The Holy Spirit’s temple: Multiple Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 May

From time to time Christians talk about how you, singular, individually, are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

’Cause the Spirit is sealed to every individual Christian. Ep 1.13 He lives in the heart of every single believer. And whatever God lives in is, properly, his temple. If he lives in you, it makes you his temple. If he lives in another Christian, it makes that person a temple. Dozens of Christians are dozens of temples. Billions of Christians are billions of temples. Get it?

But it’s not accurate. God has one temple.

As was kinda emphasized in the bible. Moses built the portable temple at Sinai, which English-speaking Christians call the tabernacle, and that was the temple for 4 centuries till Solomon ben David built a permanent one of gold-plated cedar in Jerusalem. The Babylonians burnt that down; Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel built another of stone; Herod 1 and his successors renovated it; the Romans eventually destroyed it. It was the one and only place the LORD intended to meet people for worship and sacrifice; it was the one and only place they kept his ark, representing his relationship with Israel. It was the one and only his name dwelt Dt 12.11 —which was the LORD’s way of putting it, ’cause obviously the Almighty can’t be contained by a mere building.

But the Jerusalem temple wasn’t the only temple of the LORD on earth. Jeroboam ben Nabat, king of Samaria, feared losing subjects to the king of Jerusalem, so he built two more temples. They didn’t have arks, but Jeroboam put gold calf idols in them, figuring that’d do; and since there’s a whole command against idolatry in the Ten Commandments, God and his prophets condemned Jeroboam’s temples ever after. After the Jerusalem temple was destroyed, Egyptian Jews in exile constructed a temple to the LORD in Alexandria, and Samaritans constructed a temple to the LORD at Mt. Gerazim. But neither of these temples were commanded nor authorized by God. He had his own plans. Always had.

And once his temple’s veil ripped open, Mt 27.51 it signifies God wasn’t interested in being worshiped from Herod’s stone building any longer. He was gonna build a temple from entirely different stones: Living people. Christians. Every Christian.

I’m not the Spirit’s temple; I’m one of the stones of its temple.

As are you. As is every Christian. We’re parts of his temple. Because the temple us us—collectively. The Spirit doesn’t have billions of temples; he only has the one. Same as always.

Parts of Christ’s body—and the Spirit’s temple.

I know; you thought each individual Christian makes up an individual temple of the Spirit, right? ’Cause that’s the way it gets taught in our individualistic, individualism-valuing culture.

We love the “Jesus lives in my heart” idea—emphasis on my heart. It makes our relationship with God seem personal and unique. We love the idea God singles out every one of us, and interacts with us personally.

And I’m not at all saying he doesn’t! Of course he does. God loves each individual, individually. He doesn’t love faceless crowds: He knows every face, down to the number of hairs on every head. (Including the hairs we wax off. Ladies, you know what I mean.) When we teach God wants a personal relationship with everyone, we’re not wrong.

But God wants us individual followers to love one another. To follow him, not just individually, but collectively. To be his church. And, once you put together every church in his kingdom, we’re to be his body, his temple.

We miss this fact because bibles don’t always spell out the difference between the singular “you” and the plural “you.” It’s a bit sloppy of them. But it’s always a plural “you.”

1 Corinthians 3.16-17 KWL
16 Don’t you all know you’re God’s temple?—and God’s Spirit dwells in you all?
17 If anything ruins God’s temple, God will ruin it.
For God’s temple is holy—which is what all of you are.
1 Corinthians 6.19 KWL
Or don’t you know your collective body is the temple of the Holy Spirit in all of you?
You all have him from God, and aren’t on your own.
Ephesians 2.19-22 KWL
19 So then you’re no longer foreigners and strangers.
Instead you’re fellow citizens of saints. Family members of God.
20 Constructions on the foundation of the apostles and prophets—
Christ Jesus being the foundation wall himself.
21 In Christ the whole building fits together, growing into a holy temple, by the Master.
22 In Christ you’re also built together into a dwelling-place for God, by the Spirit.

See, the problem with multiple temples is we unintentionally wind up with multiple gods. It may not be our intent at all, but it’s what happens. We presume we’re the baseline—that the way God deals with us as individuals, must be the way he deals with everyone. We never consider the fact he meets every other individual where they are, same as he did with us. So…

  • To those who lack discipline, he often has to be strict.
  • To those who grew up legalist, he has to balance out our extremes by emphasizing his grace.
  • To the weak he is strong.
  • To the strong he works on their humility.
  • To the impatient he stretches them to be patient.
  • To the needy he shows ’em how he provides.

(And I haven't even got to those people who have distorted him with their own expectations of what they want God to be like—i.e. them—instead of pursuing him as he is.)

The way we avoid creating customized, false pictures of God?… which, over time, God forbid, evolve into false gods? We gotta come together. We gotta compare our experiences. We gotta have group experiences. We gotta recognize we collectively follow the one and same God. Together, not apart.

Individual bricks are important. Dislodge one and the wall, if not the whole building, is unstable. But still—collectively they make up the building. Same with Christians being the Holy Spirit’s temple.

So don’t forget your fellow Christians. Don’t concentrate so much on your relationship with the Spirit you forget about everyone else who also has a relationship with the Spirit. You’re not in this alone. Which is great!… when we take advantage of the support system God’s provided us in our fellow Christians. Don’t ignore it.

Holy Spirit.