The Meaning Behind "Your Body is a Temple" & 5 Things You Should Be Doing
You can hear both Christians and non-Christians alike declare “my body is a temple” in a myriad of contexts. You can even find the phrase in secular stores on t-shirts and mugs. But what does it really mean that our bodies are temples? How should we honor that as Christians?
The phrase itself comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
This is one of the most popular verses in Scripture, but it can often be misinterpreted. What does it mean? Why does temple imagery fit well with the bodies God has designed for us? And how can we treat our bodies like a temple? This article will dive into all of these questions.
What Is the Context of The Verse "Your Body is a Temple"?
1 Corinthians 6:19 is found in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth around 55 AD. In this letter he rebukes the church for an array of issues, like settling law disputes outside the church and incest. Evidently, the church in Corinth was struggling in their sexual purity, because that is what this verse is directly addressing.
Paul implores us to recognize that our bodies are not our own but belong to God. Having been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 7:23) by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, as stated in Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, we don’t have any right to give them over to sin (sexual immorality in the case of 1 Cor. 6).
Therefore, we should keep our minds on things from above opposed to giving into fleshly temptations. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, we waive the right to do whatever we choose with our bodies.
But what does that have to do with being a temple?
What Was the Temple?
To the Israelites in the Old Testament, the temple was their sacred meeting place with God. They worshipped there, made sacrifices there, and presented their requests to God. It wasn’t actually until Solomon’s reign as king that the Israelites had a temple (1 Kings 3:1).
Before the Israelites had a temple, they had a tabernacle. In Exodus 25:8, God commands to Moses “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” The next 5 chapters in Exodus are spent detailing out exactly what God wanted his tabernacle to look like with ornate designs, gold and silver.
But the tabernacle wasn’t just beautiful. It was holy. So holy, in fact, that when a man named Uzzah reached out to steady the ark so it wouldn’t fall, because the tabernacle was being moved and an ox had stumbled, he was immediately struck and killed by God for his irreverence (2 Samuel 6:7).
According to scholar Marty Solomon of Bema Discipleship Podcast, the purpose of the tabernacle was to be a mobile Genesis 1; a place where heaven met earth so that God could commune with his people unobstructed by sin. Wherever the Israelites went, God wanted to go, too.
Why Is it Significant that God Makes Us His Temple?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us the amazing truth that Christians who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are a temple to it.
When Jesus came, he eliminated the need for a temple being in a single location. Christians became the temple of God, a house for his Holy Spirit. Because of his blood that made us clean, we can know be considered pure and holy enough to have God’s Spirit live in us. We have become a meeting place between heaven and earth to bring other people in to commune with God. What a gift!
Since we are now a sacred house, a holy ground, nothing unclean or defiling should enter its presence. In other words, no Christian should engage in sin, including sexual immorality.
This article will explore 5 different ways to treat your body like a temple, honoring God with it.
1. Avoid Temptations
In other words, don’t put yourself in an environment that puts you at a higher risk of engaging in the area in which you are tempted. Although this chapter deals with the topic of sexual purity, this applies to other temptations.
If you have a history of alcohol abuse, purge your household of it and avoid places where it can be easily accessed. If you struggle with pornography addiction, block the perpetrating websites on your computer.
2. Sabbath Weekly
The Lord established this as one of the Ten Commandments for a number of reasons (Exodus 20:8-11). First, he had our health in mind, as mentioned in this commentary. We give our bodies a chance to rest and be ready to give our full effort the following day (Colossians 3:23).
Second, the Lord is using it as an exercise of trust. If he, the God of the universe, can take one day off in the seven days of creation, then humans can take one day off a week and trust God will provide when they aren’t accruing extra finances.
Third, we dedicate one day a week to honoring God. For the other six days, we can pursue earthly work, but one day a week, we reserve that day for God.
3. Take Care of Your Body
Although the chapter is in the context of sexual purity, it does make a point in 1 Corinthians 6:20 that our bodies do not belong to us. God has given us our bodies as a gift for a short period of time on earth. Therefore, we shouldn’t defile something God has given, since every gift from him is good (James 1:17).
This means we should ensure to make healthy eating choices. Like Daniel and his friends in Daniel 1, we can choose to avoid the metaphoric “King’s food” and make wise choices in the food we consume.
When Daniel and his friends refused the food King Nebuchadnezzar offered them and ate vegetables instead, there could’ve been many reasons for doing so. Perhaps the food provided went against the strict dietary laws the Jews had, or maybe they had other reasons, but they saw the food as potentially defiling to their bodies, so they avoided it.
It also means we should exercise regularly and get plenty of rest each night.
If we don’t do either, our minds and bodies won’t be alert. Especially with rest, if we are unable to be vigilant, the devil can often take advantage and lure us into temptations we would’ve better combated with a sober mind (1 Peter 5:8-9).
4. See Your Body as a Gift
Society often will promote unnatural standards for beauty and youth. When we find our body doesn’t fit a certain mold, or notice wrinkles and gray hairs, or haven’t accrued the same muscular volume we’ve seen on a celebrity, we may see our bodies as anything but a gift.
Satan will attempt to use insecurities about weight, beauty, or age to distract us from our call to spread the Gospel. But if we view our bodies as a creation of the most high God,we can combat this distraction from our calling and purpose on earth.
5. Remove the Junk from the Temple
Throughout its history, Israel’s temple had a lot of junk. Antiochus IV Epiphanes set up an idol to Zeus in the temple (Daniel 9:27). A number of the Israelite kings placed idols in the temple themselves (2 Chronicles 33:15), and money changers had turned Jesus’ temple into a den of thieves (Matthew 21:13).
Whenever junk entered the temple of God, someone attempted to dispose of it. The Jews got rid of the statue of Zeus after the Maccabean revolt, Manasseh removed the idols, and Jesus overturned tables.
One way to treat our bodies like a temple is to get rid of the junk. To remove the idols that we’ve placed in the very same home at the Holy Spirit (Matthew 6:21). We can’t serve two masters, after all (Matthew 6:24), and there can’t be two masters ruling our temple at the same time.
Or removing junk could be literally removing items that deteriorate our health or well-being such as tobacco products, excess alcohol drinking, drugs, pornography, etc.
Christians should abstain from whatever defiles their temple. Because Christ gave us these bodies as a temporary gift, we should honor him with them. That means we should avoid anything that might tempt us to defile them, either by acts of sexual immorality or other sins.
It also entails us dedicated one day a week to rest and making sure to get enough sleep, exercise, and eating healthy foods (and ensuring to eat the proper amount of food, not over or under eating).
We may have to reorient our thinking, reminding ourselves that our bodies are a holy and beautiful thing, and may have to unplug from other avenues that tells us differently. Part of this process of cleaning the temple may include removing some idols we’ve held on to for a while.
But once we remove them, we can draw even closer to Christ, becoming more and more like him every day.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 450 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly in the Serious Writer newsletter. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) released in June, and they contracted the sequel “Den” for July 2020. Find out more about her here.
Photo Credit: GettyImages/dragana991
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 500 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her here.