Throughout the epistle which we identify as “First Corinthians,” the Holy Spirit through Paul depicts/ portrays/pictures the people of God in a variety of ways. It makes for an interesting study. Let us take a look at some of the ways that God’s people are described or pictured in this letter.
The church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9) – The term “the church of God” points to possession. The God of heaven planned the church, He purchased it, and He possesses it. It is His. Jesus said to the Father in prayer, “And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine . . .” (John 17:10). Numerous times in the New Testament, the two
expect fruit being brought forth, like in a vineyard (John 15:8). And, just as the Lord blessed literal fields with rain and sunshine, He blesses the field/vineyard which He planted – the church. .
In the expression “God’s building” (3:9), “building” comes from a Greek word (“ο κοδομ / oikodom ”) which most often is translated as “edify/edification.” It can refer to a material structure (Mark 13:1,2), a symbolic house (heaven, 2 Corinthians 5:1), or the people of God. The building’s foundation is Jesus Himself (1 Corinthians 3:11).
The temple of God – “Do you not know that
words “the church” are used to depict the followers of the Christ. They could be God’s assembly/called- out people in one locale (1 Corinthians 1:2), they could be His people in general (15:9), or “the church” can refer to a worship assembly (11:18; 14:19). The early church is even said to have been “in” people’s houses (16:19), meaning the brethren assembled in that place.
The saints of God (1:2; 16:1,15) – One who reads this epistle learns in a hurry that being a saint does not mean being a perfect person. Rather, it refers to them being holy ones – identified as sanctified in the Christ (1:2). Saints are those who are separated from the world and devoted to the Lord God (6:9-11).
The family of God – Those exact words are not used in this letter, but the concept is there. The saints in Corinth shared a common Father (1:3). What is expected of God’s children? Just as a biological child is expected to honor and obey his father (Malachi 1:6), so God’s children should do the same with their heavenly Father (1 Peter 1:14).
The idea of family also is seen in the word “brethren” (1:10,11), a word which is used in excess
you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (3:16,17). In this setting, “the temple of God” is not the physical body of a person, but the people/church of the Lord. Under the Law of Moses, the Israelites looked to the temple as a place where sacred, holy activities were carried out. Today God expects His temple/people to be holy (3:17). In the temple built by Solomon, priests served. Under the new covenant, all Christians serve as priests in God’s temple (1 Peter 2:5,9). Under the old covenant, the temple was counted as God’s dwelling place; today He dwells in His people (2 Corinthians 6:16). It is a privilege for Christians to be counted as God’s temple. The demand: act like a holy people! We need to take this matter seriously. Yes, others are observing us.
The body of the Christ – “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (12:27). There is only one body (12:13,20). When we think of “body,” what comes to mind? First, it is under the Head’s guidance (Ephesians 5:23). Second, in the body, both physical and spiritual, we see many parts/members functioning together (12:14-21).
of twenty-five times in First Corinthians. Here are some of the appeals to family that we see in this letter:
Be united, not divisive (1:10);
Settle squabbles “in house” (6:1,4-8);
Make sacrifices for the good of others (8:8-13); Eliminate malice (14:20);
Care about one another (16:14).
God’s people comprise the greatest family in the
The field and building of God (3:9) – Our
English word “field/husbandry” comes from a Greek word (“γε ργιον/ge rgion”) which means “a cultivated field, husbandry, tillage” [Thayer, word no. 1091 via e-Sword]. When we think about God’s people as a field, seed sown in the heart comes to mind (4:15). We think also of laborious effort/toil to make the field productive. From a field we would
Third, as in the physical body, so in the Lord’s spiritual body, we see members “stepping up,” so to speak, to look after and care for one another (12:25,26). In general terms, what does Jesus expect of His body? His will is for it to submit to Him in all things (Ephesians 5:24).
When we study the book of First Corinthians, let us not become so engrossed in analyzing their issues and weaknesses that we lose sight of these beautiful pictures of God’s people that we see throughout this letter. The Lord loves His people, and they love Him!
— Roger D. Campbell