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 6:19-20 ESV
During their years spent wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites had the tabernacle, provided for them by God, as the place to offer sacrifices to Him. Within the Holy of Holies, His presence dwelt above the mercy seat which sat on top of the Ark of the Covenant. So holy was this room, that only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, was the High Priest allowed to enter in to make atonement for sin on behalf of the people. Later, during the reign of King Solomon, God’s presence would dwell in the Holy of Holies inside the temple that Solomon had built. After Solomon had dedicated and prayed over the temple, God responded by saying, “I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time” (1 Kings 9:3 ESV). But years later, due to the sins of the people of Israel, God allowed the temple to be destroyed when the Babylonians ransacked the city of Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies was destroyed. The Ark of the Covenant and all the treasures of the temple were stolen. And for all intents and purposes, the people of God no longer enjoyed or were assured of God’s presence in their midst.
To be the people of God, but to have no assurance of the presence of God, would be a difficult condition to endure. To constantly wonder if God was with you, cared for you, or was even aware of your condition, would be disconcerting and discouraging. But God had warned Solomon that if the people refused to obey Him and remain faithful to Him, they would reap the consequences of their unfaithfulness. But He also told him, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV). They would once again experience His favor and enjoy His presence. But even after God returned to the people to the land after 70 years in exile and even after He provided a way for them to rebuild the temple and restore the city of Jerusalem, they remained obstinate and disobedient – for generations.
Then at just the right time, God sent His Son. God knew He could not count on the faithfulness of men, so He sent His Son to earth as a man, so that He could do what no other man had ever done – live a totally sinless and righteous life, in perfect obedience to God. And it was His sinlessness that qualified Him to act as the substitutionary sacrifice for mankind and to satisfy the righteous justice of a holy God. In His incarnation, Jesus became Emmanuel, “God with us.” He dwelt among us, modeling for us the very life that God expected us to live. And His death on the cross provided a way for us to be made right with God. All that was required was our admission of our own sin and acceptance of His sacrifice on our behalf. And when anyone accepts Jesus as their sin substitute and Savior, they receive the Holy Spirit. The very Spirit of God comes to dwell within them. Which is Paul’s point in the passage for today. God makes our bodies His temple by sending His Spirit to live within us. He sets us apart and designates our bodies as His dwelling place. From that point forward, we no longer belong to ourselves. We become His.
With that incredible fact in mind, Paul asks the Corinthian believers, “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?” (1 Corinthians 6:15 ESV). Then he answers his own question: “Never!” Obviously, these new believers living in the city of Corinth were struggling with sexual sin. Paul spends a great deal of time dealing with this problem. Theirs was a sexually charged society. Promiscuity and prostitution were not only prevalent, but practiced by just about everyone in their culture. So Paul has to tell them that “the body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13 ESV). They were having to learn that their new relationship with Christ was intended to change everything about them, including their habits. Their bodies were no longer their own, to do with as they saw fit. They now belonged to God. In fact, they were each to view their bodies as the temple of God, housing His Holy Spirit. So they were to flee from sexual immorality. They were to glorify God in their bodies. Why? Because they no longer belonged to themselves. God had paid a high price for their lives. He had sacrificed the life of His own sinless Son in order that they might become His sons and daughters. Peter reminds us of the high price that God paid, and encourages us to live accordingly. “…conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:17-18 ESV).
Paul would have us remember that God had a purpose for setting us apart as His own and placing His Spirit within us. “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor—not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NLT). He goes on and says, “God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 NLT). God’s will for us? Holiness. God’s calling for us? Holiness. God’s view of us? A holy habitat for His Spirit.