“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17).

To me, there is a significant degree of assurance to realize Christians of the first century often struggled with problems similar to ours. The Jews were quite geography-centered in their worship (Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 13, 14; 16:16). The Temple was the holiest place of all places! They were quite ritualistic with priests, sacrifices, and correct procedures. They wore tassels on their clothes (Numbers 15:37-41) [as did Jesus—Matthew 9:20; 14:36; Mark 6:56; Luke 8:44]. They were careful about what they ate (Leviticus 11) and observed special days (Exodus 12:15-20). To Jewish Christians it was unthinkable that God would call those who did none of this His people!

To me it is obvious why the New Testament acknowledges the enormous dispute between Jewish Christians and gentile Christians. Jewish people and non-Jewish people were distinctively different in virtually every way.

The first four chapters of 1 Corinthians addressed (in various ways) the internal divisions in that congregation. These are the divisions noted in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Their internal “quarrels” seemed to focus on the person responsible for their conversion—Paul, Apollos, Peter, or Christ.

Among his arguments against internal division is the one in the text. There was more at stake than their group and its perspective. God’s temple that houses His presence (read 2 Chronicles 7:11-16) is no longer a building at a place, but a people who belong to Him through a commitment to Jesus Christ (read 1 Peter 2: 5, 9, 10).

To those firmly committed to Jesus Christ, there is always something more significant than personal views and preferences. It is the understanding of God’s purpose clearly declared in Genesis 12:3c. God intended to bless everyone. He would not do it in a place, but in a people. He would do it in His people, devoted to His character, honoring His values, committed to His purpose.

Paul’s statement (above) is frightening. The KJV translation correctly notes the “you” Paul used is plural. Christians (plural—congregations) comprise God’s temple now—Jewish Christians, gentile Christians, agreeing Christians, disagreeing Christians, people from all backgrounds. They must not use differences to discredit God’s work and purpose. If a Christian does discredit God by harming what is now His temple, Paul said God would destroy that person (strong language for Paul) because God’s temple is holy.

To me, preserving unity is one of the more difficult tasks God gives us. Nothing about it is simple. We are not one because we are wonderful, or can justify our behavior, or God endorses our point of view, or because people agree with me, or because our culture endorses the best and most sensible way. We are one because we are in Jesus Christ.

May God’s purpose always be our purpose. We belong to Him, not ourselves.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 15 November 2007

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