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1 Corinthians 3:16

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Ye are the temple of God - The apostle resumes here what he had asserted in 1 Corinthians 3:9; : Ye are God's building. As the whole congregation of Israel were formerly considered as the temple and habitation of God, because God dwelt among them, so here the whole Church of Corinth is called the temple of God, because all genuine believers have the Spirit of God to dwell in them; and Christ has promised to be always in the midst even of two or three who are gathered together in his name. Therefore where God is, there is his temple.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Know ye not … - The apostle here carries forward and completes the figure which he had commenced in regard to Christians. His illustrations had been drawn from architecture; and he here proceeds to say that Christians are that building (see 1 Corinthians 3:9): that they were the sacred temple which God had reared; and that, therefore, they should be pure and holy. This is a practical application of what he had been before saying.

Ye are the temple of God - This is to be understood of the community of Christians, or of the church, as being the place where God dwells on the earth. The idea is derived from the mode of speaking among the Jews, where they are said often in the Old Testament to be the temple and the habitation of God. And the allusion is probably to the fact that God dwelt by a visible symbol - “the Shechinah” - in the temple, and that His abode was there. As He dwelt there among the Jews; as He had there a temple - a dwelling place, so he dwells among Christians. they are His temple, the place of His abode. His residence is with them; and He is in their midst. This figure the apostle Paul several times uses, 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22. A great many passages have been quoted by Eisner and Wetstein, in which a virtuous mind is represented as the temple of God, and in which the obligation to preserve that inviolate and unpolluted is enforced. The figure is a beautiful one, and very impressive. A temple was an edifice erected to the service of God. The temple at Jerusalem was not only most magnificent, but was regarded as most sacred:

(1) From the fact that it was devoted to his service; and,

(2) From the fact that it was the special residence of Yahweh.

Among the pagan also, temples were regarded as sacred. They were supposed to be inhabited by the divinity to whom they were dedicated. They were regarded, as inviolable. Those who took refuge there were safe. It was a crime of the highest degree to violate a temple, or to tear a fugitive who had sought protection there from the altar. So the apostle says of the Christian community. They were regarded as his temple - God dwelt among them - and they should regard themselves as holy, and as consecrated to his service. And so it is regarded as a species of sacrilege to violate the temple, and to devote it to other uses, 1 Corinthians 6:19; see 1 Corinthians 3:17.

And that the Spirit of God - The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. This is conclusively proved by 1 Corinthians 6:19, where he is called “the Holy Ghost.”

Dwelleth in you - As God dwelt formerly in the tabernacle, and afterward in the temple, so His Spirit now dwells among Christians - This cannot mean:

(1)That the Holy Spirit is “personally united” to Christians, so as to form a personal union; or,

(2)That there is to Christians any communication of his nature or personal qualities; or,

(3)That there is any union of “essence,” or “nature” with them, for God is present in all places, and can, as God, be no more present at one place than at another.

The only sense in which he can be especially present in any place is by His “influence,” or “agency.” And the idea is one which denotes agency, influence, favor, special regard; and in that sense only can he be present with his church. The expression must mean:

(1)That the church is the seat of His operations, the field or abode on which He acts on earth;

(2)That His influences are there, producing the appropriate effects of His agency, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, etc.; Galatians 5:22-23;

(3)that He produces consolations there, that he sustains and guides His people;

(4)That they are regarded as dedicated or consecrated to Him;

(5)That they are especially dear to Him - that He loves them, and thus makes His abode with them. See the note at John 14:23.

(“These words import the actual presence and inhabitation of the Spirit himself. The fact is plainly attested, but it is mysterious, and cannot be distinctly explained. In respect of His essence, He is as much present with unbelievers as with believers. His dwelling in the latter must therefore signify, that He manifests himself, in their souls, in a special manner; that He exerts there His gracious power, and produces effects which other people do not experience - We may illustrate His presence with them, as distinguished from His presence with people in general, by supposing the vegetative power of the earth to produce, in the surrounding regions, only common and worthless plants, but to throw out, in a select spot, all the riches and beauty of a cultivated garden” - Dick‘s Theology, Vol. III. p. 287.)

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
The Upward Look, 295.4

To know God is, in the scriptural sense of the term, to be one with Him in heart and mind, having an experimental knowledge of Him, holding reverential communion with Him as the Redeemer. Only through sincere obedience can this communion be obtained. Where this communion is lacking, the heart is not in any sense a temple of God, but is controlled by the foe, who is working out his own purposes through the human agency. Such a man, whatever his profession or claims, is not a temple of the Holy Spirit. UL 295.4

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 291.5

The fruits of the Spirit, ruling in the heart and controlling the life, are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, bowels of mercies, and humbleness of mind. True believers walk after the Spirit, and the Spirit of God dwells in them.—Manuscript 1, October 9, 1878, “Church Difficulties.” TDG 291.5

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Ellen G. White
Reflecting Christ, 164

Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:23, 24. RC 164.1

Wrong habits must be overcome. Right habits must be formed. Under the discipline of the greatest Teacher the world has ever known, Christians must move onward and upward toward perfection. This is God's command, and no one should say, I cannot do it. He should say instead, God requires me to be perfect, and He will give me strength to overcome all that stands in the way of perfection. He is the source of all wisdom, all power.... RC 164.2

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