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Seeds of the Kingdom

Being a Temple

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Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
1 Corinthians 6:19, NIV

I have often heard the verse above quoted as an encouragement to someone to look after their body. But lately I have been musing about what this verse really means.

For a start, why liken a body to a temple? A temple, of course, is the place where God is most supremely thought to be encountered. It is a place of worship. The original blueprint for the Jewish temple was actually for a moveable temple in the form of a tent. The instructions God gave to Moses were extremely detailed, because if God was to come close to His people, this was serious business.

The first temple consisted of an enclosed courtyard where the Israelites could bring their sacrifices and offerings and present them to the Lord. Inside this courtyard was a tent divided into two sections: the holy place, and the most holy place. Only priests were allowed into the holy place, and only the High Priest could enter the most holy place; and that only once a year! So how is our body like a temple?

In my musings I realised that our body is a bit like the outer courtyard. It’s the bit that others see and engage with. But there’s more to us, of course. We also have our inner life, our own internal tent. We often refer to it as our soul, the place which others can’t see, but it is just as much a part of us. So, we talk about our soul as the place of our mind, our will and our emotions.

But there’s a deeper level to the temple, the heart of it you might say. The holy of holies was the spiritual heart of the temple, the place where God was most fully present. And in us too there is our own most inner place, the place of our true identity. We talk about it as our human spirit. It’s the place where we are most fully ourselves, and access to that centre is also limited.

When we come to faith, we talk about being born again, and that is a spiritual rebirth, something Nicodemus struggled to get his head around (John 3). And where does that spiritual connection happen? Paul says we have God’s Holy Spirit in us. That connecting point must surely be with our human spirit.

But whether we have been spiritually born again or not, we all have a human spirit, the true place of the ‘you-ness’ of you. So maybe when Paul likens us to a temple, he was actually helping us to realise something deeply profound about how we are able to be those who represent Him as walking temples.

We have become those who bring God to our families, our communities, our situations. And now, instead of those first believers going to the temple to meet with God, it is we who carry the presence of God to the world. Don’t you know that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?

 

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