01 July 2024

You, collectively, are the Holy Spirit’s temple.

1 Corinthians 3.10-17.

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 this isn’t accurate. God has only 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.

But regardless of the structure, the scriptures emphasized there was one place, and only one place, where the LORD intended to meet people and receive 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 place his name dwelt Dt 12.11 —his name, not the LORD himself, ’cause obviously the Almighty can’t be contained by a mere building.

Now it’s not that other people didn’t try to build temples for the LORD. 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 an entire command against idolatry in the 10 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, top to bottom, 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. Living stones. Christians. Every Christian.

The Holy Spirit dwells in me, but I’m not the Holy Spirit’s temple. I’m only one of the stones of his 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.

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. Nope. We, collectively, are the Spirit’s temple.

Oh yeah; there’s a bible passage today, isn’t there?

When Paul and Sosthenes wrote the church of Corinthians to uplift and correct ’em, he also had the goal of building them up. Metaphorically… but it’s not entirely a metaphor, because the Holy Spirit doesn’t metaphorically live in Christians; he really is in us! And the Spirit, and any apostles and ministers the Spirit instructs to help him out, are trying to build us Christians up as better Christ-followers and Spirit-followers. He’s trying to make us a more perfect body of Christ. A more perfect temple of the Spirit.

It’s a construction which is also gonna undergo a bit of testing, ’cause our heavenly supervisor needs to make sure we’re not building junk. ’Cause you’ve seen what kind of junk various Christians try to pass off as “spiritual maturity” or “God’s work.” Yeah right that’s God’s work. But at the End, all that hypocrisy is gonna get exposed. Slackers and liars aren’t getting paid for their shoddy work.

1 Corinthians 3.10-17 KWL
10According to God’s grace which he gives to me,
I’m laying a foundation like a wise architect.
But each person builds on it,
and people must look at what they’re building!
11For no one can lay another foundation
besides what’s being laid—which is Christ Jesus.
12If someone builds upon the foundation—
whether in gold, silver, precious stones,
wood, grass, straw—
13each person’s work will become obvious,
for Judgment Day will make it plain.
Because it’s revealed by fire,
and every work of this kind will be tested with this fire.
14If a certain person’s work which is built will remain,
that person receives payment.
15If a certain person’s work will burn up,
that person will lose out;
they’ll still be saved,
but in a way like they were saved from a fire.
16None of you understood you’re God’s temple!—
God’s Spirit dwells in all of you.
17If anyone damages God’s temple,
God will damage them,
for God’s temple, which you all are, is holy.

“Tested by fire” kinda rings a bit differently when you remember the Babylonians put Solomon’s temple to the torch and burnt it to the ground. It was a cedar building; it probably smelled really nice as it burnt, but it burnt all the same. That’s why Zerubbabel and Herod went with stone. God wants us Christians to be like stone, and I leave it to you to figure out what that metaphor might mean, but in general he means we’re to survive fire. If any bit of purgatorial fire comes our way, we should be able to walk out of it unscathed.

Yep, it’s a collective temple.

I know; we Christians love the “Jesus lives in my heart” idea… with the 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.