By Hope Bolinger
You can hear both Christians and non-Christians alike declare “my body is a temple” in a myriad of contexts. You can even find the phrase in secular stores on t-shirts and mugs. But what does it really mean that our bodies are temples? How should we honor that as Christians?
The phrase itself comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
This is one of the most popular verses in Scripture, but it can often be misinterpreted. What does it mean? Why does temple imagery fit well with the bodies God has designed for us? And how can we treat our bodies like a temple? This article will dive into all of these questions.
What Is the Context of This Verse?
This verse is found in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth around 55 AD. In this letter he rebukes the church for an array of issues, like settling law disputes outside the church and incest. Evidently, the church in Corinth was struggling in their sexual purity, because that is what this verse is directly addressing.
Paul implores us to recognize that our bodies are not our own but belong to God. Having been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 7:23) by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, as stated in Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, we don’t have any right to give them over to sin (sexual immorality in the case of 1 Cor. 6).
Christians may feel they’re at liberty to use their bodies how they choose (1 Corinthians 6:12), but according to Matthew Henry’s Commentary our bodies are instruments of righteousness.
Therefore, we should keep our minds on things from above opposed to giving into fleshly temptations. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, we waive the right to do whatever we choose with our bodies.
But what does that have to do with being a temple?
What Was the Temple?
To the Israelites in the Old Testament, the temple was their sacred meeting place with God. They worshipped there, made sacrifices there, and presented their requests to God. It wasn’t actually until Solomon’s reign as king that the Israelites had a temple (1 Kings 3:1).
Before the Israelites had a temple, they had a tabernacle. In Exodus 25:8, God commands to Moses “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” The next 5 chapters in Exodus are spent detailing out exactly what God wanted his tabernacle to look like with ornate designs, gold and silver.
But the tabernacle wasn’t just beautiful. It was holy. So holy, in fact, that when a man named Uzzah reached out to steady the ark so it wouldn’t fall, because the tabernacle was being moved and an ox had stumbled, he was immediately struck and killed by God for his irreverence (2 Samuel 6:7).
According to scholar Marty Solomon of Bema Discipleship Podcast, the purpose of the tabernacle was to be a mobile Genesis 1; a place where heaven met earth so that God could commune with his people unobstructed by sin. Wherever the Israelites went, God wanted to go, too.
Why Is it Significant that God Makes Us His Temple?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us the amazing truth that Christians who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are a temple to it.
When Jesus came, he eliminated the need for a temple being in a single location. Christians became the temple of God, a house for his Holy Spirit. Because of his blood that made us clean, we can now be considered pure and holy enough to have God’s Spirit live in us. We have become a meeting place between heaven and earth to bring other people in to commune with God. What a gift!
Since we are now a sacred house, a holy ground, nothing unclean or defiling should enter its presence. In other words, no Christian should engage in sin, including sexual immorality.
This article will explore 5 different ways to treat your body like a temple, honoring God with it.
1. Avoid Temptations
Don’t allow the devil to grab a foothold (Ephesians 4:27). If your right eye causes you to sin, metaphorically pluck it out (Matthew 5:39).
In other words, don’t put yourself in an environment that puts you at a higher risk of engaging in the area in which you are tempted. Although this chapter deals with the topic of sexual purity, this applies to other temptations.
If you have a history of alcohol abuse, purge your household of it and avoid places where it can be easily accessed. If you struggle with pornography addiction, block the perpetrating websites on your computer.
2. Sabbath Weekly
The Lord established this as one of the Ten Commandments for a number of reasons (Exodus 20:8-11). First, he had our health in mind, as mentioned in this commentary. We give our bodies a chance to rest and be ready to give our full effort the following day (Colossians 3:23).
Second, the Lord is using it as an exercise of trust. If he, the God of the universe, can take one day off in the seven days of creation, then humans can take one day off a week and trust God will provide when they aren’t accruing extra finances.
Third, we dedicate one day a week to honoring God. For the other six days, we can pursue earthly work, but one day a week, we reserve that day for God.