“For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
St. Paul continues to teach the young in faith at Corinth about growing in wisdom according to the Spirit of God. After reminding them that the very foundation of their lives rests on Christ, he now takes this further to show them how they ought to see themselves. Paul says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple?”, and goes on, “For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.”
Temple imagery of the Old Testament is hard for any 21st-century person in the United States to understand, let alone the young and those new in the faith. When we rely on human wisdom alone, it becomes doubly difficult, if not impossible. Paul labors this point, saying that we should not deceive ourselves by thinking that we are wise; instead, he says that we must first become fools and trust in the word of the cross as the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
So, what is a more helpful way to reflect on this? One way is to turn to Christ and his Word by considering how Jesus himself refers to the temple. In John 2:21, Jesus speaks of the raising of the temple of his body. Paul also wrote about the church as the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18) and encouraged the Ephesian church as they grew into the holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:21).
Sometimes in the church, we meditate on Jesus and his body in the sacrament without thinking about how this extends to us in our present and physical reality. Here, Paul is telling the people of God that God’s Spirit is present in the physical church and that, in Christ, they are a holy place, a holy people. The temple in the Old Testament was where God could be called upon for help and protection, and his blessings could be received. Knowing this, we can trust that when we, as the people of God, gather as the church to pray and receive God’s blessings, we are made holy.
Although it seems crazy to the world, St. Paul reminds us again today that we are sanctified in Christ. Therefore, as baptised people who live and move and have our being in the word, we should trust that the Spirit dwells in us physically so that Christ can extend his merciful love to the world through us. Like the Corinthians, we should always remember, “We are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23)
Lord, be with me when I call upon You for help, and increase my faith in Your promises that You are always with me, in good times and bad. Let my faith show others Your power and glory in the changes You make in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.