The last place we will look at concerning the crazy belief that the Bible tells Christians to be healthy because their bodies are God’s temple is in 1 Corinthians. It is difficult to exegete, because one must deal with the entire context of the third chapter of that letter to understand it.

A little background.

Paul is very upset with the believers in Corinth because they have favored one leader/speaker above another. They have preferred those with great speaking ability, but Paul counters by telling them that he “did not come with plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4–5). 1

Because they have valued one leader/speaker over another, he tells them they are “infants in Christ” and “of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:1).

Then he explains why this is true:

“For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:4–9).

Paul and Apollos are servants.

They are not “anything.”

He and Apollos “are one”—co-equals.

Each will receive wages according to his labor.

In the next section, verses 10-15, Paul tells them what this means. Everyone will be rewarded or not rewarded on what Paul calls “the Day” for the work they have done. Each Christian is accountable to the Lord alone, who will judge their works as either wood, hay, and straw, or gold, silver, and precious stones. Paul is accountable. So are Apollos and Peter. So are the Corinthians. So are we.

Are you still with me? Hang in there, because Paul talks about God’s temple next:

“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” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).

This is why this passage is difficult to understand. It’s hard for us to grasp that favoring one speaker/leader over another may result in the destruction of God’s temple or of the individual Christian him/herself.

Paul continues on and into the fourth chapter, which we will not deal with here, but here are a few pertinent verses from that chapter that sum up what Paul taught was the remedy for the Corinthians’ behavior and the possible destruction of God’s temple:

“So let no one boast in men” (1 Corinthians 3:21).

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1).

“And, finally, I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Clearly, what Paul is addressing here has nothing whatsoever do to with the care of one’s physical body. That Christians have dismissed this teaching as somehow about health—well, we may as well have tossed it into the waste bin.

Our ignorance about what it means to be God’s temple is tragic. Christians have little, if any, comprehension that when they place one leader/speaker above another they are in danger of destroying God’s temple and even themselves. Amazingly, favoring one leader/speaker above another is our default understanding of the way church is done. Instead of taking heed to this warning of destruction, we just think that one should exercise, diet, and not smoke or drink too much alcohol.

Please pray for the Church.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.