I Corinthians 3:16-23
A man gathered all of his children together and said
“Children when George Washington knocked down the
cherry tree, he told his father honestly that it was him , now
answer me honestly, Who knocked down the outhouse?
Finally the youngest son admitted it was him, at which he
received a lashing he wouldn’t soon forget.
“That’s not fair” complained the son, “George Washington
didn’t get punished when he told the truth.”
“Son” replied the Father “The difference is, that George
Washington’s father wasn’t in the tree when he knocked it
Today we are going to study the final verses in I Corinthians 3.
Paul’s message in this chapter has been focused on ridding the
church of division and getting them focused once again on Christ.
I Corinthians 3:16-23
Paul closes out this chapter on divisions in the church with three
pursuits for the believers at Corinth.
The first is:
He asks them a rhetorical question and he expects an affirmative
response. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and the
God’s Spirit dwells in you?
He knows they understand the fact that they received the Holy
Spirit at the moment they trusted God for salvation.
The Greek word for temple used here is Naos, and it is typically
used to describe the Holy of Holies.
The Holy place in the temple is where the priest offered sacrifices.
Holy of holies – place where God dwells
Only the high priest could go and then only once a year and he
had to take blood with him for his own sins and for the sins of the
Paul was telling the believers at Corinth that they collectively are
The church is made up of believers who are filled with the Holy
God’s temple is holy and we are that temple.
Therefore, we must pursue a life of holiness.
I Cor 6:19 Paul mentions our bodies being a temple of the Holy
Spirit and gives a warning against sexual immorality. His point is
that sexual sins are against their own bodies.
In v. 20 he writes “You are not your own, for you were bought
with a price. So glorify God in your body.” I Corinthians 6:20
In John 2, Jesus told the Jews that if they destroyed this temple
He would raise it up in three days. They thought He was
speaking of the building, but He was referring to His body that
would be crucified and raised from the dead on the third day.
Remember the context of our passage; Paul has heard of
divisions in the church. Some were claiming to follow him, others
Apollos, still others Peter.
The message here is for the church to stand as one body of
believers filled with the Holy Spirit. If anyone destroys the unity
within the church, they will be held responsible.
Ralph Earle describes v.17 by comparing the church to a
living organism. He says those who divide the church are
destroying it. The church isn’t an organization, it’s an
organism. If you divide it you are destroying it.
Paul understands that division is caused by pride.
It is only when we humble ourselves and put the needs of others
ahead of our own that we will truly be following Christ’s model for
ministry and the church.
The second pursuit is:
Paul writes that they were deceiving themselves by thinking
worldly wisdom is what they needed. Worldly wisdom is folly to
God. Paul’s message is to become a fool in the world’s eyes to
have true wisdom that comes from God.
Back in chapter 1 Paul wrote about the wisdom of the world and
how God has made it foolish.
Here in chapter 3 Paul is saying, ‘be humble, don’t worry about
what the world thinks of you. Wisdom comes from the Lord.’
Pursuing humility is the way to find true wisdom, God’s wisdom.
Next, Paul quotes two OT Scriptures, Job 5:13 and Psalm 94:11
as a reminder that God’s wisdom is the only true wisdom.
Everything else is foolishness.
There’s a great example of the first reference in Esther when
Haman tried to execute Mordecai, but God caught him in his
craftiness and he was executed on the same gallows he intended
Haman was very prideful and divisive.
There’s no place in the body of Christ for division and strife.
Christ is our model for humility.
He emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and became
obedient to the point of death.
We have to pursue Humility if we are going to remain united as a
The final pursuit is
Pursue Him (Christ)
Paul has already written about boasting back in 1:31.
Here again he reminds the believers not to boast in men.
The reason, God has given them everything they need.
Everything we have comes from God. We have nothing to boast
about but Him.
Listen to Paul’s words to the Roman church in Romans 8:37-39
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through
him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in
Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Because of Christ we have abundant life.
Because of Christ we do not have to fear death. Death is
swallowed up in victory.
Because of Christ our future is secure. We will spend eternity in
heaven with God.
Because of Christ they know how to follow the leaders God has
appointed for them. There is no need for factions. These men
were called by God to shepherd the flock and lead them towards
maturity in their walk with Christ.
We belong to Christ, and Christ to God.
Without Christ we would still be dead in our sin.
All of today’s verses serve as our application.
If we desire to have unity in the church and avoid the things that
divide us, we will do well to put away our pride and
Pursue Holiness, Humility and Christ.