Saturday, June 13, 2009
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
I was recently on a walk with my wife and we got on the subject of this verse because I was smoking a nice Cuban cigar. I enjoy a cigar on occasion, and since I don't smoke inside, it's a nice way to combine the pleasure of a cigar with the pleasure of my wife's commentary on houses in the neighbourhood. The reason this came up is that I have been questioning absolutely everything I have ever been taught by UPCI ministers in an effort to discover what the Bible really says. A major point of concern has been standards of the UPCI that I cannot find in the Bible as a commandments. We have several places in the NT that talk about wine in a positive light, with the caveat that drunkenness is to be avoided. We do not however find any scripture that speaks of smoking in any form, and specifically doesn't say not to. In light of this, let's examine the standard UPCI standard on smoking, and what the Bible really says in the verses they use.
The first passage is the one in the title of the post. The KJV renders it thus: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."
The reason many UPCI and other legalistic organizations have teachings that other denominations decry as heretical, is because legalistic organizations take one or two scriptures from a passage here and a passage there, put them together, and make a doctrine/standard/teaching out of it. The problem with this is that the Bible was not originally written with scripture divisions in any way. It was written as books, with the exception of Psalms which is a collection of poetic passages grouped together and given chapter numbers to distinguish one from the next. So when we look at a scripture we absolutely MUST consider the entire passage and body that it is a part of. We simply cannot take 1 0r 2 scriptures out of places in the Bible and teach from them without understanding them within the context of the passage they are in. That is what happens here. Legalists take these two verses and state that if you do something that goes against what they consider to be pure, then God will destroy you. Of course, they are the ones that define what is and isn't pure, so pretty much everyone is in danger of hellfire.
They use this passage to rail against drinking and smoking because those are (according to them) impure. What they fail to do is consider that within the entire body of this passage, Paul is talking about teachings and doctrines. Not life choices and habits. He talks about wisdom (worldly and otherwise), foundations (which is very obviously a reference to scripture and beliefs), and men's works (which are easily seen to refer to work by the church in winning souls and building the kingdom of God). As well, even within the passage quoted, we see that, in the greek, Paul is talking about the church at Corinth as a body (there's that singular plural again that the Oneness peeps deny) and not to the individual believer. There is no definite article preceding the word "ye" in verse 16, and the entire book is written to the church at Corinth, NOT the BELIEVER at Corinth. That is a major distinction in the Greek that we miss in the English.
However, I have left the best for last: This passage is not translated as accurately as it should have been. The KJV translators strove for poetic and flowing prose, while holding to accepted translations of the scripture. We see that here in this passage: the word translated as "defile" in verse 17 is the exact same word they translated as "destroy" in the same verse. The rendering then in consistency is thus: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." This doesn't flow the same because we have the same word twice close together, and any good student of technical writing will tell you that this is not a proper way to have a passage flow (notice I used the word "flow" twice in the same sentence to illustrate the principal...it just sounds stilted instead of relaxed). However, this does not change the meaning of the word: If any man DESTROYS the temple. The word "destroy" is translated from the Greek "fithiro" which means to shrivel, wither, spoil, ruin, corrupt, defile, destroy. Those are all the same in the Greek.
Consider: If God dwells somewhere because it is Holy and consecrated to Him, then someone defiles it with a false idol, and God withdraws, they have destroyed that Temple of God. The place may remain, but it is no longer a dwelling place of the Spirit. So it is destroyed as such. The words are interchangeable because you cannot partially defile the Temple of God...It would no longer be the Temple of God the instant that it was defiled/destroyed.
So what the scripture actually says is: If you attack and cause the Temple of God (The body of Christ/people of God) to be withered, spoiled, ruined, etc then God will destroy you. This is absolutely consistent with Matthew Henry's commentary (1 Corinthians 3 - Matthew Henry’s Commentary - Bible Commentary), John Wesley's notes (1 Corinthians 3 - Wesley’s Explanatory Notes - Bible Commentary), and Adam Clarke's commentary (Adam Clarke's Commentary - 1)) Corinthians 3). It DOES NOT say that if you have a Cigar or a Scotch and Soda that you will be destroyed.
Lastly, let's actually examine a scripture that talks about defiling a man: Matthew 15:9-14 "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And He called the multitude, and said unto them, 'Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.' Then came His disciples, and said unto him, 'Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?' But He answered and said, 'Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.'" The Pharisees were offended because Jesus had just denied the truth and validity of all their man-made rules of cleansing and eating. Jesus told the multitude (that were subject to the rules of the Pharisees) that all those rules, regulations, and STANDARDS were valueless and of no regard to God. They sound awfully similar to legalists of today with their ever increasing lists of do's and dont's.
Here, within the context of the scripture, we see that it is what a man says that defiles him, not what he eats or drinks or hears or sees etc. As well, within the context of the scripture, it can be argued that Jesus is specifically saying that teaching false doctrine defiles a man. This would fit perfectly with 1 Corinthians 3 by saying that the false doctrine is the cause of God's wrath in both passages: Matthew 15 the plant will be plucked up, 1 Corinthians 3 him will God destroy. We have a direct parallel and neither talks about what legalist cultists apply the scripture to.
If they can't show it Biblically, why do you believe it? It is written in the Bible that we are to make OUR calling and election sure. Seek knowledge, trust God, read your Bible, pray. God will show you and let you see His word in all it's beauty and majesty.
God Bless you