“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, AV)
Certain places have special significance and a special stamp of approval upon them. One such place is in Washington, D.C. There we see the White House, the U.S. Capital building, and the U.S. Supreme Court. These places represent the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government. The White House in particular, has this high aura about it because it is the residence and the workplace of the President of the United States.
At the time when Paul wrote the letters to the Church at Corinth, Jerusalem was the prominent place for the Jews. In Jerusalem was the Temple. The religious activities of the Jews would revolve around this Temple in Jerusalem. People would gather there for prayers. The festivals of the Jewish Law focused on this place. In the Temple the priests offered the various sacrifices. Within the Temple was the holy place, and at the back of the holy place was the Most Holy Place. It was a place where only the high priest could enter once a year on the Day of Atonement to present the blood of the sacrifice to God for the sins of the people.
For the Jews, while God is and always has been omnipresent, the Temple represented a place where He manifested His divine presence in a special way. The Jews considered the Temple as God’s dwelling place among his people, a very holy place. As such, the Temple was not to be defiled by sin in any way.
The Jerusalem Temple was quite distinct from other temples. As Paul was writing to the Corinthian church, they would have been familiar with the temple to Aphrodite. In this temple, sexual immoral conduct was regarded as a part of worship of Aphrodite rather than defilement. In the temple to Aphrodite, temple prostitutes were considered priestesses to help male worshippers in paying homage to Aphrodite through sexual conduct. It is in this backdrop that Paul explains something vital to the Corinthian believers.
Paul has been dealing with the sin of sexual immorality in the church. Now he brings things to a critical conclusion. He tells them that the believer’s body is the temple of God’s Spirit. Moreover, in contrast to the pagan culture, which considered sexual immorality as an act of consecration, sexual immorality in the life of the believer actually desecrated the temple. The believer’s body is a special place, a temple where God manifests His divine presence.
Thus, just as the Jews considered the Temple as a special place and ensured that their Temple would maintain its purity as the place of God’s manifest presence, the believer was to ensure his or her body would be kept pure. Moreover, just as the Jerusalem Temple was built to glorify God, now the believer’s body is the temple in which God’s spirit dwells for that very purpose, to glorify Him.
For us, we must always remember that we were bought with a price and made holy by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We who believe have been indwelt by the Spirit of the living God. We who are holy must therefore pursue holiness. It is only right since God dwells in us by His Spirit, and we are here to glorify Him in a world that needs to see His glorious light.