Is Paul talking about destroying the body with food or sin in I Corinthians 3:16-17?


In 1 Corinthians 3:16,17, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye."      

Paul talks about the temple of God, which I understand is our bodies.  When he talks about God destroying the temple does he mean our actual bodies?  When he talks about defiling the temple does he mean with just sin or does he also mean with the foods we put in our bodies, or both?


The passage says that you are the temple of God, not just your body. (Though the body is also called the temple of God in I Corinthians 6:19). A person is made up of his body, soul, and spirit (I Thessalonians 5:23). A person can defile more than just his flesh, he can also defile his mind. Either way, he is defiling himself.

In the Greek, the words "defile" and "destroy" are translating the same Greek word: phtheiro, which means to ruin.

Paul is borrowing the image of the temple from the Old Testament. The temple was considered holy because God's presence was found there. If someone polluted the physical temple, it carried a physical punishment -- death (Exodus 28:43; Leviticus 16:2; Numbers 4:20; 18:32). Paul states that Christians are the spiritual house of God, but that means it needs to be kept just as holy else a spiritual punishment of death may be imposed. Whether Paul is talking about an immediate ruin or referring to future ruin in Hell, or both has been debated, but I don't think it changes the understanding of what is meant.

The type of defilement being discussed are sins. In the context Paul talked about preaching the gospel and the fact that everyone a preacher may bring into the church may not last through trials. Foods are not discussed in the context of this passage.