Destroying the Temple
Robert Wurtz II
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Paul wrote to the Corinthians when Carnality was rife in that local church. Carnality is the Greek word sarkikos, meaning “fleshly” or behaving like a person devoid of the Holy Spirit. He called them carnal to show them that their divisive and destructive behavior was not Spiritual, no matter how much they operated in the gifts of the Spirit. Obviously, nothing is more carnal than destroying the Temple.
Our passage follows the context of the building of the Church, which is pictured as The Temple of God. The English you is plural in Greek, showing that this context is not dealing with individual bodies as temples but the corporate assembly we call the Church. So when Paul issues this grave warning, it is against those who destroy God’s Living Temple comprised of the Saints. The Greek word for destroy is phtheiro (φθερεῖ), and it means all kinds of destruction, including moral corruption and financial ruin (2 Corinthians 7:2),
Workers of Iniquity
I wrote in a previous article that many on judgment day would site their Spiritual prowess as the basis of their right standing with God (Matthew 7:21-23). Yet Jesus will send them away as workers of iniquity. These were not Baptists and Presbyterians; they were Full Gospel, Pentecostals, and Charismatics. The Corinthians were ancient versions of Full Gospel, Pentecostals, and Charismatics.
Based on Paul’s warning in I Corinthians 3:16-17 and Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23, I suggest that God will destroy in this life and eventually in Hell anyone who destroys the Temple. Every true believer is a living stone in The Temple (1 Peter 2:5); when you attack a living stone, you attack The Temple. There are no exceptions or exemptions, only excuses. Nor are there privileged characters, either. It makes no difference what position one holds or credentials one obtains; the word of God applies to everyone. Destroy The Temple, and God will destroy you.
The Strongest Possible Warning
People who destroy their fellow believers and ministers are guilty of 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Then, of course, they will be stunned to hear, “Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness…” because they spoke in tongues, prophesied, cast out devils, and did many wonderful works. But they shouldn’t be surprised because God has warned them about this behavior in the strongest possible terms.
With these truths in mind, I wish to address a destructive behavior I’ve seen for decades, which parallels behaviors at Corinth. In the middle to late 1980s, I recall a few high-profile ministers that attacked other ministers causing great harm to the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, I don’t know if those involved ever repented of that destructive behavior. Since then, I have seen it on a smaller scale.
Organisms and Organizations
Why would a Christian attack another Christian, much less a minister? Jealousy? Envy? Personal vendettas? Was it an “us against them” outlook? The Corinthians divided into groups and named themselves after their favorite leaders, such as Paul, Peter, Apollos, and Christ. The Jews did this in the 1st Century BC and called themselves the school of Hillel or Shammai. Although they should have spoken the same things, they divided into parties, leading to disputes according to their differences.
God refused to tolerate factions at Corinth. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, taught them that they are a body and must function like one (1 Corinthians 12:12). Most people, when they think of the word “church,” associate the word with a denomination of which there are thousands in the world. In contrast, the New Testament defines a church as an organism.
A Living Temple
Jesus told Peter that He (Jesus) would build His (Jesus’) Church. The gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). With the same divine power that He created all the organisms of the world (from single-cell organisms to plants and animals), Jesus is building a living Temple with living stones (1 Peter 2:5). The imagery of the body, seed, trevail, birth, begotten, born is that of an organism, not an organization.
God made Adam from the dust of the ground and then breathed the breath of life into him. He became a living organism. The Holy Spirit used the analogy of a human body when speaking to the carnal Corinthians regarding the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12-20).
Members of the Body
Suppose a person has trusted Christ in such a way that their name is written in the Lambs Book of Life, and they have received the Holy Spirit. In that case, they are a member of “The Body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Following this analogy, they make up an important part, such as a toe, eye, or hand. God places each person in the Body of Christ according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:18). Each member has a purpose, and all members are to function under the Head, which is Christ (Colossians 2:18-19).
The Body reference is designed to bring our own physical bodies to mind. During the Civil War (war between the states), men were shot in the arm or leg, destroying the bone. The only recourse was to amputate. Field hospitals were filled with men screaming in agony as doctors sawed through their limbs, removing them. I do not doubt that those soldiers who took out their New Testaments looking for comfort and read 1 Corinthians 12 understood those verses better than anyone. We should view one another in the body like our physical body. No one is expendable.
Moreover, what impacts one part of the body affects all of the body. For example, Paul sent the fornicator away from Corinth until he would repent. Why? His sin was putting the church (Body/Temple) at risk. Fornication will send a person to hell (1 Corinthians 6:9) and can spread like leaven through bread dough, so Paul took the drastic measure of sending him away for his own sake and the sake of the church (1 Corinthians 5:7). It was a temporal measure to be monitored closely. When the offending person repented, they were received back in the fellowship. Otherwise, Satan may have destroyed the person before they could be restored to fellowship (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Destroying the Temple
With this in mind, we can return to 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 where Paul warns about destroying the Temple. If Paul was concerned about losing a fornicator to the clutches of Satan, how much more concerned should we be about men and women who faithfully serve God? Does it matter if they are different than us? No! Just because a person is different does not give us the right to attack them in any way.
An autoimmune disorder occurs when our body’s immune system attacks and destroys our own healthy tissue by mistake. There are around 80 different kinds of autoimmune diseases, and there are at least that many reasons why the body of Christ might turn on itself. For example, we can’t treat people like fornicators and heretics just because we don’t like their style. Many differences within the Body of Christ worldwide are non-essential variations. God forbid we would attack a minister or fellow Christian for stylistic reasons, much less because of envy or jealousy.
There are all kinds of ministers and churches in the world, and most of them we may find quite different than “us.” If we don’t like a church’s style or methods, we mustn’t attack or diminish them. On the other hand, if we have even an ounce of the fear of God, we should be careful. My policy when I disagree with a church’s ways is “don’t speak for and don’t speak against.” If I disagree with a minister’s style, unless they are a heretic, “don’t speak for and don’t speak against.” Why? You can destroy the temple with your mouth.
Some churches in America meet around a campfire; we call them cowboy churches. Others meet in magnificent cathedrals, high schools, storefronts, church buildings, and for the first 300 years of the Church in peoples’ homes. “House to house” was the pattern in Acts 2:46 NKJV, “every house” in Acts 5:42, and a long list afterward. One might get angry reading this because it’s not their idea of what a church should be or where it should meet, but which of these do you feel confident enough to risk your soul to attack?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Many people will be in hell because of arrogant ignorance that emboldened them from a place of superiority to attack and destroy ministers and churches with whom they disagreed or disliked. They wist not that they had destroyed the Temple. Their souls might have been spared if they had just gotten out more and realized that God has many splendors to His Church. One should never condemn what one does not understand.
Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their divisive and destructive Carnality. But, unfortunately, they never saw it coming. Why? Everyone says, “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos.” Notice the selfishness in those claims. There is no thought about the Body. They took selfishness to an extreme, not discerning how the Lord’s Body was broken to redeem the people they mistreated. Paul was always concerned about destroying people for whom Christ died (Romans 14:15, Acts 20:28).
Jesus also answered why many never see judgment for such behavior coming. In Matthew 7:21-23, He says they arrive at the great Judgment having worked iniquity but were emboldened by their prophesying and casting out devils. What a deception! They were attacking and mistreating those for whom Christ died while believing they were closer to God than anyone else. Yet Jesus said, “at no time did I ever know you” (Matthew 7:23).
Purchased by His Blood
What should we do? Dispense with any sin, ideology, attitude, or outlook that destroys the Temple. Focus on God’s love for the Saints and ask if it’s wise to attack such people. Take seriously Jesus’ teachings about millstones being hanged around people’s necks and drowned at the bottom of the ocean who stumble others (Matthew 18:6).
Work together like an organism and not a competing organization. The church down the street is not your enemy. Fellow ministers are not the competition. We are all part of the same Body. Unless they are heretics and infidels, they deserve our love and support. As surely as we value our arms and legs, hands and feet, we ought to appreciate one another. They are members of the same body, which means every church and every true believer.
Leave a Reply