Between 55 and 57 A.D. Paul of Tarsus’s wrote two letters to the congregation of the church he founded in Corinth. These were former hedonists he was writing to, and many of his messages were probably as controversial then as they are today. Consider this one in particular: Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price,… (1 Cor 6:20) “Of course my body is my own!” most of mankind responds. “And I’ll do with it whatever I want!” This is the attitude of cultures around our modern world.
When I was young and impressionable, Paul Anka wrote and Frank Sinatra recorded the song “My Way.” Adopted from the French song “Comme d’habitude,” Anka says he modified the lyrics specifically to sound like the “mob-speak” he heard the Rat Pack frequently use as they joked around in private. Like most worldly people, I adopted the words of this song as my personal anthem. It’s remained popular over the years because people, regardless of their state in life, find it easy to step into Sinatra’s shoes and say, “That’s exactly how I feel. I’m tired of being stepped on. I’m gonna do it my way!” The fact of the matter is, the “my-way-generation” has dominated every society since a garden was first planted eastward in Eden and a man and woman were told to tend and keep it.
The problem: mankind fails to perceive the benefit of not being their own
Of course Paul’s quote above was not directed to the population in general – but to people God chose for a purpose – whenever and wherever they reside on this earth. It’s interesting that in ancient times in particular, the people that God chose for a purpose were not always godly people. Yet He still expected them to recognize and acknowledge that He was the source of all their power, status, wealth and blessings – for they were not their own either. The pagan Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar is just one of many such examples I could have selected to demonstrate this point. King Neby was hand-picked to perform a task on behalf of God: to chastise the rebellious Kingdom of Judah. Yet when Neby walked around the royal palace and egotistically claimed credit for all that he had been allowed to accomplish, he was humbled by God for seven years – ‘til he got his thinking straight.
Unfortunately, many Christians haven’t grasped this truth much better than the ungodly – and they too inherit the often-disastrous consequences. For the Christian, the basis that “you are not your own” is that “you were bought at a price,” namely the blood of your Savior Jesus, and now “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” To understand how God views the body (the temple) of a follower of His Son, it’s imperative to study what happened when God’s Spirit rested upon the tabernacle in the wilderness on the day of its dedication, and in the Holy of Holies in the Temple at Jerusalem.
Moses wrote in Exodus: Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
2 Chronicles chapters 5 through 7 report that when Solomon had finished building the Temple and had the ark of the covenant of the Lord brought up from the City of David, all the priest were sanctified. As hundreds of priests began to blow trumpets and play other instruments, and as the singers joined in unison … with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord, … and when they praised the Lord saying, “He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,” then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. This was followed by a dedication ceremony and prayer led by Solomon. When Solomon completed his prayer of dedication, something profound happened. God manifested Himself in power! Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.
Like the people who gathered in the Temple courtyard some 3000 years ago, our sanctification, our verbal expressions, our harmony, unison, dedication, prayer, and our magnifying of God, are all essential ingredients in the “recipe” to see God’s Glory. The Hebrew word for the dwelling or presence of God is “Shekinah.” In the Jewish mind it always spoke of the fact that He dwelt in or rested upon those who merited His favor, whether an individual, a community, or the entire people of God.
There is obviously a difference between the temple of God which was a man-made structure, and the temple of God which was and is the Spirit of God’s human dwelling place. In the 2nd chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus referred to Himself as the temple of God. And then the Apostle that Jesus called “my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel,” boldly proclaimed many times that believers are themselves the temple of the Holy Spirit. Like the priests of old that “sanctified” the temple, the instruments used in the temple and their very own bodies and souls before they dared to enter into God’s presence, so must we be holy and pure – for we are not our own.
The benefit to the believer: the Shekinah Glory of God reflected in our lives
The scene in Luke 2 where an angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night, describes that the glory of the Lord shone around them. It’s this same Shekinah Glory that is housed and available for illumination through each Christian into the world of darkness that we are sent to share the Good News we’ve been blessed to hear and receive ourselves.
When one of God’s seraphim angels once declared to Isaiah: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” I have to believe he was speaking of a time in the future when Christians are universally obedient in carrying the light of God inside of us to every nation. “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.”
The Old Covenant display of God’s Shekinah Glory was not lasting. But the Holy Spirit is promised to be with the Church until the end of this age. The Old Law was only a shadow of what we are to have in reality. Peter, James and John got a taste of this on a mountaintop as they witnessed our Lord’s face being illuminated during the transfiguration. We are both challenged and commanded to “let our light shine” into a dark world. It’s time to fully yield to the knowledge that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and it is not our own.