July 25, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 3)

Submitted by Michelle Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

1 Corinthians 3:16–17 (NIV84)

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

“The church is not just any building; it is the most holy and valuable of edifices.  Of course, Paul does not mean a literal place of residence, but the body of Corinthian believers.  All the ‘you’s’ of these two verses are plural; corporately these Christians form one temple.  ‘In you’ at the end of verse 16 would be better translated ‘among you.’  […] [T]he Christian fellowship is the special place of the Spirit’s presence.  That is why the threat of v.17a is so harsh.  Here Paul warns against any who would try to destroy the church.”

  • What implication does it have on me that the church is the community in which “God’s spirit dwells,” and that I am a part of this sacred temple? 

The church is the community where God’s Spirit is manifested in a special way.  One implication of this is that any divisiveness or divisions in the church are very serious and will prevent God’s Spirit from being manifested.  I have seen this happen before in other churches where there are church splits and so much attention is devoted to dealing with politics and keeping the different factions in line that there is not much room to do God’s kingdom work.  At a church like this, God’s Spirit cannot dwell and shine through to touch others.  The implication here then is that as a member of this sacred temple, I need to take myself very seriously and not engage in any sins that could cause divisiveness and divisions in the church.  Instead of just viewing myself as an individual, I need to realize that I am now a part of this greater body and so any sin that I engage in directly impacts everyone else and could cause God’s Spirit to be quenched.  I need to make decisions not just based on what I want and my personal needs, but I need to take into consideration the community as a whole because my life is directly tied to others.  I need to carefully guard the church community and protect it from any divisiveness or else God’s kingdom will be slowed down.  In light of all this, I can now see why verse 17 is so harsh and why God threatens to destroy the person who destroys his temple and prevents his Spirit from being manifested.

  • Is there some practice or sin in my life that this passage is warning me about?

I think this text is warning me to carefully evaluate my own life and reflect on whether I am causing any divisiveness or divisions within the church.  During a recent bible study, we talked about how divisiveness can be very subtle and happen progressively as individual members just choose to adopt different practices from what they have learned and inherited.  For example, one of the unique characteristics about our church is that most of its members live very simple and modest lives.  Though we have financial means, we do not spend extravagantly and instead live in modest homes and drive modest cars.  However, if an individual suddenly decides to upgrade his lifestyle and buys a very nice and luxurious house, this could lead to divisiveness within the church because it now makes it easier for the next person to also upgrade his lifestyle.  The result is that there is no more equality and people start comparing their possessions and money starts to divide and separate people into different factions.  In a church like this, God’s Spirit is then quenched and His kingdom work can no longer take place as people become very distracted.  Specifically, as I think about my own life, I think I could cause divisiveness in the church if I start to change my commitments to God now that I have a child and am a new mom.  As a new mom, there is that temptation to slow down in serving God so that I can spend more time with my child and just take care of him.  With a child, everything in life gets much harder.  Simple things such as even getting out of the house for an appointment becomes a burden and hassle because the baby has to be dressed and changed, the diaper bag has to be packed, and the stroller and car seat have to be taken everywhere.  What used to be so simple now is actually quite burdensome and time consuming.  Thus, there is that real temptation to slow down in my commitments to God.  However, I need to realize that this is what causes divisiveness in the church when I choose to change my commitments to God just because of new circumstances in my life.  Even as a new mom, I need to remain faithful and loyal to my commitment to God to serve wholeheartedly and give my all.  I need to realize that my slowing down directly affects the rest of the church community and could cause God’s Spirit to be quenched and His kingdom work to slow down, so I cannot tolerate this compromise.

1 Corinthians 3:18–23 (NIV84)

18 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. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about men! 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 of Christ, and Christ is of God.

  • Why would it be self-deception for someone to think he is “wise in this age”?

It would be self-deception for someone to think that he is “wise in this age” because as it says in verse 19, “the wisdom of this world is folly with God.”  Whatever wisdom we may have in this world, is really nothing compared to God and appears as mere foolishness before him.  I think this is so true because I used to think that I am so wise and know it all.  Growing up, I was convinced that Christianity is just a myth and that Christians are foolish for believing in this invisible creator.  I used to mock Christians for being so gullible and thought that I was the wise and smart one because I was able to see through the lies of Christianity.  However, over the years, as I got older and learned more about Christianity, I realized that I was actually wrong all along and that God does exist and that Christianity is true.  As I got older, I realized that my worldview couldn’t explain things such as how I was created, what my life was all about, what would happen after death, and how to deal with my sins.  I realized that my so called “wisdom” was really mere foolishness because it couldn’t answer all these real questions in life and that I was self-deceived when I was so confident and arrogant in thinking that I am right.

  • According to this passage, belonging to Christ and therefore to God means that all things belong to me.  How would grasping this truth have helped the Corinthians get out of the worldly way in which they evaluated people, sought wisdom, and boasted in men? 

The Corinthians forgot the truth that all things belong to God and that he is sovereign over all of creation.  They got caught up in boasting about themselves and their own accomplishments, thinking that because of their wisdom they were exalted above others.  They boasted in men like Paul, Apollos and Cephas and forgot that these men were just servants of the same master who owned them all.  If the Corinthians would grasp the truth that they all belong to God, they would stop comparing in worldly ways and instead rejoice in grander truth that they are all worshipping and serving the same God.

Submitted by Allen C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

  • What implication does it have on me that the church is the community in which “God’s spirit dwells,” and that I am a part of this sacred temple?

If the church is the community in which God’s spirit dwells, the implication is that I have the responsibility to guard the purity and sincere devotion of the church to Christ. Since God is present within the church community, I owe the church a level of respect, honor, and dignity that is due the holy God. I cannot take it for granted or treat the church as if it were any other human social group or organization, where my presence may or may not matter. It is not merely a club where I can check in and check out and no one knows. By my active participation and commitment to building up the church, I am contributing to the community where an unbelieving world can come to learn about God, see who He is, be reconciled to Him, and relate to God.

God’s temple is holy, meaning that it is to be set apart from worldly values. It is a place where people can come and see a different kind of community, one that no longer lives according to the values of the world but that has been transformed by the love of God. Thus, things like envy, strife, competition, anger, spirit of unforgiveness, grudges, deception, selfishness, greed, boasting, pride, malice, impurity, sexual immorality, lust, hatred, fighting, backstabbing, jealousy, and stinginess all don’t belong in the church. God is holy and cannot tolerate sin, so I have a responsibility to look for those sins in myself, repent, and change from these ways. If the church is where the holy God dwells, then I need to take my battle against sin seriously. I need to struggle against anything in my character or behavior that can bring division or strife to the church, and I also am responsible towards my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I need to watch out for these sins and practices in their lives to guard the community against anything that can bring disgrace to, divide, or destroy God’s temple.

  • Is there some practice or sin in my life that this passage is warning me about?

One warning from this passage is that I am not an independent person, but I am interconnected with the other members of the church, because it is in our presence that God’s Spirit dwells. Therefore, I have to see my life in the context of the larger body; my zeal, my passion, my love for God, my character, my purity, my level of devotion all have an impact on the body of Christ. It’s not enough to simply be doing all the right things as a member of our church (going to all the meetings, doing my DT, showing up at prayer meeting, volunteering in our ministry). I need to be intimately connected to God and devoted to loving the people within the church so that God’s love can be made manifest here. This means that I need to embrace the people in this church and make a concerted effort to get to know them, to see what they’re going through, to mourn and rejoice with them, to support my leaders by praying for them, to love, forgive, and strengthen my brothers and sisters, to address any relational conflicts instead of allowing them to linger for an extended period of time and cause our love to cool.

1 Corinthians 3:18-23

  • Why would it be self-deception for someone to think he is “wise in this age”?

It would be self-deception for someone to think he is wise in this age because “the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (v. 19). For someone to think he is wise requires purposely ignoring the fact that he is finite and limited, so he has to deceive himself into thinking that he has enough wisdom from inside himself and doesn’t need to turn to other sources of wisdom. This leads to becoming even more foolish, because he remains as he is and doesn’t receive the wisdom that could readily be available to him through God’s Word.

  • According to this passage, belonging to Christ and therefore to God means that all things belong to me. How would grasping this truth have helped the Corinthians get out of the worldly way in which they evaluated people, sought wisdom, and boasted in men?

Grasping the truth that they belonged to Christ and therefore to God would have allowed them to be secure in their identity such that they would not feel the need to evaluate people in these ways (according to their rhetorical skill and leadership qualities) and align themselves to them. The Corinthians would have been able to see that if these spiritual leaders all belonged to Christ anyway, then it wouldn’t have mattered whether they followed Paul or Apollos or Cephas. It would have freed them to know that they belonged to One much higher than these human allegiances and loyalties. And belonging to God would have caused the Corinthians to recognize that the wisdom they sought paled in comparison to the wisdom of God—His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He is the Creator of the Universe, and His understanding no one can fathom. Finally, if they belonged to the God of the Universe, that would have put a stop to boasting in men as they praised and boasted in God, who saved them from sin and hell and gave them eternal life. The giant truth that they belonged to Christ and freely experienced such wondrous grace would have melted away any sense of boasting about men who are also mere sinners before a holy God.

  • What would it look like for me to fully grasp this truth in my life? To what extent have I internalized the truth that in Christ I am complete and lack nothing?

For me to fully grasp this truth in my life would set me free from all of the insecurities that I feel about myself: my character, my sins, my sense of inadequacy, my past failures, my lack of knowledge or wisdom, my personality, and my effectiveness in ministry. Conversely, grasping this truth also frees me from boasting about my competence or abilities because I know that life is not about me and ministry is not about my performance. It’s simply being faithful with what God has given me to do and trusting that He can work through me. After all, God is the one who causes things to grow. Thus, this truth puts an end to boasting about my abilities, performance, competence, or experiences, as it’s simply a privilege to be a part of God’s work. It would free me from the fear of failure so that I can take risks in loving people, knowing that I don’t have to prove my worth, that failing and making mistakes is not a reflection upon my fundamental being. This also frees me from worry, knowing that I can entrust my life to God, that despite my frailty and inability to protect myself or the ones that I love, that God is sovereign and in control. He is the Author of life and my faithful Provider, and He is ultimately responsible for my life. Therefore I can surrender my needs, my security, my family to God and not worry about the basic needs of life. Fully grasping the fact that I belong to Christ and to God frees me from the fear of man. I no longer have to try to protect my image because I belong to God, who knows the deepest, darkest secrets of my life and how wretched of a sinner I really am. He sees through all of the masks and images; He knows my thoughts and motivations, twisted and stained with selfishness and pride. He already knows all of this and yet chose to go to the cross to forgive me. Rather than pretending to be someone I’m not, I am free to be honest and confess the truth about myself. I can die to my ego, be humble, confess my sins, ask for prayers, and admit that I am not the kind of person I’d like to be, but rather I am all messed up inside. I can experience the freedom of knowing that despite all of this, Christ loves me anyway and calls me His beloved child. Finally, I can embrace my calling to be a minister of the gospel with confidence that God is the one who has called me and will be with me. He delights to use sinners to do His work of salvation, and I am privileged to be a part of this work not because of any qualifications but simply because I belong to Christ.

This is a truth that I have yet to fully internalize, as I see many ways in which I am not at peace—I still place way too much of my self-worth in performance and abilities in ministry, I compete with others and try to outdo them thinking that I have to come out on top to be valuable, I get easily worried about things like protecting my child, I am fearful of taking risks, I am still insecure and care greatly what people think about me, and I often feel disqualified to do ministry because of my sins and failures. These experiences tell me that I need to be still before God and fully trust that because He is my heavenly Father, I am complete and lack nothing. I don’t need to prove my worth, I don’t need to outdo others to be noticed, I don’t need to pursue a sense of significance or security apart from God; I simply need to accept God’s declaration that I am His beloved, forgiven child.

Submitted by Jasper C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

• What implication does it have on me that the church is the community in which “God’s spirit dwells,” and that I am a part of this sacred temple?  

The great implication here is that my presence in the church makes a difference on the other people around me, and that difference can either be positive or negative. Above that, I have a direct part in how other people will come to experience God because this church community isn’t just any ordinary human community but it’s also supposed to be the dwelling place of God’s spirit. Thus my actions and choices aren’t made in a vacuum, but that I can do things that would help other people come to experience God, or by my actions I can potentially detract from people’s experience of God too. The bottom line is that I need to be mindful that the way I live has consequences not just for my own spiritual life but that it affects the whole spiritual potency of the church.

• Is there some practice or sin in my life that this passage is warning me about?

This passage speaks against doing things that can harm the atmosphere and the spirit of community within the church, and for me it brings home the point that my lifestyle choices can have an effect of how others will experience our church. One particular area that I think applies to my season in my life right now is purchases that I make for myself.  Back in college when I didn’t have a regular income this might not have been an issue, but now that I’ve been working for a few years and have the means to acquire things in life, I have choices to make in terms of what kind of gadgets I buy, what kind of car to drive, how I can furnish my living space. At first I didn’t think that these choices had so much to do with the greater body of Christ, but on a deeper level I can see that there are ways that it’s all connected. If church is not mere human community but it’s also a place where God’s spirit also dwells, then it’s important that we maintain an atmosphere where people can focus on God, where a lot of the things people of the world focus on aren’t present as distractions. One thing that contributes to that atmosphere is the simple kind of life that I see the older people of the church living out, where they deliberately don’t get the latest and greatest gadgets or cars or houses even if they can afford them, so that people aren’t tempted to compare or to create class differences within the church between people who can afford nice things and people who can’t because that would be divisive and it would detract from people’s experience of God. Do I have that kind of mindset and awareness? I’ve been realizing that when I make lifestyle choices, I haven’t been all that considerate of the church, and how upgrading my life through new purchases, if done in a way that pushes up standards for everyone else can make our church a place where it’s harder to experience the presence of God, and that’s one area that I realize this passage speaks directly to and that I need to adopt this mindset because I live my Christian life alone but in this community.

1 Corinthians 3:18-23

• According to this passage, belonging to Christ and therefore to God means that all things belong to me.  How would grasping this truth have helped the Corinthians get out of the worldly way in which they evaluated people, sought wisdom, and boasted in men?  

Grasping that truth that in Christ they already have everything would help the Corinthians get out of their mindset, because their mindset is based on the assumption that you only have what you can grab or claim for yourself, and that there’s this game or system of constant comparison whereby you have to prove your significance and superiority by aligning yourself to “the best” in different areas and claiming the boost to your own significance/credibility by association. Their mindset caused them to argue over the superiority of different leaders that they had, to try and claim to have more wisdom than the rest of their peers, or to boast and in general make a big deal out of anything that they could claim to distinguish themselves. If each of them realized that through being in Christ they have all been given access to everything, there’s no sense in trying to claim something and there’s no sense in drawing comparisons and making judgments on superiority and inferiority.

• What would it look like for me to fully grasp this truth in my life?  To what extent have I internalized the truth that in Christ I am complete and lack nothing?

I think the most immediate effect I would experience if I had full grasp of this truth is that I would stop trying to prove myself to be knowledgeable or competent, or to otherwise try to be impressive in some way. Unfortunately, this kind of mindset infects a lot of things I do to some extent, from trying to get better in sports to even being a good minister of the gospel. The more that I’ve been able to grasp this truth over the years, the more I’ve experienced freedom from this kind of performance-based mindset, but I think the fact that it still shows up goes to demonstrate that I have not fully recognized that “in Christ I already have everything.” The same goes with feeling of insecurity over whether I’m doing good enough or whether I have what it takes to serve God in the various capacities I serve in our ministry – I still feel these insecurities though it is a lot less than before, and I think the difference does come down to my understanding of these basic truths.

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