Building Temples III, You Are God’s Temple
1 Corinthians 3
But I, brothers,[a] could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled[b] master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you[c] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about building Christ’s church. And today we’re going to wrap up chapter three by diving one step deeper into the process to see exactly how the church is build; how someone moves from outside the church, to inside the church—from not being a Christian to being a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Another way to say that would be to say, ‘How do we get from our purpose to make disciples to the point that other people profess Christ as Lord?’
Or ‘How does a Christian produce more Christians?’
We’re going to walk through this model as we answer that question.
Paul makes a statement in our passage, 1 Corinthians 3, that may not be shocking to you, but was quite the statement to make in the first century.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV)
This passage is usually interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit dwells in each individual Christian and that each individual Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit. In other words, in the church, there are a whole bunch of temples, because each individual is a temple.
So, then Paul says,
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:17, ESV)
If we are individually God’s temples, then this verse means we need to take care of ourselves. We shouldn’t drink alcohol, smoke, do other things that are harmful to ourselves, lest we destroy God’s temple. And we should eat healthy and exercise so as to strengthen God’s temple.
That all might be good and true, but not what this passage is about. I don’t think that interpretation meshes with the ideas in the passage. You tell me, though. Chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians is about building the church. Chapters 1-3 are about having unity in the church.
In that context, what purpose does a passage about personal health serve?
It’s really out of place if that’s the meaning. But, consider this. Notice the plural and singular words in the passage.
Do you [plural] not know that you [plural] are God’s temple [singular] and that God’s Spirit dwells in you [plural]? (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV)
The tricky word in here is ‘you,’ because in English ‘you,’ is both plural and singular. In Greek, they aren’t. So, consider this translation that helps with the plurals.
Do you [all] not know that [together] you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you [collectively]? (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV)
This is important. Each person is not God’s temple. According to the grammar of the passage, we are the temple collectively. If Paul meant to convey that each person was individually a temple of God, then he would have said, ‘that you all are God’s temples,’ with temple being plural. But, temple is singular, so we know that Paul sees one temple of God made up of the collection or the assembly of all Christians.
When we talk about the assembly of Christians, we call that the church.
So, next time someone tells you they don’t need to go to church to be a Christian, you can tell them that we are only God’s temple when we are together. We are only the church when we’re together.
And we can quote Jesus, the foundation of the church, who said,
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20, ESV)
You see, Jesus dwells among us, by His Spirit, when we gather together. We account for little individually, but together we are God’s temple. We need each other desperately to carry out God’s purposes.
It’s not that you are on your own a temple of the Holy Spirit, but…
The Church is the True Temple
In the temple of the Lord that Solomon built in Jerusalem, and in the second temple that was in place in Jesus’s day, there was a courtyard called the Gentile court. Gentile is a word for anyone who is not a Jew.
It might seem odd, that a Jewish temple would have a place designated for foreigners to come and worship God. But, the Jewish people understood that God’s purpose for Israel was bigger than the nation of Israel.
Moses wrote in the law,
Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 31:12, ESV)
When the people of Israel gathered for worship at the temple, they were to include those who were foreigners living among them. The temple was a place that all the nations were invited to come and 1) hear God’s Word proclaimed, 2) learn to fear or revere God, and 3) obey God. The Israelites were commanded to bring their neighbors to church with them, even though they were so different.
And it’s no different today.
You know your purpose if you are a Christian. Our purpose is this,
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV)
It’s the same three things. We are to invite those who are different than us to 1) hear God’s word, so that they can 2) become disciples and be baptized, revering the Lord, and 3) teach them to obey Jesus Christ.
The purpose or mission of God’s people has never changed.
The purpose of the people is to bring the people in our communities into God’s temple to worship Him. And Paul says we are the temple of God when we gather together.
And this is critical, because…
The Temple is the Place that People Meet God
In ancient cultures, temples were the place you went to meet God, no matter what religion you were. And it’s not really different today.
It’s interesting, atheism—the idea that there is no god, but that everything has happened naturally—is being abandoned by more and more people in scholarly circles. Scientists, philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists are all coming to the same conclusion that there must be a supernatural origin to all things.
Don’t hear me wrong, though. Some of them are becoming Christians, and that’s hopeful, but most are just becoming agnostic … which is a fancy way of saying, “we don’t really know what’s out there.”
The reality is, more and more people see the need for spirituality, but our culture of tolerance is pushing people towards faith systems that are pluralistic. That means that they believe all religions are valid ways to meet God. Today, people have a perspective that says, all faith systems are equally valid ways of meeting God or being enlightened in some way.
But, Christians have a different perspective. We don’t have a perspective that comes from our own heart’s desires. Instead, we have a perspective that comes from Jesus. He said,
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, ESV)
No one gets to meet God any other way than through Jesus.
It doesn’t matter that Buddhists share the same basic morality with Christians; Buddhism is not a valid perspective. It will not allow you to meet God.
It doesn’t matter that Muslims share a lot of ideas about God and history with Christianity; Islam denies Jesus and therefore is not a valid perspective. Islam is not a way to meet God.
Only Jesus allows you to meet God. He is the only way.
Notice the difference in perspective. The world’s perspective is that all paths lead to God. But, the Christian’s perspective is that Jesus is the only path to God.
Why is that so important?
It’s important for this reason. Because, as the church, God’s temple, we are supposed to be the instrument for people meet God.
I see it this way.
Every person has about 100 people that they interact with throughout their week. This includes the mailman and the guy who bags your groceries as well as your kids and your neighbors and coworkers—everyone.
Of that 100 people, about 30 of them are probably Christians.
Now, you don’t really know most of those 100 people all that well. But, you have an inner-circle of about 8-15 people that you are close with. Some of those people are probably Christians and go to church with you. Some of those people are not Christians.
So, you have a choice, when it comes to what to believe about those people in your inner-circle who are not Christians. Maybe one of them gets sick or in an accident, and you have to make a decision about what you believe about their eternity.
The world’s perspective says, ‘They’re fine, all ways lead to God eventually.’ ‘They’re good people, God will have mercy on them.’ ‘I know they don’t really go to church or pray or know much about scripture, but they know God enough.’
That’s the world’s perspective.
Those are lies, though. The Bible’s perspective is clear. There is no way to know God except through Jesus Christ.
As a Christian, that is a core conviction that stands in the way of you leading others to know Jesus. If you believe that people can meet God, that they can go to heaven, receive God’s mercy in any way other than through Jesus, then you will never help anyone to know Christ. The process is halted right there.
Maybe that just sounds a bit rude to you. You like to see God as a loving God who accepts all people—at least most people. You don’t like the idea that God only accepts those who enter through Jesus.
Well, here’s the reality. If you are living for this world, then the perspective of this world is fine. If the point is just for people to be nice, and good to each other here on earth, then the perspective that everyone’s way is good for them is actually really helpful. Almost all religions help people be generally good and nice people and get along. If this world is all you believe in, then be a pluralist like the rest of society.
But, Jesus said, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world.’ Jesus’s Kingdom is other than this world. If you want to know the Father God who lives beyond this creation, this universe, this world, then you need to change Kingdoms.
And that’s what we are offered in Jesus.
Both kingdoms know that the kingdom of the world is broken, hurting, and dying. The world’s perspective says, since it’s dying, we need to fix it; we need to make it better.
But, the Christian perspective, says ‘we can’t.’ We can’t fix it. We can’t make it better. We’re actually the problem, so how could we possibly fix it?
We need someone to do that for us. And that’s what Jesus did for us. He bought us entrance into a perfect Kingdom, where we will be made again into perfect people.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8, ESV)
The world says, ‘We can do it ourselves; we can make this world a wonderful place.’ But, Paul says, no. It’s not of your doing. You can’t do it. You can’t do enough good.
That’s why Jesus died and took upon Himself the brokenness of the world so that you can enter into God’s Kingdom by the free gift given by God. Jesus did the work we could never do.
This perspective is critical if we want to see people truly meet God. Because, as we talked about last week, it’s not the sole responsibility of the pastors to bring people into the church, God’s house, God’s temple. All of…
The Church Invites People To God’s Temple
The church is responsible as a whole—that is, the people—for bringing people in to meet God.
And this makes sense. Let’s talk more about your inner-circle.
So, there are 100 people in your life.
About 30 are Christians.
And then you have your inner-circle of about 8-15 people that you really know and you interact with on a regular basis.
Now, most people do one of two things. Either, they adopt the perspective of the world that says, ‘It’s OK, God will have mercy on them.’ But, we know that perspective is wrong. So, most Christians rely on pastors or, what we call evangelists, to do that work. An Evangelist is someone whose entire ministry is focused on telling people about Jesus. They don’t usually lead churches or other ministries. Instead, they travel around telling people about Jesus.
The Evangelist is a biblical office, by the way, and we are very grateful for the evangelists we have today. And we are grateful for pastors who proclaim the message of Jesus as well. When Timothy was pastoring the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote to him not to neglect the work of the evangelist. Even though he wasn’t an evangelist, as a pastor he still had evangelistic responsibility.
All that’s good. But, there’s also a charge to the church, as a whole, to be the temple, the place that people can meet God. We all have a responsibility to be an evangelist to some degree.
If we bring an evangelist into our community, they are going to proclaim the message of Jesus. That’s good. But, they are going to have a limited audience. They won’t be able to get the message out to everyone in Palmdale, not even in years.
The evangelist’s influence is limited—notice the third level—because they aren’t in a position to be able to speak truth into the lives of all of the people in our community.
Think about it. Who is going to attend an evangelistic crusade?
Only people who think they might need Jesus are going to attend. But, most of the people you know don’t think they need Jesus. Remember, they probably believe they are good enough to meet God on their own. They probably believe their perspective is just as good as yours.
So, if the people in your inner-circle won’t come to hear the evangelist, then the evangelist won’t be in the position to speak truth to them.
It ultimately comes down to trust. The world is going to learn to follow Christ through people they trust, not through an Evangelist they’ve never met.
There’s a story in the book of Acts. Paul and Silas are in prison, and they are singing hymns in the middle of the night. And God caused an earthquake and all the locks in the jail shook open. When the jailer realized what happened, he was afraid for his life because he thought the prisoners had all escaped, but Paul and Silas stayed to share Jesus with the jailer. Here’s what Luke records about their conversation,
Then he brought them out [of the jail] and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30–31, ESV)
There’s this pattern that we repeatedly see in the New Testament. When someone believes in Jesus, their whole household comes to believe. In biblical times, your household was a lot bigger than just your immediate family, though. Your household included servants, friends, extended family members, travelers. So, there is something about the faith of the jailer that influenced all of the people in his inner-circle.
Because they knew and trusted him. Surely, they had heard about Jesus a number of times in the marketplaces and in their jobs and in the schools. Surely, they knew that Jesus claimed to be the savior of the world.
But, the jailer was in the inner-circle, so his testimony was far more valuable. It meant so much more. The jailer was in the best position to lead his inner-circle to Jesus.
The jailer didn’t wait for an evangelist to come talk to his household.
And that’s why you can’t wait for a pastor or evangelist to reach your people in your inner-circle. You’re already there. They already trust you. You’re already in position.
So, what happens, when every Christian focuses on their inner-circle?
If we all influence our inner-circle, our 8-15 people, and we have far more influence over our community than pastors or evangelists ever could.
As Pastors and Evangelists, we aren’t in the position to do this for you. But, you are in exactly the right position.
And he [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26–27, ESV)
God has placed people in your neighborhood, in your job, in your school, for the explicit purpose that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. You are in the perfect position to influence the people in your inner-circle to follow Jesus. You are on deck. You are in position.
But, here’s where I think we fall short. We think, well I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to influence someone to follow Jesus. I don’t know how to teach the scriptures to someone. I don’t know how to start up a spiritual conversation.
Another way to say this is that you know your purpose, you have the right perspective, you know you are in the best position, but you don’t feel you have a platform.
And notice the diagram—once you have a platform, it leads to profession. In other words, if you can gain a platform with the people in your inner-circle, you can lead them to profess Jesus as Lord and Savior.
I think this one wedge seems like the hardest part of evangelism because having a platform means knowing how to get someone to listen to you and knowing what to say when they do listen. That seems like it’s the hardest part.
You have a purpose, to bring people into the church, God’s temple. You have the right perspective that only Jesus can bring them into God’s presence. You know you are in position, that there are people in your life who need to know Jesus and you know you’re the best person to tell them.
So, this morning, I want to introduce you to what’s called the Oikos Principle. Oikos is the Greek word translated ‘household’ in the New Testament. You could say that Oikos means ‘inner-circle’ today. Your Oikos is your 8-15 people that you interact closely with throughout your week.
We are going to begin a training in the fall that I’m calling Oikos Training, where you will learn to engage and influence your Oikos to follow Jesus so that you will have a platform with your inner-circle.
Notice your signup card on your seat. There’s a quote on it:
“95% of all believers have come to faith in Christ since the inception of the church using the Oikos Principle.”
This is the way the church grows, through the Oikos, the inner-circle. Oikos is the biblical way that the Temple of God is built up.
Remember an evangelist can’t reach everyone.
But, if the people of God focus on just their 8-15, together we can actually reach everyone.
So, we are going to have a 13-week training to help everyone to be able to do this. I want to be clear about this. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter how shy you are. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are. It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you live in. It doesn’t matter where you work or if you work.
You need to be a part of this training.
We’ll have 3 training times so that there will be a good time for everyone. We will do one here on Tuesday nights at 6:30. We will do one in Lake LA on Thursday nights at 6:30. And we are going to do one right after service on Sunday’s.
And we will have programming for kids at all three.
So, start filling that card out now so you can turn it in during the collection time.
Here’s a few things you need to know, real quick.
- To accommodate the Sunday training, we will be moving our worship service to 9:30am beginning the first Sunday in September.
- All Sonrise life groups will be on hold for a while as we host some training classes. I believe this training is the most valuable thing you can be learning, so we want everyone to be involved and committed. I know you want to see your life group friends. Just encourage them to attend the same training.
- For various reasons, we are moving youth group to Tuesday, so the Tuesday group is great for parents of youth and children.
Contact the church office or talk to me if you have questions or need more details.
Listen, don’t check-out. Don’t say it’s not your gifting or not your thing. Don’t say it’s too hard. You’ll notice the study we’re using is titled, ‘Common sense is the new brilliance.’ Building the church of Christ is easier than you think and every believer has the ability to do it.
I pray that you take this seriously and you are committed to the training—all 13 weeks. I pray you are committed to building God’s temple, God’s church here in East Palmdale. Because a church that is not building is dying. So, I’ll leave you with these words of Paul and then we’ll pray,
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, ESV)
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Service Times and Location
Sunday Service: 10am
Address: 2751 E Ave R, Palmdale, CA 93550 (Click for Directions)
Phone: (661) 878-8316