Temples: those who are ‘in Christ’

Jesus isn’t the only person who is/was a temple.  When he was a baby, he was in his mother’s womb.  In a very real sense, Mary was a Temple, with the real physical presence of God inside her!  This is certainly a unique thing throughout the history of creation which will never be repeated, and thus merits a certain degree of reverence, awe, and wonder at this mysterious work of God.

But what was true for Mary in the literal physical sense is also true for Christians in a spiritual sense.  I Corinthians 6:19 says that our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit.  The fact that Paul mentions this in the context of Christian ethics – living holy lives that don’t defile our bodies – is very telling indeed.  After all, we have seen from previous temple models that the presence of God requires a degree of holiness, so it is unsurprising to see this new sort of temple described with the same sort of requirement.  This is, of course, complicated by the fact that this presence of the Holy Spirit within the heart of each believer is also what sanctifies us – makes us more holy over time.  The factor of human effort remains, we are called to walk “in step with the Spirit,” but the old problem of the presence of God being prohibited due to human sinfulness is now being reversed: God has made provision for his presence while we’re still being purified from sin!

We typically speak of the Spirit indwelling our hearts, in accordance with Paul’s words in II Corinthians 1:22.  This must be read alongside I Corinthians 6:19, wherein our bodies are said to be temples.  What’s important to remember is that the presence of God is manifest in our entire person; spirit, soul and body; there is no division of the self between sacred and profane.  Furthermore, God is not alone, living within us.  Peter describes his body as his σχήνωμα (tabernacle), reminding us that our bodies are also our own homes; the Holy Spirit is our roommate.  When you add in the fact that those who are married are “of one flesh” with their spouse, that’s as many as three persons living within one body.  For sure, we’d better be practicing holy living with our entire selves if we’re going to keep peace with our cohabitors!

Outer layer: our physical bodies
Middle layer: our souls (hearts & minds)
Inner layer: our spirits

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About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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6 Responses to Temples: those who are ‘in Christ’

  1. Isaac Demme says:

    Good points overall, but for the sake of theological precision I must quibble.

    The scriptures nowhere say that our bodies (as individuals) are temples (plural).

    1 Corinthians 6.19 comes pretty close, but in the end it agrees with the general theme in the New Testament that portrays the people of God corporately as a temple.
    Notice the contrast in plural markers between 6.19 and previous verses:
    6.15: “Do you (plural) not know that your (plural) bodies (plural) are members (plural) of Christ (singular)?
    6.18 ” ‘Every sin a person (singular) is outside the body (singular)’ but the fornicator (singular) sins against his own body (singular).”
    6.19 “Do you (plural) not know that your (plural) body (singular) is the temple (singular) of the Holy Spirit who is in you (plural), (the one you (plural) have from God)? You (plural) are not your (plural) own.

    I see a clear logical progression here. Because our individual bodies are constituent parts of Jesus’ unique body (which is the Temple of the Spirit), therefore our corporate Body, being the Body of Christ, is also the Temple of the Spirit, and our individual bodies, being constituent parts of this Temple, are holy.

    • That is indeed a fair quibble; I overlooked those details. Given the presence of the Holy Spirit in the ‘heart’ of each individual, would you consider it fair to call the individual Christian at least a microcosm of the Temple of Christ’s Body?

  2. Bob Craig says:

    I have to agree with Isaac in his quibble. The verse naturally generates a corporate context, which removes the onus from the individual believer and puts the believer in a frame of accountability to the greater Body of Christ, Having come out of a cultic environment when we first came to Christ we experienced first hand the personal and exclusive group application of this verse in that we (the cult) were right and the rest of the church, historical and present, was totally wrong. Certainly we are “living stones” being built into a “royal priesthood.” i.e., the Body of Christ. The resulting Temple is certainly greater than the sum of the individual building blocks.

  3. I’ve just read through with interest your series on Temple Theology. You are perhaps already familiar with Dionysius the Areopagite’s works (especially “The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy”) and those of St. Maximus the Confessor (especially “The Church’s Mystagogy”).

    Another (contemporary) author I have recently discovered is Margaret Barker, see links below), who sees the roots of Christian liturgy in the teaching and practices of the First Temple–very intriguing! http://www.margaretbarker.com/index.html and
    http://www.templestudiesgroup.com/Symposia.htm

    I look forward to your future endeavors.

  4. Pingback: the Blessed Mother Mary | Leorningcnihtes boc

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