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Articles

You Are the Temple of God

Identity: It is one of the hot topics in our world today. We live in a time where people are questioning even the most basic identities they are told, and some people wonder who they are at a basic level. It’s easy to be left in a state of confusion and despair when the foundations of our society are being attacked.

However, the scriptures are filled with many “You are…” statements. For example, “You are the body of Christ”, “You are the salt of the earth”, “You are the light of the world”, and the one we will emphasis as our theme this year: “You are the temple of God”. At a fundamental level, all of these statements are about identity. Our identities come from and are defined by God. While we do have some role in our identity formation, at the end of the day we are what the Lord says we are. On one side of that we may feel constrained to not have the full ability to define ourselves, but on the other side there is great relief and empowerment to know that it is the all-powerful and loving God that is in control of that decision, and that we do not have the enormous burden of trying to create and identify who we are.

So among the various different ways that God describes his people, one way he chose is to call them the temple of God. For us, the concept of a temple is a bit lost. In the United States you can travel vast areas and rarely see a temple. However, this is not the case in many parts of the world. For example, if you lived in India, it would be a normal sight to have many different temples around you. This is much like the world of the first century.

For example, in Acts 17:16 while Paul was in Athens, his spirit was provoked as he saw the city was full of idols. In the first century there were temples all around them that were built for the gods and were part of gaining the favor of those gods. It’s easy to imagine then how different it would be for a pagan when he tried to understand the gospel. If he asked about their temple or holy space, the response could be “Jesus is our temple”, or “Because of Jesus, we are the temple.” If they asked “Who are your priests?” the response could be “Jesus is our high priest, and we have been made priests.” If they asked, “Where are your sacrifices to gain the favor of the gods?” the response might be “Jesus is our sacrifice, and we offer sacrifices through him.”

This would have been quite perplexing to a first century pagan ear, but it goes to a strong point the Bible has been saying since the beginning and that Paul taught in Acts 17.

Paul described that the people there were very religious (Acts 17:22) and explains that the true God does not live in temples made by hands (Acts 17:24). This shows that what Paul was bringing was in a completely different category compared to what the pagans were accustomed.

However, it’s not that God does not have a temple today.

It was to the church at Corinth, that had a very similar culture to that of Athens, that Paul used the illustration of a building with its cornerstone as Jesus and said, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will

destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” That’s a powerful concept that Paul is referring to, and it would be easy for us to not appreciate it. First, the “you” Paul refers to is not just an individual person, this is a plural you. In essence, Paul is saying “You all are the temple of God.” But second, wrapped within this text is a clear statement of identity and purpose, along with strong warning of care to not destroy it. But, this is a transforming vision when we understand that God’s Spirit dwells among us.

So this year we are going to work through certain texts and sections of scripture in our classes and sermons to highlight this important theme that goes through the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Our classes have will have sections that focus on this and as for the sermons it won’t necessarily be one sermon on the second Sunday of each month, but it will be something we highlight in our sermons from time to time. In this we will see aspects like what God’s desire has always been for us as His people, our purpose and identity as the temple, the need for us to be holy, and our job as people who are being built up into a holy dwelling for Him, and what our mission is now to the world.