First Corinthians 6:12-20
The Temple Of The Holy Spirit
1. Today is the Lord's Day for the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. This day is celebrated as a remembrance of that day when the Holy Spirit descended ten days after the ascension of Christ upon the disciples who were assembled together in prayer and as a remembrance of that day when the church was born. The event of the coming of the Holy Spirit is recorded in Acts two. We will not get into that particular event today. Please read it on your own. There is just one thing at this text I would like you to keep before your hearts concerning the circumstances of the birth of the church, which is that, when the first disciples assembled together they did not invent a thing for the church. Those who assembled together did not conveniently found a church. God had the initiative in leadership. God assembled the disciples, poured out [His] Spirit, and created the church. It is the same even in today's church at the end of the twentieth century. Even today God is calling people, gives faith, pours out His Spirit, makes us one, and provides guidance. Everywhere you look there are groups of broken sinners. But in the invisible dimension we are the body of Christ which is according to the Spirit of God and which was created by God. So, even individual believers are not just persons who are placing their faith particularly in Christianity from among the various kinds of other religions. In today's passage the Bible says the following: "Don't you know your body is a temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells, which you received from God and you are no longer your own?," (verse nineteen). Actually, similar words appear in chapter three and verse sixteen. "Don't you know you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God is living inside of you all?," (3:16). In this case what we are calling the temple of God was the entire body of the church. Furthermore, in this passage of chapter six, individual believers in the church who are the temple of God are said to be temples in which the Spirit of God lodges. Therefore, from this we could derive one of the definitions on [what] the faith life [is]; for, a definite understanding is recorded here on what a believer is. What is the faith life? It is nothing but "to live as a temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells." It is possible to express the faith life in several terms, but today I would like you to look especially on this phrase "the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells." Church members, seekers, and even first time attenders, as persons gathered for worship on Pentecost 1998, I would like to alert you without fail to this matter [of the temple of the Holy Spirit]. So, what is this living as the temple of the Holy Spirit about? Today, I'd like to deepen our understanding together on this particular topic.
The Christians At Corinth
2. So, verse nineteen, which I just read you a moment ago, begins with the words "Don't you know....?" This is the epistle addressed to the church at Corinth. Therefore, the people of the church at Corinth are living as if they are people who don't know they are the temple of the Spirit of God. What could this possibly mean? Were they unconcerned with the Spirit which God had given to them? Are they only thinking of the church as just a group of human beings and have no concern for the dimension related to God?
3. No, actually it wasn't like that. Instead, the Corinthians had an interest in the Holy Spirit that went too far. We understand this clearly as we read this epistle in its entirety. It appears that they had an especially strong interest in supernatural mystical matters caused by the Spirit. For example, they had an interest in "tongues" and "prophecy" based on the work of the Spirit, and among other things they had an interest in the healing of illnesses by the power of God, and in deeds with miraculous power. There were persons who looked earnestly for these kinds of gifts of the Spirit and actually, many people had mystical experiences and also there were teachers with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
4. Paul does not deny such a supernatural manifestation and work of the Holy Spirit or the gift of the Spirit. Paul touched upon this gift of the Holy Spirit in the twelfth chapter of this epistle. Since the Spirit of God was given, even if something unfathomable had arisen in the ideas of that time there, it was not really so strange. They surely knew the Holy Spirit and they knew also about the gift of the Holy Spirit. But, notwithstanding, Paul says to them, "Don't you know...?"
5. What in the world might the problem be? In order to understand this matter, first I'd like to go back to verse twelve. There the text says this: "I am permitted all things." With the New Interconfessional Version this phrase is placed in quotation marks. That is, rather than saying these are Paul's own words, we understand that they are the words of the Corinthians. As we reflect on the context of this phrase it is believed there is a correct understanding. The same phrase is repeated here twice and shows up again later in chapter ten and verse twenty-two. It is spoken among the Corinthians as a very widely used phrase. Why in the world would such language as this be used? We don't exactly know the details of whether this came from a misunderstanding of the Pauline phrase "to be justified by faith" or possibly it came from Greek dualism of the body and soul. Perhaps both of them were principal sources and thus a phrase like this came to be used. At any rate, this was no more than claiming "We are free." Many people sought to be free and because they didn't want to be shackled by anything, it wouldn't be strange one bit for them to have widely spread a phrase of this kind.
6. As Paul quoted this phrase it seems he was affirming it in a way. But, he goes on to say: "However, all things are not beneficial." Naturally we can understand this from our own experiences. Claiming freedom and conducting ourselves exactly as our hearts desire is never beneficial. If you act as your feelings say to and carry out all that the self wants, it would result in your being hated and hurting others as well as hurting yourself. If you lived according to your cravings, you'd destroy your body too and you would not be able to be mentally sound either. Furthermore, the phrase "not be beneficial" from Paul has the special meaning "does not bring salvation," and we also know it is true [that all things do not bring salvation]. Claiming such a freedom and carrying on like that will never bring salvation to anyone. This is just a matter of course.
7. Furthermore, Paul says, "I will not be controlled by anything." When one says, "All things are permitted for me," it is important to continue with that saying and be able to say, "I will not be controlled by anything." That is to say, while one says, "All things are permitted for me," it is possible that one never was free at all. Even though he or she had been hoping [for freedom], he or she has been controlled by something without noticing it. If a person thinks he or she is living free exactly as his or her heart desires, in truth the individual is being controlled by those very cravings of his or hers. It could be that the person has become a complete slave controlled by gluttony, controlled by lust for fame, controlled by sexual lust, and controlled by greediness for cash.
8. In reading verses thirteen on forward, the Corinthians were surely exposed to such a danger, and it seems there were actually persons who fell down into such a state. Paul spoke out abruptly saying, "Food is for the stomach, the stomach is for food," but this was probably also something the Corinthians had been saying. In brief, it was about "What's wrong with eating the things I want to eat?" Then, as we read what is written later on it seems the same thing was said not only about appetites but about sexual desire. It was about: What's wrong with satisfying my flesh? The town of Corinth was an infamous town from the beginning in its immorality. In the temples of the gods a large number of temple prostitutes both female and male existed and it appears they had lodgings for them. Its influence even extended into the church. While they do just as they crave they would say, "Everything is permitted for me," and "food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food." Here we have the circumstances in which Paul could not help speaking on in verses fifteen and following. "Don't you know your own body is a part of the body of Christ? Should you let a part of the body of Christ become part of the body of a harlot? May it not be so. Don't you know a person who mixes with a harlot becomes one body with her? It has been said, 'Two people become one body.' But, a person who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with the Lord," (verses fifteen through seventeen).
Make The Glory Of God Visible With Your Body
9. As we continue reading in this manner we can see why Paul was saying in verse nineteen, "Don't you know...?" What they were missing was not a consciousness of the Holy Spirit. They surely weren't. They were ignorant about matters pertaining to their own selves. They didn't know what they should have known. They were not making the distinction of how their bodies were temples in which the Holy Spirit was residing who they had received from God. Being a temple of the Holy Spirit does not mean to make the Holy Spirit into a possession for one's own use. It means a person is to become a possession of God. "You are no longer your own possession," reads the text.
10. Why weren't they their own? Paul reminds them from the start why they have been made as temples of the Holy Spirit. "You were purchased by a price paid," says Paul. We can never take it for granted that we could be temples in which the Holy Spirit indwells because originally we were not completely suitable [for that purpose]. We were separated from God and living under sin. We lived neither revering God as God, nor truly valuing our own bodies given to us by God, nor thinking that what was defiled was defiled, or that sin was sin. How could this body defiled by sin become a temple of the Holy Spirit? It becomes possible only when God forgives our sin and in his granting us mercy and compassion and our getting forgiveness of sin is not brought about by our own act of atonement. Our debt is much too big. We couldn't pay it. We can't set ourselves free, we have been as slaves sold over to sin. Someone had to pay it all for us so that we would be forgiven. And the only one person who could accomplish that did pay the price for us. On Calvary's hill, up on a cross Jesus paid for us the debt of our sin by tearing his flesh, shedding his blood, and through his life. This is the price which the son of God paid so that we would be God's and be the temple of the Holy Spirit.
11. The Corinthian Christians had forgotten this fact. They had forgotten what a great sacrifice and what a price had been paid for their entering into grace now. So, the same could be said about anyone in any time period. People tend to forget. We should remember. The invaluable price of the sacrifice of Christ was paid and we are now with God. We were purchased by the price of the precious life of Christ. If he had not paid it, there would only be eternal destruction as slaves of sin and death. Therefore, we are no longer our own. Where should we be going now? Paul says, "Therefore, with your bodies make the glory of God visible." "With your bodies purchased by God please show forth the glory of God."
12. While this is an order at the same time it is also a word of encouragement which affords us great hope. For the Greeks the body was only bad, fit for destruction. It was only a prison for the soul. The way they thought about it was not too awful strange either. Because a person has flesh, he or she has hardships, distress, and sins through his or her body. As we reflect on this state, I think it even seems impossible to glorify God through this body of flesh. Also, I would add that what Paul calls "a body" here is the entire body of the human being, including the flesh and the mind. Since that is the case, it is even more of an impossibility. We are totally depraved in our wills, our emotions, and our knowledge. How in the world can we glorify God when we are ready to sully Him?
13. However, Paul speaks as if it were a natural matter of course about something that is kind of surprising for a Greek to hear. "Therefore, make the glory of God visible by your body." This is not simply the difference betweem Hellenism and Hebraism. [Paul says this because he knows] the body is not something to be destroyed under death's control because the body is "a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells which we have received from God." We do not try very hard to display the glory of God through our persistence and efforts. The faith life is a life as such but a life that [we] live as the temple of God. The glory of God will be displayed by the [agent of] the Holy Spirit himself through [the agency] of the temple.
14. Here the important thing is but one thing. We are not to claim, "This body is my body." We are not to say, "What's wrong with using my body for myself? What's wrong with using my life for myself?" The self which was purchased, living in the awareness of the self as God's possession, these are what it is to live as God's temple. Such a person as this becomes a person who shows forth the glory of God [through his or her body].