Have you ever had the feeling that evreything you have been taught is wrong? This is one of them,I have been taught that the passage, “You are God’s Temple,” is aimed at individuals. How wrong is that?
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV UK
The word you in both verses 16 and 17 is plural in both cases. There is no mention of being God’s temple being applied to individuals, Sorry to anyone who has ever said, “My body is a temple,” the Bible does not say that.
But what is the temple? The Temple was the centre of Jewish worship and seen by the majority of the Jewish people as the most effectual manner by which to reach God and His favour. The Temple was a binding icon to which the nation of Israel looked for the symbolism of God’s favour unto themselves. The temple of God was not like a cathedral, it was a place where sacrifices are made.
The bad news is that we are not the temple but the sacrifice.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers [and sisters], by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship [or rational service]. 2 Do not be conformed to this world [or age], but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2 ESVUK with footnotes added [in brackets]
A living sacrifice was an animal brought to the alter where its blood was poured out as a sacrifice. It is this that Paul is saying we should do with our bodies which are to be to be spent for God’s service. “All I am is yours God,” is the Christian response. This is not advocating a mass suicide, but saying you are dead to the world or age, the pressures of society to conform, to be like everybody else. God is not wanting to take us out from conforming to the world’s/age’s/society’s stereotype and changing you into a church’s stereotype. Churches who demand that everyone has to be like their current membership are abusive to people who are not like them. God is wanting you to be the best version of you it is possible to be. God made you to be you, not someone else, no matter how good that someone else is.
The good news is that we are not really the sacrifice, the sacrifice is Jesus, the once and for all time sacrifice for the sins of the world. We are the sacrifice because we are in Christ. Paul has been using the phrase “in Christ” earlier in Romans and just after the passage quoted:
- [You] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24.
- There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2.
- For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.
- so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:5, all ESVUK
Jesus lived and died sacrificially for other people, even for those who did not know God. We are supposed to live sacrificially for other people too, especially for those who do not know God.