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1 Corinthians 3:16

ESV Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
NIV Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?
NASB Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
CSB Don't you yourselves know that you are God's temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
NLT Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
KJV Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

What does 1 Corinthians 3:16 mean?

This verse creates the third metaphors that Paul uses to describe the local church in Corinth. First, he compared them to a field being planted and watered by himself and Apollos as God's workers (1 Corinthians 3:5–9). Then, he compared their community of Christians to a building being constructed on top of the foundation of Jesus Christ by other teachers and leaders (1 Corinthians 3:10–15).

Now Paul compares them to the temple of God. The word for "you" here is plural, not singular. He is asking his readers, as the local church in Corinth, if they understand that they together are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in them.

This would likely have been an unusual idea to those living in this area. Those who had seen it would likely have pictured the massive, sprawling Jewish temple in Jerusalem, truly an impressive structure. By comparison, the church in Corinth likely had no building of their own, meeting instead in smaller groups in the homes of various members. How could they possibly be God's temple?

Paul's answer is to the point: God's Spirit lives in them (1 Corinthians 2:12; 6:19). To be clear, God's Spirit lives in each believer individually, but Paul shows here that in this way the Holy Spirit occupies the collected believers known as the church. Thus, they become the temple of God, even without a physical structure to meet in. As Christians often say, "the church" is the people, not the building.
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