“You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?”
There is no doubt that Paul is speaking to his readers in a deeper way just as Jesus had. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus says, “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus started something revolutionary by getting to the heart issues of man. What the Prophets spoke about in the Old Testament regarding the wickedness of man comes to a whole new light as Jesus and now Paul is reiterating that even lust in the heart is adultery. The Jews were against adultery as it is the 7th commandment that God gave to the Hebrew people at Mt. Sinai. However, as we have seen in Israel’s history, they repetitively violate God’s Law in the physical form, now Jesus forces them to face their violation of God’s Law at a deeper level that is in the secret place of the heart. Someone can look righteous because they don’t sleep with someone that isn’t their spouse but are they really righteous if they look on and desire with lustful appetites someone that isn’t their spouse? Paul is tearing down the self righteousness of man one brick at a time. He is determined to show his readers that God looks way beyond just the actions but also deep into our hearts.
It’s interesting that Paul mentions the robbing of temples. Historically and lawfully Jews were to abstain from worshipping idols and any other god then the One true God. But even from that perspective we have the story of the golden calf in Exodus 32 where the people became restless for Moses’ return and they with the help of Aaron created an idol for them to worship. Even after they had just been delivered from bondage and slavery from Egypt they turn their back on God and worship a false idol. This story helps us better understand the condition man is in. Man, even though know he knows he shouldn’t worship false gods does so anyways because of the pride, lack of self control and lack of reverence for the One true God.
Why does Paul reference the robbing of temples? There is evidence that there was an accident that beckoned Paul’s reference to the robbing of temples, the reference given is from evidenceunseen.com
Grant Osborne, Douglas Moo, and John Stott argue that Paul is referring to robbing Pagan temples. After all, look at the grammar: “You who abhor idols.” How can Paul have the Jewish Temple in mind, when the parallel is hating idolatry?
While the practice of robbing pagan temples was “relatively infrequent” in history, it is not without historical precedent. Josephus records an incident in AD 19 in Rome, where four Jewish men convinced a Gentile convert (Fulvia) to make a sizable donation to the Jewish Temple. However, the men “they employed [the money] for their own uses, and spent the money themselves” (Antiquities, 18.82). Tiberius (Fulvia’s husband) had 4,000 Jews expelled from Rome because of this. Josephus writes, “Thus were these Jews banished out of the city by the wickedness of four men” (Antiquities, 18.84). Josephus also writes, “Let no one blaspheme those gods which other cities esteem such; nor may anyone steal what belongs to strange temples; nor take away the gifts that are dedicated to any god” (Antiquities, 4.207). This implies that the Jewish people were doing this, or perhaps, were tempted to do this. This would make sense of Paul’s indictment that “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (v.24).