How often have you heard something like this? Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, so you shouldn’t:
- Get a tattoo
- Smoke tobacco
- Eat that diet
- Drink alcohol
On the surface, this makes a sort of weird, backward sense (like the plots of most Christopher Nolan movies).
If my body is a temple, then I guess I should take care of it. After all, the people of Israel took care of the physical temple, so I guess that means I should take care of the temple of my body.
And speaking personally, I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m a hardcore bodybuilder who spends hours developing his tritoid and bipec muscles (that’s what they’re called, right?).
But here’s thing: when Scripture talks about our bodies being temples, it has almost nothing to do with health or tattoos or piercings or anything else that gets lumped in. When the Bible says that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, it’s not talking about exterior things, like whether you get a nose piercing.
It’s so much more glorious and profound than that.
The Temple As God’s Dwelling Place
Throughout the Old Testament, God manifested his presence primarily in the temple and the tabernacle. While it was certainly true that God was omnipresent, in all places at all times, his presence was uniquely and specifically located in the temple.
When God instructed the people of Israel to build the tabernacle and the temple, it was so that his presence could dwell in their midst. There’s a reason that the temple was referred to as the “house of the Lord.”
This is why the High Priest feared to enter the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement. There was the distinct chance that he would come face-to-face with the real, immediate presence of God. That he would encounter the Holy One, the maker and sustainer of all things. The one who keeps the planets in orbit and atoms from splitting apart and creating a nuclear holocaust.
The High Priest might see God when he entered into the Most Holy Place.
And that was a death sentence.
Because a sinful High Priest could not encounter the unmediated presence of God without being destroyed. The holiness of God is no joke. It is consuming, glorious, brilliant, undoing, crushing, overwhelming, and terrifying. Truly understanding the holiness of God produces a deep fear of the Lord and awe-filled reverence.
When Isaiah saw the just the train of God’s robe in Isaiah 6, he immediately began calling divine curses upon himself. In essence, he called for God’s wrath to be poured out on him because he was a sinful man. He knew that the moment God encountered sin, he was morally obligated to obliterate it.
And so Isaiah cried out:
Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!
Commenting on this, Martin Luther said:
When Moses asked God to show him his glory, God put Moses in a mountain cleft and then only gave him a glimpse of his backside. Why? Because if God allowed Moses any closer, Moses would die.
And let’s not forget Uzzah and Ahio. When the people of Israel moved from place to place, they transported the Ark of the Covenant. When the ark rested in the tabernacle and temple, God’s presence manifested between the cherubim atop the ark.
In Exodus 25:22, God says this about the ark:
There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.
In 2 Samuel 6, when the ark was being transported, the oxen pulling the cart stumbled. In what, on the surface, seems like a noble gesture, Uzzah reached out and kept the ark from falling to the ground.
God immediately struck Uzzah dead for defiling the presence of God.
Are you getting the picture? The temple and the Ark of the Covenant that sat within it were where God himself dwelled. The temple was a way God could be among his people without destroying them.
Your Body Is A Temple Of The Holy Spirit
Given all the Old Testament says about the sacredness of the temple, the words of 1 Corinthians 6:19 absolutely breathtaking:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?
This is one of those scriptural spit-take moments. Wait, hang on a minute.
…is a temple of the Holy Spirit?
This is the staggering reality of the New Covenant in Christ.
On our own, we don’t dare approach God. Our profound sinfulness and wickedness make any attempts to draw near to God a suicide mission. If we attempted to enter the presence of God in our natural, sinful state, we would be utterly consumed by the wrath of God.
But now that God has united us to Christ clothed us in the righteousness of Christ…
…HE APPROACHES US!
God tabernacles within us. He doesn’t meet us above the Ark of the Covenant, he is truly and literally in us.
Whereas once the Spirit of God only dwelled within the Most Holy Place in the temple, now the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us! Now we are the temple of God. Your body is a temple where the Most Holy One dwells. You and I are both temples of the Holy Spirit, which is simply unfathomable.
Frankly, even as I write these words, I find myself freshly amazed at what God has accomplished on our behalf. It is beyond comprehension. If I tried to explain these realities to Old Testament saints, I would be driven away as a heretic.
And yet it’s true.
If Your Body Is A Temple, Don’t Pollute It
If our bodies are temples, this means that we shouldn’t pollute them with sin.
This is what Paul is really getting at in 1 Corinthians 6. He’s not talking about eating healthy or not smoking tobacco or tattoos.
But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:17–18).
Sex is both a physical and a spiritual act. It’s the mysterious union of a man and woman.
To have sex with a prostitute is to, in a sense, join the Holy Spirit to that prostitute. The very thought of that is absolutely abhorrent.
The Holy Spirit has made my body a temple for his presence. How dare I commit adultery or watch porn or engage in ANY sin within the temple? How dare I pollute God’s glorious, holy presence with something so repulsive to him?
When scripture says our bodies are temples, it’s not forbidding activities that may be detrimental to our health, although we should obviously use wisdom in how much we eat, what we drink, how much we smoke, etc.
There’s something much more profound, glorious, and serious at stake.
God now dwells within us. Each of us is a temple of the living God.
Is there any greater motivation to holiness?