[For the explanation and illustration (animated short) of C/E Spiritual Theory, please see here. For previous posts in this “Scriptural Case Study”, please see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3]
[Listen to Part 4 here.]
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We come now to the last section of 1 Corinthians 3 (verses 8-23) and also to the last aspect of “C/E Spiritual Theory”: the contrasting attributes of purity and defilement. In this installment our exploration will be based primarily on verses 16-17, for there both of the principles of purity and defilement are contained and expressed.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
(1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Holiness and Purity
Here the principle of purity is found inherently contained within the word “holy.” All through the Scriptures, holiness and purity are irrevocably joined together. When it comes to “the temple of God”, the most commonly used word in Scripture in connection with it is the word “holy.” Because holiness demands purity, various forms of the word “purity” (“pure”, “purify”, “purification”, etc…) are intensively found in connection with the temple and its service. (Even a quick scan through Leviticus will amply confirm this point.)
With that in mind, when we look at the dual matters of holiness and purity through the lens of “C/E Spiritual Theory”, a wonderful perspective of their meaning and connection comes into view.
If we consider the first diagram shown above, we see a single, white circle (representing “unity”), filled with a multitude of blue vectors (representing “fullness”), and with all of the vectors oriented and in right relationship to the centerpoint (representing “balance”.) We also see the white circle not encroached upon nor defiled by the surrounding darkness/black vectors (representing “purity”.) The entire diagram as such represents “the fullness of God” in perfect unity, fullness, balance, and purity.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “holy” comes “from PIE *kailo- “whole, uninjured.” It goes on to say, “The primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not possible to determine, but probably it was “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated,”
If we consider this definition for the word “holy” in relation to the above diagram of “the fullness of God”, we could say that this depiction also represents “the holiness of God.” The white circle is “whole” and “preserved whole” (no “disunity”), “intact” (no “diminishment”), “uninjured” (no “distortion”), and not “transgressed or violated” (no “defilement”.) The holiness of God, therefore, is the wholeness (“fullness”) of God without any disunity, diminishment, distortion, or defilement! (Dare I say, that is about as good a definition of “the holiness of God” as you may ever find!)
Thus we see depicted before our eyes the absolute connection between holiness and purity. When Paul tells the Corinthian believers that, “…the temple of God is holy, which temple you are”, he is declaring the utter necessity for purity within the ekklesia of God.
Defilement and Destruction
There is another word connection that must be explored as well in verse 17: “defile” and “destroy.” Paul said, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.” The Greek word translated “defile” (KJV, NKJV) is the same Greek word translated “destroy” in this sentence.
That Greek word is φθείρω, “ptheiro”, which means to “corrupt, defile, destroy;… properly, to shrivel or wither, i.e. To spoil (by any process) or (generally) to ruin (especially figuratively, by moral influences, to deprave) — ” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)
And so we see a clear connection between defilement and destruction in the context of the temple of God.
The questions that need to be asked, then, are, 1) “What is it that ‘defiles’ the temple of God?”, and, 2) “Why did Paul bring this aspect into his reproof to the Corinthians at this point of his epistle?”
To answer the first question, we can begin with an insight from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon under the entry for “ptheiro” which says, “…in the opinion of the Jews the temple was corrupted, or ‘destroyed’, when anyone defiled or in the slightest degree damaged anything in it, or if its guardians neglected their duties;”
Further, if we turn to the Scriptures, we see that there are a number of things that are said to defile or desecrate the temple of God. I would like to highlight three of the primary ones.
- Unpurified flesh – Numbers 19:20 says, “But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the LORD.” The books of Leviticus and Numbers alone are filled with innumerable instructions about purification rites and cleansing protocols to make sure the people of God were fit to enter/serve in the tabernacle of the Lord.
- Idolatry – Jeremiah 32:34 says, “But they set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it.” Ezekiel 5:9,11 further says, “Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again…”Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you.” Idolatry within the temple of God defiles it.
- Improper building – Exodus 20:24b-25 says, “Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.” This is a very primitive instruction but it is an example of how very specific God is about every detail of the building of His house and of the worship of His Name. Any deviation from His revealed “pattern” (Exodus 25:40) or “due order” (1 Chronicles 15:13) constituted the defilement of His dwelling place and would even at times eventuate in destruction and/or death.
With these things in mind, let us now consider the second question, “Why did Paul bring this aspect into his reproof to the Corinthians at this point of his epistle?”
We need to keep in mind that this exhortation and warning concerning the defiling of God’s temple was written in the context of 1 Corinthians 1-3. It was included in Paul’s apostolic reproof and correction there because it was relevant to the situation at hand. It was an integral part of his magnificent treatise to re-center them back on Jesus Christ so that the disunity (and the other attributes of “spiritual eccentricity”) that existed there would be rectified.
So what specific defilements did his exhortation apply to? I believe from what Paul wrote in these first three chapters, and especially in chapter 3, that they are three-fold.
1. Defilement of “the flesh” – In the first 4 verses of chapter 3, Paul uses the word “carnal” four times, and in connection with this word he mentions “envy”, “strife”, and “divisions” (vs.3) The original Greek words used for these three words, “zelos”, “eris”, and “dichostasia” respectively, are the exact Greek words used in Galatians 5:20 when Paul described “the works of the flesh” (vs. 19) to include: “contentions” (“eris”), “jealousies”(“zelos”), and “dissentions” (“dichostasia”.) (NKJV) Furthermore, after completing his list of “the works of the flesh”, Paul sternly warns, “…of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (vs 21)
In other words, the “envy”, “strife” and “divisions” that some of the Corinthians were engaging in through their sectarian dividing of the body of Christ was a “carnal”, “fleshly” defilement (“ptheiro”) of the holy temple of God and was inviting the destruction (“ptheiro”) of God upon them, including the loss of all inheritance in the kingdom of God.
2. Defilement of spiritual idolatry – Idolatry can take many forms but, in essence, it is the ascribing to something other than God the worship, sacrifice, trust, and/or loyalty that belongs solely to God. When believers in Corinth exalted certain servants of the Lord to a place of esteem that belonged solely to the Lord Jesus Christ, it was, in essence, a subtle but significant act of spiritual idolatry. Such an act brings defilement and corruption (“ptheiro”) to the holy temple of God and is thus worthy of God’s “ptheiro” judgement.
(In this regard, it is interesting to note that the word “corrupt” has at its root “rup-“ which has the meaning “to break, tear.” (Online Etymology Dictionary) The idolatry of exalting various servants of the Lord in Corinth was in effect breaking and tearing, i.e. corrupting, the unity of the ekklesia, the temple of God, in that city.)
3. Defilement of inferior building – Above all things, God’s temple is “holy.” We understand from the Old Testament that holiness is very detailed, precise, and exacting. When God seeks for His holy habitation to be established on earth, He gives instructions from heaven concerning its construction and service that are indeed very detailed, precise, and exacting. (See Exodus 25-30, 1 Chronicles 28; Ezekiel 40-46, etc.) Any deviation from the heavenly “pattern” or “due order” by man is considered a defilement and corruption (“ptheiro”) of His house and, therefore, subjects those who perpetrate it to God’s “ptheiro” judgement.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15,
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
These verses immediately precede verses 16-17 where Paul talks about God’s people in Corinth being His holy “temple.” This indicates that all improper building upon the foundation of Christ, signified by the use of destructible building material (“wood, hay, straw”), is a defilement and corruption (“ptheiro”) of God’s temple, and, therefore, will be subject to God’s fiery judgment (“ptheiro”) and testing of it so that only that which is of and according to His holy nature and work (“gold, silver, and precious stones”) will remain.
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The context of Paul’s exhortation concerning the holiness of God’s house and of the consequent judgment of those who defile it is the very situation that prevailed in Corinth. The “ptheiro” defiling of the one ekklesia there through the works of the flesh (“envy”, “strife”, “divisions”), spiritual idolatry (“I am of Paul”, “I am of Apollos”, “I am of Cephas”), and improper building (“wood, hay, straw”) all invited the “ptheiro” judgment of God because of the holiness (purity) of God’s temple. That temple was comprised of all of the believers in Corinth as a single, unified “building” (vs. 3:9.)
Furthermore, what we can discern from viewing this situation through “C/E Spiritual Theory” is that fundamental to all of the defilement of the ekklesia in Corinth was spiritual eccentricity, in one form or another.
Throughout these first three chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul could not have been clearer nor more compelling in His apostolic revelation of the deep-rooted spiritual eccentricity that existed in Corinth and of its dire repercussions. He also could not have been clearer nor more compelling as to the spiritual remedy for all of the eccentric maladies that existed there: the exalting of the Lord Jesus Christ alone as the all-encompassing, all-sufficient, and all-excelling Center of ALL things! This alone was necessary in order to restore the Christocentric fruit of unity, fullness, balance, and purity and to root out the eccentric fruit of disunity, diminishment, distortion and defilement! 1 Corinthians 1-3 is the apostle Paul’s masterpiece as to how that is to be accomplished…then and now! May we have ears to hear…and eyes to see!
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – Historical Application: Early Eccentricities
“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 1)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)
“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 3)
“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” main page: C/EST
The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)
A masterpiece, thanks David. I love your definition of ‘holiness’ also.
So much to digest here. I feel like a cow chewing a cud to extract the most/best.
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Thank you, brother. Your words mean so much! Glad you’re finding nourishment here! Chew on! 😉
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Dearest David and youngest son,
Where two or more are… The synergistic work you guys have created (in the video) have a couple of subtle but powerful things I noticed: that only a video can amplify.
One: …in the first couple of seconds: ALL the dots “pop out” from the center dot to their places in the fullness of the circle, connoting: “For “from” Him and “through” Him and “for” Him are ALL things…” (Rom 11:36). VERRRRRY powerful image presented in less than ½ a second.
Two: …the drums amplify your (first article) statement: “To more fully perceive this entire battlefield and its essential, underlying principle, the battle for centrality and supremacy…” Amen brothers. The battlefield (imaged through the use of drums) is the ground upon which the Lord is calling us to repent for allowing eccentricity to develop and distract our attention from the One focus and locus: beholding Him and Him alone (our first Love). (Rev 2:4).
Three: …the video’s image shifting from “dots to vectors” with a focus to the original locus (Christ) reminds us that the remedy to eccentricity is the beloved’s continual and persistent beholding of Him, and then her subsequent, continual, and purely inspired, presentation/expression of the beauty of this magnificent Lord she’s fallen in love with. A fullness, His Glory, His perfect satisfaction.
Brothers, thank you for the simple lens (video) you’ve created (the best design is the simplest one) to draw us back to Him. Well done guys!
Yours In Him, Tim
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Wow, Tim!!! Thank you for your insightful and confirming comment! And “Amen!” to the three points that you shared! I passed on your comment to my youngest and he was very blessed by your words as well! All of the work that goes into these posts is worth it when we know that there are others who are “getting it!” Your comment has surely confirmed that is the case and has added wonderfully to this conversation! Thank you, and may God bless you!
All blessings IN HIM! 🙂
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Great stuff, David…heavy duty!
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