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Have you ever been misunderstood or misquoted?


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One day, our younger son came into the house quite upset. He was angry at his older brother Elijah for making him drop his ice cream. It didn’t help that Elijah followed him into the house laughing hysterically. It took a few minutes, but we finally got the full story.

Jake had been sitting in the front yard with a friend enjoying ice cream in the heat of summer. Elijah was kicking the soccer ball with another friend when it went across the street. As Elijah kicked it back across, he realized the ball was heading straight for Jacob and yelled ‘duck!’  Rather than taking evasive action, Jake looked up and said excitedly, “Where!?” 

Instead of seeing a graceful waterfowl, Jake got a face full of soccer ball… and dropped his ice cream in the process.  

Ice cream is easy to replace. Misunderstanding the subject for this week has greater consequences.  

Our culture has taken this concept of being God’s temple and skewed it toward the individual with a focus on self-care.  

Taken further, it’s clear that many people go in the direction of idolizing oneself, making the individual their own personal god, and claiming that a body well cared for can accomplish anything the person sets their mind to doing.

This is not what the Holy Spirit was communicating through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 when he wrote, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (ESV) 

Too often, this is misunderstood and misquoted. Thus, “Your Body is a Temple” is on posters in gyms throughout North America. The problem is not taking care of oneself. The problem is misinterpreting and misapplying God’s instruction by focusing on the individual self.   

We must remember a key principle of Scripture interpretation: Every text has a context. Put more specifically… every sentence is in a chapter. Every chapter is in a book or letter. And every book is in the Bible as a whole. So let’s look at the context for the meaning.  

Paul makes it crystal clear that we are God’s building and there is only one foundation: the Lord Jesus Christ. That means we are owned by the Lord and do not just get to do what we want independent of Him.  He also makes it clear that we have a responsibility to continue building and that our work will eventually be evaluated by the Lord Himself. Not only will it be evaluated, but we will be held accountable for our work and then rewarded according to the quality of our work.  (See the context of 1 Cor 3:5-17.)

Further, each of us has a role to play in the larger context of the Church worldwide. Every individual who has trusted Jesus Christ as Lord is part of His Body, the Church. There is only one foundation and thus one building. And our work is to be undertaken in the context of the greater whole according to what the Lord wants to accomplish. This is further explained in the larger context of another of Paul’s letters.  

In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul describes how we were at one time “without the Messiah… with no hope and without God in the world.” 

We were broken and dead in sin, separated and at enmity with our fellow humans as a result. This was true whether we realized it or not.  “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our Peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.”  (v.13-14)

“So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building is being fitted together in Him and is growing into a holy sanctuary in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.” (v.19-22)

Dear Saints, you are significant because God has selected you in Christ to be a piece of the larger building. And that building, the temple of the living God, has the purpose of pointing people to Him, not to oneself.

As is evidenced in the context of His foundational work, God’s purpose is peace, bringing people together and putting hostility to death.  These passages were written to the Gentiles, who Paul was saying were reconciled to the Jews through Christ. If the sacrificial death of Jesus was powerful enough to accomplish the reconciliation of God to humanity and these two people groups to one another, then we can experience that peace and unity in Christ today.  

It is not easy, but whether Jew or Gentile, black or white or brown… whether democrat or republican rich or poor, citizen or immigrant, young or old… Let us focus on the One who is our foundation, Jesus Christ. Let us fulfill our role and contribute to breaking down the dividing wall of hostility and proclaim the good news of peace so that we may be “built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.”

Let us work together toward this end so that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 may be answered, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent me.” (verse 21)

Dan Studt

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