The Spiritual Temple of the Living God (1 Corinthians Sermon 13)
January 06, 2019 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Church Membership, Marks and Purposes, The Purity and Unity of the Church
The Instability of the Sandcastle
Turning your Bibles to First Corinthians Chapter 3, we're continuing our study in this incredible book. This morning I was thinking about a slight moment of discouragement that happened to me when I was a missionary in Japan. My wife and I served with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist in Japan, 1993-95, and I had a little moment, a tinge of disappointment that occurred the day after I had built a marvelous sand castle with my two older kids, Nathaniel and Jenny along one of the causeways there in Japan. We had spent a lot of time on that sand castle, and it was the best I had ever made, maybe still to this day, the best I had ever made, though there's no evidence of it because that next day, all that was left was a raised mound on the beach.
Now you are thinking, "Why were you disappointed? What did you expect? When you build a sand castle it has to be built out of wet sand, where do you think it got its moisture from? From the oncoming tide. What do you think was going to happen to all of your labors, to all your meticulous care? It was going to get washed out to sea," and so it did. Christy and I had another moment, a similar moment of disappointment when we found out a number of years after we had returned to the US, that the house that we had been in for those two years had been razed. It was gone. And that was sad for us because we spent some really special times with our growing kids in that house. It was just another opportunity for us to remember the truth, that the Bible teaches, that's testified to again and again, all flesh is grass and all their glory is like the flower of the fields.
It says this in Isaiah 40, it says it also in Psalm 103. "As for man, he is like a grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field…" And then the breath of God blows on it, and it withers. And it says right in Psalm 103, "its place remembers it no more." So if we went back to Tokoshima, if we went to Yoshi Homa Bogi, to that address and walked there. There is no one, I'm convinced there is no one there that would remember us or know anything about us at all, as though we had never been.
Because of Christ’s Resurrection, Our Labor is not in Vain
But we are told in the Bible that because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our labor in the Lord is not in vain. We actually can labor on some things that will survive the transition from the first creation to the second creation from the old creation, to the new... We can actually build something that will last for all eternity, and that should be incredibly encouraging to you this morning.
Now we're right in the middle of 1 Corinthians 3 and we've been talking about living lives that will survive the scrutiny that's going to come on judgment day. How all of our works are going to be assembled and we're going to give an account for them all the things we've done, while in the body, whether good or bad, we're going to give an account. And it seems that 1 Corinthians 3, breaks them into two categories. Our works could be as gold, silver, costly stones in the category of those things that will survive the fire of judgment day. And then you've got wood, hay, and straw, in those things that are in the category of those that will not survive judgment day. Now there may be differentiations between them, there's some gold actions and silver actions and costly stone actions, and it's good to have some sense of differing levels of glory that there will be in heaven but still that we would labor on those things that will be eternally consequential.
I. Be Holy, for You Are God’s Temple
And so Paul's been using an analogy here, we've been in the midst of an analogy. He first started, as you remember in 1 Corinthian 3 with an agricultural analogy, that we are God's field and that Paul planted the seed Apollos watered, but God made it grow and then he shifted. He said you are God's field, God's building. And so in Verse 16, he calls on us to be holy because we are God's temple. Verse 16, "do you not know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" Now, we would not know that, except that we are instructed by the Word of God, faith is the eyesight of the soul, by which we can see invisible spiritual realities and this world's history is centered around a massive building project that's going on all over the world, a spiritual building project, a spiritual structure that is rising day by day through evangelism and missions, and through the work of discipleship, the work of pastoring, the work of parenting, the work of Christian friends influencing one another. There is this glorious temple rising and getting more and more glorious, by the day, and we're called on to be holy for you are God's temple.
Now, the context of this assertion, Paul, as we were reminded, is writing to the Corinthian church that he helped plant, it was a talented church with many spiritual gifts. But they were also a dysfunctional church, through their own sinfulness. And one of the issues is that they were bickering among themselves, as we remember, they were factions. There were divisions within the Corinthian church. Back in 1:12, he lays out like this. "One of you says 'I follow Paul'; another. 'I follow Apollos'; another 'I follow Cephas.'" This prideful bickering was destroying the church. It also displayed terrible worldliness, and spiritual immaturity. If you look at the beginning of this chapter, 3:2-4, Paul says he couldn't address them as spiritual but as worldly. He said "I gave you milk, not meat for you're not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly for since there is this kind of jealousy and quarreling among you, or are you not worldly?" You're acting like you're unconverted people. So that's at the beginning of the chapter, this division.
Paul then puts all these leaders into perspective, "what after all is Apollos? What is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe, as a Lord assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants, nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." So we are as nothing. Their focus on human leaders was worldly it was immature and it was destroying the unity of the church, and so Paul wants to establish as clearly as possible, the doctrine of Christ church and of the essential unity that we have with one another in Christ. And the role that each skillful leader plays in building the church.
You Are God’s Temple
And so he makes this assertion, verse 16, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you." Now, this is an amazing statement to make to a bunch of recent converts from paganism. These were gentiles, these were Greeks, these Corinthians. They would have been excluded from the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, they would not have been allowed to enter. As a matter of fact, the Jews of Jerusalem, started a riot one day when they saw Paul with a Greek and assumed that Paul had brought the Greek into the temple. His name was Trophimus and they had wrongly assumed that Paul had brought him in there, which Paul didn't do, but they started a riot over it. Because there were clear laws against gentiles coming into the Temple of God, the Old Covenant was set against it, and the Romans who ruled Palestine, who politically ruled Jerusalem, upheld this Jewish distinction with their law, so that even a Roman soldier went into the temple area, he would be liable to punishment, even to execution.
But in the new covenant, we're told in Ephesians chapter 2 that Jesus Christ, by his death on the cross, has abolished the dividing wall of hostility that separated Jews and Gentiles. He's taking it away in his flesh, his blood shed has removed that barrier, the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility that was set up through the law of Moses. And in that same chapter, Ephesians 2, Paul makes it clear that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are together part of a spiritual temple that is rising up to the glory of God. Ephesians 2, 21-22, it says, "In him, [Christ] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord and in him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit." Now, we would not know that except by faith, except because we are told these. You can't see this building, this massive structure that rise except by faith.
Now, the fact that we are God's temple is true of each one of us individually. Paul will make this clear later in this same book, in 1 Corinthians 6. You can turn over and look if you'd like. Chapter 6, verses 18-20, there, he talks about sexual immorality and he says there, "Flee from sexual immorality," and then he says "he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own, you are bought at a price, therefore glorify God with your body." So there, he's saying each Christian individually is a temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the indwelling Spirit in us and as matter of fact Romans 8 says, if you don't have the indwelling Spirit, you're not a Christian. So if you are born again, you have the Spirit living inside you individually.
But the image here in chapter three, if you go back to chapter three at the end of what we're looking at today, is a collective image, it's a corporate image. We are together the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore their disunity one with another, their factions and divisions, was rending that unity badly. And so he says in verse 16, "Do you not know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you." The indwelling Spirit is the essence of this temple image. It's what makes the temple, more than just a dead structure.
Living Temple vs Empty Cathedral
I like to go to cathedrals when I'm in Europe. I don't know why I have a thing for them. And some of you have been to the chapel on Duke's campus as well. It's built in that same kind of cathedral style of Europe, but I've been in all of these structures and many of these cathedrals and massive church buildings are made of stone. They have stone floors and they have stone walls and they echo with your footsteps and they feel a little bit like tombs. And in many of those places they are spiritually dead, they're spiritually tombs, because the Gospel hasn't been preached there in centuries. And as a matter of fact, many of them are literally tombs because some lords and ladies have their crypts there.
But what is it that makes this structure is something that is not a tomb? It is the indwelling Spirit, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in this temple that makes it alive. Crackling with energy, powerful, vibrant, in every generation. It's the presence of the Spirit, it's always been so.
When the tabernacle was made, you remember when Moses finished the construction of the tent, the movable tent, out in the desert, the glory cloud, the Shekinah glory, the dwelling glory of God came and filled it, so that they could not enter. Same thing happened when Solomon built his temple, same thing happen, the miraculous glory cloud appeared and filled that temple and no one could enter it. And so Paul's just taken that image in saying, the Spirit of God is dwelling in you. Jesus' death prepared the way, that we're not talking geographical here, we're not talking about a location, a place where you can go, where you make a physical pilgrimage three times a year.
As you remember, he said to the Samaritan woman, you know how the Jews and the Samaritans, were bickering over the proper place of the temple where they would go. "We believe it's on this mountain, you Jews believe it's on that mountain... " and Jesus set her straight about the future. He told that Samaritan woman, some things he wasn't telling anyone else. He was so beautifully clear with her, they had a marvelous conversation, but it all came down to worship and he said to her, in John Chapter 4, 23-24, "Time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." So the point is not the location the time will come when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father, it's not about location, it's about the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God coming and filling us so that we offer to him, true spiritual worship.
So the New Covenant temple focuses then on the work of the Holy Spirit uniting different people from different backgrounds every tribe, and language, and people in nation, people from all over the world being called out, being rescued out of Satan's dark kingdom and we are told by Peter with the same kind of temple image that we are living stones built into a spiritual house, to offer spiritual sacrifices. And so, I look on us as quarried out of Satan's dark kingdom, we've been quarried out by some ninja commandos that have gone over Satan's dark wall, they've gone over the wall and they've gotten some living stones out. They've been rescued by the power of God, and this structure is rising. And all of us are living stones and we're set in these spiritual walls. You can't see it with your eyes, but this is what's going on in the world. This is the work.
God’s Temple is Sacred
Now we are one, we are united, we are a spiritual temple made one by the spirit. But their sins, their prideful bickering and their sexual immorality and their pagan idolatry, were rending the unity of the church, ripping it apart, and so he says in verse 17, God's temple is sacred and you are that temple. God's temple is sacred, it's holy, it's set apart unto God for his special use. That's what holy means, that we belong to God, we are his. And so we are holy. And so he calls on us to be holy because we are God's temple. The essence of holiness in this sense, is purity from evil. God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all, 1 John 15. And so it should be for us. Be holy, because, I, the Lord, your God, am holy, as we heard last week from Bryan Young, beautiful.
So Paul's going to deal with all the aspects of their unholiness. He's going to go right down Main Street and deal with all of them and call them out on it, he's going to address their terrible worldliness in chapter four, the desire they have to be rich and powerful and popular there in Corinth, he'll deal with that in chapter four. In chapter five, he's going to deal with one of their own members who's committing egregious sexual immorality with his father's wife.
And he's going to say, You need to put that man out. It's church discipline. Chapter 6, he's going to deal with sexual purity, the practice that some of them had of claiming to be Christians, but visiting the temple prostitutes, and carrying on with the temple prostitutes. The very passage, I just read to you a moment ago. And he's going to address marital problems that they were having in chapter seven, he's going to address meat sacrifice to idols and their paganism and their idolatry in chapters eight through 10. He's going to address the fact that some of them are getting drunk at the Lord's Supper. And some of them were, were struck dead because of it. So he's going to address all of their sinfulness, but he's calling on them here because they are God's temple to be holy.
Now here, specifically, he's finishing the issue of their bickering, their prideful factions and divisions, among themselves. Because God's temple is sacred and because you are that temple, you must be holy in all you do.
II. Be Warned, for God is Zealous for His Temple
So part two, be warned because God is zealous for his temple. Look at verse 16-17, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you. If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is sacred and you are that temple." So here, this is a clear warning that God is serious about his temple, he's zealous for his temple. And they should not underestimate the zeal that God has for the purity and the protection of his temple.
Now what does he mean when he says that, "If anyone destroys God's temple God will destroy him"? Well, at one level, it would just be anybody that uses their earthly power and position to hinder the work of Christ and to assault or attack in some way, Christians. So here we come face-to-face with the issue of the persecuted church. The fact that this invisible structure is rising all over the world but in most, in many parts of the world, it is openly attacked, or assaulted; it is a warfare that has to go on to build this church.
So you get the picture in the Old Testament, you remember of Nehemiah building the wall with a sword and a trowel. A sword in one hand and the trowel in the other, because they had enemies that were seeking to stop the work, well make that all spiritual now. It's a spiritual work, so it has spiritual enemies, servants of Satan that use their positions to stop or to hinder the work of Christ in the world.
It's going on all over the world. And so, we have communist governments or Muslim countries, where you have imams or clerics, Islamic clerics, that use their position to stop the work of Christ and the spread of the Gospel. Every year, Open Doors, ministry called Open Doors publishes something called the World Watch List, which compiles facts and trends concerning the persecution of Christian worldwide. Over 200 million of our brothers and sisters in the world experience according to them, Open Doors, very high levels of persecution in their lives, 200 million Christians worldwide. North Korea remains for the 14th consecutive year the most dangerous place on earth to be a Christian. And we're very well aware of the way that that government has been hostile and aggressive in seeking to eradicate Christianity. Most of the nations in the top 50 list are Islamic, 35 out of 50 are dominated by Islam, Islam extremism remains the dominant global driver of persecution responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in 35 out of those 50 nations.
However, that's not the only force, we also have ethnic nationalism rising, especially in India. Open Doors noted that India rose to its highest rank ever in terms of persecution, number 15, amid the continued rise of Hindu nationalism. An average of 40 incidents were reported per month, a little over one-a-day, including pastors being beaten, churches burned, Christians harassed. Of the 64 million Christians in India, approximately 39 million experience direct daily persecution for their faith. The most violent in terms of attacks and deaths was Pakistan, which rose to number four on the list for a level of violence exceeding even Northern Nigeria.
So what I'm saying is, all over the world, it is extremely dangerous to be a Christian, and people are using their power and their influence to try to stop the building of Christ Church. And so, this is a clear warning from God, if anyone attacks God's church, God will attack him. If anyone seeks to destroy God's church, God will destroy him, that's what he's saying. He's not going to sit idly by.
Now, we just finished over the last couple of years, a verse by verse unfolding of the Book of Revelation. And if you look at the Book of Revelation, so much of the judgment that comes from heaven to Earth is done specifically because of how the people on Earth treated God's people. Because they were persecuting them savagely. For example, the angel pouring out the bowls of judgment, the third angel... Revelation 16:4-6, "The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers, and springs of water and they became blood. And then I heard the angel in charge of the water say, 'You are just in these judgments, you are and you were the holy one, because you have so judged. For they shed the blood of your saints, the prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.'"
In other words, the fact that they're physically unable to drink the fresh water anymore, because it was blood, makes perfect sense to the angel, because of how they were persecuting God's people. Now, I find it fascinating. Think about... Look at verse 17 again, "If anyone destroys God's church, God will destroy him." I want you to think about that verse and compare it to this one, Acts 8:3, "But Saul began to destroy the church." Ponder that with me. Dragging off men and women, throwing them in prison. So the very one who wrote 1 Corinthians 3:17, "If anyone destroys God's church, God will destroy him" and I used to be someone who destroyed God's church.
And when Jesus stopped Saul of Tarsus, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples on the road to Damascus, he could have killed him in his tracks that day. Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Who are you Lord? I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. And now, you are a dead man, depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Could he have said that? Yes. Would Saul have deserved it? Yes. Is that what Jesus did? No.
Instead, he said, "Now get up and go into the city and you'll be told what you must do." You'll stop destroying my church, you'll start building it. And frankly, in the end, those are the two options, you're either going to destroy or you're going to build. "Whoever does not gather with me," Jesus said, "Scatters." Whoever does not scatter, gathers. It's just one or the other. And so, we are called into the service of God. Isn't it amazing the grace that God showed to Saul of Tarsus, and that he did not destroy him? And so, we hope that some North Korean and some Chinese and some Islamic persecutors and some Indian nationalist persecutors will like Saul of Tarsus crossover from death to life and become builders of the church and what an incredible testimony that will be. But this is a warning to those that are seeking to destroy the church. He's going to in the end destroy both soul and body in hell, if they don't repent.
Destroy Could Mean Defile
Now, this statement here, also could be translated slightly differently, because the word "destroy" could mean defile. And so, this may talk about sexual immorality and pollution of the church as well. False teachers in Corinth and their doctrine leading to immorality. The defilement here seems to be related to impurity and the fact that they were polluting the church. And so, he is going to be very clear about sexual immorality in Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, and he's going to call on the church to be pure and to be holy, because God is pure and holy.
III. Be Wise, for God Says the World is Foolish
Thirdly, be wise for God says the world is foolish. From verses 18-20, he says, "Do not deceive yourselves, if any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age. He should become a fool so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written, 'he catches the wise in their craftiness.' And again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.'"
So he begins this section, by saying, "Do not deceive yourself," it is very easy to lie to yourself about your true spiritual condition. And usually when Paul says this, "Do you not deceive yourself," or "do not be deceived." He says this frequently, it usually has to do is some worldly way of thinking that's gotten into the Christian mindset and is making them polluted in the way that they're living their lives. So he says in chapter 6:9, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived... " And then he lists a bunch of sexual sinners and other types of sinners who will not inherit the kingdom of God. Don't be deceived about this. Or he says the same thing in Galatians 6:7, generally about the kind of life you're living. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." If you reap to the flesh, from the flesh you're going to reap destruction, if you sow to the flesh, from the flesh you'll reap destruction. If sow to the Spirit, from the Spirit you'll reap eternal life. So don't be deceived about how you're living.
So, what he says here is, don't be deceived about your worldly pagan mentality, your pagan mindset. He's warning them against their worldly man-centered thinking that was dominating their dispute. "I follow Paul… I follow Apollos… I follow Cephas…" Even worse is their pagan thinking about Jesus. "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." And so, the Corinthians were seeking to be seen as wise as their unconverted pagan neighbors. We're going to talk more about this in the next chapter, but they wanted to be thought well of by the unconverted surrounding them in their lives.
Oh, this is a great danger for us Americans too, that we would be well-esteemed in the Twitterverse. Does that exist? The Twitterverse? To be well thought of by all those weird people that say really mean things. And we want to be well thought of by all our unconverted co-workers and unconverted neighbors and unconverted family members, even. Unconverted professors and fellow students, we want to be thought well of by the pagan world around us. So don't be deceived about all this.
If you want to really be wise, you need to be thought of as a fool by them. You need to be thought of as wasting your life and living foolishly. The way they look at it, you need to cross over. And so, don't be a fool, an eternal fool. Be a fool for Christ, burn the bridge, burn the bridge, fly your flag, be a Christian and don't worry what they think about you. Become an intellectual outcast, so that you will be seen of as wise in God's sight and then vindicated on Judgment Day, when the Gospel is vindicated as the only wisdom there ever was.
God Will Hunt Down the Worldly Wise and Catch Them
For God will effectively hunt down the worldly wise and he's going to catch them. Look at Verse 19, "he catches the wise in their craftiness." Paul calls quotes Job here. To the end that God is actively working in this world to expose the worldly wise as fools. He catches the wise in their craftiness. He's a hunter. God's a hunter, and he lays traps for the pagans and their atheistic ways. he lays traps for them so that they can be exposed as fools. Like you remember when a Haman built the gallows for Mordecai, and then, he and his sons ended up hanging on it.
Or you think about the Roman emperors that used to burn Christians to light their dinner parties and then within two centuries, the Gospel of Jesus Christ had spiritually conquered the Roman Empire. The vindication that comes from it. When the Chinese Communist Party under MoU sought to aggressively stop the spread of the Gospel in China, and they used means that actually fostered the spread of the Gospel throughout China. That's God laughing in a Psalm two-way. You try to fight and you watch what I will do. He catches the wise in their craftiness. To the pure, God shows himself pure. But to the crooked he shows himself astute. That means trickier than they are. God plays chess at a deeper level than any of us can possibly imagine. And so, he catches the wise in their craftiness. And the Lord has searched the mind of the wise and he knows that their thoughts are futile. So, be truly wise and stop trying to impress your pagan neighbors. Stop trying to imitate your pagan neighbors and become a fool for Christ sake, that's what he's saying.
IV. Be God-Centered, for God Owns You
And then he says, "Be centered, God-centered for God owns you." Look at Verses 21-23. "So then, no more boasting about men. All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or the present or the future, all are yours and you are of Christ and Christ is of God." So now, Paul comes full circle and finishes this topic of "I follow Paul… I follow Apollos… I follow Cephas…" We've been dealing with it for three chapters, and this is the end now, Chapter 4, it'll go on to other things. So he's finishing now their factions and their divisions. So in saying, "I follow Paul" versus, "I follow Apollos," they were being man-centered. They were boasting in human wisdom, human eloquence, human power. Even worse, they didn't understand their true spiritual situation. Paul and Apollos, and Peter, and in fact all Godly teachers are all part of the same body sent by the same Lord to achieve the same end, namely their perfection in Christ.
They are all coming from the same source and teaching by the same Spirit. The Corinthians were actually constricting or limiting their blessings. Because this is how it works, the rival factions were saying, "I follow Paul and not Apollos." "Oh yeah? Well, I follow Apollos and not Paul." "Oh yeah? Well, I don't follow either of your heroes, I follow Peter, the first Apostle." And not any of those. So you're saying, "What's the end not?" Stop doing that. Say, "I follow Paul as he follows Christ, and I follow Apollos too, as he follows Christ, and I follow Cephas, also as he follows Christ. I get them all. I get Paul and I get Apollos and I get Cephas, all of them belong to me," that's what he's saying. Different teachers are different pipelines of grace, different conduits of grace. And if they are teaching the truth, they are here for your benefit, they're not in controversy with each other, they're not fighting each other, they're here to help you.
And so, I'm not in competition with any other pastor. I'm not in competition with any of you guys listening to podcasts of other preachers. There are definitely more gifted preachers and teachers than me. Drink it in! I would only ask that you be a Berean and take everything they say back to the Word and see if it's so. But if it's so, then drink. Follow Paul and Apollos and Cephas, follow them all. And so, we can go through and say, all of these come from God. Augustine is here for your service in so far as he's teaching the Word. And John Calvin is here to serve you in so far as he's teaching the Word. And John Wesley is here to help you grow in grace in the knowledge of Christ, in so far as he's teaching the word. And so, you actually can drink from both John Calvin and John Wesley. Some of you are like, "No, not possible, can't be done." I know exactly why you're saying that. It is true on Soteriology they disagree, but on many aspects of the Christian life, they're in perfect agreement.
And one of them is right and one of them is wrong, and I have a sense of which of the two it is, but we can talk about that afterwards. But we take everything back to the Word of God and we drink wherever we can from these conduits of blessing. Don't limit it. And not only that, everything in this world that seems even those things that seem to be against you are here to help you. Look what he says in Verse 22, "Whether the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours." The world may seem to be against your salvation, but it actually is God's servant in that sense, to finish your salvation. Because God is sovereign over it. And life, life is orchestrated by God, the circumstances of your life are actually set up providentially to help finish your salvation. They are God's servants to serve you. Even death, the final enemy is going to serve you by ushering you out of this world of pain and suffering and temptation into a perfect world of righteousness. Death will be your final friend in that sense, not your final enemy. Death is yours in Christ.
And time itself, the present and the future, and frankly Paul didn't say it, but I'll add the past, I love church history. And so, we can lean on whatever God did in the past, what he's doing now in the present, and even the future. All of these things are yours. They all belong to you, because they are serving your soul. Now, there's a beautiful parallel text of this in Romans 8. Don't turn there, just listen. In Romans 8 he says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those whom God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called, he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified. And what shall we say then in response of this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him graciously what, give us all things."
All of the things that you need for your soul are yours, they're all ready to serve you, all things are yours. In the ends there in Romans 8 saying, "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus." So, those things are not going to separate you. Paul here in 1 Corinthians 3, goes even further. Not only are they not going to separate you, they're actually going to work together to finish your salvation under the sovereign hand of God. So, all things are yours. So, it's not I belong to Paul, it's Paul belongs to me. It's not I belong to Apollos, it's Apollos belongs to me, to serve my salvation, right? So he says all that. But he says, "You're not done, you're not done thinking." That's true. All of those things are yours, but you belong to Christ.
You are Christ's, you are his possession, he owns you, he shed his blood for you, and you are his possession. You are bought with a price, and then in the end, Christ is God's, all things come back up to God, the Father who gave them all. So stop boasting about men.
Alarm to the Unconverted
Applications. Well, first, just a simple alarm to the unconverted. I just want to wake you up. It's a New Year. God graciously let you live into the year 2019. You should not presume that you'll live another day, or another year, but God has graciously allowed you to live. Do not be deceived, if you're unconverted, if you're not yet a Christian, do not be deceived about the world's apparent dominant wisdom and prosperity and success, don't be deceived. It's an illusion. It's an illusion. The powerful and the influential people of this world, and the brilliant people of this world, and the wealthy people this world, all of them will fade away like the wild flower. They are as nothing. If they don't know Christ, if they are not saved by faith in Christ, they will pass away like nothing.
This text calls on you to become a fool for Christ. Turn your back on all that, turn your back on all the worldly goals and ambitions you've had and cross over through faith in Christ. You've heard the Gospel this morning, you've heard how God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life, who died an atoning death on the cross for sinners like you and me, and all you need to do is trust in him and all your sins will be forgiven. Become a fool for Christ.
Christians: Meditate Deeply on the Fact that We are TOGETHER the Temple of the Living God
Now, if you're a Christian, meditate deeply on the fact that we are together, the temple of the living God. We're meant to be together, we're meant to be interconnected together with each other by the Spirit. So that means at least Covenant membership in a healthy local church. Be a member of a healthy local church. And then, don't forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Let's meet together... As a matter of fact, let's do this again next week, what do you say?
Alright, next week, let's get together again. And let's just keep on doing... Let's make a habit of doing that, and not make a habit of forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, some do. And let's... Within that, let's make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. If you're holding anything against anyone in this body, go work it out. If they've sinned against you, forgive them, bring them to reconcile... If you sin against them, if you know they have something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar and then go be in reconcile to your brother or sister. Make it right, give and receive forgiveness.
Think of All the Symbolism of the Temple
And then finally, think of the beautiful symbolism of the temple. The temple was built by actual physical materials and the law was that they were hewn, and they were cut and hewn and shaped off site. No sound of tool or chisel or saw was heard on the workplace.
What it's saying is, it's constructed not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God. And so, God is in the process of shaping us now and getting us ready for our heavenly dwelling. So keep that in mind, that beautiful image. Secondly, the temple was magnificent in beauty. But not because of its physical stature. No, the glory of God through the Spirit is what makes us beautiful. So it is with the believer's soul, the radiance of God indwelling in you by the Spirit, that's what gives us beauty that attracts Christ to us and attracts us to others. Thirdly, the temple was sacred to God, it was a holy place. So each one of you must be consecrated to personal holiness.
I want to, especially, commend... We're not there yet in 1 Corinthians, but sexual purity. Whatever commitments you need to make to sexual purity, make them. If you're defiling the church by sexual immorality, repent. Revelation in chapter 2, Jesus with eyes of blazing fire says to the church of Thyatira, "he is going to punish Jezebel and her followers. Anyone that follows into sexual immorality," he says, "I'll strike her children dead. And then, all churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each person according to what he has done," that's Jesus. So let's be holy because he is holy.
Fourthly, the temple was a place of physical sacrifices, animal sacrifices. So now our church is to be a place of spiritual sacrifices. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. We are to present all of our resources, our time, our energy, our money to God in service to him. We are to offer our days. We are to give up sacrifices of caring for lost people, through Evangelism and poor people through financial giving. We are to be lifting up spiritual sacrifices daily. The temple was a place of sweet fellowship between God and people, and so must we be. To have fellowship with God through the Spirit, walk with God through the week. Walk with God, have a quiet time.
Feed your soul in the Word and then just walk with him through the day. Send up prayers, pray without ceasing. Tell Jesus, you love him at 2:00 in the afternoon and just have fellowship. And then when we come together, have fellowship with other brothers and sisters. Let no member of this church feel isolated or lonely in this world. And then finally, the temple was to be a house of prayer for all nations. We need to be zealous for the spread of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. A number of our people just got back from The CROSS Conference and there's such a focus there, I heard on the local church. And a local church is a sending entity. We need to be better senders than ever before. Send more people, yes, but send better. Let's stay in touch with our missionaries. Let's stay in touch with those that are laboring. Let's pray for unreached people groups. Let's make this a house of prayer for all nations throughout this year. Let's close in prayer.
Father, thank you for the things that we've learned from 1 Corinthians 3. Thank you for the ways that you've instructed us. And Lord I pray that you would sustain each of us for this New Year. Help us to feed on your word. Help us to not allow pockets of darkness or sin within us. Help us, O Lord, that we would be strengthened through the Spirit to love one another and serve one another, and forgive one another. Father, I pray again for any that walked in here lost, that they would look to Christ now while there's time and find a sweet salvation in him, a savior. Lord, I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.