“I’m what? What’s naos?” you ask. “And how does it help me to live in that place of wholesome tension between faithfulness to God and relevance to Culture?”
“Great questions! I’ll throw in some hints along the way. But permit me to explore a few things before answering.”
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.
One of the metaphors that God uses for his people is a temple.
Paul 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 metaphor of a temple in a third sense – 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). This is the use I want to focus on here.
Hint #1: naos has something to do with a temple.
For Israel, the Temple in Jerusalem was the dwelling place of God. In the Hebrew language, a word for a king’s palace is heykal. The Temple is also called a heykal – God’s palace (e.g., Psalm 27:4). Before the Temple was the Tabernacle that was constructed in the wilderness during the exodus (Exodus 25-40). The Tabernacle was the portable dwelling place (mishkan) of God.
The Tabernacle and the Temple were similar. They both had an enclosure for a courtyard. Within that courtyard were an altar for sacrifice and a large copper basin for washing. There was also a structure – for the Tabernacle it was a tent; for the Temple a building. Both structures were divided into two rooms: the first was called the Holy place; the second the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy place in which the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat were located.
God dwelled in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple.
The LORD instructed Moses to have the Tabernacle constructed: “let them make me a sanctuary [a holy place], that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8).
When construction was completed an amazing thing happened (Exodus 40:33b-35):
So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
That “cloud” is often referred to by the Hebrew word Shekinah meaning 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.
Later, during the early reign of King Solomon, the Temple was constructed in Jerusalem (ca. 970-964 BC). When the Temple had been completed we read (1 Kings 8:10-11):
When 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.
Hint #2: naos has something to do with the empowering presence of God.
The Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek about 200-300 years before the birth of Christ. This translation is called the Septuagint (abbreviated as LXX). In the LXX and the New Testament, the Greek wordheiron refers to the whole of a temple's construction – that is, “the whole compass of the sacred enclosure … including the outer courts, the porches, porticoes, and other buildings subordinated to the temple itself.”
A separate word is used when referring specifically to “the heart and centre of the whole; the Holy, and the Holy of Holies.” That word is naos.
What Greek word does Paul us for temple when he writes: “… 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)?
Hint #3: Paul only uses the word heiron in 1 Corinthians 9:13.
Drawing together these strands of information we conclude that as a follower of Jesus, your body is a naos– that is, a dwelling place of God.
That answers your first question – now the second: “How does this help me to live in that place of wholesome tension between faithfulness to God and relevance to Culture?”
Here are three points.
First, the Temple in Jerusalem was the place of God’s dwelling or habitation. In the same way your body is a place of His dwelling or habitation. The Temple was a portal between heaven and earth; God and humanity. So you are a portal between God and humanity. Your body is an intersection of heaven and earth.
This is not something you have to work toward – this is something that you are: “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Reflection: How often have I read these words and never taken them to heart? Do I really understand and accept that, as a follower of Jesus, my body (this body) is his dwelling place? What does it mean for me to be the dwelling place of the Spirit wherever I am, 24-7? “Father, I acknowledge that I am a dwelling place of your Spirit. Lead me to understand more deeply who I am in your sight.”
Second, the Temple at Jerusalem was a holy place. As a follower of Jesus, your body is a holy place.
The context of our verse (see 1 Corinthians 6:12-20) addresses the inconsistency of engaging your body – a temple of God – in sexual immorality. It is no stretch to conclude that your body is not to be engaged in any activity that sullies or misuses God’s holy place. If you do, you’ve taken God with you.
Reflection: In face of this reality, what changes do I have to make in my attitudes and actions about how I use my body? “Lord, make me aware that what I do with my body is what I do with your holy place. Direct me to be intentional and conscious that my body is to be used only in ways that your temple is to be used.”
Third, the Temple at Jerusalem was a place of the empowering presence of God. As a follower of Jesus, your body is a place of the empowering presence of God. I suspect that there are things we do, and say, and think, that limit that empowering presence – we need to deal with those activities, words, and thoughts. Nevertheless, your body is a temple of God.
Reflection: “Lord, root out those things in my life that displease you and limit your power through me (Psalm 139:23-24). My body is your temple. May your temple be a place of attraction and power as I live in the wholesome tension between faithfulness to You and relevance to those around me.”
Until next Friday,
John, a brother
 Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: APA, n.d.), 10. This is confirmed by Walter Bauer, Fredrick W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago, IL: Chicago UP, 2000), 470, 665f.
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