What Does It Really Mean That Your Body Is a Temple?
By Jessica Brodie, Crosswalk.com
It’s a phrase uttered by everyone from fitness gurus to nutritional purists: Your body is a temple. But what does it really mean that your body is a temple?
In the Bible, the phrase comes from the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, as he asks, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV).
By reminding us our body is a temple, Paul is talking here about sexual morality, and how we should honor God with our bodies and treat them as sacred places, understanding that the Spirit dwells in us.
As Christians, how can we remember our body is a temple? How can Christians honor their bodies in healthy ways? Let’s take a look at a number of ways.
What Is a Temple?
It’s important to understand a temple is a holy, sacred place. For the Israelites in the Old Testament, the temple was a specific place where the people could interact with God, the physical dwelling place of the Lord here on earth. When they were in the wilderness before they reached the Promised Land, God had the Israelites build a portable tent of meeting — a tabernacle — to be their temple while they traveled (see Exodus 25-27). Moses would go into the tent and talk with God there.
Later, King Solomon built a non-portable temple for the Lord, known as Solomon's Temple, or the First Temple. It was the first temple the Israelites built for God. The temple took seven years to build and was a massive and ornate structure roughly 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high (1 Kings 6).
The temple was destroyed when Jerusalem fell to Babylon, and it was later rebuilt as “the Second Temple” when the exiled Israelites returned. Much later, the Second Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire after the death and resurrection of Christ.
Today, the church is the temple of God. The church isn’t a place but a people. That is, instead of a physical structure, it is a gathering of people — a collective who pursues God, makes sacrifices for God, and connects with God.
Every Christian believer individually — as well as corporately as a body — is part of that church. We are God’s temple. Paul also tells us that Christ is our head, and we are the body (Colossians 1:18-19).
How Are We Like a Temple?
Just as the first and second temples were well-constructed places of beauty and grandeur to be treated with respect and honor, today we, too, must treat ourselves in the same manner. Even though we are dust, and to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19), we are beautifully and gloriously created by God, our Father. Psalm 139:14 tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
We also know we are loved and precious to God. As John 3:16 reminds us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
When Jesus ascended to heaven after the resurrection, he told us the Holy Spirit would live within us, giving us power in order to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus also calls the Holy Spirit our helper, “the Advocate” sent by God to teach us all we need to know (John 14:26).
The Holy Spirit is part of God, the trinity encompassing father, son, and spirit, three in one. Therefore, because we have someone so holy and almighty within us, we need to understand that we as earthly vessels must do what we can to be a proper, appropriate, fitting temple for the Spirit.
What Are Characteristics of a Worthy Temple?
Not only were God’s temple structures beautiful and ornate, but they also were made of high-quality materials and structurally sound. They smelled good, with incense and other pleasing aromas, and they were pleasant and pleasurable places to spend time in. Much like the Garden of Eden, where we’re told God enjoyed walking and talking with Adam and Eve, God spent time in the tabernacle with Moses and with the high priests of Jerusalem in the temple.
So it is good for us to think about what we can do with our bodies to make them pleasing to God. Here are some elements:
Self-Care Is Temple Care
One thing we can do is care for our bodies, treating them with care and respect. We should get adequate sleep so that our brains and muscles are refreshed and able to do God’s work. We should eat nutritious food, brush our teeth, wash ourselves, and get exercise to keep our bodies in good working order.
Keep out the Evil
Another thing we can do is keep evil away from our bodies. We should not use our bodies to do things that are not part of God’s plan. We know God created us male and female, and we know God wants us to enjoy lovemaking within the boundaries of marriage. We shouldn’t commit sexual immorality or promiscuity, whether that is adultery or fornication.
We also should not pollute our bodies with toxins, whether that is excessive alcohol leading to drunkenness, drug use, or poor air quality.
A diet of fried, fatty food low in nutritional value is also not a good way to treat our bodies.
Emotional Health Plays a Role, Too
But caring for our body as a temple isn’t just about physical care. Taking care of our emotional and mental health needs is a priority, too. Our moods can affect so many things. Being in a depressed or anxious state of mind can eventually affect everything from our skin to our breathing patterns to the amount of sleep we get at night. Doing what we can to boost our emotional and mental health is important. This can include spending regular time with friends and other supportive people, taking time to play and enjoy simple pleasures, or working with a therapist.
Spiritual Health Matters
Finally, keeping our temples in proper spiritual alignment is another way to care for ourselves. A temple should always be in connection with God. Let’s do what we can to stay on the right path with God. As Proverbs 4:26-27 reminds us, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” Stay in love with God. Pray and talk with him always. Spend time in worship and in fellowship with other Christians. Read the Bible. Meditate and praise the Lord. All of these things are critical to a well-maintained temple.
These are just a few suggestions for treating your “temple” well. Remember — we are loved by God, created for His good work and His will.
Jesus died a horrible, painful, and humiliating death on the cross for us, and because of that, he washed us clean and paid our sin-debt. Now, we who belong to him have the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Let’s remember that we need to honor ourselves so that God can use us well, and to honor the sacrifice Christ made for us.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/dragana991
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.