The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple." 1 Corinthians 3:17
It is admirable to observe how the Holy Spirit delights to set forth the spiritual union between Christ and believers by several metaphors. Sometimes this union is shadowed out by the natural union between the head and the members. Christ is called the Head—and believers the body. Sometimes this union is resembled by the marital union. Christ is the Husband—and believers the spouse, by virtue of which marriage-union, all Christ's riches go to them.
In the text, this union is illustrated by the union between the stones in an edifice and the foundation. In the former verses, the Apostle had said that the saints are God's building, verse 9. But here he goes higher and calls them His temple. "The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple." A temple is more than an ordinary building. We must understand this word "temple" by a figure, because a spiritual heart much resembles a temple. Under the law there was
(1) The outward court of temple where the people stood;
(2) The inner temple into which none but the priests entered.
In like manner it is with a Christian; there is:
The outward temple of his body. 1 Corinthians 6:19, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." The body is like a temple; the bones may be resembled to the stonework, the blood to the cement, the eyes to the windows, the head to the roof, and the mouth to the door of the temple. What a care we should have to keep our bodies decent, which are the temples of God!
The inward temple of the soul. This is the holy of holies, where none but Jesus Christ our High Priest must come.
In the words are two general parts,
1. The specification of the temple, "you are that temple."
2. The sanctification of the temple, "the temple of God is holy."
DOCTRINE. The heart of every believer is God's temple. 2 Corinthians 6:16, "You are the temple of the living God." Temples are held in great veneration. I shall show several analogies and resemblances between a believer's soul and a temple.
1. All the materials were fitted for the building of the temple. The timber was to be sawn, the stones to be hewn and polished, before they were fit to be laid in the temple. So it is in a spiritual sense. By nature, we are not qualified for a temple; we are unhewn and unpolished —not one good thought, not one grace inherent in us. We are so far from preparing ourselves for a temple, that we unfit ourselves. But God, by His mighty power and artifice, fits the heart for a temple. He hews us by His prophets, Hosea 2:5. He cuts and carves us by afflictions, and so makes us fit for a spiritual temple.
2. The temple was very magnificent. 1 Kings 6:32. It was full of pomp and splendor; all admired it. The Hebrew word for temple signifies a palace or royal edifice. The temple was so carved with flowers and embellished with gold—that it dazzled the eyes of beholders. Just so, the soul of a believer is an illustrious temple; not the kings of the earth—but God Himself brings His glory into it. "The king's daughter is all glorious within," Psalm 45:13. A saint in rags carries a temple about him, which is more glorious than the most orient pearls and diamonds that hang on the crowns of princes. Christ never admired the goodly stones of the visible temple—but admired the glory of the spiritual temple. Matthew 15:28, "O woman, great is your faith." The beauty of a saint is inward; the hidden man of the heart is sumptuous and magnificent, 1 Peter 3:4.
3. The temple was a place set apart for God's peculiar worship. It was separated from all other places. Just so, a believer's heart is consecrated ground and is set apart for God's service. Psalm 4:3, "The Lord has set apart him who is godly for Himself." A believer is not a common person—but peculiarly devoted to God, Psalm 119:38.
4. The temple was a place of God's special presence. The Lord put His name there; He there commanded His blessings. So, in a spiritual heart, God wonderfully manifests His presence. There He gives forth the influences of His grace, the communications of His love. God visits His temple. Oh, the sweet smiles of His face, the whispers of His Spirit in a believer's heart! When a Christian is enlarged in duty, and his heart burns within him—here is God's presence in the temple; yes, His answering by fire!
5. The temple was adorned with splendid pictures. So the temple of the heart has God's image in it, Colossians 3:10. This picture is drawn by the pencil of the Holy Spirit. The temple of God is not mortar and stones—but the soul of man bearing God's likeness. This is the lovely picture which adorns the spiritual temple.
6. The temple had a fire burning on the altar. Just so, a believer's heart is the altar on which there is a sacred fire still burning. Romans 12:13, "fervent in spirit." The fire of love is never lacking. Psalm 119:97, "O how I love Your law!" Though the flame may go out—yet there are some sparks kept alive. Christ's temple always has holy fire in it. Wicked men have fire of anger and malice burning in them. This is not the fire of the temple—but strange fire kindled from hell! James 3:6.
7. The temple, being a hallowed place, was to be kept clean. We read of the cleaning of the temple, 2 Chronicles 29:15. There were porters set at the gates of the temple to keep out any unclean thing, 2 Chronicles 23:3. Thus the temple of the heart must be kept clean. 2 Corinthians 7:1, "Let us cleanse ourselves from all pollution of flesh and spirit." The dust of sin will be falling into this temple; sweep and wash it by repenting tears. Christ whipped the money-changers out of the temple, John 2:14. To these money-changers I compare the cares of the world; these will possess the heart. Now, get a whip made of the threatenings of the law—and drive them out! The temple of the heart, must not be made a worldly marketplace. We may use the world—but look that it is kept out of the heart. None may come to reside in this temple. but Christ!
USE 1. Behold the dignity of the saints—they are God's temples! A sanctified heart is God's illustrious temple. Believers are children of God the Father; members of God the Son; temples of God the Holy Spirit. The foolish world despises the saints—but they are honorable. The temple of a devout heart, is Christ's walkway. Christ is in all the world—in regard of His omnipresence; but only in His spiritual temples—in regard of His gracious presence. The heart of a sinner is a wilderness, and God does not care for walking there. We never read that Christ was in a wilderness but once, and that was not a place of delight—but combat. "He was led there to be tempted of the devil," Matthew 4:1. But Christ was often in the temple, Mark 14:49. He esteems His spiritual temples; He walks with delight among His saints. He says of these temples, as of Zion, Psalm 132:14, "This is My rest forever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it."
I shall now show wherein this divine temple of the soul, differs from other temples, and has a transcendent excellency above them.
1. Other material temples, though of a beautiful structure—yet have no life in them; but a believer is a living temple. 1 Peter 2:5, "You as living stones are built up a spiritual house." Hypocrites make a show of life; they have a name to live—but are dead, Revelation 3:1. They are not temples—but tombs, who have their eyes and hands lifted up to heaven—but have no life. A believer is a living temple; there is the life of faith in him, Habakkuk 2:4. There are no dead stones in a spiritual temple.
This is a heavenly temple. Other temples are constituted of earthly materials, lead and stone; but the believer is a heavenly temple. His soul was breathed from heaven and that which is in heaven is to be found in him. In heaven there is light, Colossians 1:12; so in a saint there is a light of knowledge, Ephesians 5:8. In heaven there is a love, 1 John 4:7; so a saint's heart is a temple of love, John 21:15. He not only serves God—but loves Him. In heaven there is joy, Matthew 25:23, so a saint has joy in believing, Romans 15:13. Thus a Christian is a heavenly temple. There is that in him—which is in heaven.
He is an everlasting temple. Other temples are of a perishable nature. King Solomon's temple was of a stately structure—but it had not one stone left upon another. There was a temple at Rome which, by reason of its ancient standing, was called eternal—but at last it fell down and was broken. Our material churches and temples in this city have been burnt with fire; but the spiritual temple abides forever. Let death destroy the temple of the body; within a while it shall be raised to greater glory. As for the temple of the soul, it being immaterial, is not capable of corruption. When Xerxes destroyed all the Grecian temples, he caused the beautiful temple of Diana to be preserved. That soul which has the beauty of holiness shining in it shall be preserved to eternity. God will not demolish His own temple; Christ is the Foundation on which this temple is built, 1 Corinthians 3:9. His blood cements all the stones together, and as long as the foundation and cement hold, so long this temple shall last—and that is forever!
2. See the difference between the godly and the wicked. The heart of the godly is a temple; the heart of the wicked is a dunghill, "a cage of unclean birds," Revelation 18:2. His mind is the devil's mint; he is continually minting unchaste, impure thoughts; his heart is the anvil where he is daily hammering of sin. He is far from being a temple; he is a Sodom wherein are the heavings and boilings of lust. Proverbs 10:20, "The heart of the wicked is little worth." A sinner's heart is a common inn where all who will, may lodge; it is not a temple—but a pest house. He has the plague of the heart. But a godly man's heart is a sacred temple which God highly values, and which He has promised to dwell in and revive, Isaiah 57:15.
3. See wherein a great part of the nation's safety lays, namely, in having a store of these spiritual temples. In ancient times, temples were places of safety. When Adonijah was in fear of his life, he ran to the temple and caught hold on the horns of the altar. Believers are temples; they are the safeguard of a nation. It is the best policy of a magistrate to preserve these living temples. The presence of the godly privileges a land from many judgments which else would befall it. "Hasten!" said the angel to Lot, "Get to Zoar, for I can do nothing until you be come there!" Genesis 19:22. So long as this spiritual temple stood there, Sodom was a privileged place; but when Lot was gone—then came fire and brimstone!
It is a great mercy to London that, though many of the churches have been burned in the great fire—yet we still have so many spiritual temples standing, in which prayer is made night and day for this city. The saints are England's sanctuaries. God put His name in Solomon's temple—but He puts His Spirit in His living temples, 1 Corinthians 3:16. Were it not for a few believers, the Lord would soon break up house in England and let the fox and wild boar come to devour. David was the atlas who helped to bear up church and state. Psalm 75:3, "I bear up the pillars." Believers bear up the trembling pillars of a nation. No sooner were the Christians gotten out of Jerusalem and fled to Pella, than Jerusalem was destroyed. The safety and happiness of a kingdom is in being stored with living temples. The holy seed supports the state, Isaiah 6:13. The throne stands safest, when it joins to the temple.
4. If the saints are the temples of God—then how dangerous it is for any to abuse and injure them! Wicked men reproach the godly, calling them factious and seditious. And now they brand them with a new name "Puritans". But don't you know that the saints are the temples of God? How dare you thus throw dirt on God's temples!
Many seem to give great reverence to outward temples and churches—but they have no concern for spiritual temples. They consecrate dead temples—but persecute living temples! To injure the people of God—is to do violence to God Himself! The Lord will avenge those who have wronged His living temples. Nero caused the Christians to be devoured by lions. Others, he dipped in tar and set on fire—to be torches. As a just recompense for his cruelty, the afterward cut his own throat. "You are just in sending this judgment, O Holy One, who is and who always was. For your holy people and your prophets have been killed, and their blood was poured out on the earth. So you have given their murderers blood to drink. It is their just reward." Revelation 16:5-6.
USE 2. Are God's people temples? It reproves such as are careful to beautify the outward temple of their bodies—but not the inward temple of their souls. Pambus wept when he saw a harlot attractively dressing herself with the comb and mirror. The Apostle exhorts us to adorn the inward man, Peter 3:4. Many clothe the body in gold apparel and deck it with pearls and diamonds—but have no regard to deck their souls with the jewels of grace! The soul is to be the place of Christ's residence, the holy of holies; but this temple is not cleansed by repentance, nor adorned with humility. Nay, how many stain their souls with pride and envy—so that they look rather like Satan's synagogue than God's temple!
USE 3. Let us examine whether we are the temples of God. How shall that be known? I answer, by being made like God. All God's temples are made in some measure like Him.
1. God is a spirit. Are we spiritual? How can he say that he is God's temple—who savors the earth? Is he a divine temple—who is made only of earth? He is rather a mud-hole than a temple!
2. God is pure. Purity is as essential to the Godhead, as light is of the essence of the sun. Have we holy and chaste affections? Is the love of sin purged out? Then we are temples because we resemble God. Alas, what shall we say to those who are immersed and steeped in wickedness? They swim in sin as the fish in the water! Do these look like temples of God? Are they like Him? It would be blasphemy to call them God's temples!
3. God is merciful. He does good to the unjust as well as the just—as the dew falls on the thistle as well as the rose. All God's temples are like Him; they are full of mercy and sympathy. They are still pitying and helping others like the good Samaritan, who poured in oil and wine into the man's wounds, Luke 10:34. What shall we say to those who have no mercy? Their affections are frozen; they cruelly oppress others. Is this to be like God, who is merciful? Shall we call these temples, or rather sepulchers, who swallow up others alive? James 2:13, "He shall have judgment without mercy, who showed no mercy." Well, by this we may evidence whether we are the temples of Jehovah. God makes all His temples like Him; therefore, they are said to be partakers of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4.
USE 4. EXHORTATION, and it has two branches:
1. You who are the temples of God, let me beseech you to take heed of defiling God's temple. 1 Corinthians 3:17, "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy."
Do not defile God's temple by intermixing with the wicked. Bad company is defiling. 1 Corinthians 5:9, "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people." The wicked are good for nothing, but to defile God's temple. Their words are defiling, 1 Corinthians 15:33; their examples are defiling, Psalm 106:35. It was an abomination by the law to touch any dead things, Leviticus 22:4. He who touched them was unclean. What are saints, who are living temples, doing—touching the dead? 2 Corinthians 6:14, "What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness?" We would be loathe to lie in an house haunted with spirits. Wicked men are haunted with devils, Ephesians 2:3, and shall we have any familiarity with the devil? If we cannot make others better—let not them make us worse.
Do not defile God's temple by immorality. This sin defiles both the outward temple—and the inner. It defiles the outward temple of the body and turns it into a brothel. Many desire to have their dead bodies embalmed—but their living bodies are adulterated. Again, immorality pollutes the inner temple of the soul; it turns its azure brightness into sable. The lustful person, Clemens Alexandrinus compares to a centaur which, according to the heathens, was half a man and half a beast. He is a man while reason guides, a beast while lust sways. The Scripture brings in the lustful man neighing as a horse, Jeremiah 5:8. Lust is like a feverish heat, very pernicious. It is better to deny lust—than feed it. Lust pleases the depraved senses; but, as sweet things breed bile, so all the sweet delights in sin will turn to bitter bile. Proverbs 7:23, "Until a dart strikes through his liver." Cupid's dart makes way for death's dart!
There are three Scriptures which should sound a retreat and call off people from their lustful pursuit. Proverbs 22:14, "The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit; he who is under the Lord's wrath will fall into it!" Ephesians 5:5, "For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure person—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." 2 Peter 2:9-10, "The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, especially those who follow the polluting desires of the flesh." I think such as are not atheists should have their joints loosed and their knees smite one against another when they read this handwriting of God. The fair fruit of beauty has poison in it. Adulterers swim into the Dead Sea at last. The harlots house "leads to death; it is the road to hell," Proverbs 2:18. Who would, for a drop of pleasure, drink a sea of wrath!
Do not defile the temple of God by error. Errors and heresies are as the leprosy which defiles the house, Leviticus 14:39. When I speak of errors, I mean "damnable heresies," 2 Peter 2:1. Such as strike at the core of true religion as:
(1) Denying the God-head of Christ;
(2) Denying the divinity of Scripture;
(3) Denying original sin;
(4) Denying actual sin in the regenerate;
(5) Denying predestination;
(6) Denying the call of God by the preaching of the Word;
(7) Denying the soul's immortality.
2. The second branch of the exhortation is, you who are the temples of God—show it forth. Live as temples. Do temple work and study temple purity.
Do temple WORK. Offer up spiritual sacrifices. In the temple, sacrifices were offered up. You are both temple and priests, 1 Peter 2:5. Offer up a threefold sacrifice to God in the temple of your souls.
First, the sacrifice of prayer. The temple was a place of prayer, 1 Kings 8:30. Prayer is the pouring out of the soul—and God is delighted with this sacrifice! Proverbs 8:15, "The prayer of the upright is His delight." Prayer is the breathing of God's Spirit within us, Romans 8:26, and is not He delighted with the voice of His own Spirit? Offer up this sacrifice daily!
Second, as spiritual temples, offer up the sacrifice of a broken heart, Psalm 51:17. This is better then all burnt-offerings. Sighs and groans coming from a heart broken for sin, are like the breaking of the alabaster box of very precious perfume, or like the incense which perfumed the temple.
Third, as spiritual temples, offer up the sacrifice of praise. Psalm 50:23, "Whoever offers praise, glorifies Me." There was singing and praising God in the temple. The heart must be the altar of praise—and the tongue the organ. Where should God's high praises be resounded, but in His temples? Does the sun and stars praise God, and shall not the temple much more? God has but little praise in the world; sinners dishonor and blaspheme Him. Oh, you who are the living temples of God—show forth His praise! Read over your receipts of mercy—and be thankful. When mercies descend from God's throne—praises must ascend from His temple! Has not God given you Christ? Has not He enriched and bespangled you with grace? And does not all this call for gratitude? Oh, sound forth the honor of God's name! Be joyful in Him and triumph in His praise. Join with the angels and arch-angels in blessing God. Christians must not be graves to bury God's mercies in—but temples to sound forth His praise.
Study temple purity. The temple was very holy. So, Christians, your hearts must be refined and consecrated. "The temple of God is holy, and that is what you are." Then we look like God's temples when this inscription is written upon us: "holiness to the Lord." The temple was overlaid with gold within and without, which a was a type of the spiritual temple; both heart and life must be overlaid with this pure gold of holiness. All the three persons in the Trinity come into the temple of the heart. God the Father is said to dwell in the heart, Isaiah 57:15, and God the Son, Ephesians 3:17, and God the Holy Spirit, 2 Timothy 1:14. Shall not that place be kept pure, which is the temple and presence-chamber of the blessed Trinity! Consider:
Holiness beautifies God's temples. We read that the temple was decked with beautiful stonework, Luke 21:5. Holiness is the adorning of God's spiritual temples with beautiful stonework. Aaron had garments for glory and beauty, Exodus 28. When God's temples are hung with the tapestry of holiness, it is for glory and beauty. What is the glory of God Himself, but holiness? Exodus 15:11, "Glorious in holiness." That which makes the Godhead glorious, must make the temples of God glorious.
Holiness is the nourisher of a Christian's peace. The holy oil of grace, keeps the lamp of peace burning. Acts 9:31, "The believers were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit." Sin bores an hole in the vessel, to let all our joy and peace run out.
Holiness is that which Satan raises his chief batteries against. He does not envy you of your estate, be as rich as you will. But his spite is at your piety. He would blast the flower of your grace and turn God's temple into a den of thieves! Oh, look to your holiness! Fortify that place most—where the devil labors to break in!
USE 5. The fifth and last use is for comfort to such as are God's spiritual temples. They shall have much of God's company. 2 Corinthians 6:16, "You are the temple of God, as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them." It is no small privilege to have God inhabit His temples. We who at first had Satan to dwell in us, Ephesians 2:2, being made temples of grace—now have God to dwell in us.
QUESTION. How does God dwell in us?
ANSWER. By His Spirit, 2 Timothy 2:14, "The Holy Spirit, who dwells in us." The Spirit of God dwells in us by His wonderful presence and influence. The indwelling of the Spirit carries in it these three privileges:
1. The Spirit of God, being in us, infuses sanctity. Let us be ever so vigilant, corruption will gather in the heart. Now the Spirit, dwelling there, takes part with grace against sin. He enables us to check corruption, and cast filth out of the temple. The Spirit, being in us, makes our heart as a garden for delight; and as a temple for purity. Bernard relates there was a fountain of oil which ran into the temple of Rome. By virtue of the Spirit's indwelling, a fountain of holy oil issues forth and runs in the temple of our hearts. 1 John 2:27, "You have received an anointing from the Holy One."
2. The Spirit of God, dwelling in us as His temples, sweetly communicates Himself to us. To dwell with one is an act of communion. God's Spirit dwelling in us, is a Spirit of wisdom and revelation opening the deep mysteries of Christ to us, 1 Corinthians 2:12. He is a spirit of activity, exciting and animating our grace, John 6:63. He is a spirit of magnanimity, firing us with zeal and courage, Acts 4:8. He is a spirit of joy, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, Romans 8:16. Such as are not God's temples, have none of the impressions and holy ardors of the Spirit in them; they know not, what communion with God means.
3. The Spirit of God dwelling in us will never wholly leave us. Where one dwells, he is constant. God's Spirit will not totally leave His temple. God's Spirit may withdraw from the soul in respect of His comfortable presence—but not in respect of His gracious presence. He is not only a lodger in His temple—but an indweller. He does not only operate, but command. He may work in a reprobate—but He dwells in a believer. Oh, Christian, this is your comfort—if ever the Spirit of God has come savingly into your soul and taken possession of you—He will never leave you altogether! He will ripen grace into perfection. Fear not, of final perishing. That temple can never be demolished by Satan, which has Christ the Cornerstone supporting it—and the blessed Spirit inhabiting it!
Such as are gracious temples—shall one day be glorious temples! Those who are temples of virtue, shall be temples of eternal honor. As God filled the temple with His glory, 1 Kings 8:11, so He will, in heaven, manifest His glory in His living temples, in a more precious and illustrious manner.
If the saints shall be glorious temples—then surely there will be joy in these temples. What a climax of joy will it be, when the everlasting doors of our souls shall be set open, that the King of glory may enter in! Praises to the most High God, shall be eternally sung in the temples of our hearts. It will be the work of heaven—to love God and admire free grace, who has made us temples so richly wrought and embellished with glory, where God Himself will reside forever and display the infinite brightness of His face!
Oh, you saints, lay aside all your despondencies and discontents, and comfort yourselves with the hopes of future eternal happiness! Shall the outward temple of our body be so splendid and magnificent, like Christ's glorious body, Philippians 3:21? Oh, then, how transcendently shining and beautiful shall the inward temple of our soul be! What angel can express this! But here I must draw a veil. We shall never fully understand heaven—until we come to heaven!