Does the Bible tell Christians that their physical bodies are actually God’s temple?
It’s an amazing thing, but, yes, it does. By His Spirit, God lives in the bodies of believers in Jesus. To be truthful, most Christians really are not sure what that means—at least I don’t. But we believe it by faith.
However, I think if you’ll ask most Christians what the practical implications of this truth are, they’ll tell you that because we’re the temple of the Holy Spirit, that we should take care of our bodies. I’ve heard very many Christians say this including, yes, pastors and leaders. Exercise Eat right. Don’t do drugs or drink too much alcohol. Don’t smoke. However, all these ideas are already part of the cultures of most of the people of the world, because they’re all unhealthy. We don’t need the Bible to tell us this.
This is a good thing. Because none of these admonitions are in the Bible.
Maintaining a healthy body makes good sense, but it has nothing to do with the biblical understanding about being a temple of God. In fact, the Bible has very little to say about the care of one’s body. Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake (1 Timothy 5:23) and that exercise profits a little (1 Timothy 4:8). That’s pretty much it, as far as I know.
I once thought these same erroneous things about exercise and smoking like the other Christians I knew. However, because I finally took time to read the Bible passages about this—I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me many years to study it—I discovered that there is much more going on in the New Testament than living a healthy life.
In this post, we will look at the two places this truth appears in the letters. I’ll address the third passage next week, because it’s more difficult and requires more explanation,
The first is relatively straightforward and speaks to our identity as Christians:
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19–22). 1 Contextually, we can see that Paul is addressing a group of people, not just one person in the church at Ephesus. However, it’s also true that each individual believer is part of this group of Christians.
It’s a wonderful passage, of course, about how Gentiles who become Christians are now members of God’s household and His temple, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with smoking or any other bodily care.
The second reference is in 1 Corinthians 6:15–20.
“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? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 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.”
In this passage, Paul says that “your bodies” are the members of Christ, but also goes on to address individuals: “he who is joined to a prostitute” and “he who is joined to the Lord.”
This is a strong admonition to avoid sexual immorality and the use of prostitutes for sexual pleasure. However, again, it has nothing to do with smoking, dieting, or exercise. And the reason Paul gives are not because such actions result in a venereal disease. It’s a spiritual reason: Don’t become one flesh with a prostitute. Don’t be sexually immoral. Glorify God in your body.
Fellow Christians, we need to read our Bibles so we will not remain in ignorance and spout off admonitions that have absolutely nothing to do with Scripture. In this case, the world will accept our misunderstanding of what it means to be God’s temple. However, this misunderstanding has had tragic consequences, as we’ll see next week.
1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.