive. A temple was an edifice erected to the service of God. The temple at Jerusalem was not only most magnificent, but was regarded as most sacred:

(1) From the fact that it was devoted to his service; and,

(2) From the fact that it was the special residence of Yahweh.

Among the pagan also, temples were regarded as sacred. They were supposed to be inhabited by the divinity to whom they were dedicated. They were regarded, as inviolable. Those who took refuge there were safe. It was a crime of the highest degree to violate a temple, or to tear a fugitive who had sought protection there from the altar. So the apostle says of the Christian community. They were regarded as his temple - God dwelt among them - and they should regard themselves as holy, and as consecrated to his service. And so it is regarded as a species of sacrilege to violate the temple, and to devote it to other uses, 1 Corinthians 6:19; see 1 Corinthians 3:17.

And that the Spirit of God - The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. This is conclusively proved by 1 Corinthians 6:19, where he is called "the Holy Ghost."

Dwelleth in you - As God dwelt formerly in the tabernacle, and afterward in the temple, so His Spirit now dwells among Christians - This cannot mean:

(1) That the Holy Spirit is "personally united" to Christians, so as to form a personal union; or,

(2) That there is to Christians any communication of his nature or personal qualities; or,

(3) That there is any union of "essence," or "nature" with them, for God is present in all places, and can, as God, be no more present at one place than at another.

The only sense in which he can be especially present in any place is by His "influence," or "agency." And the idea is one which denotes agency, influence, favor, special regard; and in that sense only can he be present with his church. The expression must mean:

(1) That the church is the seat of His operations, the field or abode on which He acts on earth;

(2) That His influences are there, producing the appropriate effects of His agency, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, etc.; Galatians 5:22-23;

(3) that He produces consolations there, that he sustains and guides His people;


16. Know ye not—It is no new thing I tell you, in calling you "God's building"; ye know and ought to remember, ye are the noblest kind of building, "the temple of God."

ye—all Christians form together one vast temple. The expression is not, "ye are temples," but "ye are the temple" collectively, and "lively stones" (1Pe 2:5) individually.

God … Spirit—God's indwelling, and that of the Holy Spirit, are one; therefore the Holy Spirit is God. No literal "temple" is recognized by the New Testament in the Christian Church. The only one is the spiritual temple, the whole body of believing worshippers in which the Holy Spirit dwells (1Co 6:19; Joh 4:23, 24). The synagogue, not the temple, was the model of the Christian house of worship. The temple was the house of sacrifice, rather than of prayer. Prayers in the temple were silent and individual (Lu 1:10; 18:10-13), not joint and public, nor with reading of Scripture, as in the synagogue. The temple, as the name means (from a Greek root "to dwell"), was the earthly dwelling-place of God, where alone He put His name. The synagogue (as the name means an assembly) was the place for assembling men. God now too has His earthly temple, not one of wood and stone, but the congregation of believers, the "living stones" on the "spiritual house." Believers are all spiritual priests in it. Jesus Christ, our High Priest, has the only literal priesthood (Mal 1:11; Mt 18:20; 1Pe 2:5) [Vitringa].

The apostle, 1 Corinthians 3:9, had called the church of Corinth, and the particular members of it, God’s building; after this he had enlarged in a discourse concerning the builders, and the foundation and superstructure upon that foundation; now he returns again to speak of the whole church, whom he here calleth the temple of God, with a manifest allusion to that noble and splendid house which Solomon first built, and was afterwards rebuilt by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah at Jerusalem, as the public place for the Jewish church to meet in to worship God according to the prescript of the Levitical law: in which house God was said to dwell, because there he met his people, and blessed them, and there he gave answers to them from the mercy-seat. He calls them the temple of God, because they were built, that is, effectually called, for this very end, that they might be to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved, Ephesians 1:6: and, as the apostle Peter further expoundeth this text, 1 Peter 2:5, the people of God are a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. And God by his Spirit dwelt in them, both by his person, and by his gifts and graces, which is a far more noble dwelling in them than the dwelling of God was in the Jewish temple. From this text may be fetched an evident proof of the Divine nature, of the Third Person in the blessed Trinity; for he is not only called here the Spirit of God, but he is said to dwell in the saints: which dwelling of God in his people, is that very thing which maketh them the temple of God; and those who are here called the temple of God, are, 1 Corinthians 6:19, called the temple of the Holy Ghost.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God,.... The apostle having spoken of the saints as God's building, of himself as a wise master builder, of Christ as the only foundation, and of various doctrines as the materials laid thereon, proceeds to observe to this church, and the members of it, that they being incorporated together in a Gospel church state, were the temple of God; and which was what they could not, or at least ought not, to be ignorant of: and they are so called, in allusion to Solomon's temple; which as it was a type of the natural, so of the mystical body of Christ. There is an agreement between that and the church of Christ, in its maker, matter, situation, magnificence, and holiness; and the church is said to be the temple of God, because it is of his building, and in which he dwells: what the apostle here says of the saints at Corinth, the Jewish doctors say of the Israelites (n), , "the temple of the Lord are ye"; and which being usually said of them in the apostle's time, he may refer unto; and much better apply to the persons he does, of which the indwelling of the Spirit was the evidence:

and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you: in particular members, as a spirit of regeneration, sanctification, faith, and adoption, and as the earnest and pledge of their future glory; in their ministers to fit and qualify them for their work, and carry them through it; and in the whole church, to bless the word and ordinances, for their growth, comfort, and establishment. This furnishes out a considerable proof of the deity and distinct personality of the Spirit, since this is mentioned as an evidence of the saints being the temple of God, which would not be one, if the Spirit was not God, who dwells therein; and since a temple is sacred to deity, and therefore if he dwells here as in a temple, he must dwell here as God; and since he is mentioned as distinct from God, whose Spirit he is, and dwelling, a personal action is ascribed to him, he must be a distinct divine person.

(n) R. Alshech in Hag. ii. 5.

{9} Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

(9) Continuing still in the metaphor of building, he teaches us that this ambition is not only vain, but also sacrilegious: for he says that the Church is as it were the Temple of God, which God has as it were consecrated to himself by his Spirit. Then turning himself to these ambitious men, he shows that they profane the Temple of God, because those vain arts in which they please themselves so much are, as he teaches, many pollutions of the holy doctrine of God, and the purity of the Church. This wickedness will not go unpunished.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι κ.τ.λ[544]] could be regarded as said in proof of 1 Corinthians 3:15 (Billroth), only if Chrysostom’s interpretation of ΣΩΘΉΣΕΤΑΙΠΥΡΌς, or Schott’s modification of it (see on 1 Corinthians 3:15), were correct.[545] Since this, however, is not the case, and since the notion of ΣΩΘΉΣΕΤΑΙ, although limited by ΟὝΤΩ ΔῈ Ὡς ΔΙᾺ ΠΥΡΌς, cannot for a moment be even relatively included under the ΦΘΕΡΕῖ ΤΟῦΤΟΝ Ὁ ΘΕΌς of 1 Corinthians 3:17, because the ΦΘΟΡΆ is the very opposite of the σωτηρία (Galatians 6:8), this mode of bringing out the connection must be given up. Were we to assume with other expositors that Paul passes on here from the teachers who build upon the foundation to such as are anti-Christian, “qui fundamentum evertunt et aedificium destruunt” (Estius and others, including Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Pott, Hofmann), we should in that case feel the want at once of some express indication of the destroying of the foundation,—which, for that matter, did not take place in Corinth,—and also, and more especially, of some indication of the relation of antithesis subsisting between this passage and what has gone before. The apostle would have needed at least, in order to be understood, to have proceeded immediately after 1 Corinthians 3:15 somewhat in this way: εἰ δέ τις φθείρει Κ.Τ.Λ[546] No; in 1 Corinthians 3:16 we have a new part of the argument begun; and it comes in all the more powerfully without link of connection with the foregoing. Hitherto, that is to say, Paul has been presenting to his readers—that he may make them see the wrong character of their proud partisan-conduct (1 Corinthians 4:6)—the relation of the teachers to the church as an οἰκοδομὴ Θεοῦ. But he has not yet set before their minds what sort of an οἰκοδ. Θεοῦ they are, namely, the temple of God (hence ναός is emphatic). This he does now, in order to make them feel yet more deeply the criminality of their sectarian arrogance, when, after ending the foregoing discussion about the teachers, he starts afresh: Is it unknown to you[547] what is the nature of this building of God, that ye are God’s temple? etc. The question is one of amazement (for the state of division among the Corinthians seemed to imply such ignorance, comp 1 Corinthians 5:6, 1 Corinthians 6:15 f., 1 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Corinthians 9:24); and it contains, along with the next closely connected verse, the sudden, startling preface—arresting the mind of the readers with its holy solemnity—to the exhortation which is to follow, 1 Corinthians 3:18 ff.

ναὸς Θεοῦ] not: a temple of God, but the temple of God. For Paul’s thought is not (as Theodoret and others hold) that there are several temples of God (which would be quite alien to the time-hallowed idea of the one national temple, which the apostle must have had, see Philo, de monarch. 2, p. 634), but that each Christian community is in a spiritual way, sensu mystico, the temple of Jehovah, the realized idea of that temple, its ἀληθινόν. There are not, therefore, several temples, but several churches, each one of which is the same true spiritual temple of God. Comp Ephesians 2:21; Ignatius, ad Eph. 9; 1 Peter 2:5; Barnab. 4; also regarding Christian persons individually, as in 1 Corinthians 6:19, see Ignatius, ad Phil. 7. This accordingly is different from the heathen conception of pious men being temples (in the plural). Valer. Max. iv. 7. 1, al[550], in Elsner and Wetstein.

καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα] appends in how far (καί being the explicative and) they are ναὸς Θεοῦ. God, as He dwelt in the actual temple by the שכינה (Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 2394), dwells in the ideal temple of the Christian church by the gracious presence, working and ruling in it, of His Spirit, in whom God communicates Himself; for the Spirit dwells and rules in the hearts of believers (Romans 8:9; Romans 8:11; 2 Timothy 1:14). But we are not on this ground to make ἐν ὑμῖν refer to the individuals (Rückert and many others); for the community as such (1 Corinthians 3:17) is the temple (2 Corinthians 6:16 f.; Ephesians 2:21 f.; Ezekiel 37:27).

ΝΑΌς did not need the article, which comes in only retrospectively in 1 Corinthians 3:17, just because there is but one ναὸς Θεοῦ in existence. Comp 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21; Wis 3:14; 2Ma 14:35; Sir 51:14.

[544] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[545] This holds, too, against Ewald’s way of apprehending the connection here: Are any surprised that the lot of such a teacher should be so hard a one? Let them consider how sacred is the field in which he works.

[546] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[547] This lively interrogative turn of the discourse, frequent though it is in this Epistle, occurs only twice in the rest of Paul’s writings, namely, in Romans 6:16; Romans 11:2.

[550] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

1 Corinthians 3:16-23. Warning address to the readers, comprising—(1) preparatory statement reminding them of the guilt of sectarian conduct as a destroying of the temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17,—verses which Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others quite mistakenly refer to the incestuous person; then (2) exhortation to put a stop to this conduct at its source by renouncing their fancied wisdom, 1 Corinthians 3:18-23, and to give up what formed the most prominent feature of their sectarianism,—the parading of human authorities, which was, in truth, utterly opposed to the Christian standpoint.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17. However poor his work, the workman of 1 Corinthians 3:15 built upon Christ. There are cases worse than his, and to the εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον alternatives of 1 Corinthians 3:14 f. the Ap. has a third to add in the εἴ τιςφθείρει of 1 Corinthians 3:17. Beside the good and ill builders, who will gain or lose reward, there are destroyers of the house, whom God will destroy; the climax of the βλεπέτω πῶς, 1 Corinthians 3:10. Gd[601] well explains the absence of connecting particles between 1 Corinthians 3:15-16,—a “brusque transition” due to the emotion which seizes the Apostle’s heart at the sight of “workmen who even destroy what has been already built”; hence the lively apostrophe and the heightened tone of the passage.—The challenge οὐκ οἴδατε; is characteristic of this Ep. (see parls.), addressed to a Church of superior knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Corinthians 8:1). For the form οἴδατε, of the κοινή, see Wr[602], pp. 102 f.—The expression ναὸς Θεοῦ (see parls.) accentuates the Θεοῦ οἰκοδομή, expounded since 1 Corinthians 3:9 : “Do you not know that you are (a building no less sacred than) God’s temple?” Not “a temple of God,” as one of several; to P. the Church was the spiritual counterpart of the Jewish Temple, and every Church embodied this ideal. For the anarthrous (predicative) phrase, cf. Θεοῦ βασιλείαν, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and see note on 1 Corinthians 2:4.—Ναός (see parls.) denotes the shrine, where the Deity resides; ἱερόν (1 Corinthians 9:13, etc.), the sanctuary, the temple at large, with its precincts.—ὅτι is not repeated with the second half of the question, καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν οἰκεῖ, the two propositions being virtually one; God’s temple in Christian men is constituted by the indwelling of His Spirit: “and (that) the Spirit of God dwells in you?” cf. Ephesians 2:21, also 1 Peter 2:5. The same relationship is expressed by other figures in 1 Corinthians 12:5, Ephesians 4:4, etc. So the O.T. congregation of the Lord had for its centre the Shekinah in the Holy Place: Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 37:27; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16 ff. This truth is applied to the Christian person in 1 Corinthians 6:19.

[601] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[602] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

“If any one destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him”—talione justissima (Bg[603]). On the form of hypothesis, see 1 Corinthians 3:14.—φθείρω signifies to corrupt morally, deprave (injure in character), 1 Corinthians 15:33, 2 Corinthians 11:3, as well as to waste, damage (injure in being: see parls.)—mutually implied in a spiritual building. This Church was menaced with destruction from the immoralities exposed in chh. 5, 6, and from its party schisms (1 Corinthians 3:1-3), both evils fostered by corrupt teaching. The figure is not that of Levitical defilement (φθείρω nowhere means to pollute a holy place); this φθορὰ is a structural injury, to be requited in kind.—ὁ Θεὸς closes the warning, with awful emphasis (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:6, Romans 12:19); God is bound to protect His temple (cf. Psalms 46, 48, 74, Isaiah 27:3; Isaiah 64:10 ff.).—The injury is a desecration: “for the temple of God is holy,—which (is what) you are”. The added clause οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς reminds the Cor[604] at once of the obligations their sanctity imposes (see notes on ἡγιασμένοις, κλητοῖς, ἁγίοις, 1 Corinthians 1:2; cf. 1 Peter 2:5), and of the protection it guarantees (2 Corinthians 6:14 ff., 2 Thessalonians 2:13; John 10:29; Isaiah 43:1-4, etc., Zechariah 2:8).—οἵτινες, the qualitative relative, refers to ἅγιος more than to ναός, and is predicate (see Wr[605], pp. 206 f.) with ὑμεῖς for subject.

[603] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[605] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

16. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God] “Ναός, sanctuary, more sacred than ἱερόν; the Holy Place in which God dwells, ναίει.”—Wordsworth. Another view of the subject is now abruptly introduced. The figure in 1 Corinthians 3:10 is resumed, but is applied, not to the ministers, but to the people. As the teachers are to avoid unprofitable questions and seek ‘that which is good to the use of edifying, so the taught are to shun all that may do harm to the temple of God, that is the Church at large, for what is true of the individual (ch. 1 Corinthians 6:19) is true of the community. This figure of speech is a common one in the N. T. See 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:5.

1 Corinthians 3:16. Ναὸς, the temple) The most noble kind of building.—ἐστὲ, ye are) the whole of you together.—τὸ πνεῦμα, the Spirit) The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and that of God, are held in the same estimation [are equivalent]: therefore the high honour due to the Holy Spirit is the same as that due to God, 1 Corinthians 6:19.

Verses 16-23. - The peril and folly of glorying in men. Verse 16. - Know ye not. The phrase is used by St. Paul in this Epistle to emphasize important truths, as in 1 Corinthians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 6:2,.9, 15; 9:13, 24. Out of this Epistle it only occurs in Romans 6:16; Romans 11:2. That ye are the temple of God. "Ye," both collectively (Ephesians 2:21) and individually; "God's shrine;" not built for men's glory. The word "temple" in the Old Testament always means the material temple; in the Gospels our Lord "spake of the temple of his body;" in the rest of the New Testament the body of every baptized Christian is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:16), because "God dwelleth in him" (1 John 4:16; comp. John 14:23). In another aspect Christians can be regarded as "living stones in one spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). The temple; rather, the shrine (uses) wherein God dwells (naiei), and which is the holiest part of the temple (hieron). 1 Corinthians 3:16Temple (ναὸς)

Or sanctuary. See on Matthew 4:5. Compare Ephesians 2:21; 2 Corinthians 6:16.

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