Stones or bricks: God lives in us together (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Exploring the Three Sixteens has taken us through some exciting stuff so far. We saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus at His baptism, John the Baptist discussed Jesus’ sandals, the 12 apostles were chosen, God “so loved the world”, the Name healed the lame, and great misery pursued those who refuse to follow Christ.

Moving on to the seventh book in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians, another gem is revealed at 3:16. Here it is:
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? (NLT)
The NIV puts it this way: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

The Corinthian church needed Paul to remind them many times about the danger of division amongst God’s people. Paul speaks boldly here, explaining that as a Body of believers, WE ARE the temple of God where He dwells. He lives in us! He no longer chooses to reveal himself and meet with people in an earthly building (as he had done in the past, in Solomon’s temple, God’s house). Now he LIVES in us together. He reveals Himself in us. He has put His Spirit in us, collectively.

This echoes the words of Peter (1 Peter 2:5): “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

How this changes things for us when we think it’s okay to not meet regularly with our fellow believers, or to let petty differences divide. All of us are living bricks, living stones in the new temple made through the new covenant, through Christ. God has poured His spirit into us, giving us a new heart to know, obey and love Him. This is the unifying feature of the bricks of God’s new living temple!

Now some of us may be a bit rough around the edges, a bit off colour, a bit sharp or a bit broken. We have personalities and experiences which are so different from one another. But we are  God’s living temple, together. He is in us and we need to accept each other on the basis that we are all saved by Christ. It is awesome to consider how we sinful people, born as enemies of one another in this fallen world, can actually be at peace with others who are part of this same building! We have been cemented together by the bond of Christ.

Let’s work at seeing ourselves in this way. And if there should ever be some cracks in the cement, if some of the bricks have fallen aside or broken, let’s not give up on restoring and repairing this living building where God lives. Let’s work at reconciling ourselves with other bricks in whom Christ dwells.

All this reminds me of some great words from 1 John 4:11-13
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit”.

Why I love ‘grace’ in the NLT

Since 1997 I have been a great enthusiast of the NLT (New Living Translation). While I still love my faithful black leather NIV study bible with the cracked edges and torn spine, the NLT has helped refresh and deepen my understanding of God’s loving Word to us. The NLT avoids terms that could be considered Christian jargon, and replaces them with more ordinary words that clearly explain the concept. The translation is not simpler, but it is often clearer.

Let’s take for example ‘grace‘ – God’s grace. For some people ‘grace’ means a prayer before a meal, the way you move, forgiveness, or even a girl’s name. I love the way NLT translators have expressed it: as God’s ‘special favour‘. Check out how fully God’s grace is described by the turn of phrase in these verses:

God saved you by His special favour when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

“But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.(Romans 5:2)

When using the NLT in Bible study over the years, it has caused many moments of “a ha!” It helps clarify the way other translations have expressed the glorious gospel of grace! I find it really good to use alongside the NIV or ESV, and is helpful when trying to develop song lyrics! If you have never tried it, have a go.
You can go to the official site here.
Or look it up in biblegateway. Enjoy!

(Note: My verses are taken from the 1996 version of NLT, which has been revised since the first printing. There may be some differences from the most recent printing.)