The young woman pronounced that it was her body, and she would use it any way she wanted.
In our modern western culture, “it’s my body” is a popular assertion thought to be incontrovertible. The Corinthian equivalent was “all things are permissible for me” (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23).
God’s assertion is quite different.
What if we had a healthier and more realistic view of who we are? What if we saw ourselves as God sees us? Would it make a difference? I think so.
In the previous article, we introduced the wonderful reality that the Holy Spirit—God Himself—dwells or lives in the body of each person who has received the Lord Jesus Christ.
One image the Bible uses to convey the Spirit’s indwelling is the Christian’s body as a temple of God.
What does the temple of God mean in biblical terms?
King Solomon built the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem (ca. 970-964 BC). Its general layout was a wall surrounding a courtyard and a large building. The building was divided into two rooms. The first or outer room was the “holy” place; the second or inner room was the “holiest of holies” where the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat was located. In Greek, the Holy and the Holiest of Holies were explicitly called the naos.
The naos is the dwelling place of God on earth.
When the construction of the Temple was completed, we read (1 Kings 8:10-11):
… the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.
If you have read the Exodus, you will recognize the cloud as the Shekinah, which led the children of Israel through the Sinai wilderness more than 400 years earlier. In Hebrew, the Shekinah means the dwelling, inhabiting, or settling of God. It is a manifestation of the empowering presence of the one true God who has revealed Himself as Jesus Christ.
In some way, God took up residence in the Temple, His palace on earth.
How does this history inform our lives?
Here is how Paul takes up the language of the Temple.
The apostle portrays the whole church—that is, all followers of Jesus wherever they live and whenever they live—as “a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
He also writes of a local church—that is, a colony of his people living in a particular area during a particular time – in these terms: “you [plural] are God’s temple [singular]” (1 Corinthians 3:10-17).
Paul uses the imagery of a temple in a third sense—that is, the body of each follower of Jesus:
“… do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, read in the context of 6:12-20).
This third sense is our focus in this post.
In all three cases, the word “temple” translates naos—the dwelling place of God.
You might find it helpful to read two related posts:
What are some implications of what we are learning for your life?
Not only does the Holy Spirit dwell in your body and life if you are a follower of Jesus, but your body is also a temple of the Holy Spirit. How should this impact your life?
1. As God’s temple, your body is to be a place of holiness—set-apartness—for God’s presence.
In the context of the Corinthians, this meant those Christians were not to use their bodies in sexually immoral ways. Of course, we can extend this meaning to apply to any impure use of the body.
If you prayerfully maintain a conscious awareness of this truth, it will direct you more in ways that please our Lord.
2. As God’s temple, your body is to be treated with dignity and respect.
If you were an Israelite living in the days of Solomon, would you not have treated the Temple with reverence? This was not simply because it was a beautiful structure, but because it was the palace of the living God on earth.
In the same way, our bodies are not to be used in ways that dishonor God.
3. As God’s temple, your body is a site where heaven and earth meet.
The local church becomes a community in which the Kingdom of God is manifested in our attitudes, words, and actions toward each other and beyond.
For the individual Christian, as you submit to the Spirit, you become the presence of Jesus Christ to others. We will deal with this more in coming posts.
4. As God’s temple, your body is a venue of worship.
Our modern western culture has done much to diminish authentic worship in our church communities and lives. To some, “worship” is reduced to a certain kind of music for a short period on Sundays. This is not what is meant by worship.
How does the realization that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit affect how you think and live? Are there changes you need to make?
Photo credit: Sketch by Michaelangelo of the "Libyan Sibyl" (ca. 1511).
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