Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? (Matthew 23:17)Jesus in the surrounding verses of Matthew 23 was upset (more than upset really) with the Pharisees over their lack of service in the church. He refers to them as "blind guides", "hypocrites", "sepulchers", and "vipers". Those are pretty strong words, which should not be dampened. However, the general sense of the passage can be found in verse 3.
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Matthew 23:3)Each of the accusations that Jesus uses against the Pharisees come right back to His point in verse 3. Plainly put, He states, "They are not good examples. They don't do what they preach."
The Apostle Paul in his letters to the Corinthian church numerous times uses the temple building as an example of the body, or flesh, of man. (1 Cor. 3:9) And He explains that we, as Christians, should give the same veneration to our fleshly bodies, as examples of Christ, that we give to the temple, or church, building itself.
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. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) *I like the phrase "for the temple of God is holy." Something that is holy is undeniably pure. There is not one part of it that contains anything other than cleanliness. It is untainted and uncontaminated in any way.
Albert Barne's Notes on the Bible (esword) makes excellent remarks on the importance of this statement.
A temple was an edifice erected to the service of God. The temple at Jerusalem was not only most magnificent, but was regarded as most sacred:He sums it up previously by saying "God dwelt by a visible symbol." Wow! We in our flesh are a visible, sacred symbol of God. We are a place of protection and refuge to a hurting world. We are holy, and we should therefore treat ourselves as holy.
(1) From the fact that it was devoted to his service; and,
(2) From the fact that it was the special residence of Yahweh.
Among the pagan also, temples were regarded as sacred. They were supposed to be inhabited by the divinity to whom they were dedicated. They were regarded, as inviolable. Those who took refuge there were safe. It was a crime of the highest degree to violate a temple, or to tear a fugitive who had sought protection there from the altar. So the apostle says of the Christian community. They were regarded as his temple - God dwelt among them - and they should regard themselves as holy, and as consecrated to his service. And so it is regarded as a species of sacrilege to violate the temple, and to devote it to other uses..
The allusion here is, of course, to purity from sexual sins, and this is a priority, and one specifically mentioned by the Apostle Paul. But there is much more to treating ourselves like God's temple than just that. Look back at Matthew 23. Jesus accusations against the Pharisees here were for their pretenses. They walked around acting holy, yet their actions, the words they spoke, the gifts they gave, and especially their motives, did not back this up.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matthew 23:28)Within, in the holiest place of the temple, the place where God is supposed to dwell, they were instead full of sin.
Being the temple of God involves also how we treat others. It is walking in God's love, showing all those facets of His love laid out for us in 1 Corinthians 13. It is an absence of pride and haughtiness. It is not being greedy. Someone may be sexually pure, but filled with anger, unkindness, or covetousness. All of these things defile the temple. You don't have to be practicing illicit sex and on drugs to have an unclean temple!
Listen again to Jesus' words in Matthew 23.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. (Matthew 23:29-32)One version of verse 32 says, "You are doing what your fathers did." ***
Christians are supposed to be the light for Christ, showing His grace and beauty, His love, in a very dark world. As the Scripture says, the light in us should not be darkness. ** No, the light shed from our temple should draw others in to find out about the refuge we have here in the peace and joy of salvation.
* (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16) ** (Matthew 6:23; Luke 11:35; Luke 12:3; 2 Corinthians 6:14) *** CEV
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.