In studying the Old Testament, one cannot ignore the role of and the importance of the temple. From David’s desire to build a temple, to the temple of Solomon, to its destruction, to the efforts to rebuild that temple. In I Corinthians, the temple is referred to but it is used two different ways: our body as God’s temple and the church as God’s temple of the New Testament.
The Temple of Our Bodies
In I Corinthians 6, Paul reminds those reading of the backgrounds the shared. In verse 12, he appeals to a mindset that anything sanctioned by government must be okay. However, Paul says that just because something is legal does not necessitate that it is spiritually beneficial. In verse 19, Paul refers to our bodies as temples that were purchased by God. This fact should affect how we behave while we live in these bodies.
What does this mean for us. Our bodies belong to God when we choose to serve Him, and “you are not your own.” Romans 6:2 says that those who have died to sin can no longer live in it. The former self has been crucified, and a new self lives – free from sin but belonging to Christ. God gave us our life back, and in this we are joined to the Lord.
Furthermore, this passage claims that my body is a dwelling place of the Spirit. Galatians 2:20 also states that Christ dwells in me, and we’ve read of God’s presence within us. We are not what we see in the mirror. These bodies are temporary shells that contain a soul that God sees. People see who I am externally, but God sees who I am internally because that is where He is present.
Our behavior, influenced by this view as our body as a temple, goes beyond the general view of exercise and eating well. Anything we put into ourselves, the media we consume, the jokes we tell, the people we associate with – these things are spiritually ingested by us and influences our spirituality, and this should have an impact on the choices we make and the way we live.
The Temple of the Church
In I Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul is speaking to the congregation, and he calls them God’s temple. Like our own bodies, this attitude should color how we view coming to worship and the role of our congregation in our lives. The church as an entity should be regarded as sacred and holy, and we should strive to keep it pure just as God wanted His temple pure and free of unclean influences.
Just as God dwells within us, so does God dwell among us as a congregation. In I Corinthians 3:4-5, Paul discourages aligning a congregation with a particular individual, and he goes on to say that the church’s foundation is Christ. Our efforts will determine what kind of congregation will be built on that foundation. In the Old Testament, people brought materials and offered services in the building of the temple. What do I bring to the work of the church?
As we are trying to build our temple, we have one another to build upon. Our strengths can overcome our deficiencies so long as we put God first and we work together. Everybody doing what they can produces a congregation that is strong and united. Do I view the church as something that serves me, or do I ask how I can serve God through it?
The temple is holy and set apart. Do we want to be a temple of wood and hay or a temple of gold and silver – whether we are speaking of ourselves or the church? What do I want my spiritual temple to be? This goal should affect the way we participate in the congregation we belong to and the way we live our lives.
lesson by Tim Smelser