Defiling the Temple
1 CORINTHIANS 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
Before considering exactly what Paul meant when writing this verse to the Church at Corinth, let us take a moment to read of Yeshua's (Jesus') attitude concerning how an individual becomes defiled Levitically. Chapter Seven of the Gospel of MARK is another one of those amazing chapters in the Bible that after having read it, one just sits there numbed by its truth. How can so much be said with so few words?! And how can so many overlook or misunderstand these simple truths when our Lord has said it so plainly?! Sometimes it seems as if we are not all reading from the same Book.
Verse one begins "Then came together unto Him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem". Yeshua was about His Fathers business and along came these religious leaders from Jerusalem. Do you suppose they were coming to help Yeshua with His ministry? Do you suppose that at the very least they came to learn from the Master? No, His enemy had come to sow tares among the wheat.
MARK 7:2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
You and I today may not think that to eat with unwashed hands is such a big deal, but I assure you, to these religious leaders it was a very big deal. Notice it doesn't say, unclean hands, but unwashed hands. Their hands were clean, but they hadn't gone through the accepted ceremony of hand washing. There were just some things you must do if you were trying to convince others that you were spiritual, and to these religious leaders, their traditions were the requirement. Religion can be defined as any attempt to make the flesh acceptable to GOD. Some do torturous things to their bodies in a vain attempt to gain GOD's approval, yet HE has plainly and repeatedly revealed that it's not sacrifice HE wants, but rather simple obedience (1 SAMUEL 15:22 ECCLESIASTES 5:1).It wasn't until after these religious leaders had came, saw and then found fault, that they finally asked. They were not seeking truth, but they were seeking to trap Him, to ensnare Him even to destroy Him. So they asked, "Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders?" Don't you understand Yeshua, we have all these wonderful traditions, and they all make us feel so good about our relationship with GOD, and now you have to come along and mess everything up. Why can't you just leave things as they are, Yeshua?
His response, as usual, cut right to the heart of the issue. He answered, "Well hath Esaias [Isaiah] prophesied of you hypocrites!" Does that sound harsh? I mean, they were just asking a harmless question. But He knew that in their hearts they were not seeking truth; but instead they had come to sow tares.
MARK 7:6-7 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
It is interesting to learn from this verse that it is possible to honor GOD with one's words, yet the heart be far from HIM. Actually, it would not only appear possible, but that seems to be the norm, at least as we read about the established religious-order throughout the Bible. "In vain do they worship me!" As the word vain means to no avail, we learn here that some can think that they are worshipping GOD, yet in truth their worship is to no avail.
Today, this might be something like when one just goes through religious motions, such as clasping your hands and kneeling in prayer, doing the "+" thing across your chest, wearing the priestly gowns, being slain by the spirit and rolling on the floor or waving your hands and shouting amen and glory halleluiah. All the things, which look spiritual, may actually just be in vain. And why would they be in vain? Because the heads of these denominations are "teaching for doctrines [for right believing], the commandments of men".
It is vital that our doctrines, our way of believing and thinking about GOD be not from men but only from GOD's word! Never allow what you think you remember that GOD said and meant to be your basis for action. Always have a Scriptural basis for all your beliefs. Men can guide us to the truth, but they can't give us an understanding of the truth. Our responsibility is to measure everything that we are taught by the Scriptures.
MARK 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
Amazingly, they would not even consider what He was teaching because they were convinced their traditions were right on. And those traditions looked spiritual, they looked righteous and ordained of God but they were not. These Pharisees and scribes were at best hypocrites, and at worst children of even a different father.
This issue was so important to Yeshua that "when He had called all the people unto Him" in verse 14, He said unto them, "Hearken unto me everyone of you, and understand!" He was making it as clear as He could, making sure everyone had the opportunity to hear and understand. Yet, even with all this, His disciples still didn't quite get it, so for the third time He again laid it out for them.
MARK 7:18, 20-21 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile [koinoo] him...And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth [koinoo] the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts...
The Greek word koinoo means to render Levitically unholy or unclean. Washing one's hands, no matter how ritualistically, was not going to prevent them from being Levitically defiled, for it is not what they put into their mouth that defiled them, but rather what came out of their mouths. That might not fit with current religious doctrine, because many teach that chewing Beechnut, smoking Marlboros or drinking Budweiser somehow defiles us. Yet Yeshua plainly teaches that it couldn't possibly defile them.
They ignorantly reject the commandment of GOD by their tradition. And if you ask for their scripture and verse, the few that can will find one, but not one that actually says what they want it to say. A great example is when they take you to the 1st Epistle of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians.
1 CORINTHIANS 3:16,17 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
They confidently proclaim that because we are the temple of GOD, to do anything that might harm our bodies, such as drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, would be defiling this temple. Plausible, which many errors are, but to know the truth we must take the time to see how this verse sits in the scope of the entire chapter. We must read it loosed from the tether of tradition, which blinded even the disciples in MARK 7, leaving them also "without understanding". When thus read, we will see that chapter 3 of 1 CORINTHIANS teaches pretty much the opposite of what the many religious people would have us believe.
Paul begins his discourse in chapter three by declaring that although these believers were indeed brethren, they were carnal, because they were dividing themselves up into little clicks. The Corinthian Church was not spiritual but rather babes in Christ, still being necessarily fed not with meat but with milk, not with the knife and fork but with the bottle. He continues;
1 CORINTHIANS 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
They were as we see some today, proudly proclaiming that they are of this Church or followers of that man. You know, We are Episcopalians, or Catholics, or Baptist's, or of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They are assured of salvation because they are members of some particular Church. That may very well be a false salvation and doesn't necessarily guarantee us anything.
Because these Corinthian church-goers were carnal, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men", Paul couldn't teach them the meat of the word. He therefore attempts to help them grow spiritually by exclaiming that it is not "he that planteth...neither he that watereth; but GOD that giveth the increase". It doesn't matter what person witnessed to you, what person brought you to salvation, or who signed you up as the newest member of their Church. What matters, is to realize that it is GOD that gives the increase and not the ministry of some man.
1 CORINTHIANS 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
The laborers Paul is referring to are himself, Apollos and any others who might be ministering unto the members of the Church. They are the apostles, prophets, teachers etc. of 1 CORINTHIANS 12:28. The members of the Church Paul is referring to, are GOD's husbandry and building . They are the body of Christ (6:15), the very temple of GOD (3:16).
Paul continues that though he "laid the foundation" of this temple, "another buildeth thereon" (3:10). Paul taught the foundational truths to these believers and then other teachers came along and taught the congregation other doctrines, building upon Paul's foundation. Then he goes on to warn them, "take heed" how someone else may build upon this building of GOD, and that;
1 CORINTHIANS 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
Thus, whatsoever every laborer taught them, was someday to be shown as either true, false or indifferent. Then Paul explains that if the laborer's work abides, he shall receive a reward; but if his work shall be burned he will suffer loss, yet "he himself shall be saved" (3:15). The one working was the individual builder who had been teaching the congregation. This work of the laborer is what he is teaching the Church, the group of believers. Paul writes, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of GOD, and that the spirit of GOD dwelleth in you?" (3:16). The temple of GOD is again referring to the congregation, the group of believers.
Now we come to our verse in question; "If any man defile [phtheiro] the temple of GOD, him [or, this thing] shall GOD destroy [phtheiro]" (3:17). If anyone building upon Paul's foundation should phtheiro the temple of GOD, which is the body of believers, that thing shall GOD phtheiro. Both defile and destroy are the same word in the Greek, meaning to "corrupt or destroy" as in 2 CORINTHIANS 11:3, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted [phtheiro] from the simplicity that is in Christ". Of course the Serpent beguiled Eve through his teaching her contrary to GOD's word (GENESIS 3:1-5).
We are not talking here in CORINTHIANS about chewing tobacco or drinking adult beverages! This whole section of this epistle is about certain laborers teaching the Congregation, which was the temple of GOD. Some were indeed ministering to the believers, like Apollos, but others were defiling the body of believers by their incorrect teachings.
In verse 5 of the second chapter Paul had already written that their "faith should not stand in the wisdom of men". In verse 13 they were also instructed that the things which were freely given unto them of GOD were not known by "the words which man's wisdom teacheth". Then in verse 21 of the third chapter, "let no man glory in men".
Defiling the body of believers was to mishandle them or teach them wrongly. This verse, set in the context of this chapter as well of the entire epistle, is teaching about carnal Christians working to build envying, strife and divisions within the body of Christ, which is the Temple of GOD. The erroneous teaching today of defiling their bodies by smoking or drinking alcohol is itself a beguiling doctrine.
The verse concludes, "for the temple of GOD is holy, which temple ye are". Religion will always endeavor to enslave the body of believers with "commandments and doctrines of men". Truth, as the opposing force will always make men free from the snare of the enemy. The religious leader's power and wealth require a following, but most don't follow unless they are led. Therein lies the need for the rules of their camp, the "do's and the don'ts" for entry into their congregation.
In chapter 5 of Paul's letter to the Galatians he commands the reader to "stand fast...in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage". Christ had made them free and they had liberty to leave, nay they were commanded by GOD to leave the camp. As Paul wrote two chapters earlier in GALATIANS, "are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" Confidence in the works of the flesh, whatever these might have been, could not make them complete or perfect. They could only deceive them into thinking they were saved while they might very well have been lost.
It is appropriate to mention here that while Paul is charging the believer to stand fast in this liberty, in the same chapter he also exhorts the believer to not use this liberty as an occasion to the flesh (GALATIANS 5:13). In other words, this doesn't give one the latitude to live with unbridled desires. Certain actions are never right. The Scripture commands us to not be drunk, but it doesn't say that we are not to drink alcohol at all. Everything is a balance. All things in moderation.
Since antiquity the enemy had been desperate in his attempt to hide the truth of what the word of GOD proclaimed. Over the centuries his methodology had been monstrous against "the good seed" yet GOD was always faithful to guard it. In this age, for those who strive to enter into it, the truth is available. But let us not leave other camps for just another. Let us leave all for Him!
TITUS 1:15, 16 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.