THE RICHES OF THE BELIEVER

1 CORINTHIANS 3:16-23

Many years ago there was a television show called "The Millionaire." It was about an eccentric rich man who had willed a million dollars to a number of unsuspecting people. This was filmed in a day when a million dollars was a lot more money than it is today and each show of the series would focus upon a different personís reaction to suddenly finding himself a millionaire.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be rich? How would your attitudes change toward the importance of your job, your church or your leisure activities?

The Bible tells us that we have riches beyond measure. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Our problem is that we all too often ignore our wealth.

On the street where my wife grew up there lived an old woman in a little, shabby, run-down house. The woman dressed in discarded clothes and made a living for herself by begging for food. On day she died. When the city officials entered her house, they found every room to be full of bundles of newspaper from floor to ceiling. Wedged between the pages of all of these newspapers were hundreds and thousands of dollars. This woman was rich, yet she chose to live the life of a pauper.

The Corinthians were guilty of doing the same thing. They were rich in spiritual blessings, but they were living like spiritual paupers. And so, Paul sets out to show them their great wealth. He lists four distinct areas in which they possess the wealth of God.

(1) They have a Heritage from God (3:16).

(2) They have the Protection of God (3:17).

(3) They have the Wisdom of God (3:18-20).

(4) They have the Possessions of God (3:21-23).

The implication is that, with all of this great abundance of spiritual wealth, the ought to have a lifestyle to match, especially with regard to division in the church.

 

THE HERITAGE OF GODíS PEOPLE

Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16).

The first thing that we see about Godís people is that they are the "temple of God." This is a reference to the church, the entire body of Christ.

We often refer to the church as the body of Christ and as Christians, but we rarely refer to it as the temple of God.

When we talk about the temple of God, we usually think of Solomonís temple in the city of Jerusalem. The temple in Jerusalem was the place where God made His presence known. It signified the presence of God upon earth. Within the innermost part of the temple was the sanctuary in which was once found the ark of the covenant. This was a wooden chest overlaid with gold. Inside were kept the pieces of the ten commandments. On the top of the ark was a golden cover known as the Mercy Seat. This Mercy Seat was the royal throne of God. It was the most holy place on earth. No one was ever permitted to enter into the room in which it stood. Only the high priest was even permitted to enter the room and then only once a year in order to offer the sacrifice of atonement.

There were two different words that could be used to describe the temple.

It is this second word - naos - that Paul uses here when he says that the church is the inner sanctuary of God.

The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman general Titus in A.D. 70. It was never rebuilt. But today there is another temple of God. It is the church. It is the body of believers. This is the most holy place of God on earth today. The Spirit of God dwells inside the heart of each and every believers. And when believers come together to worship, that gathering becomes the holy place of God.

The Temple

The Church

Stood in Jerusalem

Started in Jerusalem

The Holy of Holies signified the presence of God

The Holy Spirit indwells the members of His church

Only the priests were permitted into the Temple

All believers have entered into a Royal Priesthood

While the physical temple was destroyed on several occasions, God gives a sober warning against any who might seek to destroy His spiritual temple.

 

THE PROTECTION OF GODíS PEOPLE

If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:17).

God takes very special care of His holy place. He says that if any man destroys that holy place, then God will destroy him.

It is interesting that the word translated "destroy" has a wide range of meanings. It can mean "to destroy" or it can mean "bring to ruin." Its most common idea is to "desecrate" or "to defile" or "to corrupt."

Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one (2 Corinthians 7:2).

But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

There was a rottenness and a corruption at work within the Corinthian church. It was not an attack from without at the hands of Roman or Jewish persecutions. This was an attack from within.

To be fair, there had been external attacks against the church. The Jewish community had, on one occasion, brought a civil lawsuit against the church and had dragged Paul before the Roman Proconsul Gallio. The charge had been dropped and those who were instrumental in bringing the false charges were themselves attacked.

But there were also those within the Corinthian church who were trying to destroy the church. They did this by bringing in division. This strife was a much greater danger to the church. Paul warns those who bring such division, "Donít mess with Godís temple! He destroys those who destroy His temple."

 

THE WISDOM OF GODíS PEOPLE

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness"; 20 and again, "The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless." (1 Corinthians 3:18-20).

Paul has already spent a considerable amount of time in the first two chapters of Corinthians in showing the superiority of the wisdom of God over the wisdom of the world. Now he issues an exhortation to any who might think of himself to be wise in the worldís wisdom. It is an exhortation to abandon the wisdom of the world -- to become foolish in the worldís eyes -- in order to grasp the wisdom of God.

Much division within the church would cease if believers understood the uselessness of the wisdom of the world. Instead, the worldís way of thinking too often infiltrates the church. This affects the churchís view of...

Male/female relations

Marriage

"Grey areas"

The way in which we worship

Paul is going to deal with each of these issues as he writes to the Corinthians. But at the heart of each of these issues is the simple question -- to whom should we turn for our answers? Who is our authority? Is it the world or is it the Lord?

 

THE POSSESSIONS OF GODíS PEOPLE

So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

The phrase "so then" (wste) introduces a conclusion. It looks back to the injunction of verses 18-20 and draws a conclusion from what was stated there. Because the wisdom of the world is foolishness, we should not boast in men.

  1. A Principle of Possession: For all things belong to you (3:21).
  2. This is stated as a general principle. It is given in the broadest of terms. It is said to include the world and life and death and what exists and what will exist. No more universal terms could be used.

    Here is the principle. All of the things in the universe exist for your benefit. Paul says much the same thing in Romans 9.

    What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:22-23).

    Donít miss this. The reason that God allows sin to continue in the world today is for your benefit. His patient endurance of vessels of wrath is so that you might experience the riches of His glory, not because you are worthy of such honor, but because that makes you a vessel of His mercy and He is honored thereby.

    That is incredible! It means that God has given all things to His people. If you are one of His people, then the world is your personal possession. This is what Jesus promised when He told His disciples, "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5).

    This is not a new idea. This same promise was first given to Abraham when he was promised, not merely a parcel of land over in the Middle East, but the entire world.

    For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Romans 4:13).

    Abraham and his descendants were made heirs to the world. This is the promise that God made to His people. When we come to God in faith, we enter into that promise. We become children of Abraham through faith and the world becomes our promised possession.

    If the entire world is your possession, then why are you so impressed with the wisdom of the world? If you have everything, then why do you desire anything?

    Have you ever imagined what it would be like to find out that you had a wealthy long-lost relative that had died and left all of his riches to you? It has happened. The relative is your elder brother. His name is Jesus.

  3. A Pattern of Possession: All things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God (3:22-23).

There is a chain of possession within all that exists. It is a chain of possession as well as a chain of command.

All things have been placed under the authority of Godís people. We, in turn, are under the authority of Christ. And Christ is under the authority of God.

Notice that Christ does not ask us to do anything that He has not already done Himself. When He calls us to come to Him and to submit ourselves to Him, He has already submitted Himself to the Father.

That is the kind of leader you can follow. Donít you hate it when a leader says, "Do as I say, not as I do"? There is no respect there.

But the great truth of the incarnation is that the Son came and emptied Himself of His glory and became obedient.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8).

Jesus once existed in the form of God. He is the very image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). In Him all of deity exists in bodily form (Colossians 2:9).

Yet this One who was equal with God did not regard that equality with God as something to be retained. He did not choose to remain equal with God. Instead He became flesh. He became an obedient Son. He emptied Himself. He became a man.

God became obedient. He became obedient to the point of death. The One who became man experienced the death of the cross for you. He experienced death so that you can experience life.

Have you entered into that life? Have you become an heir to the world and a co-heir with Christ? Have you been born into the family of God? Take hold of the wisdom of God. Come to the cross and see the One who died for sins. Believe in Him and entrust yourself to Him. Enter into the riches of God.

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