Skip to content
Jun 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 9, 2019

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

Intro: Today is Pentecost Sunday

A word derived from the Greek language
– Pentecost refers to an event fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection
– the story of Pentecost is told in Acts chapter 2
• the apostles were in Jerusalem per Jesus’ instructions
◦ he had given them a mission,
◦ but first, they had to be equipped and empowered
• that happened in one of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament
◦ God’s Spirit descended on them in a way that looked like fire
– those believers who experienced this became something else that day
• the new people of God
◦ when God chose Israel to be his nation, this is what he had in mind:

I will … confirm my covenant with you. … I will make my dwelling among you …. And I will walk among you and will be your God and you shall be my people (Lev. 26:9-12)

• on Pentecost, this did not happen to select individuals,
◦ but an entire community
◦ some people refer to Pentecost as the birth of the church

Although it is Pentecost, that is not why I’m going to talk about
– this last week, I was reading in 1 Corinthians
• when I came to these verses, something happened in me
• I felt them – I knew that God meant this to be true for us
◦ that I could meet him here today with you
– we may not see it, we may forget,
• but this time we spend here together is sacred

Your first reaction might be, “Who, me?” (or “us?”)

Paul was not writing to the premier church
– much of this letter and the next tell them what they were doing wrong
• they got off to a good start – had a lot going for them (1 Cor. 1:4-8)
◦ but Paul begins this chapter with the news that they had not made much progress
• the weren’t as spiritual as they assumed
◦ they were mere infants in Christ
– this is not uncommon – it’s easy to become religious or pious
• nor is it difficult to learn doctrine
• but to undergo fundamental changes in our lives is a difficult process
◦ we must work at letting go of old prejudices and habits
◦ Christian love takes a particular kind of work
◦ and it looks different from working at being religious (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

How could Paul tell that their spiritual life was shallow?

For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (v. 3)

– the community had become divided and formed “tribes”
• they had taken polarized positions regarding individual personalities
• but the leaders themselves were not divided
He who plants and he who waters are one (v. 8)
– 5-10, Paul explained how to regard those they placed on pedestals
• not as celebrities, but servants – fulfilling their assigned tasks
You are God’s field, God’s building (v. 9)
◦ first he uses an agricultural metaphor
(plant and water, two different tasks but devoted to one goal)
◦ then a construction metaphor
(one laid a foundation, another built on it)
• that their roles were different did not entail conflict, but cooperation

In verses 10-15, Paul adds a serious warning to the sub-contractors
(he illustrates why it doesn’t pay to cut corners)
– every building is eventually tested by natural elements
the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house (Mt. 7:25, 27)
• in regard to the church, the foundation is solid–it is Jesus Christ
◦ the problems start with the sub-contractors
◦ and the use of inferior building materials
• many Christians do not realize, they’re not well cared for
◦ they’re entertained, brow-beaten and bossed around, and exploited
◦ they’re kept busy building a house of straw
– 16-17, Do you not know …? – this was the missing piece
• the Corinthians Christians did not know who they were
• they had not discovered their collective identity

Verses 18-20, the wisdom that works in the world, doesn’t work here
– the way governments, corporations, and other institutions run
• there we encounter contenders, competition, and conquest
◦ faith draws something else from us
◦ love requires something else
– 21-23, Paul’s advice: Do not get pulled into one of the cults of personality
• all these sub-contractors are not special
◦ if they’re the real deal, they work for you
◦ God has provided them for your spiritual development

The Corinthian believers were messed up–same as we are

Yet they were God’s temple
– if we dig into the past for the primary purpose of the temple,
• we come to the God’s instructions to Moses for the sacred tent

. . . let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst (Ex. 25:8)
There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. . . . I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God
(Ex. 29:43-45)
◦ “sanctified” means to make holy or sacred
• primarily, the temple was a place where people encountered God

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple
(Ps. 27:4)
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory
(Ps. 63:1-2)
– when these messed up Corinthians met together,
• they were the church – God’s temple
• Jesus Christ was present among them (5:4),
◦ and God’s Spirit lived in them
◦ in other words, God manifested his presence in and to this spiritual community

Do you not know that your are God’s temple?

We do not always know that – or we forget
– one reason may be, that when we see each other,
• we look on the outside only
◦ we see clothes, and mannerisms, and personality quirks
• we don’t see God’s image, because we’re not looking for it
◦ we’re not asking,
“How is Jesus revealing himself through this person?”
– it’s possible to never know all God has for us

I defined sanctified, because I want to emphasize the sacred

Sacred is at the root of the word “sacrament”
– a sacred ritual God uses to pour grace into us
• a sacrament can also be an object or an action
Leonardo Boff, describes a sacrament as an object or action that is real in this world, but opens up to another dimension – something God uses to manifest his presence to us
• Boff says there are three dimensions to a sacrament:
immanent: the object or action is physical — present and tangible
transcendent: the object or action reveals another dimension of reality
transparent: we see through the object or action
– the sacrament is not isn’t magic, but evokes an inner vision
• we see through the sacrament, as if a window
◦ and the light of God’s grace pours through it
• a sacrament is a gate that opens between time and eternity
• a sacrament is meant to wake us up,
◦ to bring us out of our forgetfulness (“remembrance”; 1 Cor. 11:24)
• a sacrament invites us to have eyes that see, ears that hear, hands that feel, and so on

Conclusion: On the day of Pentecost, the church became a sacrament

God formed the church to be a witness to the world
– he desires to manifest himself to the world through his church
• not through the church as an institution
• and not through the doctrines of the church (that doesn’t work)
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to [them], and [they] are not able to understand [these things] because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14)
– it is the church as a community of people
• people who are no better than we are
◦ it’s not about being “nice” to each other – polite or friendly
• it’s about listening, and caring, and being safe and available
◦ we have a Christ-effect on each other

What got to me when reading this passage,
is that we have opportunities
to immerse ourselves in the experience of being together in Jesus,
to have a strong sense of his presence,
and to rely on him to be among us.
Let’s know this as our lived experience;
let’s remember it whenever we meet.
We are God’s temple

Leave a comment