1 Corinthians 3:17
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.
Note 8 at 1Co 3:17: The preceding illustration about building on the foundation of Christ has been applied on an individual level to teach about people's personal responsibility for their own actions (see note 3 at 1Co 3:13). However, it must be remembered that in context, Paul was speaking about ministers and whether or not they were building up God's church with the proper teaching (see note 1 at 1Co 3:10).
Therefore, Paul's teaching here about defiling the temple of God is not speaking specifically to individuals doing something to defile themselves, but it is rather a warning against anyone defiling the church with wrong teaching. This would include Paul and Apollos (1Co 3:5-6), but it also would refer back to those individuals whom Paul rebuked in the first chapter for causing division in the body at Corinth.
This is a warning especially for ministers, that they had better make sure they are speaking God's Word for they will have to give an account to God.
Note 9 at 1Co 3:17: Taken in context, this verse is continuing the same thought that was expressed in the illustration of the different building materials (1Co 3:12-15). Remember that Paul said those who were guilty of using the wrong building materials (works of the flesh - see note 3 at 1Co 3:13) would suffer loss, but they themselves would be saved (see note 6 at 1Co 3:15). Therefore, Paul was not speaking of utter destruction when he used the word "destroy."
The Greek word that was translated "destroy" here is "PHTHEIRO." It was only used in seven scriptures in the New Testament, and six of those times, it was translated "corrupt" or "corrupted" (1Co 15:33; 2Co 7:2, 11:3; Eph 4:22; Jude 10; and Re 19:2). The only two other translations are here in 1Co 3:17. This same Greek word that was translated "destroy" was also translated "defile" here.
This is, no doubt, an allusion to the method of conduct in the physical temple at Jerusalem. There were very strict laws governing things that would defile the temple (Le 15:31, 20:3; Nu 19:20; Eze 5:11, and 23:38-39). A classic scriptural example of this is when Paul was accused of letting a Gentile enter the temple (Ac 21:27-31). The Jews sought to kill Paul for this defiling of God's temple.
Paul was saying that in the same way the Jews would not allow the physical temple in Jerusalem to be defiled, so should they have recognized that God will not allow His spiritual temple in people's hearts to be defiled.
This is not speaking of God totally damning someone who defiles the temple of God. However, no degree of punishment from God is desirable, and so this is a very stern warning to those who would defile the body of Christ through their wrong teaching.
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