Monday, August 14, 2006

Concluding Thoughts on I Corinthians 3

Howard and I are probably not even close to concluding our thoughts over the Church, but this marks the end of my observations on the third chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians.
As you may or may not recall I started with the question, “What is Church?” From our text we saw that Paul speaks of church as a community, united in their diversity, based on the foundation of Jesus Christ and His gospel. That is the short version anyway.
Paul continues his thoughts, driving the point home with “God’s Spirit.”
I Cor. 3:16, “Do you not know that you are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
Paul purposely uses the term “temple” here in this passage. The term has historical significance to be sure. In the Old Testament it is recorded that the Spirit of God dwelt in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple that Solomon constructed. That is why the Temple was the center of the Jewish worship experience and why Jesus got into so much trouble for saying that he could raise it up again in three days if it was torn down.
It is significant any time Scripture speaks of God’s Spirit – especially since his presence is considered such a terrible and frightening thing. Just look at how fearful the average Israelite was over the prospect of entering the presence of God (they were afraid they would die to go near it).
With the New Testament we see “all the fullness of God in bodily form,” i.e. Jesus Christ. Hebrews talks about this in a way that shows God communicating to his people in the most revealing way. “In these last days he has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1). In Corinthians, Paul says YOU ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD. THE CHURCH is the temple of God, the dwelling place of the God of the Universe.
Church is only THE CHURCH because of God’s Spirit. It is important to remember the Corinthians are being lectured here. They are kind of being scolded. They all have their theological opinions, justifications for sinful behavior and heretical teaching, and they all claim some authority. But Paul basically tells them, “You think this thing has life apart from the Spirit of God? You think you can keep this going on your own steam?” No. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (I Cor. 3:6).
So, I guess we have to ask ourselves some questions as “The Church.” We represent ourselves in weekly worship services all over this world and throughout our daily lives and Paul says that we will have to answer for it (it will be revealed: I Cor. 3:13). We can get formulaic if you want and say that these are the three things that make church, CHURCH, but it’s not that easy. Many churches would be satisfied to leave you all with that answer and let you “work” and gain yourself church “merit” straight into hell. But this goes beyond formula – this is a living breathing organism and it requires the nourishment of God’s Spirit.
The truth is we have to love it. We have to love the God who thought of it. We have to see our sin in the middle of it and in our love for God, God’s Scripture, and God’s children repent of things in religion that belong to us; the things that separate us from one another, the things that don’t resemble the foundation of Jesus Christ, and the things that are void of God’s Spirit.

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