“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17, AV)
Years ago, we took a family vacation to San Antonio Texas. For some unknown reason we thought it would be good to go in July. It was hot. We were living in Savannah Georgia and to us it was still hot. However, that is not the point. While we were there, we toured the Alamo. It has significant historical significance in the Texas Revolution. It was the location of a pivotal battle in which a small contingent of men sought to hold the Alamo while being vastly outnumbered by the Mexican army under Santa Anna’s command. The battle to hold the Alamo was eventually lost after a heroic battle of the defenders.
When we went as a family to the Alamo, we were immediately reminded to respect the site. I was instructed to take my hat off upon entering. The thought was to honor those who had fallen in battle there. It was as if we were to see this place as having a very holy significance.
There are many places of a religious nature today that are considered holy places. Various religious temples around the world are considered this way. In fact, in times of conflict, religious edifices are often protected from destruction.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about a holy Temple. In Judaism of Paul’s day, the Jerusalem Temple was the center of the Jews religious activity. It was considered holy. Within the Temple there were the holy places and further within the Most Holy Place. Yet, the holy place of which Paul wrote was not the Temple in Jerusalem. It was not even a church building. Paul wrote about a holy temple which is the church. We see this in context with the previous verses where Paul spoke about those who would build the church on the one true foundation with the right materials. We also see this in the verses that the word “ye” in the Greek text is clearly in the plural. It could be translated “you all are the temple of God,” indicating a corporate assembly. The believers who are the church are a holy temple.
Moreover, God sees us as highly valued. Paul states that if anyone seeks to destroy God’s temple, God will destroy him. Woe be it to the one who seeks to destroy God’s temple the church.
The church is not a building, but a body of believers who assemble together to glorify God. It is a truth that all true believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Yet, we often fail to consider that believers who gather corporately in the name of Jesus are a holy temple indwelt by the Spirit of God. Thus collectively, we who believe are God’s holy temple. As such, we should view our life together much differently than any other organization. We should hold to a higher standard together. We have a tremendous responsibility as a church to reflect the light of God’s glory to a world of darkness.
When we meet as believers in small assemblies or groups or in our large Sunday worship experience, we are God’s temple. When two or three gather, we are God’s holy temple. We stand as a living edifice to the glory of God.