1 Corinthians 3:17
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
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(17) If any man defile.—Better, If any man destroy—the opposite of “building up,” which should be the work of the Christian teacher; the architectural image being still in view.

Which temple ye are.—Literally, the which are ye, “which” referring rather to holy than to the temple; the argument being that as they are “holy” by the indwelling of God’s Spirit, therefore they are the temple of God. As God commanded the punishment of death to be inflicted on whoever defiled the actual Temple (see Exodus 28:43; Leviticus 16:2), because it was holy unto the Lord, and His presence dwelt there; so they, having the same Spirit in them, were a temple also holy unto the Lord, and God would not leave him unpunished who destroyed or marred this spiritual temple.

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.If any man defile ... - Or, "destroy, corrupt" (φθείρει phtheirei). The Greek word is the same in both parts of the sentence. "If any man 'destroy' the temple of God, God shall 'destroy' him." This is presented in the form of an adage or proverb. And the truth here stated is based on the fact that the temple of God was inviolable. That temple was holy; and if any man subsequently destroyed it, it might be presumed that God would destroy him. The figurative sense is, "If any man by his doctrines or precepts shall pursue such a course as tends to destroy the church, God shall severely punish him.

For the temple of God is holy - The temple of God is to be regarded as sacred and inviolable. This was unquestionably the common opinion among the Jews respecting the temple at Jerusalem; and it was the common doctrine of the Gentiles respecting their temples. Sacred places were regarded as inviolable; and this general truth Paul applies to the Christian church in general - Locke supposes that Paul had particular reference here to the false teachers in Corinth. But the expression, "if any man," is equally applicable to all other false teachers as to him.

Which temple ye are - This proves that though Paul regarded them as lamentably corrupt in some respects, he still regarded them as a true church - as a part of the holy temple of God.

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 [2284]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.

If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; the word which we translate defile and destroy (for the Greek word is the same for both) signifieth to violate, corrupt, or destroy. Our translators generally render it corrupt, 1 Corinthians 15:33 2 Corinthians 7:2 1 Corinthians 11:3 Ephesians 4:22 Judges 1:10 Revelation 19:2. The people of God, who are here called the temple of God, are defiled, either by imbibing false doctrine, or being tempted to any looseness of life and conversation. Now, (saith the apostle), if any one goes about to do this, which all preachers do who teach any false doctrine, or any principles that lead to a liberty for the flesh, or lead to an ill and scandalous life, God shall destroy those men.

For the temple of God is holy; for as the temple of God of old was a place built and set apart for holy uses, and therefore not without great peril to be abused and profaned; so those that are the people of God, are by God called and set apart in a more immediate, eminent manner for the honour and glory of God, and therefore cannot be debauched or defiled by any as instruments in that action, without exceeding great peril and hazard to them that endeavour and attempt any such thing. 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.

If any man {f} defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

(f) Defiles it and makes it unclean, being holy: and surely they do defile it, by Paul's judgment, who by fleshly eloquence defile the purity of the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 3:17. Εἴ τιςἅγιός ἐστιν] This is spoken of the real temple; the application to the church as the ideal one is not made until the οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς which follows. It is an anticipation of the course of the argument to understand, as here already meant, the latter New Testament place of the divine presence (Hofmann).

Every Levitical defilement was considered a destroying of the temple, as was every injury to the buildings, and even every act of carelessness in the watching and superintendence of it. See Maimonides, de domo electa, i. 10, vii. 7. Deyling, Obss. II. p. 505 ff.

φθερεῖ] placed immediately after φθείρει at the head of the apodosis, to express with emphasis the adequacy of the recompense. See Kühner, II. p. 626. What φθερεῖ denotes is the temporal destruction, the punishment of death which God will bring upon the destroyer of His temple, as in the LXX. φθείρω is often used of God as inflicting such destruction. Comp Genesis 6:13; Micah 2:10; 1 Kings 2:27, al[553]

ἅγιος] as the dwelling of God, sacred therefore from all injury, and not to be destroyed without incurring heavy divine penalty.

οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς] of which character (namely, ἅγιοι) are ye. In this we have the minor proposition of the syllogism contained in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 : Him who destroys God’s temple God will destroy, because the temple is holy; but ye also are holy, as being the spiritual temple; consequently, he who destroys you will be destroyed of God. Paul leaves it to his readers themselves to infer, for their own behoof, that in this reasoning of his he means by the destruction of the (ideal) temple the deterioration of the church on the part of the sectarians, and by the penal destruction which awaits them, their ἀπώλεια at the Messianic judgment (the φθορά of Galatians 6:8). It is a mistake (with most commentators, including Luther) to regard οἵτινες as put for οἵ (see the passages where this seems to be the case in Struve, Quaest. Herod. I. p. 2 ff.), and to make it refer to ναὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ: which temple ye are. That would rather yield the inappropriate (see on 1 Corinthians 3:16) plural sense: cujusmodi templa vos estis. See Porson and Schaefer, a[554] Eurip. Or. 908. Matthiae, p. 977.

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

[554] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.17. If any man defile] Rather, if any man do hurt to the temple of God, to him shall God do hurt. The word is the same in both members of the sentence, and cannot therefore be rendered by the word defile.

which temple ye are] Rather, which (i.e. holy) ye are, or more freely ‘The temple of God is holy, and so are ye.’ The implied syllogism is, The temple is holy; ye are the temple, therefore ye are holy.1 Corinthians 3:17. Φθείρει, destroys] by schisms according to the wisdom of the world.—φθερεῖ, shall destroy) by a most righteous retaliation in kind [φθερεῖ answering to φθείρει]. There are many punishments, which do not flow from sin by physical connection.—ἅγιος, holy) divine, inviolable.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). Defile (φθείρει)

Rev., more correctly, destroy. This is the primary and almost universal meaning in classical Greek. In a fragment of Euripides it occurs of dishonoring a female. Sophocles uses it of women pining away in barrenness, and Plutarch of mixing pure colors. The phrase seems to be used here according to the Jewish idea that the temple was destroyed or corrupted by the slightest defilement or damage, or by neglect on the part of its guardians. Ignatius says: "οἱ οἰκοφθόροι; violators of the house (of God) shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (To the Ephesians, 16).

Which temple (οἵτινες)

Temple is not in the Greek. The double relative which refers to the epithet holy; "of which holy character or class ye are."

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