Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 26
I CORINTHIANS 3:10 – 4:2
Now I want to pick right up where we left off in our last lesson, and that will be in I Corinthians chapter 3. We left off with verse 3 rather quickly so we’ll rehearse that again, and remember, we’ve been studying about this whole idea of rewards. I can never stress enough that this is not salvation that we have been talking about, for salvation is a free gift. We don’t work for it. But for our rewards we work.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We have our salvation secure, but now we are to work to further God’s work among the human race, as well as to gain rewards. In closing in our last lesson we had just looked at verse 15.
I Corinthians 3:15a
“If any man’s work shall be burned…”
In other words, this hay, wood, and stubble shall be burned. And I suppose we can look at it this way: the gold, silver, and precious stones are the things that are rightly motivated. In other words, we’re doing it in our subconscious as well as our conscious. Our whole motivation is for God to receive the glory. Now we’re all involved in so many things that enhance the ego (the big `I’) and that will probably end up as nothing more than hay, wood, and stubble. And so we always have to remember that God looks at the motivation, “Why are we doing what we do?” And that boils down into every corner of our life. Why are you doing it? Are you doing it to be pleasing in God’s eyes, to bring glory to Him? If so, then that is going to be reckoned as gold, silver, or precious stones, and those things do not come easy when you do it for the Lord’s glory.
I’ve used this illustration more than once: “The Christian life is like paddling a canoe up a roaring river.” Always remember, the Christian life is never easy. It is a constant battle because we’re up against all the forces of Satan, and all the designs of the world around us, but God has promised that we can do it. So our whole idea of Christian experience then is to gain rewards when we come before the Bema Seat, as we talked about in our last lesson. Then Paul, in verse 15, makes it sure that even these carnal Corinthian believers who are not spiritual giants, but rather on the milk bottle, that even rewards are out there for them. So you believers today never give up, and say, “Oh well, I can never obtain any of this anyway so why should I try.” And then also in verse 15 Paul maintains that even these people who have nothing in eternity as rewards, they will still be there nevertheless.
I Corinthians 3:15b
“…he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved;…”
I remember an old pastor friend of mine would put it this way; “They’ll get there by the skin of their teeth.” They’ll be there but will have nothing to go along with it.
Now then Paul comes right into verse 16, which is tied to our lifestyle that’s going to merit rewards or lack of it, by bringing up a completely new doctrine in Scripture. You don’t find this in the Old Testament, you don’t find Jesus teaching it, Peter and the eleven don’t teach it, only Paul teaches it, and what is it? “That God Himself is dwelling in this body.” Now that’s a concept that you have to take by faith, because you didn’t feel Him move in, you don’t feel Him moving around in you, but He’s there because the Book says He is. Now let’s look at it.
I Corinthians 3:16
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
Even these poor old carnal Corinthians were temples of the living God. To every believer, the moment he believes, the Spirit comes and indwells. Now usually when I teach young people (and that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to older folks), but I usually tell young people, “Now look, when you go to some ungodly place, you’re not going to check God at the door. You take Him wherever you go. You cannot check Him wherever you think it’s not fit for Him to be, so you’d better be careful where you go. Because this body is the temple of the indwelling Holy Spirit and He comes the moment we believe!”
I Corinthians 3:16
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
Now that’s plain language. You don’t have to be a theologian to understand that. The third Person of the Trinity, as we refer to Him – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – the third Person of the Trinity comes and indwells the believer. That’s why God can know every thought. Now that’s scary, isn’t it? God knows our thoughts. God knows every place we go. He knows everything we do. Because He’s here in our heart. Now in your mind’s eye, if you will, go all the way back to when Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, which was going to be the dwelling place of God. When the Temple was complete, and they dedicated it, what happened? Well, the presence of God in the Shekinah Glory came right down into that Temple there at Jerusalem. The presence of God dwelt in that dwelling place, which was the Temple Now that was just a foreview of this Age of Grace where, when God saves an individual, he immediately becomes a Temple, a dwelling place. And just like the Shekinah Glory came into Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit comes into us. Not as visibly. It isn’t manifested in much the same way, but according to the Book, this is what happens. And if the Book says it, we have to believe it. He is dwelling within us.
Now the question has come up and I think I answered it in my last newsletter, if I’m not mistaken. At the Rapture of the Church, and all the believers are taken out, does that mean the Holy Spirit is gone too? And you know, shortly after I’d sent my newsletter out with my answer, I was reading a well-known theologian and bless his heart (or mine), if he didn’t answer it just exactly the same way. And that is; that just because the Holy Spirit goes out and finishes His role as indwelling the individual believer, doesn’t remove Him from the earth. Because the Holy Spirit has always been the Omnipresence of God on the planet. You go all the way back to Genesis Chapter 1 and after the deluge of verse 2, when everything is under water, what moved upon the face of the deep? The Spirit! And so all throughout the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was evident, otherwise nobody could ever have knowledge of God. But He did not indwell the Old Testament believers like He does today. And the same way in the Tribulation – yes, as the indwelling Person of the Godhead, in the believer, that is going to end. But He’s going to remain on the earth as the Omnipresence of God or else no one would be able to be saved during the Tribulation and we know they will be. So every believer then, in this Age of Grace in which Paul is dealing, is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Now verse 17. Here comes the doctrinal side benefits, or in some cases not a benefit.
I 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.”
Here we have to be careful. When it says here that if we defile the temple, what it’s referring to is defiling our physical bodies, then God will destroy it. Remember, the soul and spirit are pretty hard to separate, but the body, the third part of us, is not that hard to separate from the soul and spirit. So when God speaks of destroying the body, the temple then, He’s not going to touch the soul and spirit. Let’s look at a good example in I Corinthians Chapter 5. And we’ll be coming to this down the road. We’ll just jump in on a couple of verses because we’ll be studying this in detail when we get to Chapter 5. But here the Church at Corinth had a terrible immoral situation, and Paul is writing to them and telling them that they have to deal with it. And how is Paul going to deal with this situation?
I Corinthians 5:4,5
“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, (most of us would refer to it today as a business meeting) and my spirit, (Paul would be there in spirit although he was at Ephesus) with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver (now watch it carefully) such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, (not the soul and spirit) that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
Remember the account of Job? Job had been so blessed, and so prosperous, and nothing bad ever happened to him, and Satan just couldn’t stand it. You all know that account.
“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said unto Satan, `Whence comest thou?’ And Satan answered the LORD, and said, `From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.’ And the LORD said unto Satan, `Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.’ And Satan answered the LORD, and said, `Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.’ And the LORD said unto Satan, `Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.'”
Now Satan wanted to even take Job’s life, but could he? No. That’s where God drew the line. But here in I Corinthians Chapter 5 where Paul says to deal with this gross sin in the Corinthian Church, he makes it very plain to deliver one such as this to Satan. For the destruction of his flesh would not touch the man’s spiritual relationship with Christ. This man was still a believer, hard as that is to believe. But by destroying the flesh what would be taken from him? His physical life, and Paul speaks of that again in I Corinthians 11 when they were abusing the Lord’s Supper Table, and what did he tell them?
I Corinthians 11:28-30
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (Have died. God took their physical life here also, but not their spirit.)
And again that’s exactly what we have here, in I Corinthians Chapter 3:17, that the person that defiles his body, he may suffer physical harm. I don’t care how you do it, but when you in excess, abuse your physical body, sooner or later you’re going to suffer the consequences. Look at the drug addicts. They may think they can handle their drug problem, but unless they are fortunate enough to be drawn out of it, and be broken of it, what’s it going to do to their physical health? Utterly destroy it, and the same way with the alcoholic. Sooner or later that alcohol will destroy his liver, and his whole physical well-being. Well, we’ve come to the place now where medical science has proven that cigarettes do much the same thing. If you’re going to harm the physical body with things that you know are harmful, your body is going to suffer the consequences.
And we’re seeing it all around us. I saw on television several years back, the President of the American Hospital Association in an interview, and he said we need to stop doing things that harm our bodies. About 70% of our hospital beds are occupied by people who are there because of drinking, smoking, drugs, and venereal diseases. Our hospital beds are filled with people who abuse their physical body with things that we know are harmful. Now that’s all the Bible is telling us. Nearly 2000 years ago Paul could write that if you do something that is harmful to the body it’s going to suffer the results. Now come back to the text.
I Corinthians 3:17
“If any man defile the temple of God, (do something harmful to your physical body which is now the temple, the dwelling place of God) him shall God destroy; (In other words God will permit these ravages to destroy our physical health) for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
So as soon as a person becomes a believer he becomes responsible for taking care of this physical body. Paul teaches we are responsible for taking care of it. In fact, let’s look at a passage in the Book of Ephesians. This is all so practical, and it was written way back in 62-64 A.D. It was way ahead of the times, but it’s still a basic truth.
“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; (no man in his subconscious ever hated his own flesh, but what is the normal thing for a person to do?) but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:”
So here is a basic fundamental premise, that if you are normal, and you have the right attitude toward life you’re going to take care of your physical body. And then the spiritual admonition, as we’re coming back to I Corinthians, is that it’s not just your physical body, but it’s the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It’s the temple of God on this earth, and we’re to treat it accordingly. We’re to take care of it, we’re to feed it right, we’re to rest it right, and we’re not to abuse it. Now verse 18.
I Corinthians 3:18
“Let no man deceive himself (now that’s a strong statement in our day and time isn’t it? Because we’re so deluged with all kinds of deception. The advertisers are masters at it. They can make anything look like a great deal, and it may be the worst thing you could ever do, but that’s good advertising. But Paul is warning us, don’t deceive yourself). If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”
I think Paul, for the first time, is digressing a little bit, and he’s addressing an unbeliever – that if he thinks he is wise in the things of this world then he’d better change his approach to life, and what is that going to be? Come back for a moment to Chapter 1, but first look at what verse 18 says again.
I Corinthians 3:18
“…If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”
How does the unsaved person become a fool to become wise? Well back to Chapter 1, and verse 18.
I Corinthians 1:18
“For the preaching of the cross (that Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead. That preaching) is to them that perish (the lost person) foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
In other words, the unbeliever has to recognize that he’d better go into what he thinks is foolishness, and out of that foolishness, that he thinks is foolishness, he can get the wisdom of God. It’s that simple, and that’s exactly what Paul keeps driving at. And that’s why he’s using this term, wisdom, wisdom, wisdom throughout these early chapters of I Corinthians. And how do we gain wisdom? By going to what we think are lost people with this foolishness, the Gospel, (Ref. I Corinthians 15:1-4) and then the power of God is poured out on us as His wisdom is as well. Now verse 19:
I Corinthians 3:19a
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God….”
You know something? The wisdom of this world, in other words, all the great philosophy and all the great literature, and the great works of art, when it’s all shaken up and sorted out, what is it? Foolishness so far as God is concerned. It amounts to nothing. Old Solomon put it how? “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” It’s the same thing. Let’s go on.
I Corinthians 3:19b
“For it is written, `He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.'”
Now that, I think, comes out of the Book of Job also. And then verse 20.
I Corinthians 3:20
“And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise (the wise of this world), that they are vain.”
Let’s go back and see what David said about it in Psalm 94:11. I always like to show you that even though I’m an adherent of Paul’s epistles, as the meat and potatoes for us today, that doesn’t mean you cancel the rest of Scripture. No way! It all fits together.
“The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man,…” Remember what I said on the last program? That God even knows our thoughts. He knows everything we think. And so –
“The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.”
In the final analysis they’ll go up in a puff of smoke. They amount to nothing. For a believer to have a great education and have a brilliant mind, that’s fine. That’s Christ-honoring. But you see, what God is talking about, is when the unbeliever places all of his faith in his so-called wisdom of this world, it’s nothing! Now for the believer to have this kind of education and knowledge, that’s great. But this is what Paul is driving at. Let’s go back to I Corinthians, if you will, and you remember I made the analogy that when Paul came to Mars Hill and came up against all those Athenian philosophers, he began to preach to them his foolish Gospel. When he began to tell them about the resurrection life and so forth, what did they call him? The “Babbler.” To them it was just a bunch of babble. But in reality it was the other way around. Paul had kernels of truth. The philosophers had nothing but babble. See how the world has got it all upside down? Now then, just a couple of verses to finish this chapter, and we’ll finish Chapter 4 in our next program.
I Corinthians 3:21
“Therefore (since all of man’s wisdom amounts to nothing without God’s wisdom) let no man glory in (who?) men. (none of them. The greatest minds on earth, and there’s no use looking up to them, because in God’s eyes, they’re nothing but vanity.) For all things are yours;” That is in Christ. This is Paul’s whole premise that when we’re in Christ, then it makes all the difference in the world. Now verse 22 and 23. And Paul comes all the way back to his first controversy with the Corinthians believers, and that was their divisions. And so now what does he say? Let’s bring it to a head.
I Corinthians 3:22,23
“Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;”
Now that’s the great glory of being in Christ. It’s an unfathomable well of wisdom and knowledge. Some day, if the Lord tarries, we’re going to get to the Book of Ephesians in this series. And there Paul actually makes a prayer for the believer, that we might be filled with the wisdom of God. And that we might know the height, depth, width, and length. I always ask my classes, how many dimensions is that? Well, that’s four. But we live in three. So what does that tell you? That there’s another dimension out there that we don’t even know physically. But spiritually? We’re already there. We’re living in four dimensions.