“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
The Bible teaches that God through the Holy Spirit indwells every Christian. This is an incredible, powerful truth, and it means that Christians—individually and collectively—are a living temple of God. We are “a dwelling place of God by the Spirit.”
The temple was a very special place in the Old Testament. It was the place where God resided in the midst of the people of Israel. At first it was a tent of meeting—a portable tabernacle—that moved with the people of Israel as they sojourned through the wilderness of Sinai.
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” (Exodus 40:34-38)
Later in OT history, the Lord instructed Solomon to build a permanent temple in Jerusalem. Solomon had the temple built according to the precise instructions of the Lord, and the temple was consecrated with animal sacrifices. Then the Lord’s presence took up residence in the temple.
“As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord ‘s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.’” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3)
The temple was a holy place, a place where God’s Spirit dwelt and interacted with the Israelites. Thus when the NT says that we are a temple of the Holy Spirit, it is saying that God resides in us, and his presence in us makes us holy.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3.16-17)
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6.19-20)
What an incredible truth! The Church is actually a living temple on earth. The Church is the body of believers, not a building. The Church is a people, not a place. We are the living temple in whom God dwells!