1 Corinthians 3:16 — The Glory and Supremacy of the Church
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
Paul stresses the importance of the church and its public worship with an illustration of the Church as a body. The Church is one entity made of many individuals. Since the Church is a body, each member of the body is responsible to maintain the coherence of the body through the holiness Christ imputes to us and the Holy Spirit generates in us. Paul illustrates the church as God’s Temple. The church is the visible, physical evidence God has given to reveal His character of holy love to a lost and dying world. You must be part of God’s church to be part of God’s will.
The church resembles the Temple in many ways. First, the temple and the Church were built to demonstrate God’s glory. The temple, especially the temple built by Solomon and later reconstructed by Herod, was known for its exquisite beauty. The church is a very beautiful organism today because it reflects God’s glory and holiness. Holiness is a character of God that the psalmist describes as beautiful. (Psalm 29.2) The church, as Christ’s bride, is beautiful because of the holiness Christ bestows upon her.
Second, the church is built under God’s administration. Man did not say, ‘Let us become a group of people who will worship God.’ Christ said, ‘Upon the glorious truth of my redeeming blood will I build my Church.’ The church is a group of Christians drawn together by Christ to worship Him. While each local church may have a visible, human leader, the church’s ultimate leader is Christ. The church does not exist to make a name for a preacher or for a congregant. The church exists because Christ dwells in the believer’s heart compelling him to worship with other believers in the unity of faith.
Paul gives an urgent warning in verse seventeen. The word translated defile literally means to destroy. For example a cook wouldn’t use a rag that had been used to clean a commode to clean the counter in his kitchen. The bacterial contamination would destroy a person’s health. What do you do with a rag that is contaminated? You destroy it. What value does a contaminated Temple have? It is only worth destruction. God will destroy anything or anyone who defiles His temple, which is the Church.
Perhaps the greatest manner in which the Church receives injury is from its own members. When a Christian ceases to guard his holiness, he ceases to function as he ought. Perhaps he complains to a few people. Perhaps he becomes caustic in his assessments of happenings in the church. He may aggressively oppose the church and its leadership. He may even create disunity and division, which is an extremely serious matter in God’s sight. Whatever the activity, the believer has allowed contamination in his heart, which brings contamination into Christ’s church.
Personal holiness is a jealousy against anything which would damage our fellowship with Christ. The church is an agency which should encourage us to continue to fellowship with God. Paul later explained, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”1 As little as you may consider your sin, it affects every person in your church. When you realize that your fellowship with God impacts everyone in your church, what a sense of respect we engender concerning the Church.
What are your thoughts on this verse?
What kinds of attitudes and actions can create problems in a church.
Have you committed yourself to the formal membership of a local church?
How can you demonstrate the great privilege it is to be a member of a local church?