Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit

body holy spirit marriage sin

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.  “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.  (1 Corinthians 6:12-14)

In just about a month or so, school will be back in session, and during the school year, our church typically sees a decent amount of college students in attendance. I'm glad they come, but it's always clear to me that the students that attend are at very different places of maturity. Some are clearly mature adults, and others seem thrilled mostly with the fact that they finally have freedom from their parents' oversight. For a while, they may think it's great that it seems like they can do whatever they want until reality sets in.

In regard to spiritual things, it appears that the Corinthian church was struggling to get past the attitude of some college freshmen. While it's true that believers have been set free in Christ, some members of the Corinthian church were interpreting this freedom to mean they could do whatever they wanted even if their decisions violated the moral will of God.

Paul seems to quote the Corinthians in Verse 12. It seems that they may have been saying, "All things are lawful for me" as a way to express, "I can do whatever I want, whenever I want." To this, Paul replied with a spiritual reality check and told them...

  • Not everything you want to do is helpful.
  • You are being dominated and mastered by your sin and rebellion.

Another saying they appear to have been tossing around was "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food." And what it appears they may have meant by that was that they thought it was perfectly acceptable to feed their fleshly appetites. It seems that they were using this to justify their casual attitude toward engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage. They had convinced themselves that they were free to do so in the same way that Christians like to convince ourselves at times of just about anything that we prefer to believe, whether it's true or not.

But the truth is, the actions we engage in in the body are not separate and distinct from our spiritual life. They are intertwined, and our physical activity impacts our spiritual maturity, future blessings, heavenly rewards, and divine discipline.

Paul was trying to express to the church is that we can only have one Lord (Rom. 10:9). In our lives, we're always bowing our knees to something or someone. Either Jesus is our Lord or we're bowing in submission to our fleshly appetites. Either Jesus is our Lord or we're bowing to the mindset of this generation. Either Jesus is our Lord or we're bowing to the approval of other people.

"because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  (Romans 10:9)

The Corinthians were set free from the domination of sin, Satan, and death, but they were dipping their toes right back into a life of slavery and they were calling this slavery "freedom."

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”  But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)

Sometimes when I speak with fellow believers, I can sense a certain amount of discouragement in their tone related to the present state of our culture. It's obvious that many of the values we consider biblical and true are no longer fashionable to many people, and it can be difficult to observe the kind of impact this is having on our culture. Yet by God's grace, the gospel continues to advance in the midst of a world that tries its best to get along without Christ.

If we could time-travel back to Corinth during Paul’s day, I'm guessing we would be shocked and horrified by many of the cultural norms we would observe. In the city of Corinth, there was a prominent temple that was dedicated to the pagan love goddess Aphrodite. There were over a thousand prostitutes employed at that temple, and part of their worship rituals involved inappropriate activity with these prostitutes.

This kind of immorality was something the Corinthians had grown up with. They were used to it, and it's possible that it didn't seem out of place to some of them. I'm also guessing by Paul's words in this passage that there were members of the church who were employing the services of these prostitutes. So he asked them, "Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! "

Why do you suppose Paul was so emphatic in that statement? He referred to the church as “members of Christ.” We are joined to Christ and united with Him the moment we believe. We become part of His body, and the greatest everyday illustration we have the opportunity to observe of the union Christ has with His church is the institution of marriage. No other human relationship compares. In a Christ-centered marriage, you have commitment, the sharing of one name, and genuine relational intimacy that is far beyond what can be seen in other relationships. 

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  (Ephesians 5:31-32)

As I read what Paul taught in this passage, I have to admit that sexual immorality doesn't seem very far from complete blasphemy in my thinking. It's the process of taking two lives that were designed to glorify Christ and using their bodies to profane the most visible example of Christ's love for the church.

If this is where we're being tempted, or if we're struggling with other temptations, how can we overcome them? Our culture calls temptation freedom, but it isn't. How can we truly experience the freedom Jesus purchased for us and desires that we live in?  Let me suggest several practical steps...

  1. Preach the gospel to yourself. Action follows belief. As you think you will do.
  2. Know the truth of Scripture so you don't believe the false promises of Satan.
  3. Pray for strength.
  4. Don't surround yourself with wickedness.
  5. Run from sin.

"Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."  (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

Many of our family trips involve drives to northeast and central Pennsylvania. As we drive through the state, I make a point to pray for the ministries of the churches we pass. One particular church property often catches my eye. When we pass it during the day, it looks rather plain, but at night, the property is brightly lit. The lighting has the effect of making the structure look quite impressive, like a cathedral.

The closing verses of 1 Corinthians 6 speak of a temple. When we hear or use that word, we typically think of a building or an impressive structure of some kind. But we're told here that our bodies are actually the temple that is being referenced. The bodies of Christians are a temple of the Holy Spirit.

This literally means that God the Holy Spirit personally lives within believers. Our bodies are sanctuaries that He joyfully indwells. That's an amazing thought that could deeply impact our lives in powerful ways if we really came to believe it. When you look at yourself, you probably spend a fair amount of time dwelling on your imperfections, weaknesses, and limitations. I often do, and in doing so, I can excel at making myself feel pretty bad. But passages of Scripture like these shake us awake and remind us that God Himself lives within us. He has made us into a temple in which He resides.

Since that is so, how then should we treat our bodies? How should we use our bodies? According to this Scripture, our bodies should be used as instruments through which God is glorified. If we are using our bodies for anything less, we're proving that an understanding of the Holy Spirit’s presence and ministry has not yet become deeply rooted in our hearts.

My wife received a message several years ago from someone she knew as a child. The message was from a woman who asked if we would pray for her daughter who became disillusioned over not being able to start an acting career. In her disappointment, she elected to become a prostitute. Understandably, her mother's heart has been broken over this. I’m grateful that Christ can redeem this tragedy, but this is one of the ways our propensity to disrespect the Holy Spirit and the bodies we’ve been blessed with can be manifested.

Knowing this to be the case, Paul sought to help us understand that we are not our own. We were bought with a price. Jesus gave Himself on the cross to redeem us from sin and grant us new and abundant life through faith in Him. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and has brought us into His kingdom of light. The moment we trusted in Him, the Holy Spirit took up residence within us. Knowing this to be true, we should no longer allow ourselves to be dominated by sin because our bodies are members of Christ. We are not our own but are called to glorify Him in all ways at all times.

© John Stange, 2023


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