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What does "your body is a temple" really mean?

"You have to remember, your body is a temple.” Have you ever been told something like this? You likely have. But what does it mean? The person that makes this statement is usually talking about eating or exercising. Neither of these things are bad. The way we eat and the way we take care of our bodies is important because we ought to be good stewards of every gift God has given us, including the gift of our bodies. 

Yet, I think it is wrong to use the body as a temple argument in this scenario. Why? Because when we say this, we are saying God the Spirit lives inside of us and so we ought to take care of our bodies with exercise and by what we put into our bodies. 1 Timothy 4:8 reads, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 

When one says that our bodies are temples for God in this context, we are in essence claiming God cares primarily about how we care for our physical bodies. Yet, that would contradict the above verse. Caring for our bodies has some or little value, but godliness has value in every way because it benefits now and for eternity. 

1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (ESV): “Or 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 is where we get the phrase, “your body is a temple.” However, in its original context, Paul was writing to the Corinthian church about sexual immorality. This connects well with our passage from Timothy that godliness has great value. Paul wanted the church to know that they were bought with the blood of Jesus, so to be involved in sexual immorality was the same as desecrating the temple of God. 

In 1 Samuel 2:22 the priest, Eli, heard his sons had been laying with women who served in the temple. This is more akin to what 1 Corinthians is talking about. The sons of Eli were desecrating the temple, the sacrifices being made, and the presence of God. Paul was explaining that when one engages in sexual immorality he is sinning against himself and God. Moreover, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who was given to us as a seal of the salvation we have in Christ. When we partake in sexual sin, we are like the sons of Eli and have no regard for the Spirit living within us. In some sense, this is true for all sins. Yet, God chooses to emphasize sexual sins in this context for a reason. Sexual sin is harmful to us (1 Corinthians 6:18). Now, don’t think I am saying it is right to treat your body anyway you choose. However, I am saying that God is more concerned with your holiness than if you shop at whole foods. Therefore, I implore you to fight the temptations of sexual sin, because your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you.

This article was written by Pastor Armando Yzaguirre Jr.

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