Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, NKJV).
God transfers His holiness to us via His Holy Spirit. We are now the Temple of God, and as the verse above states, the Spirit of God dwells in us. So, today I want to look closer at the responsibility this brings for all Christians who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Looking at the verse above we see some vital facts that are hard to ignore and present an unbroken chain:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says: “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; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
“Glorify God in your body and in your spirit.” Our bodies the Lord designed for us are incredible. When you consider their intricacies, from our DNA to the colour of our eyes, we know a loving Creator designed us. We are most definitely, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Yet within our bodies we house something no microscope could ever capture – soul and spirit. Our soul is what makes us “us.” In Hebrew the word for soul is nephesh, and it simply means “life.” It is our personality, our quirks, flaws and everything that makes us unique. Our life experiences, how we were brought up, etc., will throughout our lives shape our souls – for good or bad. Closely linked to our souls are our spirits, and yet they are different. The soul and the spirit are connected, but separable (Hebrews 4:12). The soul is the essence of who we are.
The spirit, on the other hand, is what connects us to God and makes us aware that there is someone out there - a Creator. The word for spirit in Hebrew is ruach and means “wind or breath.” It is the element that makes it possible for us to have a relationship with God. When we acknowledge Jesus as our Saviour, it is then through the grace of God that we are forgiven and made clean. God then fills our spirits with His Holy Spirit. We experience an intimate union with God where our bodies become the temple for His Holy Spirit and because of this we, as priests of God, must consider our body, soul and spirit sacred ground.
But if we defile the Temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:17 says God will destroy us. What exactly does that mean? We might accidentally break our leg, but that does not defile us. It is the things we partake in that involve sinning against God and ourselves that defile God’s, Holy Temple.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 gives us an idea of what constitutes defiling God’s Temple:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
Note, how all these things require you to sin against God, yourself (your body) and others. Most deal with sexual sin, but all deal with actions you have to make that cause you to deliberately sin against God. Let’s break down some of the words used in this verse, so you better understand the meaning behind them. I think you will be surprised at the real meanings behind some of these words.
As you can see, all of these sins harm not only your relationship with God, but they harm your spiritual health, as well as your physical body and your mental health. In effect, they create darkness in you, making it unsuitable for the Holy Spirit to take up residence. As the Lord God says, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
When Paul says, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him,” what is he implying by the word destroy? Two observations come to my mind when reading this. First, is the obvious outcome when someone chooses to practise sin, their relationship with God is severed or destroyed by their behaviour. The only way to restore that relationship is to confess your sin and repent of it forever. The other implication is that those who persist in defiling themselves, without repentance or remorse, will suffer the consequences of eternal damnation and will be “destroyed” in hell.
The Apostle John wrote a clear description of God’s character and what it means for those who worship and follow Him:
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:5-7, NKJV).
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, light represents God and His holiness, while darkness represents sin and evil. We can see from the verse above that we cannot have fellowship with God and other believers if we are walking in darkness (still sinning). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
As priests of God, practising holiness means we live to honour God and so as believers our lifestyle is “set apart” and different from the world. It has to be because we are priests of the Most High God. It is not about “us” and our needs, it is about God. When you walk with that knowledge ever present in your mind, you are less prone to hatred, depression, strife, impatience, selfishness, cruelty, dishonesty, pride and self-indulgence.
When we walk in the light we walk with the Lord, and we are in step with His Holy Spirit, ready to fulfill our roles as priests of God.