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What Does it Mean "Body is Temple?"

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What does the Bible mean when it calls my body a “temple”?—Jasmine, 15, NY


Shayna Answers:

Dear Jasmine,

First Corinthians 6:19 uses the word temple to give us an analogy for how we should treat our bodies. Even though some people interpret the analogy to mean that we should obsess about extreme body building or exercise (I have a professor who says this, and I kind of hope he doesn’t read this column!), the text suggests that God’s instructions about our bodies are a lot more serious than just making sure we look good.

Think about it, your body is more than just something to feed and clothe; it houses your mind. Even though bodies represent the physical part of our being, they are also tied to the emotional and spiritual parts of us.

First Corinthians 6:18, 19 introduces purity as playing a part in our bodies as God’s temples. Together the verses explain that what we do sexually impacts us and our ability to house the Holy Spirit—a part of the Godhead. How do we get the Holy Spirit to dwell in us? Just before Jesus ascended to heaven He said He wasn’t leaving us alone; He would send us the “Spirit of truth”—the Holy Spirit—to live inside us (see John 14:17). All we have to do is ask Jesus to give us the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

Because the Holy Spirit is from God and also part of the Godhead, it follows that our bodies need to be holy. Otherwise, God can’t dwell there! We find a literal example of this in Matthew 21:12, 13, when Jesus threw the tax collectors out of the temple for this same reason.

Temples are ordained to be treated with special reverence and obedience. We need to use God’s Word to help us decide what is and isn’t OK to do with our bodies. This, of course, includes general health laws, but it doesn’t stop there.

The Bible provides an abundance of texts that tie sexual purity to this idea, too. Romans 12:1, 2 is one of those texts. These verses urge us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. When we do, we’re committing a spiritual act of worship. If you think about it, if compromising our physical bodies can mar our spiritual relationship with God, it makes sense that protecting our bodies is a spiritual act of worship. This concept is essential to sexual purity, since it helps us fight temptation by helping us subdue our bodies’ physical cravings.

First Corinthians 6:18 points out that sexual sins are sins directed squarely at ourselves. If we expose ourselves to STDs and pregnancy, or allow people to exploit our bodies for pleasure, the one we’re hurting the most is ourselves. Every piece of advice I will ever give you about physical activities before marriage can be reduced to an understanding of purity and your body as God’s temple.

Next week we’ll talk about why it matters to have the Holy Spirit within us, and how to make sure we’re staying pure.

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