The Church: Temple of the Holy Spirit

Most Christians today don’t really have experience with “temples.” Temples seem to denote polytheistic religious—something “other” than what we do as Christians. Because of the prevalence of temples in ancient times, Scripture uses this term to describe who we are as Believers. We are individually and corporately the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Firstly, the temple must remain pure and holy. Temples represented the perfection of the divine, so they had to themselves be almost perfect. That’s why you’ll many rituals of cleaning and purification to even go near the temple. If the church is holy, then there are serious expectations for how we live and behave. Separation from the “unholy” is a big part of the temple metaphor, like in 2 Corinthians 6:16 which says, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” In 1 Peter 2:5 Christ-followers are said to a “spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” A few verses later, Peter makes clear the ramifications of the holy, priestly status: “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (5:11). Elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, our bodies and bodily actions are also instrumental members of the temple. While we don’t have physical rituals as Christians, we are set apart in the way we live!

Secondly, the temple is unified. Founded on the foundation of Jesus, Ephesians 2:19-22 describes how Christians are “built together” into a holy temple. In a letter to a church that is divided and in competition with each other, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.” Each “you” is plural—all Christians together make up the temple! And just like destroying a holy place is a big offense, so destroying the united church, through bickering and divisive behavior, is a huge mistake. Don’t mess with the sanctity of this temple!

Thirdly, the temple is a place of sacrifice. According to 1 Peter 2:5 a part of our duties as a holy priesthood is “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” While we don’t make animal sacrifices anymore, we instead make much harder sacrifices—our lives! Romans 12:1 says our bodies are a living sacrifice. According to Hebrews 13:15-16, our praise and good deeds are both “sacrifices.” This can even get to the point of literally sacrificing our bodies, for 1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

If we are a temple of the Holy Spirit, we are going to need to live holy, unified, and sacrificially.

Discussion Questions

  • How can we separate from impurities in the world while still living in the world?
  • What are your temptations that threaten your holiness?
  • What practices can “build up” the church instead of destroying it?
  • Which kind of sacrifices are the hardest? Which are the easiest?
  • How do our lives change if we truly embrace being the temple of the Holy Spirit?

Prayer Request

Ask to be purified, so you can faithfully serve the church. Pray for strength in resist temptations toward the world as well as temptations toward church division. Finally, confess the places where it is hardest to sacrifice to God.

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