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1 CORINTHIANS III. 17.

“IF any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

We understand this to mean that any man who defiles the temple of God by bringing into it false doctrines or false practices shall be destroyed from the love and fellowship of the church. The destruction here meant is not an eternal destruction, but a destruction here in time, a destruction that casts one out of the visible organization of the church, that excludes one from the fellowship of the church and from participation in the privileges and ordinances of the church. The text can mean nothing but this, because the temple of God cannot be defiled only so far as the visible organization of the church here in the world is that temple. The temple of God, as meaning the whole host of the redeemed, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and washed from their sins in the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice of himself, cannot be defiled, because the body of Christ in its mystical meaning is beyond the reach of human defilement, removed beyond the machinations of men and devils. Therefore the word “temple” in our text must refer to the church here in the world in its militant state, in its visible organization. The visible organization of the church, ever since the days of the apostles, has been troubled more or less by men who taught for doctrines the commandments of men, who brought in false doctrines, who introduced disorderly practices and institutions, who have offered strange fire on altars built to idols. These things, foreign to the teachings of Christ and his apostles, have defiled the visible organization of the church, not to the extinction of the church, but to the condemnation of those who introduced them. God is not mocked, and no man can presume to introduce heresies into the temple of God without calling down on himself the vengeance of God in the protection of his people. Wolves cannot wantonly molest the sheep of God’s pasture without sowing to themselves destruction which casts them forth out of the fold to wail and gnash teeth in the outer darkness. Paul is writing this way to the church at Corinth because some strange things were then among them which were defiling their order and walk. For one thing, controversies had arisen regarding baptism, which had resulted in the manifestation of a party spirit among them. Partisanship always defiles the temple of God. Again, they were not observing the Lord’s supper in a gospel manner, but were employing it to satisfy their appetites, not discerning the Lord’s body. Any such eating and drinking was a defilement of the order of the church. Again, fornication was being permitted in the Corinthian Church: a member had lived unseemly with his father’s wife. This immorality was a defilement of the temple; that is, of the visible organization of the church. Now whoever was guilty of any of these things in the Corinthian Church was guilty of defilement of the temple, and therefore the Lord would destroy him. This destruction, as we have said before, did not necessarily mean eternal destruction, but destruction from the fellowship of the church, being cast off from the privileges and ordinances of the visible church. Peter says: “There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” “Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings, while they feast with you.” John says, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” Let such as speak perverse things contrary to the doctrine of Christ be excluded from the privileges of the temple. This is the destruction that God will surely visit on all that defile the temple. The wicked may prosper, but it is only for a little time.

Requested by E. W. Hatcher, McEwen, Tenn.   L.

Elder H. H. Lefferts

Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 22.
November 15, 1916