The above-named theme is taken directly from Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians, in I Cor. 6:19 and II Cor. 6:16. Besides these two passages where the Apostle speaks with reference to the individual Christian, the Church of Christ is also referred to as God’s temple in several passages.
Concerning this figure of a temple, we must notice a couple things in particular.
In the first place, a temple is connected with the presence of God and therefore with redemption through the blood of Christ. An unspeakable wonder it is when, in the moment of regeneration, the Lord enters a sinner by His Holy Spirit as He entered Solomon’s temple and filled it with His glory! Think of it—what made that temple sacred? Not its gold, but the presence of Him Who came into it. What makes you a saint? Not mere head knowledge, church membership, or certain intellectual convictions; but the presence of Christ with you. The knowledge of His presence will fill you with awe, and make you desire to walk in that Scripture: “Stand in awe, and sin not.”
In the second place, this figure of a temple speaks of holiness. The word “temple” here designates the house of the temple, i.e. the holy and the most holy place. The temple is holy, set apart unto God, because you are His. And that the Holy Spirit dwells in you as a temple means that He reveals God to you as the Holy One Who hates sin and Who pardons sin only through the atoning sacrifice of His own Son. Therefore, when you and I lay hold of this truth that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we stand face to face with Christ. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit only because you are one with Christ. “Ye are not your own.” Else that body of yours remains the tabernacle of the devil, filled with all kinds of abominations. Much more could be said about this concept, of course. But this will be enough for our purpose.
For a discussion topic, however, it is our intention to consider the application of this concept to several areas, including the use of alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco and smoking, and those sexual activities that are all included under the scriptural term “fornication.”
Because the passage in I Corinthians 6:19 (where our theme is found) is written in the context of an admonition to flee fornication, we shall consider that first. It is fitting in your preparation for this discussion that you meditate upon the seventh commandment and its exposition in our Heidelberg Catechism. I quote Lord’s Day 41: “What doth the seventh commandment teach us? That all uncleanness is accursed of God: and that therefore we must with all our hearts detest the same, and live chastely and temperately, whether in holy wedlock, or in single life. Doth God forbid in this commandment only adultery and such like gross sins? Since both our body and souls are temples of the Holy Ghost, he commands us to preserve them pure and holy: therefore he forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever can entice men thereto.” With all the temptations you face as God’s young people, temples of the Holy Spirit, there is much you could discuss in your consideration of this topic alone.
Finally, this introduction must also take into account the relationship between our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and these various other temptations to God-dishonoring activities which desecrate the temple of the Holy Spirit. Again, I call your attention to the Heidelberg Catechism, this time the exposition of the sixth commandment as found in Lord’s Day 40, and particularly question and answer 105: “Q. 105 What doth God require in the sixth commandment? A. That neither in thoughts, nor words, nor gestures, much less in deeds, I dishonor, hate, wound, or kill my neighbor, by myself or by another; but that I lay aside all desire of revenge: also, that I hurt not myself, nor willfully expose myself to any danger…” Your life is not your own. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. And you have no right to destroy it! That means specifically that you shall not commit self-murder by abuse of the body through any means—through overeating, which the Bible calls gluttony, through excessive alcoholic intake of any kind, through the use of illicit drugs, and the addictive use of tobacco and smoking.
My youthful brothers and sisters, we need to be honest with the truth that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that God’s law is not some vague code of rules that we can get around! When it comes to a specific point of application, we very conveniently rationalize away the arrow of God as it strikes us in the words “Thou shalt not kill.” No, that law does not impose upon our walk in Christian liberty, not at all. But we have to face that law honestly and spiritually as it hammers upon the specific point of our own carnal inclinations!
And most importantly, we have to live in the consciousness of what God has done for us in the work and life of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. For only when you see what Christ has done for you will you look at His law with a fervent desire to live in thankfulness according to that law. Moreover, your Sovereign-Friend is with you always by His Spirit Who lives in you. Do you remember that He is in you even now? Only in the consciousness of Christ’s constant presence in you will you confess that “whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1) How do we build and maintain our temples as temples of the Holy Spirit?
2) What effect does the truth that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit have upon our relationships together?
3) In what concrete way do you flee fornication?
4) How can you stand up to the temptations of drug abuse and alcohol abuse?
5) In the light of Scripture’s teaching concerning your body, and the knowledge we have today of the effects of smoking, why do Christian young people take up this addictive habit?
6) How could your brothers and sisters in the faith (including parents and elders) help you in maintaining your temple as a temple of the Holy Spirit?