We will consider three perspectives of these verses.
Perspective 1: In the context of this chapter, Paul is warning the brethren to watch for those who would bring in false doctrines and heresies. These could cause factions and divisions among the collective “temple” of believers. Paul is stressing the necessity of building their faith on the proper foundation of Jesus Christ and his ransom sacrifice. This was to be the basis of their fellowship.
Throughout this Gospel age, many of the true “temple of God” have been persecuted for their stand for truth. This has been Satan’s attempt to destroy Christ’s church. However, eventually all false systems claiming to be his church will be exposed. After the hypocrisy and error are exposed, these false systems will be destroyed.
Perspective 2: Individually, every true Christian is spoken of as being a temple where God’s spirit dwells. A Christian’s goal is to be filled with the holy spirit- through prayer, study, and meditation. In verse 12, Paul compares this to building with “gold, silver, and precious stones.” If a Christian builds his faith structure with “wood, hay, and straw” – human theories, traditions and creeds – it will fail. It will not be able to withstand the “fire” of testing and trial. Likewise, any false professions of being something he is not, will be “burned up.”
Perspective 3: Every Christian is a living stone that is being chiseled, polished, and prepared by experience for their place in the temple above. The church collectively, when gathered to the heavenly condition, will be God’s completed temple.
“…you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
“For we are the temple of the living God, as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’” (2 Corinthians 6:16).