(From a message given October 9th, 2003, at the Fall Conference of the Berean Bible Fellowship in Evansville, Indiana).
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19).
It is the teaching of this verse of Scripture that the physical body of each individual believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is the temple of Almighty God, who dwells within us in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Just think for a moment of the magnitude of this doctrine! The God who declares, “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool” (Acts 7:49) dwells in you. This God of unimaginable greatness, this God of infinite proportions resides within the confines of your finite being.
And He dwells in every believer regardless of conduct! It is significant that God picked the carnal Corinthians to receive the clearest declaration of the indwelling of His Spirit. Thus we know that the indwelling Spirit is not a reward for good behavior, but rather a blessing of which we should always try to walk worthy (I Cor. 6:20).
Note that Paul does not say that your body is the tabernacle of the Spirit, for the tabernacle was only the temporary dwelling place of God. Rather he affirms that your body is the temple of the Spirit, signifying God’s intent to dwell in you permanently.
Some would object that our text refers not to the personal indwelling of each individual saint, but rather to the corporate indwelling of the Body of Christ as a whole. However, the context here, both before and after, deals with our individual physical bodies (I Cor. 6:15-18; 7:1-4). That being said, it is true that the Spirit also indwells the Body as a whole. I Corinthians 3:16 says:
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
Here the context is the Body of Christ in general. Paul says that “ye are the temple of God,” and the previous “ye” in this passage refers to the Corinthians collectively (v. 9). This corporate indwelling is more clearly set forth in Ephesians 2:21:
“In whom [Christ] ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
God dwells in us corporately as well as individually to impress upon us that no believer is an island unto himself, and that every believer is part of a larger building in which the Spirit also dwells. This larger building is “the church which is His Body” (Eph. 1:22,23) and manifests itself in the local church. Paul told Timothy that the purpose of his letter to him was…
“…that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God…” (I Tim. 3:15).
Here Paul speaks about Timothy’s behavior in the local church, which he calls “the house of God.” Thus we know that the Spirit of God indwells each local church in a collective sense. This is interesting, since the first Bible reference to “the house of God” is found in Genesis 28, where Jacob dreamed and saw…
“…a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (v. 12).
When he realized that these angels were ascending and descending to receive orders from God and then carry them out, Jacob concluded that that location was the command post of God on earth, and he exclaimed, “this is none other but the house of God” (v. 17). Today, however, God’s bidding is not done on earth by angels but by members of the Body, and the local church is God’s command post. We gather together in the house of God to hear God’s Word taught, thereby receiving orders from Him, and then we leave to carry those orders out.
Speaking of this collective dwelling place of God, Paul says:
“…all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21).
Paul states clearly that the corporate dwelling place of God is growing, and a glance at the Greek text tells us how. The Greek word for “fitly framed together” is sunarmologeo, a compound word meaning “with joint speech.” Thus Paul is saying that the Body of Christ “groweth” only when we all say the same thing—and not just any thing. The Body grows only when our speech joins with what Paul said. It grows numerically only when the pure gospel of the grace of God is preached, and we “grow up into Him” (Eph. 4:15) only when Pauline doctrine is taught.
But we mustn’t leave I Corinthians 3:16 without commenting on the following verse:
“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (v. 17).
Here we see that it is possible to defile the corporate dwelling place of God. If it be asked how, we need only look to see how the Corinthians defiled it. I Corinthians 1:10 says,
“Now I beseech you…that ye all speak the same thing, and…that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind….”
The Corinthians were not practicing sunarmologeo. They were not all saying what Paul said. Some were saying what Apollos, Cephas and Christ said (v. 11,12). And while the kingdom gospel taught by these leaders was edifying in its day, it is defiling when applied to the Body of Christ. And so it is today. The “health and wealth” message that is taught by so many these days was edifying when it was part of God’s kingdom message for Israel, but it is positively defiling when applied to the Body of Christ today.
God vows to “destroy” men who defile the temple in this way (I Cor. 3:17). But when? Certainly not in this life, else fire and brimstone would fall regularly on non-Pauline pastors. No, the context here is the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is then that the “fire” of God’s Word rightly divided will “try every man’s work of what sort it is” (v. 13). Pauline builders will see their work “abide” (v. 14), but of the non-Pauline builder we read that God will destroy “the things done in his body” (II Cor. 5:10).
But it is also possible to defile the individual temple of God. The context back in I Corinthians 6 teaches clearly that sin defiles the temple of our individual body, and particularly the sin of fornication. Verse 13 says:
“Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.”
It would seem that some of the Corinthians were saying that just as it is unnatural to suppress the body’s appetite for food, it is also unnatural to suppress the body’s appetite for fornication! Paul agrees of course that the body is for meats and meats are for the body, but strongly disagrees with the conclusion that the body is for fornication and fornication is for the body, adding:
“And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by His own power” (v. 14).
Some of the Corinthians no longer believed in the resurrection (15:12-19). This led them to conclude that it didn’t matter what a believer does with his body, for it will someday die and be buried. Paul insists that it does matter what we do with our physical body, for God honors the temple wherein He dwells, and plans to raise it from the dead. No wonder he thunders:
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid” (6:15).
We are members of Christ. When we commit fornication, we involve Christ in fornication. We deplore the crime of rape, when a man forces himself upon a woman; but when we commit fornication, we force a harlot upon the Lord.
Years ago Hollywood made a movie that suggested the Lord Jesus had an adulterous affair with Mary Magdalene. The Christian public was outraged, and rightly so. But I wonder how many of those who cried out in protest were themselves guilty of involving Him in fornication through their own illicit affairs.
On Calvary, God the Father laid all of our sins on the Lord Jesus Christ, and He bore them in His own body on the tree. When He left the cross, the Lord had every right to expect He would never again have to come in contact with sin. But then He saves us, and indwells us, and we dare to involve Him in our sin!
“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
“But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (I Cor. 6:16,17).
Television unites with movies, contemporary novels and all other aspects of modern society to suggest that fornication is merely a physical thing, but God says it isn’t! God says here in these verses that it is something deeply spiritual. Thus it is absolutely essential that we heed Paul’s advice:
“Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (I Cor. 6:18).
Drunkenness and drug abuse are sins that appear to be sins against a man’s own body, but this verse affirms that in this respect, fornication is in a class by itself. Thus Paul here warns us to do as Joseph did and “flee” fornication (Gen. 39:12). It is our only defense. God equips all of his creatures to defend themselves in different ways. The bear has sharp teeth and claws, the porcupine has his quills, the turtle his shell, the skunk has—well, you know what the skunk has! But the rabbit’s only defense is to flee. No one blames him for this. No one thinks, “Why doesn’t that rabbit stand and fight?” God has not equipped him for this. Neither has God equipped you to resist fornication, and there is no shame in fleeing that which God has not designed us to resist.
My young son Jesse weighs 49 pounds and is taking karate lessons. When I warn him to run from a stranger, he boasts, “Dad, I’ll just kick him!” You might laugh, but I cringe at the thought! Likewise when we think we can resist fornication, Satan laughs, but God cringes.
Paul goes on:
“…ye are not your own” (I Cor. 6:19).
A soldier is called a “G.I.” because he is Government Issued. He is not his own , and neither are you! You are living in a borrowed body, and responsible people always feel more responsible with things that are borrowed (II Ki. 6:5). Sadly, many Christians are no better than Israel of old:
“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s [corn] crib; but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider” (Isa. 1:3).
People talk about being “dumb as an ox,” but even an ox knows his owner! It is the American dream to be your own boss, but spiritually speaking you are not your own boss. They say that the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, but the Christian who thinks he is his own boss spiritually has a fool for a master.
“…ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20).
The Lord bought you with His own blood. The only question is: is He getting His money’s worth?
As we close this article, if these pages are being read by one who has defiled the temple of his body, the Spirit within you is able to perform an extremely practical function of which you should be aware:
“But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11).
Paul speaks here not of the resurrection of your dead body, but of your “mortal” body. It is to the Christian that Paul says, “to be carnally minded is death” (Rom. 8:6). It is to the Christian that he says, “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die” (Rom. 8:13). The believer today cannot lose his salvation, but if he continues to deny his Owner, there is a virtual death he can enter into, a comatose Christian state in which all of his spiritual vital signs are flat-lined. He does not need to be re-saved but only awakened. And so it is to the Christian that Paul says:
“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead…” (Eph. 5:14).
Even if sin has led to the spiritual death of your Christian experience, the Spirit within can raise you up to spiritual life and vitality. Paul’s argument is clear. “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you,” then surely that Spirit, which was able to raise Christ up from the sins of the world, will have no trouble raising you from your comparatively puny sins. How? Ephesians 5:14 says to those who are thus awakened from sin, “Christ shall give thee light.” Equipped with the light of God’s Word rightly divided, the Spirit can return even the most backslidden Christian to robust spiritual health.
And then may God help all of us to always live lives that make our bodies hospitable temples for the Royal Guest within us.