1Co 3:16-17 “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
Although Paul phrases verse sixteen in the form of a question, there is a plain statement of fact couched there; you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God lives in you. This should touch us both with great reverence and great amazement. It should serve as a reminder of Jesus’ promise that He and His Father would make their abode (dwell) with us (Joh 14:23).
A temple is a place that is dedicated to the worship of a deity. In our case, our temple is not dedicated to just any deity, but to the True and Living God. As a collective church body and as individuals within that body, we are the temple of God. We are the temple of God because He has “built” us to be so (1Co 3:6). He has saved us and called us with a holy calling (2Ti 1:9) and caused us to be His holy dwelling place.
According as it has pleased Him, He has made us to be a dwelling place for His Spirit (life, mind – see Strong’s). We are sanctified and holy, not because of what we have done, but because His Spirit has made us so. We are a shrine to the glorious truth of the Triune God, and we are charged with the responsibility of cherishing His temple.
Those of us who attend a place of worship regularly tend to develop a fondness for the meeting facility. We have a deep respect for all such places that are set aside for the worship of God. This resides deeply within us, and we are often appalled when we hear of someone vandalizing a meeting house. There is a sense of being deeply violated when we hear of such things.
While we are often disturbed by the desecration of a meeting house, the defilement of the true temple often goes unremarked. We mar the temple of God by reacting to situations according to worldly thinking. When we fail to point to Christ in the way we live our lives, we defile His temple. If we are not ready and able to give a reason for our hope with humility and reverence to God (1Pe 3:15), we defile His temple.
We are (present tense) the temple of God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. By taking up His abode in us, He has made us holy. This is no small matter: it is not something to be taken lightly. If we persist in willfully denying the grace of God in our lives and insist on giving man the glory that belongs to God, we are just as assured of destruction as we are of being His temple. God is not mocked.
The destruction that comes when we defile temple may not be a physical destruction. It may be the destruction of our hope and access to the peace that Jesus has left us. We may find ourselves not able to find His countenance because our defiling of the temple becomes a veil that hides His face (Isa 59:2). We may still go the assembly of the saints, but find that we cannot truly join them in worshipping our King. If being the temple of God is no small thing, then being destroyed to the joy of that temple is no small thing.
May our lives bear testimony of the temple of the Living God and the dwelling place of His Spirit as long as we live in this world!